Frontiers of Peace and Pluralism: Legacy of Virchand Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda
Written by Dr. Veena Howard
September 14, 2021
The August 26th, 2021 New York Times’ article, “The New Chief Chaplin is at Harvard? An Atheist,” might provoke anxiety in the people of faith who find inspiration and solace in their religion. However, the selection of atheist and humanist Greg Epstein, the author of Good without God, as the University Chaplain has been cheered by students and faith leaders alike at Harvard University. Still some religious believers might consider this choice at odds or inconsistent with the very foundations of religion as we understand generally (God, doctrine, etc.). As a religious studies and Gandhi scholar, I suggest that this selection of an atheist/humanist serves two functions: firstly, it places humanity/personal quest/morality at the center of religious discourse instead of religious dogma; and secondly, it encourages respect for a diversity of beliefs and perspectives without privileging one over others. This move may seem new and bizarre to us, but it has been at the forefront of India’s philosophical and religious systems for over three millennia. It is also embraced by the inclusive, moralistic, and pluralistic vision of the World’s Parliament of Religions, one of the oldest and largest international interfaith organizations.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions remains the most inclusive interfaith gathering in the world today.
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