Friday, June 25, 2010

The Clash Of World Religions

The Clash Of World Religions Cover
Most major religions attempt to infuse in their adherents a unified system of ethics, dogmas, and metaphysics. A religion exists primarily to foster an organized outlook that places believers in proper relation to their environment. We call this outlook a worldview, a developed system of thought through which an individual is to assess existence. Looking broadly at the major spiritual systems of the world, one can discern three fundamentally different patterns. The foci of these worldviews concern the aspects of divinity, humanity, and nature. The Middle Eastern religions, the Far Eastern religions, and Neopaganism postulate different conceptualizations regarding these three areas of interest.

The Middle Eastern religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share a common history and outlook. Their sin qua non is Monotheism, a belief in a single, personalized deity. Divinity for the Monotheist is expressed as an external, transcendent force that creates and controls the universe. Monotheists have placed divinity outside time and space, above and apart from mundane experience. Divinity resides in some ethereal heavenly realm, with a creator God surrounded by angles and comfortably ensconced from the daily events of the universe.

The effect of perceiving God as an external and personal being is to separate divinity from humanity and nature. Indeed, in the three Monotheistic religions one reads of the same story of humanitys fall from nature. Humanity once dwelt in Gods presence, and through some vile act of disobedience to God was cast out of divine grace. It was humanitys punishment to experience a mortal and painful life under the influence of natures vices. Separated from divinity, humanity dwelt among the animals and the elements, eking out a harsh existence. Subject to the terrors of the natural world, humanity found it difficult to lead a morally pure lifestyle. Existence was therefore conceived as a struggle to overcome the urges of nature and instead reconcile oneself to divinity.

Monotheism came to view life as a trinitarian distinction between divinity, humanity, and nature. Rigid barriers exist between the three levels and their relationship is viewed as one of reciprocal adversity. Divinity arrogates to itself dominion over humanity, establishing itself as supreme overseer and magistrate of human affairs. To humanity is given dominion over nature. In the absence of divine protection humanity is to exploit nature for survival. Nature, however, brings with it a host of other mortal ailments that distracts humanity from its reconciliation with divinity. To the Jew and Muslim, reconciliation means following a set of rigid laws. To the Christian, this divine imperative manifests itself as the corporate worship of Jesus Christ and his teachings.

The Far Eastern religions are vast and varied, a cornucopia of spiritual views. Generally speaking, though, all share a common mission in providing an adherent with a means of achieving an ethical or spiritual perfection. The Hindu seeks to find release from an endless cycle of death and rebirth. The Buddhist yearns for an enlightenment that transcends the illusions of mundane life. The Taoist strives to live in balance with the way of the universe, while the Confucian is concerned with proper social obligations. In all these systems there is an assumption that there is a necessary way to conduct oneself, and practicing this code of belief places adherents in proper relation to their environment.

In the Far Eastern religions one generally does not find the trinitarian distinction that is so crucial to Monotheism. The Hindu considers everything existing in confluence with an universal soul. Most Buddhists see all life as interconnected; to them the sense of a unique self separate from other living beings is an illusion. The Taoist views everything as a manifestation of the universal way. The Confucian cares for social ethics, not metaphysics. Thus for the Far Eastern religions the distinction between divinity, humanity, and nature is either non-existent or irrelevant. What matters most is leading a virtuous life, however virtue may be conceived.

Neopaganism is a loose confederation of myriad spiritual systems, where beliefs and practices differ greatly among different sects and among individual adherents as well. As such, the religion does not lend itself well to generalizations. Nevertheless, in most traditions within Neopaganism one may find a modicum of agreement on doctrine. While recognizing many exceptions exist, one can say Neopaganism as a whole roughly sees a trinitarian distinction among divinity, humanity, and nature. However, Neopaganism would take strong exception with Monotheism in viewing the barriers among the three as hostile or rigid.

In most Neopagan traditions divinity is conceived as polytheistic, duotheistic, or pantheistic. However divinity is conceived, a common belief concerns its immanence. Rather than existing as an external, personal force, divinity is an impersonal force that dwells within humanity and nature. There can be no final separation from divinity as divinity resides in everything. The One is in The All, and The All is in The One. For this reason, divinity, humanity, and nature are not seen as separate constructs but interrelated aspects of the same unity.

Because the Neopagan does not feel divorced from divinity, the Neopagan feels no need to reconcile herself with a lost paradise. The Neopagan merely reveres and experiences the divinity that manifests itself continually in everything. Nature and natural urges are not viewed as destructive paradigms that distract one from experiencing divinity. Rather, nature is viewed as another level of divinity, to be worshipped and admired. While most Neopagans adopt some ethical code, few Neopagans have the harsh and rigid laws of the Monotheists or the detailed mystical codes of the Far East. A Neopagans primary duty is to cherish and experience the gifts of divinity wherever one may find them.

Given these different world views, is it possible on a fundamental level to simultaneously practice religions from different paradigms? Can a Neopagan also be a Christian or a Buddhist? The answer depends on to what extent and in what manner an individual adherent is willing to mix and match various beliefs. Neopagan spirituality and reverence for nature meshes well with the Far Eastern religions and more liberal versions of Monotheism. One could hypothetically practice Christian ethics, Buddhist meditation, and Neopagan magick. Nevertheless, to mix and match from among the different traditions requires a delicate balancing act. Those that would tread a multi-faith path must caution themselves to choose their religious ingredients wisely lest they develop a case of spiritual schizophrenia.

You also may enjoy this free books:

Israel Regardie - The Art Of True Healing
Robert Ellwood - The Encyclopedia Of World Religions

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