(My response to Dr. Nasundaram was published a couple of weeks later
Hinduism is really considered a broad monotheistic religion
By Murli Nagasundaram, Ph.D.
Boise Statesman, Oct. 8 2001, p. Local 8
The horrendous events of Sept.11 will forever be etched into our collective consciousness.
Even while our nationand reasonable persons everywhere in the worldmourns the tragic loss of innocent lives, we continue to experience aftershocks.
In the highly charged atmosphere that currently prevails, I laud the efforts of your newspaper to clear misconceptions about different religions and cultures, thereby contributing to the building of a cohesive community. While we are pursuing this goal, may I bring to your attention additional clarifications that might influence the way in which persons of my ilk are perceived.
On page 4 of your newspaper dated Sept.23, in the article titled, "Islam: A look at its history and tenets", you state that "Islam is the newest of the three great monotheistic religions."
While Im not aware of all the factors that might contribute to greatness, but surely the age and the number of adherents of a religion would be among them.
If this is accepted, then one should include Hinduism in that set; it is a religion at least as old as the oldest of the Abrahamic religions and counts over 800 million persons among its members. Yes, that is correct: Hinduism is a monotheistic religion.
A misconception of the religion has caused it to be portrayed in much of the West as being polytheistic.
It takes a deep understanding of the religionwhich is based on a completely different paradigm than that of the Abrahamic religionsto appreciate this fact.
While some Hindus are atheists, and many are agnostic, and others are animists, most believe in a god, and in fact exactly One God (even the atheists, animists and agnostics).
The manner of their worship and the structure of the religion makes it appear otherwise (and Id be glad to discuss this subject in a different forum).
If all this sounds confusing it is because we are dealing here with a very different paradigm of religion that is properly called Dharma.
It stands to reason that if God is omnipotent and omniscient (as believers in God would assert) then he/she/it cannot have any competition. By its very nature, Godhood is a lonely and monopolistic endeavor.
To state that "Muslims worship the same God as
Jews and Christians" is to do injustice not only to God but also to the billions of non-Muslims/Jews/Christians who also worship the same omnipotent God rather than some lesser celestial franchisee.
I have no quarrel at all with atheism, monotheism, polytheism, agnosticism, spiritualism, or any kind of belief system.
What is troubling, though, is that two critical misconceptions about some religionsthat they are polytheistic; and that its followers worship a different god than "ours"have led to the persecution of hundreds of millions of people over the past several millenia.
Sadly, there are even today, some otherwise "reasonable"and even educatedpersons who will think nothing of aggressively and crudely (if not violently) attempting to change the beliefs of "polytheists" and others whom they view to be outside of their religious pale. I would encourage your publication to continue your good work in building bridges in our community.
I also appreciate your helping to not perpetuate falsehoods that often result from an insufficient understanding of other systems of beliefs and values.