Debate on Hinduism and religious pluralism

A very interesting debate that shows how intolerant pluralistic religions like Hinduism can be – so intolerant that they are willing to ban free speech that is supportive of Christianity. In the pluralist East, you can ban the public practice of Christianity, but in the exclusivist West, we have free speech and freedom of religion for Hindus. Is it possible that the view that “all religions are equally true” is far less tolerant than the view that “only one religion is true?”. What if the one religion that thinks it is true also believes that it is a moral good to tolerate free speech and open debate about which religion is true?

Here is the MP3 file. (64 minutes)

Details:

Unbelievable? 24 Oct 2009 – Christian conversion of Hindus – 24 October 2009

In light of Premier’s Faith Without Fear campaign, this discussion between Anil Bhanot and Sunil Raheja addresses the tensions that exist when Christians seek to evangelise Hindus in India.

What is acceptable? Is the response of some Hindus justified? Is it wrong for Christians to state that Jesus is the “only” way to God?

To sign the petition for Justice for Christians in Orissa State, India go to www.faithwithoutfear.org

Below you can find my play-by-play summary of this debate.

What does the Bible say about evangelism?

The relevant passage from the Bible in which Jesus commands Christians to share their beliefs with non-Christians is found in Matthew 28:16-20. This is the part that the Hindu scholars disagree with.

16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.

17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

What does the Bible say about salvation being exclusive of other other religions?

A few verses from the that teach the exclusivity of salvation.

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 16:30-31 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Luke 12:8-9 I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

So Christians are required to preach to non-Christians, and they are required to preach what Jesus said about himself – that trust in Jesus’ claim to be God stepping into history is the only way to be rightly related to God, the Creator of the universe.

Are Hindus tolerant of the public practice of authentic Christianity in countries where Hinduism dominates?

Summary of the debate

My snarky comments are in italics.

—-
Hindu_Anil:
– explains Hinduism: impersonal unknowable Brahma, incarnations
– all religions are paths to the impersonal divine (pantheism with polytheistic elements)

Christian_Sunil:
– former Hindu, convert because of lack of meaning and purpose, describes conversion
– changed from works-based salvation to salvation by grace
– there is a capacity for grace in Hinduism, not just works based
– Christian campus groups do a better job of explaining their religion than Hindus

Christian_Sunil:
– well for me, I did it on my own dealing directly with God, no assistance from Christians

Hindu_Anil:
– I object to Christians going out to convert others to your religion

Christian_Sunil:
– i don’t like the turn or burn style of evangelism
– but asking people the big questions, that’s good evangelism

Hindu_Anil:
– we Hindus don’t evangelize
– we think of Jesus as another deity (an incarnation of Brahma)
– i oppose Christians for saying in public that I am wrong and they are right
– Christians are wrong, and I (a Hindu) am right!

Christian_Sunil:
– but persuasion and conversion is everywhere in the marketplace

Hindu_Anil:
– Christians are mean and they go out plundering countries and killing other people
– converting people to Christianity is the stealing of souls from other countries
– Christianity is an evil religion and Christians are evil people
– I know better what Jesus would do than Christians do, Jesus would not proselytize

Christian_Sunil:
– I am against the use of coercion in evangelism

Hindu_Anil:
– sharing your faith in Jesus as your favorite incarnation among many incarnations is fine (polytheism – the Hindu view)
– but missionaries say that only Christ is the true God and they have no right to say things that are incompatible with Hinduism
– Christians have no right to say that Christ is the true God, that is incompatible with Hinduism
– you need to keep your exclusive views to yourself, but I will force Hinduism on you in public
– you should be prevented by law from expressing your exclusive Christian view in public
– Hindus like me are very very tolerant of other views, so you should agree with Hinduism, not Christianity

Hindu_Jagdish:
– Christianity teaches that Jesus is a son of God, not God himself
– Christians are wrong about the doctrine of the Trinity
– efforts to convert should not involve any good works like giving food or medical treatment

Christian_Sunil:
– Mother Teresa met peoples needs for food and medical care, but she did it as a public Christian
– but this would break your rule about conversion using good works and charity
– so is Mother Teresa a bad person for doing good works as a public Christian?

Hindu_Jagdish:
– Hindus believe that there are many ways to achieve union with God
– they are all equal, you can follow the path you like to be united with God
– we Hindus are very very inclusive, every other path is a right path to God

Hindu_Anil:
– the right to freedom of religion does not allow you to say that Christianity is correct
– Jesus did not say that you go and condemn people of other religions

Christian_Sunil:
– but I convert people by my love and self-sacrifice, not through coercion

Hindu_Anil:
– it’s ok to be a Christian if you keep it to yourself and don’t tell anyone else that their religion is wrong

Christian_Sunil:
– are you trying to force your view of religion on me? in public?

Hindu_Anil:
– to say that my religion is false is to breach my human right to exist
– it’s coercive to offer people food and then try to evangelize them

Hindu_Jagdish:
– how do you define secularism?

Christian_Sunil:
– living as though this life were all there is, that religious meanings don’t matter in public life

Hindu_Jagdish:
– Hindus have no problem with that view, it’s in the Vedas

Christian_Sunil:
– India is becoming secular as it grows into part of the global economy
– secularism has the goal of being happy in this life without any accountability to God

Hindu_Anil:
– in opposition to secularism, all faiths should unite on the Hindu concept of the impersonal divine

Christian_Sunil:
– the solution to secularism is found by a personal encounter with God

Hindu_Anil:
– I became a Hindu as a result of performing Hindu rituals as I grew up in a Hindu background

Christian_Sunil:
– a person’s decision to become a Christian is a result of their own inquiry and free decision

Hindu_Anil:
– the purpose of Hinduism is to make people happy and to achieve achieve world peace
– Hindus believe that God is indescribable and unknowable (pantheism)
– everyone has to choose the Incarnation they like to make themselves happy (polytheism)
– Christianity is one incarnation of the Hindu doctrine of impersonal divine (pantheism)
– so all religions are valid because everyone chooses the incarnation they like, we have billions and billions to choose from
– that’s how we will get world peace, by having everyone agree with my view of religion (pantheism and polytheism)
– isn’t it terrible that Christians can tell Hindus that they will go to Hell without Christ
– Jesus said himself that it’s wrong to judge others, although I’m judging you right now!

Christian_Sunil:
– well we should certainly try to be gentle and respectful

Hindu_Anil:
– you can’t say that I am wrong about my religious views, freedom of speech doesn’t cover that speech
– everything that is in the Bible is in the Hindu Scriptures, and the Hindu Scriptures has even more
– anything in the Bible that contradicts Hinduism was invented much later by deluded people
– the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus is the only true path to God, if you throw out the non-Hindu parts

Christian_Manjula:
– i was once a Jain but now I’m a Christian, and Christianity makes my life meaningful

Hindu_Anil:
– a person can be a Christian, so long as they accept that Christianity is actually Hinduism

Christian_Manjula:
– actually, Christians believe that people are sinful and that Jesus’ death atones for that sin

Hindu_Anil:
– oh Hindus don’t believe that!
– in the Bible, the jews are trying to stone Jesus, and Jesus says that they are all Gods (this is not in the Bible unless he means what Satan says)
– that’s consistent with Hinduism

Christian_Sunil:
– am I allowed to say that I disagree with your beliefs?
– the discovery that washing hands reduces deaths during child birth was ridiculed, but it’s true
– my understanding of Christ is different from what Hindus believe about Christ
– these questions are matters of life and death
– if my research is correct, then this world is in a terrible state without Christ
– because I love other people, I need to do what I can to share Christ with others
– I need to be able to discuss and disagree about it in public

Hindu_Anil:
– well, you can’t say that my religion is false – that’s going too far, but I can say your religion is false

Christian_Sunil:
– i’m not saying that I am better than you, just that my view is true, based on the evidence

Hindu_Anil:
– no you don’t have the truth, that is just your personal preference FOR YOU
– i have a personal preference, and my personal preference is true FOR ME
– you can’t say that you have the truth to me, and laws should prevent you from saying that

Hindu_Anil:
– Jesus said nothing contrary to Hinduism
– it’s only much much later that people added Christian doctrines to the Bible
– everything Jesus taught is consistent with Hinduism, even if the Bible doesn’t say that

12 thoughts on “Debate on Hinduism and religious pluralism”

  1. I see the words twisted to support the blog authors claims of Hindu vindictiveness. I have no need to engage with him on a debate of whose beliefs are correct. My simple definition of freedom borrowed from a quote : Your freedom ends where my nose begins.

    Everybody has the freedom to practice their religion. As to evangelizing, the missionaries are using the power of their wealth to force (yes force) change the views of others. Every action has equal and opposite reaction. The affected groups, with no so much of wealth, counter with what they have in abundance – power of people also derogatorily known as mob.

    In all, much as how the government is responsible for controlling mobs from inflicting violence on the missionaries, it has the duty to keep the missionaries in check not to abuse their position of wealth and force people to convert.

    To give an analogy, you are required to attend a timeshare presentation as part of availing discounted stay in a resort. All legal. If the same people say that you can’t leave the presentation room without signing up for one, that is coercion and illegal.

    It is the duty of government to be vigilant against illegal conversions while not preventing dissemination of views to willing audience.

    One small potshot against Christianity and Islam is that they are spiritually poor that they need either bribery (as in evangelicals) or threat of violence (as in inquisitions and current jihadists) to have people subscribe to their faith. It is like a man who is short compensating by driving the Humvee to compensate.

    Also, while Hinduism doesn’t believe in conversion, I don’t buy the argument that they can’t do anything. It is time Hindus in India addressed the inequalities (wealth, status etc.) that are making people more receptive to others who promise a better material and social life.

    Like

    1. “As to evangelizing, the missionaries are using the power of their wealth to force (yes force) change the views of others.”

      “I see the words twisted to support the blog authors claims of Hindu vindictiveness.”

      Huh? Pot or kettle? Take your pick.

      Like

      1. I think the problem here is that the Hindu caste system discriminates against lower castes like the Dalits, and the higher castes are pretty happy about shunning Dalits, and blocking them from social advancement, and so on. When Christians come along and offer the Dalits a better way forward, the Hindu castes are understandably annoyed. Christians like to give gifts to the poor, Hindus don’t. Naturally the Dalits are impressed with anyone who treats them as equals.

        I don’t know why any woman would want to be a Muslim, and why any member of lower Hindu castes would want to be a Hindu. The oppression is there in either case. But in Christianity, there is nothing like that.

        But this is a side issue – the main issue is which religion is true. If Christians are correct about things like the Big Bang, then Hinduism is false, and Christians have every right to use their God-given right to free speech to communicate the truth. If Hindus don’t like it then they should come up with better arguments, instead of trying to coerce Christians into laying down their arguments and keeping silent. It’s the mark of a weak religion when they can’t debate, but are willing to use laws to silence their opponents instead.

        Like

        1. I agree with you there.

          Unlike the original message of Jesus that vibed to the masses of Middle East without any additional enticement, today’s evangelical Christianity propagates its message through worldly enticement. It is naive to assume that majority of people who convert do so because they understand the underlying principles of Christianity and convert because they want to follow it.

          I have no problem in using enticement to get people through the doors to hear your message (my timeshare analogy). But then, their conversion should be based on their agreement to the principles not for continuance of the material benefits.

          I also agree the current inequalities in the Hindu society (which again is not the core of Hinduism, a discussion by itself) need to be addressed by the society and that is the effective deterrent against the back door conversions. Not violence, not government edicts.

          Like

        2. BTW, My agreement with you is on the issues of inequality and enticement. Your talk about big bang etc. is a big load of you-know-what…you are clutching straws there man

          Like

    2. Protecting? More like your government is keeping their people from hearing the truth, using force & coercion, by silencing the missionaries.

      “One small potshot against Christianity … is that they are spiritually poor that they need either bribery (as in evangelicals)”

      That is just ridiculous. Everyone evangelizes about something, including yourself.

      Like

      1. Assuming I grant you that everyone evangelizes, my point is, you should rely on your message to do the trick and not the goodies…unless the message is weak to be standing on its own legs

        Like

        1. Human beings live on earth in the body. Christians believe in ministering to body and soul. If they minister only to the soul or only to the body and ignore the other completely, they are not living consistently with what they believe. You’re asking Christians to care less for people because you ascribe coercive intentions to them because of your own prejudices. But if Christians didn’t give to people, you’d accuse them of hypocrisy. And if you’re going to criticize such behaviour, then you should tell the Hare Krishna society at my local university to stop feeding hungry students while propagating their beliefs (because it’s “bribery”) and you should tell the Hare Krishna evangelists who I debate with in the local supermarket to stop trying to collect money from me people to fund their charitable endeavours. I disagree strongly with these Hare Krishna evangelists, but I support their right to propagate their beliefs. If you truly believe in freedom of religion you should afford Christian evangelists the same freedom.

          Like

  2. A very interesting discussion. Two points in particular.

    One interesting idea is that freedom of speech does not necessarily extend to freedom of religion. The American Founding Fathers documented both rights as the first item in the Bill of Rights. I can only conclude that they recognized these two rights as inseparable. The caller asserts that freedom of speech is fine as long as it does not contradict the Hindu belief that all paths lead to God.

    The second interesting point is the idea that enticing people to accept Christ through material gain is wrong. I actually agree quite strongly, but also have a different perspective. Missionaries are genuinely heartbroken when they see people living in poverty. For many, it is a shock to meet people don’t sleep in beds, wear shoes, or use toothbrushes. The natural response is to want to give. The idea that giving is offensive seems odd.

    Like

    1. In the Hindu culture the combination of reincarnation and the caste system means that people are where they are because of bad karma from past lives. In short, poverty is their fault and quite normal. It’s because you are a Christian that you think that there is something that has to be done about it.

      Like

  3. If you want to envangelize, please do so to your fellow Christians. If you want to extend help to others, do so selflessly, without expecting any form of material or even spiritual gain. Please do not mix religion with politics, these are two different areas. We have seen in the past, our history fraught with chaos when these two things are mixed. If you bring the bible, i will bring the Vedas, the puranas, the upanishads, at the least the Gita. And I know you dont know a thing of these. So lets not talk about scriptures/ the books. We know who has written them, only a man. And which man wrote, a man who claims to have had first hand experience of god. If you are going in the direction of spirituality, better try and experience that first hand tryst with god. Stop peeking inside others houses and mix politics with your own knowledge of spirituality. We humans, we do take care of ourselves. History is the greatest witness of what humans can do to themselves.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s