Do you find that the idea of being intellectual, or even intelligent, tends to be divorced from the idea of being religious, especially in India? In that, atheists are treated as more scientific, and therefore more rational, and more sensible than believers of any religion?
Sadly, atheists tend to think people who are religious are in some way warped, stupid, a bit cranky, that sort of thing. That I do find, but I know plenty of highly intelligent people who are very interested in religion, so I wouldn’t say that is inevitably true that they’re not intelligent. Plenty of scientists are religious.
The problem I have had in this country is actually nothing to do with Christianity. It’s a different one. You see, it’s embarrassing in a way to say you’re religious, because then people think you’re saying you’re very saintly, or something like that. I’m anything but saintly, and I have not led a regular Christian life, according to the dictates of the religion. (Laughs) But I’ve read theology at university, and I’ve always been interested in religion and theology. And because of that interest in religion and theology, and because I strongly oppose both Hindu fundamentalism or Christian fundamentalism, and secular fundamentalism, the secularists, many of them, think I’m a supporter of BJP or the RSS, automatically.
And that is, in my view, because of secular fundamentalism – because secularists cannot see or understand any good in religion, and therefore they think, if you are saying that certain aspects of Hinduism have come to mean something to you, that means you’ve become a rabid Hindu fundamentalist.
That is the problem I have come across. No one has ever criticised me for being a Christian. What I have been criticised for, and absolutely wrongly in my view, is for what I have said about Hinduism, because it has been taken by secular fundamentalists to mean I support Hindu fundamentalism.
Image: Indian Christian protesters wearing masks of BJP senior leader LK Advani (R) and of the Hindu right-wing RSS party stage a protest in New Delhi on August 29, 2008 against the ongoing violence in the eastern Indian state of Orissa specifically targeting Christians in the wake of the killing of VHP leader Swami Lakshamanananda Saraswati.