By William H. Harrison
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Extra resources for In Praise of Mixed Religion: The Syncretism Solution in a Multifaith World
Instead, I am going to argue that it is already there. I think that we have defined religion so that we can pretend we do not have it or that it touches only carefully selected parts of our lives, when religion – of some sort – is truly everywhere. Religion is always present and cannot be banished. First, though, we should ask why we want religion to be kept carefully penned, perhaps even caged, so that it hardly touches our lives. The primary answer is that it is dangerous. The world has seen too much violence in the name of religion, between Western Christians and Eastern Christians during the Middle Ages; Protestants and Catholics in Ireland and, before that, in Continental Europe, on Britain’s shores, and on the high seas; and between Christians, Druze, and Muslims in Lebanon.
Kraemer argues that people will not engage in syncretism if they belong to a religion of revelation, especially if that religion is Christianity, because people who truly hold to a revelation will not, and can not, compromise their views by accepting insights from elsewhere. This argument finds its strongest expression in Christian fundamentalism, which simply rejects the legitimacy of any authority beyond the Bible and declares that human intelligence is of no value in relation to spiritual matters.
That does not mean that the question is unimportant, only that it is a question of a different kind. The Sikh community is in the process of establishing an identity in North America. As the bearer of particular insights and hopes, the community wants to be able to share its message. In order to do so, it feels a need to control its self-presentation. If Sikhs want to be known as members of a proud and independent religion with its own insights about God and the world, then having their religion portrayed as a result of a lengthy syncretistic process is unhelpful for them.