Misinformation is no shortcut to harmony among religions
Boise StatesmanNov. 10, 2001, Local 8
by James R. Spencer

I believe Dr. Nagasundaram (Statesman, Oct 20, local 8 "Hinduism is really considered a broad monotheistic religion") is well-meaning, but not forthcoming. I, like him, deplore the use of religious difference as a foundation for prejudice. However it does no good to gloss over terms and cloud issues in order to achieve our ends.

Hinduism is not, and never has been, considered "broadly monotheistic" by any credible religious scholars. And as for Hindus being atheists, that is an oxymoron. Oh, sure, a "cultural Hindu" can be an atheist in the same way a cultural Jew or Christian can be. But, in truth, one cannot be a Christian by faith and an atheist at the same time. Likewise, one cannot be a Hindu believer and at the same time be an atheist (notwithstanding Hinduism is basically an irrational or nonrational religion).

The bottom line is that Dr. Nagasundaram knows that Hinduism is first of all spiritual monism. The most basic of all tenets of Hinduism is that God is the only reality in the Universe. The material universe is nonexistent, maya– illusion. The job of the Hindu is to understand that only God exists, to transcend his own concept of personal existence and become one with the One. Only then will he escape the dreary illusionary world of death, pain, and birth, to cease endless reincaration.

Hinduism is, indeed, one of the largest religious systems in the world. And, while I disagree with its foundational precepts, I see no reason why someone shouldn/t be free to believe it. But in the current politically correct, accepting, and muddled atmosphere of civilized discourse, we need voices of clarity, not confusion.

Monotheism is a theological term which has real meaning. It not only declares there is but one God in the entire universe, it declares that God is not His universe. He is separate from it. Hinduism is at, its heart, pantheistic, claiming that the sum of the universe is God. Beyond that it does become actually polytheistic when its adherents worship demigods in order to escape into godhood at the expense of their own consciousness and personal existence.

Monotheism also states that God is not only the Creator of the universe, but that He loves His creation and communicates with it. Here Jews, Christians, and Muslims are in agreement. (Although it is wrong to say that Muslims worship the same God as Jews and Christians. Allah is not Jehovah, by the reckoning of either Christians and Jews or Muslims.

No, Hinduism is no more monotheistic than Mormonism is. But it appears that Dr. Nagasundaram is as willing as Latter-day Saints to cloud the discussion rather than clarify it.

An entry-level understanding of Hinduism may be had by going to the excellent summary of this world religion in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Yes, Dr. Nagasundaram, Hinduism is based on a "completely different paradigm than that of the Abrahamic ones," but that paradigm does not include even a brushing similarity to monotheism.

Hindus, like Christians, Jews, and Muslims, are worthy of respect and acceptance. Certainly we defend diversity, but mangling definitive terms in order to promote such diversity serves no purpose.