Why We Need to Study Religion

Prof. Arvind Sharma joins Dr. Saad Ismail in a conversation on the need for religious literacy as Indian and wider global citizens. Prof. Sharma distinguishes between the confessional study of a religion that believers of a religion do, and the academic study of religion that can be done even by a non-believer of a religion. He advocates for the latter to be a part of our education. The secular dismissal of religious studies from educational curricula has been a mistake in his view. Prof. Sharma traces the secular anxieties about religion to the European Enlightenment, which neglected the non-rational and transcendent dimensions of life in its pursuit of pure rationality. Finally, he suggests phenomenology as a useful method in the study of religion.

Formerly of the IAS, Arvind Sharma is the Birks Professor of Comparative Religion in the School of Religious Studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada in, He has taught in Austrlia (University of Queensland, Sydney) and the USA (Northeastern, Temple, Boston,Harvard) and has published extensively in the fields of comparative religion and Indology. He was instrumental, through three global conferences (2006, 2011, 2016), in facilitating the adoption of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the World’s Religions. His recent books include The Ruler’s Gaze: A Study of British Rule over India from a Saidian perspective, Gandhi: A Spiritual Biography; Hindusim and It’s Sense of History and Decolonizing Indian Studies. He has contributed to and edited Our Religions: The Seven World Religions Introduced by Prominent Scholars from Each Tradition. He is also the general editor of the Encyclopedia of Indian Religions (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer,2017).

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