Original Research

Interreligious dialogue as a myth

Josephine N. Akah, Anthony C. Ajah
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 1 | a7706 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i1.7706 | © 2022 Josephine N. Akah, Anthony C. Ajah | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 May 2022 | Published: 28 July 2022

About the author(s)

Josephine N. Akah, Humanities Unit, School of General Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; Department of Religion and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; Department of Religion Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Anthony C. Ajah, Humanities Unit, School of General Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; Department of Religion Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

The authors aim in this article to show why it is extremely difficult to expect representatives of missionary religions to engage in productive interreligious dialogue. The article demonstrates how the imperative to convert, which is rooted in a sense of epistemic authority that one holds the best version of truth, precludes interreligious dialogue among religionists. The authors note, on the one hand, that the primary condition for any dialogue is that each of those involved come to the dialogue intellectually humble. On the other hand, the authors note that for missionary religionists to embrace intellectual humility requires a fundamental rethink of their claims of epistemological certainty and final epistemic authority. This implies abandoning the missionary mandate and witnessing built on a sense of intellectual certainty and pride. The authors therefore argue that intellectual humility is a necessary condition for productive interreligious dialogue. Because representatives of missionary religions claim certainty about the knowledge they espouse, what is paraded as interreligious dialogue is largely a myth. It will remain a mere concept that yields little to no tangible result unless these representatives embrace intellectual humility, which is more achievable within a secularist framework.

Contribution: This research contributes to the seemingly easy but difficult discourse and practice about interreligious dialogue. It brings to the limelight a more appropriate conception of dialogue in the context of interreligious dialogue, and explains how side-lining that conception empties the predominant practice of interreligous dialogue. This contribution is useful to HTS, which focuses on theological and religious studies, as well as critical study of religions.


Keywords

interreligious dialogue; myth; intellectual humility; epistemic authority; secular

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