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New Perspectives Quarterly, Spring 94

A debate on God and Politics

The following magazine, accessible electronically on the Electronic
Newsstand via gopher or veronica, had a very interesting series of
articles on the topic of Religion and Politics. Contributors include
PVN Rao, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Regis Debray, Naguib Mahfouz, and S.
Gurumurthy. Because of copyright issues, I will not post any articles
in their entirety, but just give you excerpts. The topic is of great
interest to Hindus, I think, because people are comparing the mono- and
poly-theistic views of the world, and finding the former wanting in
these pluralistic times, are wondering whether the model provided by
Hinduism--that of tolerance and inclusiveness --may in fact be
appropriate for the new world we live in.

There has been a lot of debate recently on the coming clash of
civilizations, based on an essay by Samuel Huntington in "Foreign
Policy", where he argued that there are six or seven major civilizations
in the world, including the Confucian, Hindu, Japanese, Latin, Islamic,
Western, and African (I may be missing some). The question is, will
they, in particular, Western and Islamic, collide violently? What
can Hinduism teach these people about tolerance and pluralism?

Mr. Gurumurthy's article, in my opinion, was particularly cogent in its
analysis of the role of state in the Hindu context: according to him,
the temporal state is relatively unimportant for Hindus. It is the
culture that counts. Whereas for the unitarian monotheists, there is no
separation of church and state. I would recommend that all of you find
the time to read this issue, at least Mr. Gurumurthy's article, the
preface to which I have included below. While I don't think that
Semitic religions are the root of all evil in India, I think his
arguments are very convincing.

S. Rajeev

Excerpts from the editor's overview

Magazine: New Perspectives Quarterly (NPQ)
Issue: Spring 1994, Vol. 11, No. 2

....... [much deleted]

        On a world scale, the conflict of civilizations par excellence is  
likely to appear. It will not be the great clash between the West and  
Islam, but between the monotheistic and polytheistic religious  
imaginations. Though Judeo-Christian in its heritage, we have often  
commented in NPQ that the modern experience of pluralism has led  
the West in practice far astray from its monotheistic Abrahamic  
roots and closer to the polytheism of the religious imagination in  
the East.  


        Out of the debris of these exploding old ways of life perhaps a  
spiritual path can be found not unlike that discovered by the  
ancients for India; a wide path that can embrace the ambiguities,  
doubts and plural certitudes of the polycentric mind. Not the liberal  
secular way that kills all belief with tolerant indifference, but a  
path that makes room for the spirit and banishes only nihilism from  
its magnanimous soul.  


Here's the introduction to Mr. Gurumurthy's very impressive

Magazine: New Perspectives Quarterly (NPQ)
Issue: Spring 1994, Vol. 11, No. 2

A prominent intellectual of the "Hindu renaissance" movement associated
with the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), S. Gurumurthy here offers a rare
and insightful glimpse into the mindset of Hindu activists in India
today. He argues that the monotheistic Semitic religions of what he
calls "the West" brought intolerance to India. Traditionally, Gurumurthy
argues, Indian culture was characterized by a liberal pluralism stemming
from the polytheism of Hindu beliefs.

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