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Is there such a thing as a universal religion?

Quintessence

Consults with Trees
Staff member
Premium Member
Can we agree if diversity did not exist, that particular problem would not exist?
Yes, but it is sort of impossible for diversity not to exist so I'm not sure what the point is of making this observation. It is basically declaring that reality or the universe is the problem, which, well... I mean... whining about inherent and unavoidable aspects of reality would be par for the course in humans, I suppose. Humans are stupid like that.
 

ADigitalArtist

Veteran Member
Staff member
Premium Member
Yes, but it is sort of impossible for diversity not to exist so I'm not sure what the point is of making this observation. It is basically declaring that reality or the universe is the problem, which, well... I mean... whining about inherent and unavoidable aspects of reality would be par for the course in humans, I suppose. Humans are stupid like that.
If there wasn't conflict, we wouldn't need conflict resolution. Therefore we will henceforth not allow conflict. Please do not object to this policy, because that would be initiating conflict, which is banned!
 

Quintessence

Consults with Trees
Staff member
Premium Member
On a darker note, blaming diversity has historically been used as an excuse by those attempting to control diversity - by eliminating it. From the Druid blog I posted up earlier:

Humans are social animals – we do better in communities than in isolation. ... Every one of us is a unique individual with our own needs and desires. Part (though far from all) of what it means to be human is to participate in our own journey of self-discovery and self-determination.​
But how can we do that if there’s only one religion? Not only will there not be any readily available alternatives, history shows that one of the reasons religious monopolies become corrupt and oppressive is that they start worrying about maintaining their monopoly status. They demand orthodoxy, they start inquisitions, and from there it’s a short walk to burning heretics.​
 

Trailblazer

Veteran Member
Or will every religion always be considered from a particular culture and carry those marks?

Is Christianity a universal religion? Islam? Given their Middle Eastern focus, their almost exclusive interest in a limited geographical area, Semitic language and concepts not known by those outside that culture, limited view of history etc.

Is it possible to have a truly universal religion that doesn't just end up being a bland, sterile philosophy?
I ran across this website about Ethnic vs. Universalizing Religions several years ago. It explains the difference between these two kinds of religions. A universalizing religion looks for new members and welcomes anyone and everyone who wishes to adopt their belief system. Throughout history, some of these religions such as Christianity have attempted to convert people to their religion.

By contrast, ethnic religions consist of beliefs that were handed down from generation to generation within an ethnicity and culture and these religions do not try to convert others to their belief system. That is one reason Judaism is relatively small religion, with only about 14 million after over 4000 years. Compare that with Christianity and Islam, who have 2.3 billion and 1.9 billion members, respectively.

The Baha’i Faith is not included on this website but it goes without saying that it is universalizing religion.

Ethnic vs. Universalizing Religions: AP Human Geography Crash Course

Universalizing Religions

First, let’s look at the definition of universalizing religion. Universalizing religions offer belief systems that are attractive to the universal population. They look for new members and welcome anyone and everyone who wishes to adopt their belief system. Universalizing religions have many diverse members, who come from different ethnic backgrounds, hence the term universal. Therefore, it is evident that universal religions consist of many different ethnic groups because they convert and accept anyone of any background and are usually not closely tied to one location.

Christianity

Christianity is the largest universalizing religion, both in area and in number, with about two billion adherents. Founded on the teachings of Jesus, Christianity is monotheistic, believing that God is a Trinity and Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The three main branches of Christianity are Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. Roman Catholics are predominate in Southwest Europe and Latin America, Protestants in Northwest Europe and North America, and Orthodox in Eastern Europe. Eastern Orthodoxy is the largest single religious faith in Greece, Cyprus, and Russia.

Islam

Islam is the second largest universalizing religion with over 1.5 billion adherents. In Arabic, Islam means “submitting to the will of God”. Those who practice Islam are Muslims, which means one who surrenders to God. Islam begins with Abraham like Christianity and Judaism, but traces their story through Abraham’s second wife and son, Hagar and Ishmael, not Sarah and Isaac like the Christians and Jews. Their leader and prophet is Muhammad. The two branches of Islam are Sunni and Shiite. The division between the Sunni and Shia originated in a disagreement over leadership after Muhammad’s death in 632 CE. Islam is the predominant religion in the Middle East from North Africa to Central Asia. More than half of the world’s Muslims live in four countries outside the Middle East: Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India.

Buddhism

Buddhism is the fourth largest religion, with about 350 million adherents. Buddhism was founded in Northern India by the first known Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. The core Buddhist belief is reincarnation. In this concept, people are reborn after dying. One can attain Nirvana if one releases their attachment to desire and self. Today, Buddhism is a majority faith in Southeast Asia, China, and Japan.

Ethnic Religions

In contrast to universalizing religions, ethnic religions usually consist of beliefs, superstitions, and rituals handed down from generation to generation within an ethnicity and culture. It follows one’s ethnicity because the religion does not tend to convert. In some ways, ethnic religions act like a folk culture. It expands via relocation diffusion and often increases through birth rates. Ethnic religions relate closely to culture, ethnic heritage, and to the physical geography of a particular place. Ethnic religions do not attempt to appeal to all people, but only one group, maybe in one locale or within one ethnicity. Judaism and Hinduism are two prime examples of ethnic religions.

Hinduism

Hinduism is the largest ethnic religion and the world’s third largest religion with about 1 billion adherents. Hinduism existed before recorded history and had no specific founder. The origins of Hinduism in India are unclear; however, the oldest manuscripts date to 1500 BCE. Hinduism consists of many different religious groups evolved in India since 1500 BCE. Other religions are more centrally organized than Hinduism, and it is up to the individual to decide the best way to worship God. The principle of reincarnation is the cornerstone of Hinduism, and their doctrine closely mirrors India’s caste system. Almost all Hindus live in one country, India, but also are in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.

Judaism

Judaism is an ethnic religion that has more than 14 million followers worldwide. There are 6 million Jews in Israel and 5 million in the United States. Two of the main universalizing religions, Christianity and Islam, find some of their roots in Judaism, recognizing Abraham as a Patriarch. Jews believe in one true God, and the Western Wall of the old temple in Jerusalem is one of their most holy sites. The three branches of Judaism are Orthodox, Conservatives, and Reformed. Judaism is distributed throughout part of the Middle East and North Africa, the United States, Russia, and Europe.

Ethnic vs. Universalizing Religions: AP® Human Geography Crash Course | Albert.io
 

Rival

se Dex me saut.
Staff member
Premium Member
It's My Birthday!
I ran across this website about Ethnic vs. Universalizing Religions several years ago. It explains the difference between these two kinds of religions. A universalizing religion looks for new members and welcomes anyone and everyone who wishes to adopt their belief system. Throughout history, some of these religions such as Christianity have attempted to convert people to their religion.

By contrast, ethnic religions consist of beliefs that were handed down from generation to generation within an ethnicity and culture and these religions do not try to convert others to their belief system. That is one reason Judaism is relatively small religion, with only about 14 million after over 4000 years. Compare that with Christianity and Islam, who have 2.3 billion and 1.9 billion members, respectively.

The Baha’i Faith is not included on this website but it goes without saying that it is universalizing religion.

Ethnic vs. Universalizing Religions: AP Human Geography Crash Course

Universalizing Religions

First, let’s look at the definition of universalizing religion. Universalizing religions offer belief systems that are attractive to the universal population. They look for new members and welcome anyone and everyone who wishes to adopt their belief system. Universalizing religions have many diverse members, who come from different ethnic backgrounds, hence the term universal. Therefore, it is evident that universal religions consist of many different ethnic groups because they convert and accept anyone of any background and are usually not closely tied to one location.

Christianity

Christianity is the largest universalizing religion, both in area and in number, with about two billion adherents. Founded on the teachings of Jesus, Christianity is monotheistic, believing that God is a Trinity and Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The three main branches of Christianity are Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. Roman Catholics are predominate in Southwest Europe and Latin America, Protestants in Northwest Europe and North America, and Orthodox in Eastern Europe. Eastern Orthodoxy is the largest single religious faith in Greece, Cyprus, and Russia.

Islam

Islam is the second largest universalizing religion with over 1.5 billion adherents. In Arabic, Islam means “submitting to the will of God”. Those who practice Islam are Muslims, which means one who surrenders to God. Islam begins with Abraham like Christianity and Judaism, but traces their story through Abraham’s second wife and son, Hagar and Ishmael, not Sarah and Isaac like the Christians and Jews. Their leader and prophet is Muhammad. The two branches of Islam are Sunni and Shiite. The division between the Sunni and Shia originated in a disagreement over leadership after Muhammad’s death in 632 CE. Islam is the predominant religion in the Middle East from North Africa to Central Asia. More than half of the world’s Muslims live in four countries outside the Middle East: Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India.

Buddhism

Buddhism is the fourth largest religion, with about 350 million adherents. Buddhism was founded in Northern India by the first known Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. The core Buddhist belief is reincarnation. In this concept, people are reborn after dying. One can attain Nirvana if one releases their attachment to desire and self. Today, Buddhism is a majority faith in Southeast Asia, China, and Japan.

Ethnic Religions

In contrast to universalizing religions, ethnic religions usually consist of beliefs, superstitions, and rituals handed down from generation to generation within an ethnicity and culture. It follows one’s ethnicity because the religion does not tend to convert. In some ways, ethnic religions act like a folk culture. It expands via relocation diffusion and often increases through birth rates. Ethnic religions relate closely to culture, ethnic heritage, and to the physical geography of a particular place. Ethnic religions do not attempt to appeal to all people, but only one group, maybe in one locale or within one ethnicity. Judaism and Hinduism are two prime examples of ethnic religions.

Hinduism

Hinduism is the largest ethnic religion and the world’s third largest religion with about 1 billion adherents. Hinduism existed before recorded history and had no specific founder. The origins of Hinduism in India are unclear; however, the oldest manuscripts date to 1500 BCE. Hinduism consists of many different religious groups evolved in India since 1500 BCE. Other religions are more centrally organized than Hinduism, and it is up to the individual to decide the best way to worship God. The principle of reincarnation is the cornerstone of Hinduism, and their doctrine closely mirrors India’s caste system. Almost all Hindus live in one country, India, but also are in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.

Judaism

Judaism is an ethnic religion that has more than 14 million followers worldwide. There are 6 million Jews in Israel and 5 million in the United States. Two of the main universalizing religions, Christianity and Islam, find some of their roots in Judaism, recognizing Abraham as a Patriarch. Jews believe in one true God, and the Western Wall of the old temple in Jerusalem is one of their most holy sites. The three branches of Judaism are Orthodox, Conservatives, and Reformed. Judaism is distributed throughout part of the Middle East and North Africa, the United States, Russia, and Europe.

Ethnic vs. Universalizing Religions: AP® Human Geography Crash Course | Albert.io
See post 67.
 

Trailblazer

Veteran Member
Is there such a religion that has none of these kinds of cultural associations at all, to be considered sufficiently applicable to every single society without alienating anyone or having people learn foreign histories, customs and laws?
I believe that the Baha'i Faith is such a religion.
 

SalixIncendium

अहं ब्रह्मास्मि
Staff member
Premium Member
Generally speaking; if you have 2 different stories about the same thing; both claiming to be the truth, one is gonna be false
Here's the way Hinduism looks at it (or at least how I look at it as a Hindu).

You, I, and a pilot can be in Chicago and decide to take a trip to Los Angeles. You can drive car to Los Angeles. A pilot can fly a plane to Los Angeles. I can ride a train to Los Angeles.

You claim the highway is the true path to Los Angeles. The pilot claims the sky is the true path to Los Angeles. I claim the tracks are the true path to Los Angles.

Which path is false?
 

ADigitalArtist

Veteran Member
Staff member
Premium Member
I believe that the Baha'i Faith is such a religion.
How would Baha'i not alienate religious people who aren't theistic or aren't monotheistic? Or are animistic or doesn't recognize divinity in a similar way? I've seen people say that Baha'i is flexible with its approach but imo that's a far cry from being universalizing. Unless you decide that universalizing just means non-interference.
 

Rival

se Dex me saut.
Staff member
Premium Member
It's My Birthday!
Here's the way Hinduism looks at it (or at least how I look at it as a Hindu).

You, I, and a pilot can be in Chicago and decide to take a trip to Los Angeles. You can drive car to Los Angeles. A pilot can fly a plane to Los Angeles. I can ride a train to Los Angeles.

You claim the highway is the true path to Los Angeles. The pilot claims the sky is the true path to Los Angeles. I claim the tracks are the true path to Los Angles.

Which path is false?
I see the analogy but would offer some analogical questions:

- Which route is the safest?
- Which route is the shortest?
- Which route causes least pollution?
- Which route is best for families?
- Which route only accepts certain people?

Etc.
 

LuisDantas

Aura of atheification
Premium Member
I see the analogy but would offer some analogical questions:

- Which route is the safest?
- Which route is the shortest?
- Which route causes least pollution?
- Which route is best for families?
- Which route only accepts certain people?

Etc.

Each of those is highly personal IMO. Even in closely knit families the best answers will vary. And that is ok.
 

Rival

se Dex me saut.
Staff member
Premium Member
It's My Birthday!
Each of those is highly personal
Well not really.

Pollution isn't personal, nor is safety.

A plane is generally the safest form of travel, with cars being most accident prone.

There are objective answers here.
 

ADigitalArtist

Veteran Member
Staff member
Premium Member
I see the analogy but would offer some analogical questions:

- Which route is the safest?
- Which route is the shortest?
- Which route causes least pollution?
- Which route is best for families?
- Which route only accepts certain people?

Etc.
Is this a question of similar goals? If it is, I do think that before any ethical system can be agreed upon by individuals they have to share prioritization of the same goals.
 

Rival

se Dex me saut.
Staff member
Premium Member
It's My Birthday!
Is this a question of similar goals? If it is, I do think that before any ethical system can be agreed upon by individuals they have to share prioritization of the same goals.
Goals are generally community oriented otherwise we wouldn't be able to create states, so I think ethical systems are mostly already tacitly agreed upon by most civlisations.

Most westerners would not go for a religion that promotes racism or slavery, for example, and have done the best we can to get rid of those from our religions.

Most communities desire cohesion and fairness, such as we see in children's play where they invent unspoken rules.
 

SalixIncendium

अहं ब्रह्मास्मि
Staff member
Premium Member
I see the analogy but would offer some analogical questions:

- Which route is the safest?
- Which route is the shortest?
- Which route causes least pollution?
- Which route is best for families?
- Which route only accepts certain people?

Etc.
That's the beauty if diversity. It's personal preference to which of these is most important to the individual.

- Some like the thrill of a crotch rocket, while some like the safety of a Volvo.
- Some are in no hurry to get to the destination and prefer to enjoy the ride, while others want to get there now.
- Some are environmentally conscious, while others like to ride in luxury.
- Some want a roomy family vehicle, while others have whiney kids who don't like to travel, so they get on the private jet to get there quickly.
- I'm not aware of any transportation in the analogy that only accepts certain people. But if there is, that would be the adharmic path.
 

SalixIncendium

अहं ब्रह्मास्मि
Staff member
Premium Member
Well not really.

Pollution isn't personal, nor is safety.

A plane is generally the safest form of travel, with cars being most accident prone.

There are objective answers here.
The point of the analogy is that there are many paths. Some are better than others for the individual and for others. But none of them are false.

You're expanding the analogy into a territory that not relevant to the point of the analogy itself. No one implied that each path is perfect.
 

exchemist

Veteran Member
As in, not attached by language, concept, geography etc to any one culture/people.

I'm asking a rhetorical question. The answer is no, obviously not.

So can a universal religion exist, or would it just be a philosophy. For instance, even legends have to take place somewhere, be written in some language with certain concepts etc.

Samson only makes sense in the Middle East, for instance, as does Abraham. No Japanese would have written these stories.
There are about half a million Japanese Catholics, though, as a result of the Jesuit mission in the c.16th. My singing teacher in The Hague* was one. But it's true that is <0.5% of the population of Japan.:)

I suspect you are probably right. Religions consist of a lot more than ideas about deities and specific religious practices. There is a mass of cultural associations, social structures, traditions and art that also contribute to the identity of a religion. They can be introduced on top of a previous tradition, as in Japan, but the degree of penetration is probably inevitably limited.

* P.S. I've looked her up and she has a web presence: BIO. Here she is in a rehearsal of her a cappella group that I once used to sing in:
 
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ADigitalArtist

Veteran Member
Staff member
Premium Member
Goals are generally community oriented otherwise we wouldn't be able to create states, so I think ethical systems are mostly already tacitly agreed upon by most civlisations.

Most westerners would not go for a religion that promotes racism or slavery, for example, and have done the best we can to get rid of those from our religions.

Most communities desire cohesion and fairness, such as we see in children's play where they invent unspoken rules.
I agree some goals are shared innately by just being humans and having human tendencies towards communal living. I do think there's a lot of even very broad goals that are not prioritized the same, like how much stress on collectivism vs individualism, or globalism vs nationalism. The relative value of those goals makes for a lot of variety and conflict.

Religion even moreso because of the huge differentiation in even "simple" questions like what does divinity mean, what does spirit mean, what does worship mean, varies sometimes down to the individual. (All the time in my case.)
 

Rival

se Dex me saut.
Staff member
Premium Member
It's My Birthday!
There are about half a million Japanese Catholics, though, as a result of the Jesuit mission in the c.16th. My singing teacher in The Hague was one. But it's true that is <0.5% of the population of Japan.:)

I suspect you are probably right. Religions consist of a lot more than ideas about deities and specific religious practices. There is a mass of cultural associations, social structures, traditions and art that also contribute to the identity of a religion. They can be introduced on top of a previous tradition, as in Japan, but the degree of penetration is probably inevitably limited.
I meant though that a Japanese person living in Japan would not have set his religious figure in a desert, nor is likely to have the same rituals attached, mental concepts and so on, such that he'd be able to write the story of Abraham.

A Celt in Britain or Gaul would not have been able to write a history of themselves with kings and nations because they had no such notions and very different politics. Nor would they have been writing about imageless Gods or the evil of idolatry etc.

These stories are, as you say, permeated with layers of tradition from a very specific niche in the world and must be learned by others not as natural theology so to speak but learned, and this is my trouble. No matter how much time you gave them, I doubt the Anglo-Saxons would have invented Christianity, or the Native Americans come up with Islam.
 

exchemist

Veteran Member
I meant though that a Japanese person living in Japan would not have set his religious figure in a desert, nor is likely to have the same rituals attached, mental concepts and so on, such that he'd be able to write the story of Abraham.

A Celt in Britain or Gaul would not have been able to write a history of themselves with kings and nations because they had no such notions and very different politics. Nor would they have been writing about imageless Gods or the evil of idolatry etc.

These stories are, as you say, permeated with layers of tradition from a very specific niche in the world and must be learned by others not as natural theology so to speak but learned, and this is my trouble. No matter how much time you gave them, I doubt the Anglo-Saxons would have invented Christianity, or the Native Americans come up with Islam.
Though Christianity did manage to take root in Northern Europe, a long way from its roots in the Eastern Med. The dominance - and longevity - of the Roman Empire is what I suppose must have enabled that.
 
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