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Religious Diversity and Inter-Faith Dialogues

Religious Diversity and Inter-Faith Dialogues

Dr Adam Yuet Chau

 

Taiwan temple
Mazu Temple in Taiwan

The Western, liberal model of religious pluralism and inter-faith dialogue is premised on the equality between ‘religions’ that are understood to be equivalent/analogous to one another (i.e. Protestantism = Catholicism = Islam = Buddhism = Hinduism, etc.). As soon as we admit that in reality the diversity of religious life in the world is more in the ‘modalities of doing religion’ rather than in the abstract systems of religious ideas constructed by religious elites and religious-studies scholars, such a model of religious pluralism no longer holds. We need to recognise that there is a diversity of religious diversities, and that the conventional inter-faith-dialogues model privileges a particular kind of discursive modality of doing religion, which is merely one of many ways of doing religion. People with religious sensibilities premised on ritual efficacy are not interested in any ‘dialogue’; for them the most important thing is that the ritual ‘works’ (i.e. is efficacious).

Dr Chau engaged with these issues in the following articles:

2011. ‘Modalities of Doing Religion’, in Chinese Religious Life, edited by David A. Palmer, Glenn Shive and Philip Wickeri; Oxford University Press, pp. 67-84. [Article anthologised in Critical Readings on Religions of China (four volumes), edited by Vincent Goossaert, Brill, 2012]

2012. ‘Efficacy, Not Confessionality: Ritual Polytropy at Chinese Funerals’, in Sharing the Sacra: The Politics and Pragmatics of Inter-communal Relations around Holy Places, edited by Glenn Bowman; Berghahn Books, pp. 79-96.

2013  "A Different Kind of Religious Diversity: Ritual Service Providers and Consumers in China." In Religious Diversity in Chinese Thought, edited by Joachim Gentz and Perry Schmidt-Leukel, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 141-154.