Comrades at Odds: The United States and India, 1947-1964

By Andrew J. Rotter | Go to book overview

6
Religion: Christians, Hindus, and Muslims

The roots of Indo-American tension must indeed be found in
cultural and religious dissonance. The Hindu concepts of time
and the cosmos. lead to relativistic foreign policy attitudes,
making it easier for India to accept optimal solutions in a world
where preferred ones are rarely possible and easier to rational-
ize what others do (e.g. Soviet behavior in Hungary or
Afghanistan) if this suits Indian interests. Conversely, American
“itchiness” concerning nonalignment is explained in signifi-
cant measure by the fact that many Americans are conditioned
by religious traditions based on revealed dogma.

—Selig S. Harrison

In this Season we must work in the true spirit of religion. Love
is vain if we do not treat other human beings as brothers; it is
empty if we do not adopt an attitude of patience, sympathy and
understanding when dealing with problems which seem to sep-
arate us. Love is bound to win.

—Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Vice President of India, 1952-62

American scholars have usually resisted interpreting U.S. foreign policy as a product of religious thinking. The idea makes many Americans uncomfortable, for we are supposed to live in a country where politics and religion do not mix. We know, of course, that they do mix. Televangelists run for president, politicians go conspicuously to church, opponents are demonized or tainted by association with devils, like Willie Horton in the presidential campaign of 1988. To some extent, religion is encoded in political practice, taking the form of what Robert Bellah has called “civil religion,” the translation of religious language and symbols into secularisms. The administration of John F. Kennedy, notes Garry Wills, “had its own rites and sacred symbols (touch football, PT-109,

-221-

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