Religion, Theology, and the Human Sciences

By Richard H. Roberts | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Globalised religion? The Parliament
of the World's Religions (Chicago, 1993)
in theoretical perspective

INTRODUCTION

In the late summer of 1993 I was able to attend the Parliament of the World's Religions, held in the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago. This event, planned over some five years by a Council (chaired by Cardinal Joseph Bernardine of Chicago), celebrated and re-enacted the first Parliament held in 1893. The first Parliament is generally credited with having introduced Eastern world religions to the United States in ways which were to have a growing impact on the level of mass culture and society, rather than upon a small eccentric or academic elite. The traditions then planted underwent an enormous boost in the 1960s, when esoteric religious and mystical religious experience began to feature in global popular culture, not least following the Beatles' association with the Maharishi. The second Parliament of 1993 was a global event in which indigenised religions from within the United States and Canada, including official representatives of Buddhism, Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic) and Judaism (predominantly Liberal), Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and so on, encountered their root communities and traditions of origin. There was also an impressive array of more esoteric groups of many kinds. The much-remarked and controversial participation of Neo-Pagans was indicative of the opening up of the religious 'market' at the Parliament. Co-religionists from all over the world converged upon Chicago in a highly diversified, complex, and sometimes conflictual encounter.

Michael York provided an admirable report on the Chicago 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions in Religion Today.1 The event itself was on an overwhelming scale, and participants inevitably took from it highly individual impressions. Indeed, the personal impact upon

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1
Michael York, 'Parliament of the World's Religions', Religion Today, 9/2 (1994), 17–20.

-248-

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