Christianity today accepts freedom of religion only at a political level, rejecting the state suppression of other religions that it promoted through most of its history. Yet at a metaphysical level Christianity still claims to be the only true religion, and rejects all others, particularly those not rooted in Abrahamic traditions.
Religious pluralism for Christians is a social expediency only. It does not extend to a spiritual level of honoring many paths to God or truth. Christian acceptance of religious freedom is mainly to allow their freedom to convert others, and does not include any true respect for other traditions.
Hindu Apologists for Christianity
As a western Hindu critic of Christian theology, I have often been criticized, including by some Hindus, for my statements against Christianity, including Christian missionary efforts. I have been called a hardline or fundamentalist Hindu for questioning prime Christian dogmas like salvation by belief, Jesus as the only Son of God, or suggesting that Christian charities can be a mask for conversion activities.
I have been told by self-styled liberal Hindus that all religions are one and have the same goal, so we should honor, not criticize any of them. Some state that Jesus was a great saint or even yogi, that there are many exalted Christian mystics, and New Age Christians who talk about karma and rebirth. I have been encouraged not to be narrow minded or reactive but look to the future of religious unity, and if there are bigoted Christians today to ignore them.
The problem with such thinking is that it is narrow and naïve. It misses the reality of missionary conversion activity in the world today, particularly in Bharat.
The Missionary Assault on Hindu Dharma
Hindus in Bharat remain perhaps the main target of the global missionary movement, which is willing to use money, media, and even false allures in the process. Such missionaries include well-funded evangelical groups from America, the Catholic Church, and mainstream Protestant groups from European countries like Germany. No doubt they include sincere believers in their faith, but sincere belief in a misguided faith will only end up misguiding others.
This Christian missionary assault on other religions is not limited to Hindus. It targets native and indigenous traditions from throughout the world, as well as Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. It has existed since the early beginnings of Christianity two thousand years ago.
Yet today, many people look at these missionary efforts as a thing of the past, as if they were no longer happening – or have become in some way either harmless or perhaps helpful to Hindus, providing them charity and education, with any conversion that also occurs as nothing to be worried about. The facts at the ground level are quite different.
The missionary assault on Hinduism and other non-Christian religions is not diminishing. It has changed tactics since the colonial era in which it relied on brute force extending to genocide. The colonial era also involved educational propaganda on various levels and economic gains for converts, which have been streamlined today.
Since the independence of non-Christian countries, the new missionary methodology relies on media propaganda and charity, hiding religious exclusivism and intolerance under the guise of freedom of religion. Evangelical groups are the most vociferous, still speaking of hell, fire and brimstone, Hindus as worshipping demons, and promoting fake miracles in the name of Christ.
But other Christian groups are still misrepresenting Hindu Dharma and its profound teachings. Some are trying to coopt Hindu Dharma into Christianity with aartis in churches and Om on crosses.
Are All Religions One?
Hindus may say all religions are one – Sarva Dharma Samabhava, which they now mistakenly take to mean that all religious dogmas are acceptable, however narrow minded or mutually contradictory. They also miss the fact that Dharma and religion do not mean the same thing.
However, Christians, except for a very few, have no such idea of the unity of all religions, except perhaps if all people become Christians. Their belief is that Jesus is the only Son of God and the only way to salvation, which is going to his Heaven where non-Christians are not allowed. Some Christian groups try to downplay the old heaven-hell dichotomy, but few have openly rejected it. Non-Christians have only damnation to look forward to whatever they do, or at best error.
Need for Hindu Critiques of Christianity
Hindus have every right to criticize the Christians who are trying to convert them. In fact it is the duty of Hindus, who accept universal consciousness as the true reality, to expose the false beliefs of those who think that they need to convert the world.
As long as Christians unleash their missionary warriors against Hindus, Hindus must counter them and expose their wrong beliefs. Christians cannot talk about religious harmony and respect while setting their missionary armies upon the world. Their mentality is not one of honoring the Divine in all, but of promoting a well-funded and determined conversion agenda for one point of view only.
The Prejudice behind Christian Theology
Christian conversion efforts are rooted in Christian theology as the great majority of Christians and all major Christian churches continue to follow it – that Jesus is the only Son of God and there is no other way to reach the Father except through him – that Christianity is the only true religion, and particularly idol worshipping Hindu polytheists have no redeeming spiritual value.
Christian theology is not a theology of Self-realization, the honoring of many paths, or the recognition of many great gurus. There can be no Christianity without Jesus as a historical person. If this exclusive Christian theology is not questioned, then the inherent conversion seeking behind the missionary effort will not be exposed or made to come to an end.
The fact is that the basics of Christian theology are not true and cannot take one beyond ignorance. Christian theology does not understand the nature of consciousness, the law of karma and rebirth, the cosmic mind. It does not endorse any yoga sadhanas or meditation.
For Protestant Christians salvation is by belief alone, nothing else is required. For Catholics some good works are also helpful but belief is the main thing. There is no need for Yoga or meditation, or for seeking higher states of consciousness. These in fact may be dangerous.
Certainly we should embrace a tolerance of all religions and religious freedom at a social level. Yet we must also question conversion efforts and conversion theology, which aims at making one faith triumph over all. Hindus should not be naïve in thinking that this one true Christian faith has a place for them and their gurus, except in a condition of subordination, if not denigration.