a1 Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol, 36 Tyndall's Park Road, Bristol BS8 1PL
There is an impasse in the discussion as to how to judge a religion other than one's own. On the one hand judging another religion by the criteria and standards of one's own tradition has become a highly problematic exercise. The metaphor used by some critics for such an approach is that of jingoistic flag-waving. Criticisms of this strategy are numerous and interdisciplinary in their nature. For instance, it is argued that such an enterprise is part and parcel of the political–economic imperialism of western (Christian) history. Such geo-political–religious imperialism is intolerable in a post-colonial age. Sociologically, anthropologically, and philosophically it has been argued that disparate traditions are quite simply incommensurable, each operating with their own rules and grammar. Hence, to judge one religion against another is like judging the goodness of an apple against a vacuum cleaner. The degree of incommensurability varies, so that at the lower end of the scale, the appropriate analogy is that of judging the goodness of apples against oranges. Such criticisms involve a range of disputed questions such as the possibility of successful translation of one language into another alien and different language, the epistemological logocentricism of western philosophical thought, and so on. I should state before proceeding that despite such criticisms I am a supporter of a nuanced form of this first strategy. I shall return to this point in due course.