the gods

Luis Gonzalez-Reimann reimann at
Wed May 28 01:20:10 UTC 1997

At 12:22 AM 5/27/97 BST, Edwin Bryant wrote:
>My question to Louis remains: why was it considered appropriate, to drag in
and >broadcast Howard's personal religious orientations when this was
irrelevant to the >simple point he was making (which was not to advocate
scholarly neutrality)?

Dear Edwin,

It is not as if, to use a current American metaphor, I were forcing Howard
out of the closet.  I simply quoted something from an academic publication
available to anyone, which, in my opinion (maybe not in yours) was relevant.
Both George Thompson and Philip Johnson have stated some things I could have
said myself.  Why would this be less relevant than, for instance, saying
that H.H. Wilson believed Christianity to be superior to Hinduism? (would E.
Hoogcarspel consider this gossip?)  I still find his translation of the
ViSnu PurANa very useful, as I surely would find Howard Resnick's of the
BhAgavata if I consulted it.  But it is also useful to bear in mind what the
religious beliefs of the translator/commentator are, especially if the text
under consideration forms an important part of his tradition.  From there
on, I, and anyone else, is free to give whatever weight or place one wishes
to the translator's/commentator's words.

What I said above is also true about texts of any religion, when the
translation/commentary is made by someone who has a stake in the tradition
itself.  It can often be a limiting factor, but, depending on what we are
researching, it can also provide useful insights into certain aspects of the

But it is also difficult (although, I guess not entirely impossible), as
others have already stated, to completely disengage oneself from deeply held
religious beliefs and become a scholar of religion as if one were not a
participant.  Howard's words sounded to me like a defense against a
perceived attack on those who chose to believe in a certain god.

My posting was not an attack either on Howard Resnick nor on his beliefs.
But his words about a "hopeless logical positivist"  did seem to me as an
unwarranted attack on others.  As far as I can tell, nobody on the list was
attacking religion and defending science, positivism or whatever, so I don't
see the need for such an intense defense of one's right to believe in Agni,
Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, Thor, or any other god.  Not on this list, at any rate.
And, anyway, who is to judge that a "logical positivist" (which, by the way,
I'm not) is more hopeless than a religious believer.



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