Episode 232: Talking About Each Other’s Gods
In 1924 the eminent nerve-specialist Sir Roderick Glossop urged Bertie Wooster and his friend Charles “Biffy” Biffen to attend the British Empire Exhibition being held at Wembley. “It is the most supremely absorbing and educational collection of objects,” Glossop enthused, “both animate and inanimate, gathered from the four corners of the Empire that has ever been assembled in England’s history.” After arrival at Wembley, Bertie’s genius-level manservant Jeeves shimmered off, and the heat, exertion, and education of it all became so overwhelming that Bertie and Biffy sought solace inside an ice-cold glasses of Green Swizzle, served up by a bartender in the Jamaican Tent.
Perhaps Jeeves, who was known to curl up with a volume of Spinoza in his off-hours, attended the principal intellectual attraction at Wembley, the Conference on Some Living Religions within the Empire. This awkwardly named meeting of world religions is one of several chronicled by my guest Tal Howard in his new book The Faiths of Others: A History of Interreligious Dialogue. In doing so, he traces how inter-religious dialogue was defined; how it in turn defined religion; and how it reflected and reinforced ideals and concepts such as pluralism, cosmopolitanism, and orientalism—not always in the ways one might expect.
Tal Howard is Professor of History and Humanities, and Richard and Phyllis Dusenberg Chair of Christian Ethics, at Valparaiso University. This is his second appearance on Historically Thinking; he was previously on the podcast talking about the historian Jakob Burckhardt.