Thursday, September 3, 2009

Christianity Similar to Hinduism?

When I try to share about the Christian faith to my Hindu co-workers, they often tell me that many stories in Xianity and Hinduism are similar. They tell me that they also have gods who came to live with men to make their lives better, and that there is good evidence for their existence. When I ask how people came to validate the divinity of these people/gods, they just said it was known among the people. And they have holy books which go in length for each of their many gods. The one question they had was why there are so many gods and why all of them gave sometimes contradictory rules (eat veg while some eat non-veg (meat), etc). However, they see that people's prayers seem to be answered and they live well enough. I answered by saying that religion is not just about morality. And it's not just about living well. And that, though, un-PC, there can only be one Truth. However, when I proposed that there is ample evidence for Christ and his resurrection, other stories of Bible, the response is, each culture has their similar stories that are just as well attested for.Although I know that many of their "proofs" are not based on much, how do I gently communicate this? However, obviously, I don't know how to build a stronger case. Am I barking up the wrong tree? What is the best way to approach them?


Anonymous said...

Man, this one is hard. I think right now their paradigms are set where religion and culture are either very intertwined or essentially the same things. I don't know what intellectual case to make or action to take, but I guess it would be to show them how Christianity is counter-culture...I don't know though

Daniel Kim said...

I don't think we should just assume the veracity of the statement "each culture has their similar stories that are just as well attested for". That's simply a statement, and we need to actually understand what they mean by that.

What are we talking about when we say "well attested for"? Are we talking about documentary evidence? Do they have existing documents in hand? Do they have evidence that those documents were written by eye-witnesses? When were they written?

Also, the whole issue about validating one's divinity... that's a huge difference. For Hinduism, you really don't need much evidence to be divine.. In fact, it's a given that we are all divine, in different ways, since it's a pantheistic religion. So that's why they can say that they can validate the divinity of these people/gods simply because it was known among the people. Now, if you were to go to your co-workers and say that someone that you knew were divine, and you produced a handful of friends that believed, would your co-workers be satisfied? Maybe that theoretical question is a good place to start.

If they are satisfied, then we can recognize that their criteria of "verification" are extremely different from those of Christian scholars.. and I would say that it's not true that Hindu accounts are "just as well attested for" as Christian accounts. It's possible that they simply don't know that Christian accounts are attested to so well historically, so maybe they just need to learn about it.. because anyone doing the comparative research would know right away that Christian accounts are far more than just a handful of documents and some people knowing about someone's divinity. Christian documentary evidence stands up against questions such as "how do you know they weren't just making it up?" "how do you know that people didn't change the documents later?", etc...

If they are NOT satisfied, then that might open a door to talk about what the criteria of verification might be. Hinduism comprises of writings of spiritual gurus, and their claim to divinity is simply their claim. They do not have to backed up by any miraculous works or something like the resurrection. So again, the devil's in the details, and we should not just blindly accept the statement that some other stories have the same amount of verifiability as Christianity. Maybe you can engage in a conversation about what they mean by "well attested for" -- ask them to see if they could teach you what they mean by that.

Dan Kinder said...

I think that talking about historical truth and veracity can be useful, but I'm not sure it will have any impact unless they recognize a need for it. If their foundation is relativistic, I would think they could discard 'evidences' easily. This seems to be the case, given their point of view on the similarity between religions.

If this is true, then I think a good starting point would be the exclusivity of truth. Initially you don't even have to assert any particular truth to defend(and in fact it's easier to refrain from throwing Christianity in the mix yet), just that truth is exclusive by definition. You also may have a foot in the door here, given their curiosity about gods with contradictory preferences, but pushing that beyond preference difference to actual reality could be important.

With the above as a primer, examining the real evidence and discussing historical epistemology will be critical, more so if they are willing to admit that someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong(exclusivity).