From Your Gods to Our Gods: A History of Religion in Indian, South African, and British Courts

From Your Gods to Our Gods: A History of Religion in Indian, South African, and British Courts
Marco Ventura
Cascade Books 2014

The global world debates secularism, freedom of belief, faith-based norms, the state’s arbitration of religious conflicts, and the place of the sacred in the public sphere. In facing these issues, Britain, India, and South Africa stand out as unique laboratories. They have greatly influenced the rest of the world. As single countries and together as a whole, the three have moved from the colonial clash of antagonistic religions (of your gods) to an era when it has become impossible to dissociate your god from my god. Today both belong to the same blurred reality of our gods. Through a narrative account of British, South African, and Indian court cases from 1857 to 2009, the author draws an unconventional history of the process leading from the encounter with the gods of the other to the forging of a postmodern, common, and global religion. Across ages, borders, faiths, and laws, the three countries have experienced the ambivalent interaction of society, politics, and beliefs. Hence the lesson the world might learn from them: our gods promise an idealized purity, but they can only become real in the everyday creation of mixed identities, hybrid deities, and shared fears and hopes.


“As Marco Ventura well understands, the theory and application of law is a reflection of society’s evolution. This is especially true in the English-speaking world where case law is all-important. In the commonwealth countries he has studied, society has grown steadily more multicultural and multireligious, with a gloriously varied and unpredictable set of consequences for the practice of law. Through the prism of law, he has gained some fascinating insights into the deeper social and cultural trends at work in a globalizing world.”
—Bruce Clark, writer on religious affairs, The Economist

“Religion has become an increasingly significant factor in the modern world order. Marco Ventura finds new ways to grasp the nature of this shift. He looks at the complex process of law and law-making in relation to these ‘explosive Gods’ in three very different places: Britain, India, and South Africa. The web of connections that emerges merits the widest possible attention.”

—Grace Davie, Professor of Sociology, University of Exeter