The Other As Primitive Superstition

Some apply the rationality of the western Enlightenment to the religions of Asia and see them as primitive and superstitious. Missionaries, who were involved in educational ministry such as setting up schools, colleges and universities, saw their task as bringing the critical rationality of the Christian west to influence the people of Asia and, thus, help turn them away from religions full of primitive ideas and superstitious practices. One of the leading figures in this sort of encounter was Alexander Duff, who was a missionary in India during the nineteenth century.5 Some western missionaries took the Hindu mythologies as a platform to argue for the rational character of the Christian faith. To cite one example, among many, John Murdoch maintains that the Hindu tradition 'cannot be accepted as the revelation from God, but as the invention of men in an enlightened age'.6 Hindus, themselves, were weary of such a caricature of their religious tradition. As Sushil Madhava Pathak, an Indian historian, notes:

A careful reader is struck by the sense of missionary writers on the bright sides of Hindu thought and culture. The sublime philosophy of the Gita and the Upanishads was hardly discussed. The ideals enshrined in the characters of Ramayan which have captured Indian imagination from times immemorial, were never mentioned ... It was a favorite strategy of missionary writers to compare Krishna with Christ and show the superiority of the latter's character.7

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