Religious Intolerance and Believers

There are two distinct problems: one involving religions (like Christianity, Judaism and Islam) and the other involving the believers.

Regarding these three religions: (a) insofar as these religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are concerned, Hinduism is demonic. It is that because, according to all the three religions, ‘Hindus’ worship the devil (‘shaitan’) and his minions. That is to say, our Rama, Vishnu, Ganesha, Saraswathi, etc. are all lieutenants of the devil himself. The idols, according to their theology, are representations of the devil, and Pat Robertson is simply echoing this standard Christian (Judaic, and Islamic) doctrines. There is nothing ‘extremist’ about this statement: it is, as I say, one of the basic claims of these three religions. Because we worship the devil, they are convinced, we will all go to hell (do not confuse this with our naraka) for eternity. Because they want to save souls, these religions want to convert others into ‘believers’. (By the way, the ‘jealous’ God is God of the Jews – God of Israel – in one of the more known aspects from the Old Testament Bible. In the New Testament, God is supposed to be ‘loving’. If you want to irk a Jew just tell him that his God is jealous and punishing, whereas God of Christianity is loving.)

(b) It is in virtue of this that these three religions are intolerant: of each other and of ‘heathen’ religions.(‘the heathen’ and ‘the pagan’, irrespective of their etymological origins, signify, in the theologies of these three religions, one who worships the devil.)

(c) In fact, this intolerance is what makes them into the religions they are. To speak of a ‘tolerant Judaism’, or a ‘tolerant Christianity’ or a ‘tolerant Islam’ is contradictio in terminis.

(d) The ferocious attack the Christian missionaries launched against ‘Hinduism’ and ‘the caste system’; the militant and forced conversion of ‘hindus’ into Islam are merely exemplifications of such a theological attitude.

Regarding the believers: (a) from this, it does not follow, either as a matter of logic or of psychology, that every believing Jew, Christian or a Muslim is either a missionary or a persecutor.

(b) With respect to India, it does not follow as a matter of history either. The Kerala Christians (most of whom belong to the eastern Christian churches) and their relation to the Kerala Muslims and the Kerala ‘Hindus’; the emergence of the ‘Sufi’ tradition in the north, its transmutation into a variety of bhakti tradition in Bijapur and further south; these two indicate another course that the believers took as well.

 (c) Today, in the big cities of India in any case, Muslims are increasingly those who are followers of theological Islam. (Of course, even the ‘flexible’ Islam that one knew during a specific period in the Indian history came about when the theological hold got loosened over the monarchs and their kingdoms.)

(d) Be it as that may, it appears to me to use the same brush (and breath) to sketch the profiles of both believers and their religions would not only distort logic, psychology, and history but, more importantly, provide us with little understanding.