Edited by Anna Lännström
This timely book brings together distinguished scholars who reflect on the fascination and fear that humans inevitably experience when confronted with diverse religious beliefs and practices. Contributors argue that fear of the “stranger” and his or her religion can only be overcome through education, and they suggest ways in which we can better understand one another and the world in which we live.
Part one of the collection, entitled “Talking with Strangers,” explores avenues for finding common ground between “religious strangers.” In this section Stephen Prothero examines the American reception of Hinduism, John de Gruchy analyzes the relationship between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in South Africa, and Bhikhu Parekh imagines a dialogue between Osama bin Laden and Mahatma Gandhi. The second set of essays addresses the theme of understanding difference, with a particular focus on methodological approaches within philosophy of religion. Wendy Doniger argues for an approach to cross-cultural studies that recognizes both the similarities and the differences between us and the other, and that encourages us to think and feel with the alien tradition. Eliot Deutsch advocates a pluralistic approach to religion, which encourages cross-religious dialogue. Robert Neville’s essay challenges the tendency to view other religions through a lens shaped by one’s own faith tradition. The final set of essays discusses religious conversions and converts. It includes a piece by John Carman on conversion from Hinduism to Christianity, an essay by Werner Gundersheimer on crossing the border between Christianity and Judaism, and Pravrajika Vrajaprana’s description of her experience as a Caucasian American who became a Hindu nun.
Collectively these essays reveal the importance of learning about, listening to, and empathizing with the “stranger’s religion.” This book will appeal to anyone who is interested in cross-religious and cultural dialogue.
“As discrete lectures aimed at a broad audience, [these essays] succeed in revealing various approaches to the comparative study of religion as well as tensions endemic to the field. Even readers already familiar with religious studies will find a number of the case histories and narratives, as well as the restatements of familiar problems, of some interest.” — Journal of Church and State
“. . . A very readable collection …” — Contact