Gandhi on religion, faith and conversion-secular blueprint relevant today
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AbstractGandhi believed in judging people of other faiths from their stand point rather than his own. He welcomed contact of Hinduism with other religions, especially the Christian doctrines, for he did not want to be debarred from assimilating good anywhere else. He believed a respectful study of other's religion was a sacred duty and it did not reduce reverence for one's own. He was looking out for those universal principles which transcended religion as a dogma. He expected religion to take account of practical life, he wanted it to appeal to reason and not be in conflict with morality. He believed it was his right and duty to point out the defects of his own religion, but to desist from doing so with other's faith. He refused to abuse a man for his fanatical deeds for he tried to see them from the other person's point of view. He believed Jesus expressed the will and spirit of God but could not accept Jesus as the only incarnate son of God. If Jesus was like God or God himself, then all men were like God or God Himself. But neither could he accept the Vedas as the inspired word of God, for if they were inspired why not also the Bible and the Koran? He believed all great religions were fundamentally equal and that there should be innate respect for them, not just mutual tolerance. He felt a person wanting to convert should try to be a good follower of his own faith rather than seek goodness in change of faith. His early impressions of Christianity were unfortunate which underwent a change when he discovered the New Testament and the Sermon on the Mount, whose ideal of renunciation appealed to him greatly. He thought Parliament of Religions or International Fellowship of Religions could be based only on equality of status, a common platform. An attitude of patronising tolerance was false to the spirit of international fellowship. He believed that all religions were more or less true, but had errors because they came to us though imperfect human instrumentality. Religious symbols could not be made into a fetish to prove the superiority of one religion over another. In a multi-religious secular polity like that of India, Gandhi's ideas on religion and attitude toward other religions could serve as a secular blueprint to ponder over and implement.