A sweeping analysis of the world’s major religions, designed to demonstrate their shared commitment to universal values.
According to Verma (Gandhi’s Technique of Mass Mobilization, 2016), the world is plagued by sectarian discord due to the arbitrary division of religions into warring tribes. He also says that globalization, despite the failings, has powerfully highlighted world unity as a worthy aspiration. The rivalry among different faiths, Verma avers, is largely the result of scriptural ignorance—egregious misinterpretations of authoritative texts that foster delusions of mutual exclusivity. In an attempt to remedy this, he furnishes a panoramic synopsis of the world’s major religious traditions—including the three Abrahamic religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and others—in order to excavate their common moral foundations. He argues that representatives of each faith need to communicate their perspectives in more accessible, nondenominational language; seek out opportunities for interfaith dialogue; and clearly articulate their tolerance of divergent traditions. His wide-ranging analysis also discusses the virtues and vices of multiculturalism and pluralism, the spiritual core of the Bhagavad-Gita, India’s attempts to achieve cultural integration, and Mohandas Gandhi’s interpretation of religious harmony. (There are also less incisive, meandering accounts regarding philosophers Plato and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.) The author’s aims are impressively ambitious, and his adumbrative sketches of various religions are instructive. This is a refreshingly hopeful book and a timely call for theological moderation. However, it never convincingly establishes its two central contentions—that the world’s faiths echo the same teachings about the human condition and that they’re doctrinally designed to support open-minded exchange. In fact, sometimes Verma contends that traditions are contradictory, but in a way that’s philosophically surmountable (“Two or more faiths claiming mutually exclusive truth may be equally valid on a higher level”), though he never explains in any detail how this would be done. Also, the points of commonality that he does find are often so vague—such as a devotion to truth and purpose, some sense of a morally significant soul, and a love of fellow man—that they don’t produce a sense of shared mission.
A survey of the world’s religions with more historical breadth than intellectual persuasiveness.