Curiosity Column: Could All Religions be Intertwined?


Religious tolerance illustrationWhat if all religions are parts of a larger puzzle? Now, I’m not claiming this as an absolute truth. You have to be honest, there is not much to substantiate religion in most of our humanly observation. You cannot justify philosophy with philosophy without making assumptions (quite unsubstantiated at the least, as per my intrigue with philosophy). Ok, so now that we established that, let’s establish an assumption, for curiosity’s sake if not anything else. Let’s assume that there is a hierarchy of supernatural, unobservable power as claimed in religious texts.

Recently, I have spent quite a bit of time researching the fundamentals of religions (I voiced a minute part of what I found here). I was coerced by some of my peers and by my own curiosity to discuss the interrelations of religion for a public speech class. I spent my once free time perusing peer-reviewed journals, claimed holy works, and the fundamentals of major organized religions. I read through ancient mythology and folk-lore alongside historical information to get a cultural context. To my disbelief, all religions seemed to share many more aspects than I thought possible.

Oddly enough, most of the religions I looked at were formed within a span of a few hundred years, merely a snapshot in the overall of human civilization. Also to note, is that these religions were founded in isolated regions yet still share these commonalities. I will leave an enumeration of commonalities to another post so as to not have a book.

These factors present a bit of a curious case to me. Even then, there are many factors that must be considered for possibly accounting for some of these shared traits, from trade to the evolution of human thought throughout the ages. Any factors that can morph a religion must be examined as well, which I have not yet had sufficient time to do.

I traced some of the evolution of the individual religions, the spin-offs that led to the modern forms today. Rather than diverging into highly specialized regional sects as one might expect, they actually seemed to converge a little more. Small nuances from one to the next were incorporated, which I would attribute to the inter-connectivity brought about by growing Internet communications.

religious_diversity5Yet, I want to draw attention not only to the similarities, but also the dissimilarities—the gaps, so to speak.

Take, for instance, how Buddhism approaches the human need to strive for perfection and enlightenment in relation to the reincarnation cycle of Hinduism. One could draw a direct connection between the two, with the Buddhist enlightenment being the top tier of Hindu reincarnation. On the other hand, take a look at Shintoism, an ancient Japanese religion similar to that of Shamanism. In Shinto mythology there is no mention of the creation of man and other forms of life. The creation myth found in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki/Nihongi only talk about the creation of  land and the natural world in relation to it. It seems to be a strange account to leave out in respects to all the stories and relations of the nature deities. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list so I will leave of at this point. There are many more strange accounts and holes than just these, as this is just a snapshot.

This can obviously be interpreted in many ways. One way that struck me is that it could be filled with another creation “myth.” What if another religion—for example Christianity, Judaism, or Islam—could have it right on how humans were created/evolved/etc? Could it be possible that these three pick up where Shintoism leaves off? Food for thought.

Another thing I find quite interesting follows along the lines of afterlife. Remarkably, many religions do not put a large emphasis on afterlife as per the belief of impermanence. Meaning that the afterlife is not necessarily eternal. One could be punished or rewarded based on their life on Earth, but time will tome to pass both in “heaven” as in “hell” and then the cycle begins anew. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism all follow this route where as Christianity and Islam vary on the other side of the spectrum. All of these there eventually do have an ending point, whether to a cycle or a linear path of life. Yet, this also seems strange to me, particularly in the cycle beliefs because it seems to abruptly cut off. Simply put, it leaves me wanting of an explanation of “what’s next?” This leads me then to wonder if another religion has the “end game” covered.

I just wanted to lay bare what my curiosities have led me to and in no way are these to be considered truths as even I am dubious. I am young and naïve and have done no where close to enough investigation to defend such claims. That I do recognize. So I offer this more as a hypothesis; a rambling of a young character who is search of and not yet close to a satisfactory answer.

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About CultureQuote - Dani

An engineering and language student at Kansas State University, I strongly believe that language learning should be free and that the only way to help inform people of cultural barriers is to openly provide materials and resources to explore.

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