21. Know the truth, and the truth shall make you free
The struggle against
Islamic aggression cannot be won without taking issue with the basic
doctrines of Islam, i.e. explaining to the Muslims that they have no
reason to stay with the refuted dogmas of Islam. The same is true for
Christianity. The Sangh Parivar has made much ado about the Christian
demand for reservations for "Christian Dalits", and about continuing
Christian proselytization in tribal areas. It is, however, impossible
to sustain this objection against the strategies of evangelization as
long as Christianity is accepted as a valid religion qualified to enjoy
the Hindus' sarva-dharma-samabhava. Why in the world should
Indian citizens not embrace Christianity if it is true, at least
"equally true" with Hinduism? Especially now that Christianity in India
has largely "indianized" itself in its cultural expressions (e.g. by
giving Hindu first names to their children), the Sangh should not object
to conversions to Christianity.
Being a Christian implies
accepting a creed, i.e. an unprovable truth claim. The Christian
denominations differ on some points of detail, but crucial to any
criterion for being a Christian is the acceptance of the following item
of belief: Jesus was the Christ/Messiah and saved mankind from
original sin through his death and resurrection. To my knowledge,
all denominations with active missions in India also teach that Jesus
Christ was God's only-begotten son, both human and divine in nature.
However, modern Bible scholarship, much of it carried out by Christians,
has conclusively refuted all the Christian fairy-tales about Jesus.
* Contrary to his own
self-image, Jesus was not the messiah in the original sense of the term,
i.e. a scion of King David's clan who restores the Davidic kingdom. He
never scored any political or military victory for his country, and by
the end of his career, Israel was still under foreign domination. For
all we know, Jesus did not even belong to the House of David; if he did,
it is a mystery why the evangelists had to indulge in such demonstrably
false and contradictory stories about Jesus' genealogy and birth.
* Jesus was not executed
by the Jews but by the Romans because of his entirely hollow but
strictly speaking seditious claim that he was the "messiah", i.e. the
new king of the Jews, intrinsically a challenge to Roman rule in his
country (but not an act of blasphemy liable to the death sentence under
Jewish law, as wrongly alleged in the Gospel). The Gospel version that
the Jews wanted him dead (when in fact they merely held him in contempt
as a useless and self-centred eccentric) was invented when the
Christians tried to be on the winning side during the Roman crackdown on
the Jewish revolt of ca. 70 AD. This move set the trend of two
millennia of Church opportunism and it off-hand initiated Christian
antisemitism with its numerous pogroms culminating in the Holocaust.
* Jesus was not the
messiah in the Christian-theological sense, i.e. the redeemer of mankind
from original sin and from its punishments (as per Genesis), viz.
mortality, the need to work, and painful childbirth. Anyone can see
that people have gone on sinning, giving birth in agony, eating the
fruit of their labour in the sweat of their brows, and dying; just like
they did before Jesus.
* Jesus was not
resurrected, for if he had really "conquered death", he would still be
with us. The apostles tried to get around this simple logic by
inventing his direct ascension to heaven, an imaginary event totally
incoherent with the whole narrative, rendered necessary only by the fact
that Jesus proved mortal like the rest of us. Fact is that the stories
about the resurrection in the Gospels are full of contradictions and
absurdities, like most of the theologically crucial episodes.
* Jesus was not God's
only-begotten son, and for all his megalomania, he never even claimed to
be that. The whole notion is a mix-up of the worst in Hebrew monotheism
(exclusivism) and Greek paganism (idolizing of human beings as divine),
and is absurd from the viewpoint of both these traditions in their pure
forms. Like the crucifixion, it was "a scandal to Jews, a nonsense to
Greeks", and an invention of the Church Fathers.
* Jesus was not even a
prophet, in the sense of being able to predict the future. Like his
follower Paul, he predicted the impending end of the world (even within
the lifetime of his listeners),-- surely a failed prophecy.
* Jesus' ethics were
mostly not his, but included classical Jewish lore ("love thy neighbour")
and general proverbs ("to him who hath, shall be given"). Some of "his"
words were put into his mouth retrospectively by the evangelists, e.g.
"Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's", a diplomatic kowtow to the Romans.
The words which he really spoke himself are either not original or not
commendable. Thus, the humane doctrine of the relativity of the Law
(i.e. that the need to save a human life can overrule a commandment),
always presented as a revolutionary innovation, was taught by the very
Pharisees against whom Jesus is reported to have preached this
doctrine. As against the Pharisees' balanced view of the Law, Jesus
vacillated between a pseudo-noble but inhuman hyper-adherence to the law
("even a man who mentally lusts after a woman is guilty of adultery")
and a nihilistic dismissal of the Law and even of sheer common sense as
having become irrelevant in view of the impending Doomsday ("don't plan
for the morrow", like the lilies in the field). Jesus' original
contribution lies mostly in the least commendable injunctions, e.g. in
his very un-Jewish anti-family and anti-sexuality statements, in the
commandment of surrender to the aggressor ("when slapped, turn the other
cheek"), and in the morbid Sermon on the Mount ("the meek shall inherit
the earth"), which teaches the weak to exult in their weakness instead
of exhorting them to become strong.
This was merely a brief
survey of the case against Christianity, but Hindutva activists who are
serious about countering Christian subversion ought to familiarize
themselves more throughly with these findings. Similarly, the case
against Islam as marshalled in a number of quality books is required
reading for anyone who prefers India not to become an Islamic state.
Hindus may rightly feel more drawn to critiques of Christianity and
Islam from a spiritual viewpoint, as those by Ram Swarup, than to purely
rationalistic critiques; yet, I feel that taking cognizance of the
latter's very thorough and comprehensive analysis of these religions
would certainly be worth the effort. After properly digesting the hard
scholarly facts, they may add something which most scholars may be
unaware of, and which Hinduism offers: a comprehensive vision which
allows for a meaningful type of ritual and spiritual practice to
continue after the creedal religions have been discarded.
If the Sangh is serious
about saving Hinduism, it should make sure that from now on, no one can
get away with pious nonsense like Jesus' Resurrection or Quranic
Revelation. Every time a wily secularist or sentimental Ramakrishnaist
stands up to praise Jesus or Mohammed, every time an Indian President or
Minister opens a Christian or Islamic function with the injunction that
"we should all put Jesus' (c.q. Mohammed's) message of peace and
tolerance into practice", Hindus should push the facts under his nose.
One of the most bizarre disputes in religious history is the
fragmentation of the early Church in sects divided by their
doctrines concerning the nature of Jesus. Some "heresies"
marginally surviving in the Middle East teach that Jesus was but a
non-divine human being, others that he was exclusively divine and
not human, but the mainstream (after bloody persecutions of the
others) decided that Jesus had two natures, divine and human.
For a start, I suggest all the Hindutva workers dealing with
Christian missionaries read Michael Arnheim's excellent book Is
Christianity True? (Duckworth, London 1984), and of course the
Voice of India publications on Christianity.
According to the apocryphal Acts of Thomas, the source of the
Indian Church's claim that the apostle Thomas came to India and was
martyred near Chennai, Thomas was Jesus' twin-brother, which ought
to create a problem for the dogma of the "only-begotten son".
A truly great book in this class, written by a born Muslim, is Ibn
Warraq: Why I Am Not a Muslim (Prometheus, New York 1995).