The Problem with Interreligious Dialogue
Date added: 02/04/2017
The Problem with Interreligious Dialogue (Bloomsbury Advances in Religious Studies)
by Muthuraj Swamy
Published: March 2016
Published by: Bloomsbury
Muthuraj Swamy provides a fresh perspective on the world religions paradigm and 'interreligious dialogue'. By challenging the assumption that 'world religions' operate as essential entities separate from the lived experiences of practitioners, he shows that interreligious dialogue is in turn problematic as it is built on this very paradigm, and on the myth of religious conflict.
Offering a critique of the idea of 'dialogue' as it has been advanced by its proponents such as religious leaders and theologians whose aims are to promote inter-religious conversation and understanding, the author argues that this approach is 'elitist' and that in reality, people do not make sharp distinctions between religions, nor do they separate political, economic, social and cultural beliefs and practices from their religious traditions.
Case studies from villages in southern India explore how Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities interact in numerous ways that break the neat categories often used to describe each religion. Swamy argues that those who promote dialogue are ostensibly attempting to overcome the separate identities of religious practitioners through understanding, but in fact, they re-enforce them by encouraging a false sense of separation. The Problem with Interreligious Dialogue: Plurality, Conflict and Elitism in Hindu-Christian-Muslim Relations provides an innovative approach to a central issue confronting Religious Studies, combining both theory and ethnography.
Muthuraj Swamy is Assistant Professor and Head of the Department of Christian Theology & Ethics in the Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India. He is also Continental Editor for the Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion project for Asia.
“Stripping away the overgrowth and debris that hid the inherent promise and ongoing potential of interreligious dialogue, and carefully, creatively, provocatively yet committedly using case studies and displaying mastery over a huge amount of literature, the author reopens and interrogates the meaning, limitations, and potential of dialogue in our messy 21st century. Just when one thinks that certain influential ideas and movements have run their course and reached an impasse, mainly because of faulty starting-points and overly simplistic assumptions about that catch-all word religion, this is a book which skillfully forces us to confront our suppositions and reboot our commitments. “
(Jayakiran Sebastian, Dean and H. George Anderson Professor of Mission and Cultures)
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