There are many books that have been written criticizing Hinduism but they are not easy to come by. My favorite books critical of Hinduism are those by Meera Nanda. You can find them here: http://www.meerananda.com/books.html
“Secularism, science and the Right” [Review: Nanda, Meera. The Wrongs of the Religious Right: Reflections on Science, Secularism and Hindutva. Gurgaon (Haryana), India: Three Essays Collective, July 2005. 118 pp. ISBN paper 81-88789-30-5.], Frontline [India], Volume 23, Issue 24, Dec. 02-15, 2006. http://www.flonnet.com/fl2324/stories/20061215000507400.htm
I think you are right. I also think we need a Hindu version of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. These guys know the abrahamic religions, but because they are not familiar with Hinduism they don't take it on. The important thing is, the text needs to be accessible by the a regular (ordinary) person and not assume they know massive amounts of philosophy/theology etc.
My question would then be: what about the political dimension? I suppose a Hindu Dawkins could take on the Hindutva fascists in the manner of a Hitchens, or even better, Meera Nanda, but is there more wiggle room for progressive politics and a more sophisticated conception of society in India than there is in the USA, or is the anti-religious approach sufficient in the Indian context?
Ralph, nice to know about your work on the subject.
Hinduism has proved hard to criticize from the Western perspective because of its multi-source origins and the consequent un-relatedness of the various beliefs that it encompasses. Think of it as criticizing all of ancient Greece, including the philosophies and the supernatural myths. The problem is that the institutionalization of Hinduism, in response to the Semitic invasion and consequent out-group status, has made the followers of all these unrelated sects coalesce under one group. They now claim that all the Indian philosophers (most of whom had never heard the word Hindu, and had never imagined that they would be forced to share the label with barbaric supernatural beliefs of innumerable kinds) fall under the Hindu religion. This is a manufactured religion in a sense that is different from the Semitic religions.
It is much easier to criticize specific cult-like groups, supernatural beliefs and unscientific philosophies that are found within Hinduism, but this is always countered with the claim that Hinduism is so varied that even Atheists can be Hindus (like in Judaism). This is a good way for religion to have the cake and eat it too. Nevertheless, there are many traits of modern Hinduism that demonstrate the religion-like tendencies that are open to criticism.
But it is essential that criticism using the scientific method not be presented as Western, because that is a specific claim of the Hindus- that it is Christian apologetics rehashed. In fact, this only demonstrates how Hindus form a paranoid in-group in order to label rational criticism as Christianity in secular garb.
I have more to add, including some links to relevant criticism of Hinduism, but I will wait for some response.
I agree that it is hard to criticize a religion when no-one can agree what it really is..particularly those who practise it. For instance, what is Hinduism mean to me today? Among other things, it means the occasional phone call from my MIL telling to pray on such-and-such occasion for her son. Not that I dont understand her motivation! Still I digress....
I don't agree with you about the scientific method being Christianity in secular garb...it is common sense formalized.
I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on the scientific method and of course it has nothing to do with Christianity or any specific culture. I don't know what ever gave you the impression that I consider the scientific method as being Christianity in secular garb.
You obviously didn't understand what I was saying. Either that, or you're inventing a straw-man argument for the sole purpose of disagreeing with me.
You are actually agreeing with my assessment while claiming to disagree with something you think I said.
Let me explain that further. I took it for granted that I didn't have to state that science is a product of human reason and has nothing to do with any specific religion or culture. Considering that everyone here would already be aware of this facct, I proceeded to say ..
"But it is essential that criticism using the scientific method not be presented as Western, because that is a specific claim of the Hindus- that it is Christian apologetics rehashed."....
..implying that in order to dispel the (obviously false) Hindu propaganda that rational criticism/ scientific criticism of Hinduism is Christianity in secular garb, we must present the criticism as not coming from proselytizing missionaries.
Your point about rational thinking being written off as Christianity in secular garb really hits close to home! Only yesterday, my father told me that my brother any I are no longer Hindus because we eat beef, and now we have turned into Christians! I tried to explain to him that "Atheist' means NO religion, not a different religion... but then, it is hard to get across to him when we are seperated by an ocean and a religion.
i really like your comments. well thought through and articulated. But the problem with Meera Nanada is that she reads HInduism from the structural make up of Abrahamic religions without taking into considerations of its reality. By doing so her critiqueat times reflects Christian missionary critique of HInduism which is based on its own self importance, absolutr hatred etc than actual criticism. All the good work she does is then marred by this. Her whole-sale importing of ideas from European critical thinking at times becomes as a apologist to Islam and Christianity. There needs to be some one more sophisticated than her.
By the way much of the West and Indians seem to have a rosy view of Buddhism. Similar to HIndutva( Religious nationalism) IN Sri Lanka there is a heavy dose of Buddhist Nationalism- Jatika hela Urimaya etc, read Stanley Thambiahs Budhism Betrayed
Having said that, I still think Hindutva, Buddhist nationalism in Sri lanka is actually nationalism in bed with certain aspects of Religion. But this is radically diffrent from Islam, Chritianity based fundamentalism. For example - apostacy which is not a factor of HInduism, Jainism, Buddhism etc
correct me if I am worng. I wait for your eager reply