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16. Superiority and Inferiority of Religions

So long as there are different religions, everyone of them may need some outward distinctive symbol. But when the symbol is made into a fetish and an instrument of proving the superiority of one's religion over others', it is fit only to be discarded.

Autobiography, 1948, p. 480

God has created different faiths just as He has the votaries thereof. How can I even secretly harbour the thought that my neighbour's faith is inferior to mine and wish that he should give up his faith and embrace mine? As a true and loyal friend, I can only wish and pray that he may live and grow perfect in his own faith. In God's house there are many mansions and they are equally holy.

Harijan, 20-4-'34, p. 83

My fear is that though Christian friends nowadays do not say or admit that Hindu religion is untrue, they must harbour in their breasts the belief that Hinduism is an error and that Christianity as they believe it is the only true religion. Without some such thing it is not possible to understand, much less to appreciate, the G.M.S. appeal1 from which I reproduced in these columns some revealing extracts the other day. One could understand the attack on untouchability and many cither errors that have crept into Hindu life. And if they would help us to get rid of the admitted abuses and purify our religion, they would do helpful constructive work which would be gratefully accep­ted. But so far as one can understand the present effort, it is to uproot Hinduism from the very foundation and replace it by another faith. It is like an attempt to destroy a house which though badly in want of repair appears to the dweller quite decent and habitable. No wonder he welcomes those who show him how to repair it and even offer; to do so themselves. But he would most decidedly resist those who sought to destroy that house that had served well him and his ancestors for ages, unless he, the dweller, was convinced that the house was beyond repair and unfit for human habitation. If the Christian world entertains that opinion about the Hindu house, 'Parliament of Religions' and 'International Fellowship' are empty phrases. For both the terms presuppose equality of status, a common platform. There cannot be a common platform as between inferiors and superiors, or the enlightened and unenlightened, the regenerate and the unregenerate, the high-born and the low-born, the casteman and the outcaste. My comparison may be defective, may even sound offensive. My reasoning may be unsound. But my proposition stands.

Harijan, 13-3-'37, p. 36

The aim of the Fellowship (of Faiths) should be to help a Hindu to become a better Hindu, a Mussalman to become a better Mussalman, and a Christian a better Christian. The attitude of patronizing toleration is false to the spirit of International Fellowship. If I have a suspicion in my mind that my religion is more or less true, and that others' are more or less false, instead of being more or less true, then, though I may have some sort of fellowship with them, it is of an entirely different kind from the one we need in the International Fellowship. Our prayer for others must be NOT 'God, give him the light that Thou hast given me  BUT 'Give him all the light and truth he needs for his highest development.' Pray merely that your friends may become better men, whatever their form of religion.

Nevertheless, your experience may become a part of their experience, without your knowing it.

Sabarmati, A Report of the First Annual Meeting of the Fede­ration of International Fellowship] 1928, pp. 17-19.

[1] The appeal issued by the Church Missionary Society of England, extracts wherefrom were reproduced in the Harijan issue of 26-12-'36.