Politics and religion : the need for an overlapping consensus (an exemplar from the Hindu tradition)
This Thesis examines the consensus Hinduism in India shares with the ideology of liberal pluralism, and applies these reflections to religious education in the English context. The Rawlsian theory of justice models the political structure of a liberal plural society. Insights from communitarianism, relativism and Alasdair Maclntyre, are critically assessed and used to enlarge this model. Further, Carol Gilligan and Tom Kitwood emphasise that moral citizens in a plural society need, and must provide, a caring and open environment. The overlapping consensus across liberal pluralism and the Hindu tradition is assessed at the (i) theological and (ii) empirical levels. (i) Vedantic concepts are formulated to highlight a potentially strong consensus across Vedantic and liberal viewpoints. The presentation of God as a caring and egalitarian mother is emphasised. (ii) A landscape survey (sample size 550) was conducted to help focus the case-study investigations. Case-studies of four Indian young Hindus studied attitudes towards pluralism through discussions on Ayodhya 1992. The minute sample size of the casestudy meant that this data could not, in itself, justify inductive generalisation. Nevertheless, the case-studies did highlight some important and disconcerting voices, and did not contradict the conclusions from the larger landscape survey. The data warns that contemporary sentiment may be incongruent with the potentially strong consensus across liberal pluralism and Vedantic theology. The conditions responsible for this are explored. It is suggested that a combination of secularism and the exclusion of religious education from State education has contributed to ignorance of liberal theological imperatives and reinforced the communal isolation between the Hindu and Muslim communities. Amongst Hindus, this has caused suspicion and illiberal attitudes. The lessons from India are applied to the English plural situation. Juxtaposing Rawlsian theory aside recent pragmatic initiatives, a model for religious education suitable for the perpetuation of a liberal pluralism is proposed. This Interface Approach Towards a Liberal Indigenous Charter (IATaLIC) model respects liberal justice but recognises the classroom educator's limitations in motivating young persons with a strong religious identity towards a liberal disposition. Equally problematically, traditional religious leaders and scholars within the community may not care for justice. Hence the classroom religious educator, sympathetic towards both the liberal and traditional agendas, must work with the community leaders and scholars. Educators must encourage these personnel to excavate liberal principles from their religious texts, and then evangelise these principles throughout their community. Then, justice will be met and communal integrity maintained. Communal tension in India may be due to a liberal State prohibiting such an approach. In England, opportunities do exist for education to establish a consensus across religious and liberal viewpoints. Such opportunities should not be neglected.