Hindu Influence in America Essay

Submitted By jenholt6898
Words: 618
Pages: 3

The early American history is closely tied with Hinduism. Unitarians represented as a small, liberal sect of American Christians. In the period following American Independence many writers showed interest in religious ideas and texts of India. They belonged to the social and religious community of New England Unitarianism. Later they entered a uniquely American religious movement. Transcendental writers of the nineteenth century commented on Hindu texts. During that period the Transcendentalists were not alone who was interested in Hinduism. They were considered radical by the larger Unitarian movement from which they emerged. Their interest in Hinduism combined a modest tradition of earlier Unitarian writers. Those writers had been studying works of European scholarship on India in the 1790s. Unitarians are marked that they made a decisive American transaction with Oriental thought in the beginning of the nineteenth century. The early studies of Hinduism were written by Unitarians. They introduced certain biases in the general American understanding of Indian religiosity. In their early studies Unitarians initiated two ongoing traditions of response to religious pluralism. One of the first serious American studies of Hinduism appeared at the end of the eighteenth century. "A Comparison of the Institutions of Moses with those of the Hindoos and other Ancient Nations" was published by the British Unitarian minister, Joseph Priestley in 1799. His interest in Asian religion was caused by his desire to protect Christianity from its radical Enlightenment critics. His aim was to show Christianity's superiority to other religions. Priestley paid attention to the influence on Hebrew religion, questions of re-establishing the superior claims of Christianity, and Hinduism's age. In his work Priestley traces common aspects of Hebrew and Hindu religion, he deals with certain statements about the nature of God, similar depictions about a universal flood, etc. In his introductory chapter we find the description of Hindoos' civil and religious institutions which were considered to be respectable due to their antiquity. However, Priestley states that an objective comparison of the values, origins, and beliefs of these two religions shows the superiority of Christianity. The author of this book denies the statement that Hinduism was mild and tolerant, and mentioned humiliation of women. Priestley introduced the genre of American comparative religion. Nevertheless, we consider that his comparative studies demonstrate the superior claims of Christianity. At the same time, we notice significant contribution of this research to European studies of Hinduism. In his later writings, Priestley provoked the President of the…