Printer Friendly

Sorting out meanings: "religion," "spiritual," "interreligious," "interfaith," etc.

I. The Task

When I started my higher education at the end of World War II, in the fall of 1946, there were virtually no departments of religious studies in North America. There were sectarian departments of Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish theology studies in divinity schools or private colleges/universities; in a few cases some state universities granted credit for special courses in theology taught by "adjunct" teachers sponsored by churches or synagogues. In 1964 Temple University (which became a "state-related university" officially in 1966) created a Department of Religion, the same year that the American Academy of Religion (AAR) was formed. At the same time the Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) committed its billion-plus members to ecumenical (intra-Christian) and interreligious/interideological dialogue. Interreligious dialogue in general grew gradually thereafter, experienced a sudden surge with the end of the Cold War (1990), and took another leap forward in a 2007 delayed response to the events of September 11, 2001, when world Islam entered the dialogue. All this embrace of dialogue in the area of religion, and ideology, was most recently reflected in the establishment in 2013 of an official study section of the AAR devoted to Interreligious/Interfaith Studies.

The sudden flood of scholars into the field of Interreligious Studies broadcast the cacophony of terms needing clarification in this broad area. These reflections hope to contribute to meeting that need. They are, naturally in no way official or definitive but, nevertheless, are based on close and intense involvement in the field since (in 1957) the research for, and writing of, a German thesis for my Licentiate (S.T.L.) in Catholic Theology (1959, from the Pontifical Theological Faculty of the University of Tubingen--perhaps the first Catholic layperson ever to receive a degree in Catholic theology) and my American Ph.D. (from the University of Wisconsin) dissertation in Intellectual/Cultural History and Philosophy (1961). (1)

First, a reminder: We need to recognize that no term from whatever culture can possibly be without its limitations. Hence, the best we can do is consciously to choose terms that we think will be the most helpful--and then always bear in mind their cultural and other limitations. Only thus can we avoid, on one hand, being condemned to silence because we cannot find any words to describe reality that will not be limited and hence distorting and, on the other hand, being guilty of "idolatry," that is, mistaking our words--the "idols" (the images, the symbols, the "finger pointing to the moon")--for the reality they are supposed to describe or to image.

II. Religion

"What is religion?" Let us start with the etymological roots of the Western term "religion," even though it turns out not to be particularly helpful. We say in English that we "ought" to choose good and avoid evil; we speak of being "obliged" to choose the good. Our English word "obliged" comes from a Latin root, ob-ligare, "to be bound to." We have the English cognate ligare, "to bind," as in "//gament," which "binds" our bones together. Hence, "obliged" means that we are "bound to," obliged to, do the good. The Latin root of the term "religion" is fundamentally the same as that of "oblige," that is, "re-ligare," "to be bound back." This word root is really more helpful in another way that we use the term "religious," as when we say that someone follows his or her routine "religiously," meaning that he or she is "bound" to it. That regular commitment may at times, or even often, be a part of what we normally name "religion," but it surely is not its core. Nevertheless, those using Western languages, including English, which has become quasi-universal, are pretty well stuck with the term "religion," even though it does not really point to the core of what it is naming. So, let us make the best of it and try to define it as clearly and helpfully as possible.

Scholars writing about the meaning of religion often start by stating that it is not possible to give a definition of religion, then often follow that up with quotations of a number of "descriptions" by other scholars, and end up offering their own "description" or perhaps a tentative "working definition." 1 am more optimistic about the possibility of giving a definition and offer one here: Religion is an explanation of the ultimate meaning of life, based on a notion and experience of the transcendent, and how to live accordingly. Every religion normally contains the four "C's": Creed, Code, Cult, and Community-structure:
   Creed refers to the cognitive aspect of a religion; it is
   everything that goes into the "explanation" of the ultimate meaning
   of life.

   Code of behavior or ethics includes all the mles and customs of
   action that somehow follow from one aspect or another of the Creed.

   Cult means all the public and private ritual activities that relate
   the believer to one aspect or other of the Transcendent, such as
   public and private prayer, dietary customs, behavior toward
   authority figures, celebrations, art, clothing, etc.

   Community-structure refers to the relationships among the
   believers; this can vary widely, from a very egalitarian
   relationship, as among Quakers, through a "republican" structure as
   Presbyterians have, to a monarchical one, as with some Hasidic Jews
   vis-a-vis their Rebbe.

   Transcendent, as the roots of the word indicate (Latin, trans,
   "beyond"; cendere, "to go," as in "descend," "ascend") means "that
   which goes beyond' the everyday, the ordinary, the surface
   experience of reality. It can mean spirits, gods, a Personal God,
   an Impersonal God, Emptiness, etc.

Especially in modem times there have developed "explanations of the ultimate meaning of life, and how to live accordingly" that are not based on a notion of the transcendent, for example, Marxism and Atheistic Humanism. Although in every respect these "explanations" function just as religions traditionally do in human life, because the idea of the transcendent, however it is understood, plays such a central role in religion but not in these "explanations," for the sake of accuracy it is best to give "explanations" not based on a notion of the transcendent a separate name; the term often used is "ideology." (2)

III. Spiritual/Spirituality

"Spirituality" is a term that has had a long use, but it has become more prominent of late in distinction to "religion," with familiar statements such as: "I am not religious, but I am spiritual." The word "spiritual" comes from the Latin spiritus, which means "breath" or "wind." (3) Ancient humans noticed that, if there was no breath in a human body, it was dead, and that breath was a reality that could not be seen, that was "within," and obviously literally vital to human life. Thus, spirituality refers to the interior, the internal, as distinct from the exterior, the external. It is that exterior that the popular phrase means when it rejects religion. It understands religion as referring to externals and spirituality to the interior life.

Seeing religion as merely dealing with externals is a quite reductionist view of religion. Recall the rather "standard" definition of religion offered above. The human being is not just an interior being, a spirit, but is also a body or, perhaps better, a body-spirit. One of the terrible deficits of many of the world's religions has been a disdain for the body, as if, in order to appreciate the spirit, one had simultaneously to depreciate the body. Such an extreme dualist view runs counter to our own human experience--and as that experience is so eloquently expressed in the first chapter of the Hebrew Bible, Genesis, which says that God took a little adamah, "earth," and blew God's ruach, "spirit," into it and created ha adam, literally "the earthling" (not "the male," as often misunderstood), and God saw that what God had done was mod tov, very good! (4)

Regardless of how we understand or misunderstand the term "religion," however, it is clear that "spirituality" refers to the interior meaning of our humanity. Thus, when we speak of the spirituality of something, we are trying to get at the interior meaning of whatever we are talking about. We mean the internal significance of some external thing or action.

Those today who say that they are spiritual but not religious normally mean that they do not embrace the third and fourth, as well as perhaps some or much of the first, "C": the Cultic, Communal, and Creedal dimensions of religion. However, humanly this clearly is unsatisfying, since we cannot become completely human without expressing (via a "creed" and "cult" of some sort) what is within us, remaining totally by ourselves. We naturally want to express what is within us, and we need the Other, the community, in dialogue to develop our humanness. Hence, "spiritual not religious" persons tend to respond to or develop "explanations of the ultimate meaning of life," creeds, and outward quasi-cultic symbols and actions, as well as to seek out--or, if necessary, create--compatible communities.

IV. Dialogue

The term "dialogue" has long been part of the English language, but in recent decades it has taken on a greatly deepened meaning, especially in the area of religion. It comes originally from two Greek words, dia, "across," "together," and logos, "thinking," as in "logic," and all the words ending in "logy," meaning systematic thinking about something: sociology, anthropology, geology, genealogy, etc. Secondarily, it means the expression of our thinking, "words." Thus, literally "dia-logue" means "thinking and speaking together."

A. Profound Meaning of Dialogue

However, dialogue in a more profound sense is being perceived increasingly as a reality that is much more deeply embedded in our humanity, indeed, in the whole of reality. To point to this deeper meaning of dialogue, 1 have increasingly taken to using the term "Deep-Dialogue," which, when applied to humans does not just add new knowledge but is also "transformative" of the self and, consequently, its actions. Hence, Deep-Dialogue--understood in its most expansive, deepest sense as the "mutually beneficial interaction of differing components"--is at the very heart of the Universe, of which we humans are the highest expression.

From the basic interaction of matter and energy throughout the universe on the macro-level, to the creative interaction of protons and electrons in every atom on the micro-level, to the vital symbiosis of body and spirit in every human, through the creative dialogue between woman and man, to the dynamic relationship between individual and society--the very essence of our humanity is dialogical, and a fulfilled human life is the highest expression of the "Cosmic Dance of Dialogue."

In the early millennia of the history of humanity, as we spread outward from our starting point in central Africa, the forces of divergence were dominant. However, because we live on a globe, in our frenetic divergence we eventually began to encounter each other more and more frequently. Now the forces of stunning convergence are becoming increasingly dominant.

In the past, during the Age of Divergence, we could live in isolation from each other; we could ignore each other. Now, in the Age of Convergence, we are forced to live in one world, which is increasingly a global village. We cannot ignore the Other, the different. Too often in the past we have tried to make over the Other into a likeness of ourselves, often by violence, but this is the very opposite of dialogue. This egocentric arrogance is in fundamental opposition to the Cosmic Dance of Dialogue. It is not creative but destructive. Hence, we humans today have a stark choice: dialogue, or death. (5)

B. The Dialogues of Humanity

For us humans there are several dimensions to dialogue, corresponding to the structure of our Humanness: the dialogue of the He ad, Hands, and Heart, in Holistic Harmony of the Holy Human.

1. The Cognitive or Intellectual: Seeking the Truth

In the Dialogue of the Head, we reach out to those who think differently from us to understand how they see the world and why they act as they do. Different from almost all human encounters of the past, in the dialogue of the head we seek first not to teach, but to learn. We can locate the fundamental cause that brought about this radical shift "from diatribe to dialogue" in a fundamental shift in our human epistemology, that is, in our "understanding of how we humans understand." This epistemological shift can be summarized very simply: "Nobody knows Everything about Anything--therefore Dialogue!" No chemist, physicist, sociologist, etc., would ever say that he or she knows everything about chemistry, physics, or sociology. However, paradoxically, and perversely, billions of people think that they know all there is to know about the most complicated of all disciplines, religion. Rather, precisely because religion is the most complicated of all disciplines, religious people and institutions need to be especially humble and modest in their claims to know. In other words, religions and religious people most of all need to engage in dialogue, that is, they/we need to come to those who think differently from us in religious matters first of all not to teach, but to learn. To repeat: Religions and religious people most of all need dialogue! Moreover, this seeking, and finding, religious Truth through dialogue also has ethical, practical consequences, because how we understand the world determines how we act in the world.

2. The Illative or Ethical: Seeking the Good

In the Dialogue of the Hands, we join together with others to work to make the world a better place in which we all must live together. Since we can no longer live separately in this "one world," we must work jointly to make it not just a house but also a home for all of us to live in. In other words, we join hands with the Other to heal the world--tikun olam, in the Hebrew tradition. The world within us and all around us is always in need of healing, and our deepest wounds can be healed only together with the Other, only in dialogue.

3. The Affective, Aesthetic/Spiritual: Seeking the Beautiful/Spiritual

In the Dialogue of the Heart, we open ourselves to receive the beauty of the other. Because we humans are body and spirit--or, rather, body--spirit--we give bodily-spiritual expression in all the arts to our multifarious responses to life: joy, sorrow, gratitude, anger, and, most of all, love. We try to express our inner feelings, which grasp reality in far deeper and higher ways than we are able to put into rational concepts and words; hence, we create poetry, music, dance, painting, architecture--the expressions of the heart. Here, too, is where the depth, spiritual, mystical dimension of the human spirit is given full rein. As seventeenth-century mathematician/philosopher Blaise Pascal said, Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. "The heart has its reasons, which reason knows not." All the world delights in beauty, so it is here that we find the easiest encounter with the Other, the simplest door to dialogue.

4. Holiness: Seeking the One

We humans cannot live a divided life. If we are even to survive, let alone flourish, as we 1960's children used to say: We must "get it together." We must not only dance the dialogues of the head, hands, and heart, but we must also bring our various parts together in harmony to live a holistic, life, which is what religions mean when they say that we should be Holy. Hence, we are authentically human only when our manifold elements are in dialogue within us, and we are in dialogue with the Others around us. We must dance together the Cosmic Dance of Dialogue of the head, hands, and heart, holistically, (6) in harmony within the Holy Human.

V. What Is Faith?

Our English word "faith" stems from the Latin, fides, trust, trusting, trustful. Thus, we say, "I have faith in you," meaning "I trust you." Americans are familiar with the motto of the Marine Corps: Semper Fidelis! Always Faithful! You can bank on them; you can trust them to carry out their orders.

In medieval Christian theology a helpful distinction was made between fides qua--faith or trust by which we affirm something--and fides quae--that which we believe and trust is true. Hence, Christianity, for example, has a long litany offices quaes--called creeds, taken from the Latin credo, "I believe." More often than not, the term "faith" refers to fides qua, having faith/trust in someone (for example a pope, a rebbe) or something (such as the Bible, the Qur'an). Thus, in this sense, faith is more an act of the will than of the intellect. One decides, either implicitly or explicitly, to judge someone or something worthy of trust, to put one's faith/trust in one or it. Here, also, the emotions often play a more prominent role. Still, when someone or something is the object of trust, of faith (fides qua), then automatically what the trusted person or thing says is true (fides quae) is automatically accepted as such--hence, the many religious, explicit or more implicit, creeds.

VI. Interreligious or Interfaith Dialogue?

Throughout the 100, 000 years of the existence of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, the encounters of whatever passed for a multitude of "explanations of the ultimate meaning of life, and how to live accordingly, based on some idea and experience of the transcendent," that is, religions, until very recently were at best indifferent, but most often hostile, and even violent toward each other.

This slowly began to change, though at first not noticeably, with the rise of Modernity and the Enlightenment, which was characterized by freedom, reason, a sense of history, and, later, dialogue. The Enlightenment put forth a breakthrough thesis: At the heart of being human are freedom and rationality, to which was added by the Late Enlightenment (German scholars write of die Spat Aufklarung) a sense of history and dynamism. Embedded in the clarion call written in 1776 in Philadelphia, "All men are created equal," was the soft whisper, "therefore dialogue." It became a public voice at the interreligious encounter of the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions, in Chicago. (7)

This interreligious dialogue breakthrough grew slowly at first but was accelerated by the launching in 1910 of the "Ecumenical Movement," working toward the unity of the Christian church. Both were vigorously resisted by the Vatican, but at Vatican II the Catholic Church with more than a billion members committed itself to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, calling "all the Catholic faithful" even to "take the first steps" in dialogue.

In 1989, the Berlin wall came down, and the Soviet Union teetered into oblivion. Shortly afterward, in 1993, Samuel Huntington argued that the world had settled back into a "Clash of Civilizations?" (8) He was right. There was/is a "Clash of Civilizations," but that did not, and does not, describe all of the contemporary global scene. The world also dramatically began to move into the "Age of Global Dialogue," (9) as I personally can attest. In the same time period, that is, between 1990 and 1992, 1 published twelve books dealing with dialogue. (10)

The almost ubiquitous term used to describe the irenic encounter among the religions, which was almost always initiated by Christians, was "interreligious dialogue." From its beginning in 1964, the Journal of Ecumenical Studies was open to scholarly articles devoted to both intra-Christian and interreligious dialogue from scholars of whatever religion or none. However, the unsolicited submitted manuscripts were from the beginning overwhelmingly, and now a half-century later predominantly, from Catholic scholars. The term always used by submitting authors has been "interreligious dialogue."

The term "interfaith dialogue" began to appear more frequently toward the latter part of the twentieth century, for largely two reasons. First, echoing one of the by-words of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation--sola fide, by "faith alone" are you saved--more Protestants joined in the dialogue with non-Christian religions and tended to bring in one of their favored words: "faith." Second, as the dialogue among religions continued to spread, the grassroots were drawn to it increasingly (for example, over 100 pairs of churches and synagogues in the United States have engaged in "twinning"). These encounters tend to be more "dialogues of the hands and hearts" than "dialogues of the heads." Some have felt more comfortable with the term "interfaith," since the encounters were either more action-oriented and/or "emotional" than cerebal.

A significant drawback of the term "interfaith," however, is that it finds less resonance beyond the three Abrahamic religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--that have "faith" as a central characteristic. However, that is much less so with the great Asian religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Out of politeness, their scholars and laity may accede in the dialogue to the use of faith language by the Abrahamic religions, but to force them to do so would seem to be undialogic on the part of Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

VII. Religionswissenschaft and Interreligious Dialogue

Over the centuries the study of "religion" was mainly done from the perspective of the religion of the teacher/student. Thus, there was Christian "theology" taught and studied by Christians, Muslim kalam taught and studied by Muslims, etc. After the eighteenth-century Enlightenment and the subsequent development of the "critical" science of history, and then the various social sciences (sociology, anthropology, psychology, etc.) in the course of the nineteenth century, the "scientific" study of religion (Religionswissenschaft--German, wissen, "to know") was bom--Max Muller being recognized as its "Father"--in the last quarter of that century.

The study of religion in Europe and America largely continued in departments of Christian theology and equivalents in religiously related universities for the rest of the nineteenth and more than half of the twentieth century. When religions other than the "home" religion (in the West, almost always Christianity) were studied and taught, it was almost inevitably by a Christian theologian. This began to change when Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, became a state-related university, divested itself of its divinity school, and established its Department of Religion in 1964 (a few other state universities, for example, the University of Iowa, had developed various symbioses with outside religious bodies in the teaching about religion). Temple University's Department of Religion pioneered a new way to study and teach about religion, namely, by gathering professors who both grew up, and were critically trained, in the religions about which they were teaching, in addition to professors whose approach was more Religionswissenschaft. Thus, the world's religions were studied/taught by critical scholars who knew the religion from "the inside" and from "the outside."

One can begin here to discern the differences between the study of and teaching about religion via one of the various forms of Religionswissenschaft, on the one hand, and studying and perhaps experiencing interreligious dialogue, on the other. As noted earlier, interreligious dialogue occurs when "religious insiders," that is, members of two or more religions, come together primarily to learn from each other what the Other thinks/does and why. In the higher-education study of religion, interreligious dialogue itself occurs, as well as the study about it. There are a number of philosophical, social-scientific, and religious issues that underlie all interreligious dialogue that need to be studied in order to understand it. (11) The results of this study, in turn, significantly influence the actual dialogues that occur, whether in a university setting or elsewhere.

"Comparative religion," a subsection of Religionswissenschaft, engages in a historical cross-cultural study of religious phenomena with the emphasis being on comparison. Scholars "observe similar phenomena from religions laid side by side and draw conclusions from such comparison." (12) Concepts and categories are examined for similarities and differences, at times hypothesizing about their origins--whether there was a historical connection or an independent origin of recurrent themes. Some scholars seek universal structures in concrete religions, while others reject this as an unwarranted imposition upon diverse religious phenomena. Comparative religion does not per se promote interreligious dialogue, but insights from it may be useful in dialogue.

Thus, comparative religion--or, more broadly, Religionswissenschaft-- makes invaluable contributions to the understanding of religion and its influences in human life. It provides extremely helpful resources for interreligious dialogue, helping religious and nonreligious persons and groups to understand themselves and others better and, consequently, to act with greater respect for one's own religious self and that of the Other. It is interreligious dialogue that in fact allows the religious "insider" to utilize these resources from Religionswissenschaft and elsewhere, in order to engage in that respectful learning encounter with the religious Other, which is the very definition of interreligious dialogue.

In light of the above, it is clear that various combinations of Religionswissenschaft and the study/experience of interreligious dialogue make up what can be designated "interreligious studies."

VIII. Secularism, Agnosticism, Nontheism, Atheism

The terms "secular" and "secularism" come from the Latin, saeculum, meaning "age," as in an "Age of Peace" (Saeculum Pads) or an "Age of War" (Saeculum Belli) or the Catholic Mass (Per omnia saecula saeculorum, "Through all ages of ages"). In English the term "secular" has increasingly come to mean "this world," "this side of the grave." (13)

There is a wealth of writing on the topic of "secularism," perhaps the most enlightening of which is A Secular Age by Charles Taylor. (14) Taylor sees the birth and growth of "secularism," that is, the focus on "this world," as having come not from the throwing out of religion in the West but from the self-reforming by Western Christianity in an effort to continue to make sense of the swelling tsunami of scientific discoveries. This led to the increasingly "disenchanted universe," to the rapid closing of the gap of the "God of the Gaps." More and more, one did not need to resort to some supernatural force to account for a maleficent or beneficent event--for example, the presence of a bacterium or an antibody was a more satisfying explanation.

Eventually, the mainly Christian West arrived at the stage where the vast majority of past puzzles have been solved by the sciences. Hence, many have concluded, consciously or not, that there is nothing beyond what we perceive-- nothing beyond the grave. For some, this has meant a self-centered grab: "eat, drink, and make merry, for tomorrow we die." There have, of course, always been such persons, even during the so-called Ages of Religion. They simply felt compelled to provide some loincloth to cover their naked power-grab, but in the "secular age" they no longer feel so compelled. However, vast numbers of "secular-minded" persons today are not thus narrowly egotistical but strive to "transcend" their own current selves. Theirs is a kind of "immanent transcendence."

Still, there are also huge numbers of persons who embrace all that science and "secularism" have to offer but also feel compelled by "limit-questions" to seek a Transcendence beyond "this world." "Limit questions" are the kind that unavoidably present themselves but, because of the structure of reality, cannot be answered completely. For example, we now have evidence that the entire cosmos started 13.8 light years ago with a "Big Bang." Questions simply arise then, like: What was it like before it "banged"? Why did it "bang"? Whence the "rules" governing it when it "banged"? What was "it"? Why does "it" exist, rather than nothing? What happens to Leonard Swidler after death? Structurally, we cannot know the answers. Another example: In seeking to learn what fundamentally is the difference between living and nonliving matter, we have to pass light through the tiniest living particle we can find in order to "see" it--but we cannot know what it was like before we passed the light through it, for the light may have changed it.

Along with the term and reality of "secularism," there have also burgeoned the realities of agnosticism, nontheism, and atheism. These are not new, having been present already millennia ago, but they are much more prevalent, or at least visible, now. Hence, it is important to get at least some basic clarity about them in today's world of ever-new dialogue partners.

"Agnosticism" comes from the Greek gnosis, "knowledge" (which explains our strange English spelling: The "g" of gnosis turned into the unvoiced "k" of "know"), plus the negative "a." An "agnostic" in general is one who declares that she or he does not know the answer to the question, and in this case to such limit-questions as "Does God exist?" "Is the human soul immortal?"

"Atheism" also comes originally from the Greek: theos, "god," plus the negative "a." The atheist differs from the agnostic in that he or she claims to know that God does not exist. Of course, given that the "theisf ' claims not only that God exists but also that God is infinite, that is, "unlimited," neither the theist nor the atheist can validly claim to prove or disprove God's existence. Why? Because "proving" entails presenting logical arguments, and, since humans are finite, they literally cannot "grasp," that is, "put their mental arms around," cannot "comprehend" (Latin, com-prehendere, "to grab around"), cannot "conceive" (Latin, con-cepere, "to grasp around") the in-finite. What theists in fact usually do is to find the evidence so overwhelmingly in favor of affirming the existence of God that they decide (an act of the will, not the intellect) to go with that evidence, though, if truly honest, they would also have to admit that there is some evidence in the other direction. Atheists, of course, are convinced, and therefore also decide, in the other direction.

What then is "nontheism"? Think of Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha. He neither claims that God exists, nor that God does not exist, so he is neither a theist nor an atheist. He is also not normally thought of as an agnostic, saying that he does not know, that he cannot decide whether God exists or not. Rather, he deliberately does not address the question of whether God exists or not. There is a story told attributed to him that explains his position. He tells of a man walking through the jungle who is suddenly struck by a poisoned arrow. His advice is not to ask and search for who shot the arrow but to focus on pulling it out before the poison kills him.

IX. Conclusion

To reprise, the reason for these reflections is to attempt to provide some clarity in the ideas and terminology surrounding the relatively new, and extraordinarily powerful, characteristic of the current age: interreligious dialogue. It is so powerful that it is already beginning to transform the world. Sensitive "secularists" are beginning to take notice of its growing importance. Agnostics and atheists are asking to be included in the interreligious--and now also interideological--dialogue. President Obama's 2009 speech in Cairo exemplified it, as did also Pope Francis's 2013 speech in Argentina, wherein he said that, when difficulties arise, his advice was: "Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue!"

Leonard Swidler

Temple University

Philadelphia, PA

(1) For biographical details see; see also Leonard Swidler, The Ecumenical Vanguard (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1965).

(2) See Leonard Swidler and Paul Mojzes, The Study of Religion in an Age of Global Dialogue (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000).

(3) It is interesting to note a similar naming in the "near-mother language" of Indo-European languages, Sanskrit. There the human interior principle is atman, which means "breath," "wind." The prominent English cognate, of course is "atmosphere" the sphere of breath or wind. Also noteworthy is that the Hindu term used for "Ultimate Reality" is Brahman, and the goal of human life is for one's "self' or "spirit," atman, to be released (Sanskrit, moksha, "release") from the "cycle" (Sanskrit, samsara, "cycle") of birth-life-death-rebirth to be united with Brahman (very like the traditional Jewish-Christian-Muslim life-goal of the human spirit to be united with God, Ultimate Reality). At times, Hindus will describe the goal of life to be for the atman (individual sprit) to be united with the Atman (Great Spirit).

(4) See Leonard Swidler, Biblical Affirmation of Women (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1979; 4th printing, 1991); and idem, Jesus Was a Feminist. What the Gospels Reveal about His Revolutionary Perspective (Lanham, MD: Sheed & Ward, 2007).

(5) See Leonard Swidler, with John Cobb, Monika Hellwig, and Paul Knitter, Death or Dialogue: From the Age of Monologue to the Age of Dialogue (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990).

(6) Those who know Western medieval philosophy will recognize that these are the "metaphysicals," the four aspects of Being Itself, perceived from different perspectives: the One, the True, the Good, the Beautiful.

(7) See Leonard Swidler, "The History of Inter-Religious Dialogue," in Catherine Comille, ed., The Wiley-Blackwell Companion of Inter-Religious Dialogue (Hoboken, NJ; Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 219.

(8) Samuel P. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign Affairs 72 (Summer, 1993): 22-49; see also his later book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993).

(9) See Swidler and Mojzes, Study of Religion, and Leonard Swidler, Quanqiu Duihua de Shidai [The Age of Global Dialogue], tr. Lihua Liu (Beijing: China Social Science Press, 2006).

(10) Leonard Swidler, After the Absolute: The Dialogical Future of Religious Reflection (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990); Death or Dialogue (see note 5, above); Bursting the Bonds: A Jewish-Christian Dialogue on Jesus and Paul (editor and author with Gerard Sloyan, Lewis Eron, and Lester Dean) (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990); Attitudes of Religions and Ideologies towards the Outsider: The Other (co-editor and author with Paul Mojzes) (New York: Mellen Press, 1990); A Bridge to Buddhist-Christian Dialogue (co-author with and translator of Seiichi Yagi) (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1990); Christian Mission and Interreligious Dialogue (co-editor and author with Paul Mojzes) (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990); Human Rights: Christians, Marxists, and Others in Dialogue (editor and author) (New York: Paragon House, 1991); Der umstrittene Jesus (Stuttgart: Quell Verlag, 1991; and Kaiser Taschenbuch, GUtersloh: Chr. Kaiser/Giltersloher Verlagshaus, 1993); Muslims in Dialoguea: The Evolution of a Dialogue over a Generation (editor and author) (New York: Mellen Press, 1992); The Meaning of Life at the Edge of the Third Millennium (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1992); Die Zukunft der Theologie im Dialog der Religionen und Weltanschauungen (Regensburg: Pustet; and Munich: Kaiser Verlag, 1992); Introduzione al buddismo: Paralleli con I'etica ebraico-cristiana (co-author with Antony Fernando) (Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane,1992).

(11) See, e.g., Swidter, After the Absolute; and idem, Quanqiu Duihua de Shidai.

(12) Swidler and Mojzes, Study of Religion, p. 135.

(13)"Secular" also has a specialized Catholic meaning, namely, a "secular" priest who is not a member of a "religious order," such as Benedictine, Franciscan, etc. However, this Catholic usage has no relevance here.

(14) Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).
COPYRIGHT 2014 Journal of Ecumenical Studies
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Author:Swidler, Leonard
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Geographic Code:1U2PA
Date:Jun 22, 2014
Previous Article:Alvin J. Schmidt, The American Muhammad: Joseph Smith, Founder of Mormonism.
Next Article:Tribal alliances: the state of Israel and Native American Christianity.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters