I kept wondering how suddenly the term “Hinduism” came up, when an idea struck me:
In the 18th/ 19th century, when Vedic knowledge reached Europe, the intellectual elite there was greatly impressed. This had two effects:
1. The influence of the Church went down and
2. scientific progress was made in a big way (inspired by Vedic knowledge).
Those elite Europeans did not consider Vedic wisdom as a religion, but as wisdom, philosophy. Voltaire, who was in the forefront of fighting the Church called the Vedas the greatest gift to mankind for which “we are eternally indebted to India”.
Then suddenly the term “Hinduism” showed up (instead of Vedic knowledge), and Hinduism was seen as a religion and immediately associated with a divisive caste system with the Brahmins as villains.
In India school children were told that their heritage was no good and English ‘culture’ far superior and all over the world children were taught “the religion of the Indians is Hinduism and its main feature is an oppressive, divisive, inhuman caste system”, and therefore naturally inferior… I knew already in primary school in the 1950/60s about the “terrible Hindu caste system”, when I knew nothing yet of Nazi Germany or slavery.
And a few years ago, when I asked 3 German girls in Rishikesh what they associate with Hinduism, they replied immediately “caste system”. They did not even associate yoga with it, in spite of being in the Yoga capital of the world.
It struck me that this was a strategy by the Church to deflect from the great divisiveness of Christianity (Islam is in the same boat) of dividing humanity into those who are right (Christians or Muslims respectively) and will be saved and those who are wrong (“others”) and will be damned forever by the Almighty himself.
Even to this day, “Hinduism” is called divisive and the other two big religions are portrayed as superior. It means turning the truth upside down.
– Maria Wirth