indian and chinese religion vs. the three monotheisms

Religion is a vague term. Hinduism, buddhism, confucianism, daoism share a large set of family resemblances; the three religions of the book (judaism, christianity, & islam) also look very much alike; these two super-groups of religions are as similar as poodle and a german shepherd.

The most important and defining difference seems to be the presence or absence of communitarian aspects. The east-asian religions are individualistic at the family level: in hinduism and buddhism religion takes place in the family, either in front of the shrines in people’s houses or when some family members go to the temple, do what needs to be done, and leave – without speaking to another soul during the process. The monotheisms wouldn’t survive without the chit-chat among believers after friday, staurday or sunday morning services: judaism and its younger brothers cut through families, proudly sundering fathers and sons or mothers and daughters because of religious differences. If honoring ancestors is essential to one type of religion, it is anathema to the other.

Monotheism wants to redefine the concept of the family: by making all believers brothers and sisters, it excludes ‘real’ siblings who don’t believe. Monotheism is violent with existing social structures, believing them to be often detrimental to god’s purposes. (In this sense, Rousseau was a good christian.)

Hinduism and its child, buddhism are built upon the idea of the family and on the whole work to preserve existing social structures. You cannot convert to hinduism because there is no sense in being hindu if your whole family, including your dead ancestors, were not already good hindus.

In this pair of religious types, monotheism is the odd one out. It is monotheism that seems to go against the grain and it is thus monotheism that tends more often towards violence. Mohamed can encourage forced conversions without contradicting the fundamentals of his religion; and Jesus can preach the destruction of the family in order to foster love!

And yet, monotheism was on to something. If we learnt anything from jesus, it is that all men are brothers – or rather that all people are siblings. It is surely neither necessary nor good to fear your dead ancestors or to turn against your living parents. What is good and necessary is, of course, to be kind to all people (including your parents) and to need fear none (including your prospective benefactors).

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One Comment to “indian and chinese religion vs. the three monotheisms”

  1. Vedanta, in the U.S., is a form of Hinduism and welcomes individuals and devotees

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