Religious tolerance and Ecumenism

1. One has faith in God and, therefore, trusts that His message is also The Truth. That is to say, one should not predicate the attitude of having `faith in’ to the EI account directly. There is a very important additional reason for being clear about our terminologies.

Consider the distinction between having no idea that the Cosmos is an EI entity and having an account that makes the Cosmos into such an entity. This distinction marks the difference between the heathen and the believer. In religious terminology, the difference can also be expressed as that which exists between the “converted” and the “non-converted”. This is one meaning of the word “conversion”.

There is also a second meaning of “conversion”, which refers to the process only the converted undergo. In terms of my story, it picks out the degree of explanatory intelligibility the Cosmos has to one to whom the Cosmos is an EI entity. That is, the more EI the Cosmos is, the more does the believer “believes”. What is the end-point of this process? When everything that was, is, and shall be (i.e. the Cosmos) becomes explanatorily intelligible. No human being can hope to achieve this EI of Cosmos on his/her own. That is, the process of “conversion”, in the second sense of the term is asymptotic — it never reaches the end-point. Of course, if that Agent whose Will is embodied in the Cosmos were to speak to the human being in question directly, this process would immediately reach its termination. In other words, “conversion”, in this second meaning, cannot be achieved by human effort alone.

By speaking about `degrees’ of EI of the Cosmos, we can pick out both the meanings of the word “conversion” and show what the difference consists of. So, the more EI the Cosmos has, the more is one intolerant of other EI accounts. (This also picks out `militant Atheism’ for obvious reasons.) But, as I have said repeatedly, it does not mean that each believer has to be either a missionary or a persecutor. (Simply put: intolerance is a function of the degree of the EI of the Cosmos. Among believers, the latter is proportional to the degree of faith in God.)

2. Religious tolerance (interpreted as tolerance between religions) is a contradiction-in-terms. Because religion is not native to the Indian culture, to describe the relation between, say, `Hinduism’ and `Buddhism’ as one of religious tolerance is to provide a wrong description. There is, however, the issue of the relation between religions and the Indian traditions. Here, the notion of religious tolerance would mean something more than `civic tolerance’ because it is about `tolerating’ religions. That is, it is a question about the attitude of heathens regarding religions. I suggest that we dispense with the term `religious tolerance’ in this regard as well. So, what people call `religious tolerance’ is either (a) civic tolerance or (b) the ecumenical drive of religions which is inherent in religion as religious intolerance is.

3. We need to note that (a) faith and (b) intolerance are two faces of the same coin. (c) Ecumenism and (d) rivalry between religions are the two faces of another coin. In both cases, you cannot have one without the other.

‘Religious tolerance’ is best described as `ecumenism’ (i.e. the feeling that all religions are one). In other words, there is a different relation between `tolerance’ and `intolerance’ than we would suspect if we merely looked at them linguistically. Regarding religion, they express different phenomena.

(a) Religion universalizes itself through two antagonistic but dependent processes: (i) the process of proselytization and (ii) the process of secularization. The first process wins it direct converts; the second process is more perfidious because the secular world comes under the grips of a disguised religious framework. With respect to Christianity, de-Christianized Christianity spreads in the secular world.

(b) Let us look at the pole `proselytization’ first. Different religious groups meet each other here. They are each other’s rivals in two senses: they are rival EI accounts; and they are rivals in winning converts. As rival accounts, they are intolerant of each other; as rivals in winning converts, they are competitors. When they meet each other as EI accounts, they do not see each other as rivals: they see that the other is not The Truth, and that the other is deficient. (In what way they are that is defined by their theologies.) However, they meet each other as rivals, when it goes to winning converts.

When these religions face each other as EI accounts, their intolerance of each other is dependent on their faith in their God. So, faith and intolerance form one pole of the equation.

The other pole of the equation is that they see each other as rivals and at the same time feel that “religion is One”. I.e. they recognize that each is an EI account, and that each makes the Cosmos an EI entity to its believers. They are religions because they are The Truth, (i.e. there is only one Truth.) This is the pole of ecumenism.

At the same time, as rivals, they are each others’ competitors as specific EI accounts. They are different from each other (because that is what makes them different religions) and yet the same (they are what they are because there can be only one EI account of the Cosmos.) In other words, rivalry and ecumenism constitute the other pole of the equation.

(c) In so far as secularization is the process of spreading religion in secular clothes, in this process, religion strives to reach its level of pristine simplicity of just being the EI account.

So, one could say that ecumenism drives the process of secularization. But one cannot stop here. Ecumenism occurs on the basis of specific EI accounts, i.e. each EI account says what constitutes Ecumenism according to itself. That is to say, ecumenism is subordinated to the specificities of individual accounts. In other words, ecumenism is subordinated to the fact of differences between the EI accounts. Consequently, the ecumenism that drives the process of secularization has the “on the one hand and on the other hand” character: on the one hand, we are all the same, we are children of God; on the other hand, we are different from each other, we are differentiated according to our culture, race, religion, etc. The secular world, then, vacillates between these two poles: we are all children of God; yet some are better than the others. We are all the same; yet, we are not the same either. We are all the same because some are inferior to the others (because some are heathens; some belong to the underdeveloped; some are black or brown or whatever). The so-called White Man’s burden is not his burden, as I see it (even though it is also his): it is the problem of a religious-secular world, i.e., a world which becomes secular under the drive of ecumenism in religion but as that ecumenism is determined by some specific religion or the other. Better put: ecumenism, as some specific religion sees it, drives the process of secularization of that religion.