Theology of Tolerance

According to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, ‘Hinduism’ is devil’s worship. Instead of quoting from their scriptures, let me give the barest of the bare outlines of their fundamental story about ‘God’ and ‘religion’. No believer from any of these religions (their religious authorities included) could ever disagree with this outline. There are two ‘Gods’: the true God and the false God (notice the capitalization). The first created the world and everything in it; the second, who is his creature too, is the ‘fallen’ one. (Why he fell, what his ‘sin’ was, etc. are glossed differently by these three religions.) The devil has many names (Baal, Beelzebub, Satan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles, …) and his followers are “legion”. This devil is the lord of the earth, the prince of darkness, the father of lies, the king of deceit, etc. the devil is the ‘false god’, i.e., he constantly seduces mankind into worshipping him as though he was God himself. To worship the devil is to go to hell for eternity; the road to salvation (please, do not confuse this with mukthi or moksha) lies in worshipping the true God. However, how to know who is the true God so that one may worship him? What does it mean to ‘worship’ him? (After all, so their story goes, the false God also parades as ‘God’ and deceives the humankind.) Hence, God reveals himself (again, please do not confuse this with avataaras.), and tells that he is the true God and how humankind ought to worship him. (‘religion’, as they see it, is the worship of God.) This revelation is what their scriptures are about. According to these revelations, God has commanded not to build his likeness (i.e. create idols); to worship the idols is to worship the devil. This true God is one; the false ‘gods’ are many (the devil’s ‘legion’); he has one name (Yahweh written without the consonants in Hebrew; the Holy Trinity in Christianity; the merciful Allah in Islam); the devil has many names. (Do not confuse names with the hundred and odd properties of God that Koran talks about. Now, these and more are God’s revelations in these three religions.

When Muslims destroyed and defaced temples in India, or destroyed and defaced the churches in the Middle East, they were not being fanatics: they were carrying out the words of Allah (as conveyed through the prophet, of course). They are the literal words of (their) God Himself, not some fancy interpretation of this or that scholar or theologian. (The hatred between the Jews and Muslims in Palestine is not merely about territorial occupation and ‘terrorism’: it is deeper than that. The God of the Jews commanded the Jews to put all the gentiles – i.e. non-Jews – to the sword: the old, the women, and the children included. Read the Old Testament Bible to get some flavor of the Judaic religion.) When we Indians say the ‘God’ has many names, these religions agree: They are the names of the ‘false God’ (devil) and his minions. What we do is ‘idol worship’: one of the greatest sins which directly disobeys God’s word. Not only that. That is exactly how the devil is worshipped. That is why these religions are intolerant of each other, though not the way they are with respect to, say, ‘Hinduism’. With respect to each other, they are ‘merely’ heresies; they all worship the true god even though, in their eyes, each is deficient in their worship. But ‘Hinduism’ is not a ‘heresy’: it is outright devil’s worship. (That is why it is a false religion: it worships the false ‘gods’, namely, the devil and his minions.) Therefore, their attitude is even more antagonistic towards us.

Yes, according to their ‘God’, our ‘gods’ are either incarnations or the followers of the devil. The only way they can ‘tolerate’ us is when they cease being ‘believers’ themselves. However, as I said in my previous post, this does not make a believer from any of these three religions into a missionary or a persecutor. But we need to understand these three religions; if we do not, we are whistling in the dark.

With respect to ‘tolerance’, a word or two might prove useful to reflect about. The discussions about ‘tolerance’ as we know them today, date from the religious conflicts in Europe: especially between the Protestants and the Catholics. Perhaps, you are insufficiently aware that this discussion was won by the Protestant religion in Europe. (‘Tolerance’ is a word that picks out the standpoint of the Protestants: no human being can mediate between God and man. The Catholics, by contrast, claimed that the Church mediated between man and God because the Church was the body and bride of Christ. The Catholics held that the Church decided about what proper faith was; the Protestants held that the Holy Spirit inspires Christians in interpreting the message of God, i.e. the Bible, without the mediation of the Church, etc.) ‘Tolerance’ is not some ‘secular’ or ‘philosophical’ doctrine, but a belief of the Protestant religion. That is why even in Europe, it worked only once: when the Protestants won the religious battle. (Look at Ireland: the Protestant doctrine does not work even there because they confront an intransigent Catholic population.) So, may I beg of you not to yield to the Universalist pretention of the Protestant religion (i.e. that it is ‘the best’ and ‘the only’ true religion of the humankind)? The discussion is utterly senseless in the Indian context (it is so even in the current European context); so do not let yourself be seduced by the Protestant jargon. While I am perfectly willing to allow a protestant to believe that his/hers is the true religion, I refuse to allow him/her to frame a debate about ‘the Hindus’ and the Muslims in India within the framework of Protestant theology. Perhaps, you too can extend the same courtesy to your religion (if you are a Muslim) and to your culture. What do you say?

One thought on “Theology of Tolerance

  1. windwheel

    Reading your recent posts, it appears that you think there some universal, simple, deontic logic such that knowledge of the ‘core’ dogma of a sect enables an algorithmic derivation of everything it enjoins.
    As a matter of fact, not speculation, this isn’t true. Orthodox (haredi) Judaism has a concept of ‘halachah vein morin kein’ such that dogmatic Knowledge of the Law forbids the very action it otherwise enjoins. The context is the slaying of Zimri & Kosbi by the zealot Pinchas. In other words, the action that dogma approves (because it is clearly laid down in Scripture)- viz. slaughtering the ‘Devil worshiping’ infidel- is forbidden precisely because it is known.
    Islam, similarly, has similar workarounds- either involving the pragmatics of farz e kifayya or else by distinguishing insha and khabar in the context of alam al amr and alam al khalq- while, even with Western Christianity there’s distinctions between things like synteresis and conscientia such that a gap is created between Dogmatic beliefs and what is deontically enjoined.
    Turning to our own Region, we don’t find Zoroastrians and Hindus killing each other though the former consider our ‘devas’ to be devils while we tend to think of their Ahura as a demonic Asura. No doubt, from time to time some theologically inclined King- like Ashoka- slaughtered sramans of rival sects but this was supererogatory and is generally explained (as is the incarnations of Devas slaughtering Asuras) in terms of Karmic moral economy involving Samrambha Yoga or Virodha Bhakti or something of that sort.
    Like my ancestors, I think our Sectarian polemics (Anantanarayanan has given a hilarious account of a debate between a Saivite and a Vaishnavite in his short novel ‘Silver pilgrimage’) to be delightfully silly, but, like my ancestors, though supposedly bound by one particular dogma, I am happy to go for darshan of any Shraman/Bhraman Acharya and to visit Swami Narayan Temple, or go to Arya Samaji havan or Kabir panthi or Narayana Guru kirtan or whatever.
    Of course, I must mention that as a strict Smarta, I am currently looking for a hitman to kill my cousins so that I can inherit the family property. I would like to remind any Muslim or Christian or Jewish persons who follows this blog that, because it is your Religious duty to kill Hindus, you should charge me the lowest possible rate. Incidentally, my cousins are putting not just tomato but also onion in their sambar. This clearly shows they are acharabrashta and deserving of death.
    Mind it kindly.
    Jai Hind.
    Har Har Modi Deva.