ShriDurga's Reviews > The World's Parliament of Religions: The East/West Encounter, Chicago, 1893

The World's Parliament of Religions by Richard Hughes Seager
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Jun 24, 10

bookshelves: religion, history, buddhism
Read in June, 2010

It's 1893 and the USA is throwing a party to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the "discovery" of America by Italian colonizer Columbus. As part of the affair, a World Parliament of Religions is organized to showcase the enlightened, liberal protestant tradition. Representatives from the world's largest religions are invited to discuss and debate theology and philosophy for 17 days in Chicago. Native Americans and Black Americans are conspicuously absent from the event, but one can imagine them sharing in the delight of the outcome. The foreigners turn the tables and grab the lion's share of the headlines by using the forum to not only denounce Christian cultural and religious imperialism, but also to make culturally nuanced presentations asserting the intellectual equality (and even superiority) of their own religious ideals. Many of these Buddhist and Hindu visitors go on to make celebratory tours of the United States, establishing study circles and planting the first seeds of eastern traditions in western soil.

Even in outline form the story is quite dramatic. Fill it out with biographies of the main players and expositions on turn-of-the-century political and intellectual themes, and you've got the makings of a engaging epic-length book. Perhaps Hughes-Seager didn't have the time, or wasn't interested, and so what we get is a rather dry, academic recapitulation of the main themes and events with a particularly tedious emphasis in cataloging the various possible academic approaches to interpreting the events of the Parliament. It seems the author was less interested in the story and its players and more in demonstrating his scholarly prowess.

The story of the Parliament is still waiting for a great writer.

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The World's Parliament of Religions.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.