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What Are “World Religions” Teaching Us? Post-Imperialism in Contemporary Views of Global Faiths

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The Global Studies Journal





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The teaching of “World Religions” is one principal early source of information for high school students and undergraduates in the formative cultural influences of faith and practice. In Canada, a nation with a large immigrant population — particularly in the largest cities — knowing your neighbours includes what a recent Quebec commission into religious discrimination called “intercultural” knowledge. University course curriculum can be more sophisticated about these implications for Canadians as they begin their lives in the “public space”, as Charles Taylor calls it. This paper investigates textbooks and methods with a view to the imperial template which led to the creation of global faith practices as “religions”, and the lingering effect of this on students’ perceptions. The question is asked: is it possible to teach a “global theology”? By looking further than the once-dominant Christian hegemony which informed the making of “religions”, it will be shown that one key challenge for teachers, professors, and textbook writers is to acknowledge the residue of that post-imperial legacy, and to move forward in understanding the strengths and limitations of providing also a “local” vantage point to the apparently limitless mixture of archaic, global, and structurally religious teaching of the worlds’ faiths.


This article is finalist of the International Award of Excellence in Global Studies, 2009.