Home again in Chinatown
26 April 2010
Sunday best
2 May 2010


Time to pop a well-meaning bubble: All religions are basically the same. Stephen Pothero calls this “naive theological groupthink – call it Godthink –” perpetrated by everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Karen Armstrong to Elizabeth Gilbert to the Dalai Lama. He says it is a fantasy, specifically, “to imagine that the world’s two largest religions are in any meaningful sense the same, or that interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims will magically bridge the gap.”

Prothero is puzzled. “No one argues that different economic systems or political regimes are one and the same. Capitalism and socialism are so self-evidently at odds that their differences hardly bear mentioning. The same goes for democracy and monarchy. Yet scholars continue to claim that religious rivals such as Hinduism and Islam, Judaism and Christianity are, by some miracle of the imagination, both essentially the same and basically good.”

He finds one thing in common. “What the world’s religions share is not so much a finish line as a starting point. And where they begin is with this simple observation: Something is wrong with the world.”

He works on a metaphor: “Different sports have different goals: Basketball players shoot baskets; tennis players win points; golfers sink putts. To criticize a basketball team for failing to score runs is not to besmirch them. It is simply to misunderstand the game of basketball.”

The full piece is in the Boston Globe. Stephen Prothero is a religion professor at Boston University and the author of the new book “God Is Not One.”

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