It is unfortunate fact that in popular ‘Western’ imagination, the land of India is frequently orientalised, and naively conceptualized as ‘the quintessential land of religion, spirituality, and miracles.’ Although we would certainly not want to completely invert this stereotype by substituting one unnuanced and inaccurate construct for another, what happens when we take a closer look at a constituency who challenge this narrative, those who identify as ‘rationalists’ and engage in the criticism of ‘religion’ in India?
The disappointment of Western pacifists here is not unlike the reaction of early Orientalists who, disappointed by the ritualism and deity-worship they found in living Buddhist cultures, described a degenerate Buddhism.
Can one really engage in a “serious conversation” in which one always has “the last word”? Or is that perhaps a “misrecognized monologue,” to use Lincoln’s terms? And what are the potential political implications of the assertion that scholars “have the last word”?
Having so vigorously rocked the academic boat early in his career, Cook later changed tack gracefully when he realised that he had set a course in the wrong direction.