As Saketh discussed in a previous post, religious intolerance is common, and certainly not unique to Hinduism. Some criticisms of Hinduism include: more than one god is false; worship of idols is false; people with these false beliefs should be converted to the true religion — the list goes on and on. For example, I recently viewed a shocking video that, at certain times, celebrated violence against Hindus, because Hindus believe in many gods and worship idols. Taken aback, I wondered how I should react. As I searched for good points, the opportunity left me, and I questioned myself why I did not have a strong retort on hand. Some of the most common points I have heard from Hindus, in the past are:
- Reflection of nature. A defense of the multiple gods of Hinduism as a representation of different forces or aspects of the universe.
- Power of idol worship. That idol worship allows a very tangible, and perhaps more personal, connection with the deity, contrasted with more internalized or abstract forms of prayer.
- Not polytheistic. An argument that Hinduism is not polytheistic, but actually monotheistic, monist, or perhaps henotheistic, with one supreme Brahman.
These are solid points, yet I notice that, like me, many Hindus, and particularly my peers, choose not to debate. I do not know why. These questions of faith, in my opinion, are open and unresolved, in that there is no right answer or no absolutely correct faith. By remaining quiet, though, Hindus convey the message that the other side is correct. If Hindus respect their own traditions, they cannot remain apathetic on these issues.
We need to go further. None of the above points directly address the intolerance of Hindu beliefs in other belief systems, whether explicit or implicit. But how do you debate against a position that essentially states “I believe this is correct, therefore you are wrong?” I feel that Hindu beliefs are neither superior nor inferior to those of other religions; they are different, and luckily also, compatible with and accepting of other faiths, which is why I feel Hinduism should be defended more powerfully in these situations. Yet it seems that other faiths are not so accepting of Hinduism. Therefore, my question to you is: why do Hindus seem to tolerate intolerance of Hindu beliefs by other religions? How can we better deal with this intolerance in a constructive manner?