God in the Age of Kali
Religious Pluralism: The Key to Overcoming Global Conflict and Achieving Peace
I said that I felt one of the fundamental reasons why there is religion-fuelled conflict is because of the claims made by some members of exclusivist religions: that they are the ones who know the true God, and that it is the command of their religions for them to convert the non-Christian and the non-Muslim. "As soon as you say that my God is not good enough for me, you get my back up, and that has fuelled insanity for the past two millennia," I argued.
The couple of Jewish friends in the audience nodded their heads as well as some of my secular-Christian colleagues and students. Ipson concurred with me.
Two days later the Presbyterian minister, who was in the audience, spoke to me. He argued that I could not falsify the claim that "Jesus was the only son of God," revealing to me, again, the power of well-circulated fallacies. I pointed out to my good friend that he was doing a confused reading of the philosopher Karl Popper's thesis that only that which is falsifiable is scientifically verifiable knowledge. Because I cannot disprove that Jesus was the only son of God does not mean that Jesus is the only son of God, I told my friend. It simply means that your assertion cannot be either proved or disproved, and so it is not a verifiable or scientific claim.
He then argued that it was his fundamental right, under American law, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that allowed him to spread the message of his God to others. I told him that I am all for freedom of speech, but that the freedom, if wrongly used to assert unverifiable claims, or to demean and demonize others' faiths led to conflict. Religion-influenced conflict, I said, is the biggest bane of humanity now.
I told him that it is not as if we could argue about the claims of automobile manufacturers, for example, that their cars and trucks are more reliable and provide better gas mileage than their competitors' cars and trucks. "Oh, but we can," he asserted. I asked him if economic analyses showed that Christians are healthier than Muslims or Hindus, or whether Christians earned more than Sikhs, or if Christians were more loving than Buddhists. It seemed as if he was about to mention Samuel Huntington's thesis about the "clash of civilizations" to argue that there was some kind of sociological or cultural evidence that indeed Christians were "better" than others, but we had to end our conversation. However, my friend is not the only one who believes that Christianity is directly or indirectly responsible for what we take to be the good of modern capitalism and free market economies: there are a whole host of Christians making that argument, and indirect claims to the superiority or uniqueness of their God.
Ramesh Rao, Professor and Chair, DN3 Program, Columbus State University, Columbus, GA, is the author of two books on Indian politics and society and has written numerous op-eds for newspapers and magazines in India, the U.S., and the U.K. Ramesh served as Human Rights Coordinator and Executive Council member at the Hindu American Foundation between 2004-2013. He spent the first twenty-eight years of his life in India where he worked as a bank officer, a school teacher, and a copy editor. He received his MS in Mass Communication from the University of Southern Mississippi, and his PhD in Communication from Michigan State University. He taught at Truman State University in Kirksville, MO, and Longwood University in Farmville, VA, before he joined Columbus State University. He lives with wife Sujaya, and son Sudhanva in Columbus, GA.