Diversity, Commonality and conflicts

Diversity and Oneness: In spite of different symbols, myths and legends, most religions have some basic concepts in common: Belief in Deity and that the human soul can communicate with the Deity, be it through prayer, meditation, ritual, shamanic journeys or by other means. Another common thread is the concept of Love, between the Divine beings and human beings, and among human beings. Looked at together, the symbolism and mythical content of different religions weave a magnificent fabric of many vibrant colors and rich patterns. It's like an international festival, where you wander from booth to booth and admire objects from different cultures, listen to the music and look at the colorful dancers. None of the cultural expressions are "right" or "wrong" but together they create a colorful whole. Many believers vehemently assert that their Deity is the Only and that all others are idols and heresies. But many look at the similarities among the world's religions and maintain the Gods' names are different names for the same Supreme Being.

Look, for example, at the many different ways people all over our Planet Earth since ancient times have observed the Winter Solstice. Symbols and rituals vary widely, but they all celebrate rebirth and the coming of the light.

The Vikings and the Christians: Religious abuses and atrocities have occurred throughout the centuries, not only in our time. Look, for example, at the early Christians, who wrote so extensively about the violent plunder of the Vikings, but conveniently forgot to mention that "the heathens" were often "converted" to Christianity with the help of the sword. The Norwegian king Olav Haraldson, for example, gave his people three choices, either become Christian, leave the country or be executed. He was declared a saint after his death and named Olav the Holy. Torgrim Titlestad, a Norwegian historian, writes that the Vikings did not attack defenseless Christian monks but were in fact defending themselves against the barbaric Church. He recounts how Charlemagne of France in the 8th century beheaded 4,500 Saxons in one day because they refused to accept the Christian faith. (He baptized them first, improving his statistics of "saved souls.")

The Thirty Years War: Another historic example is the thirty years war in Europe, 1618-1648. Historians estimate that this war decimated Europe's population with 7.5 million people, through deaths on the battlefields and civilian deaths through malnutrition, disease and atrocities committed by wandering soldiers. Although this was a religious war between Protestants, Calvinists and Catholics, it was also a war of power. Religious arguments were used, as common in religious wars, to "inspire" the soldiers.

Different Religious View Points: The following anecdote from the thirty years war illustrates how incidents of war are viewed differently by opposing protagonists: On May 23, 1618, some Bohemian leaders threw two imperial officials out of a window in the palace in Prague. The victims escaped with their lives, in spite of falling 70 feet. The Catholics asserted that this was thanks to an intervention by the Virgin Mary, while the Protestants said it was because they landed in a dung heap.


Religious Tolerance

Mysticism in World Religions


Interfaith Alliance

Interfaith Calendar of Sacred Days

UNESCO on Religious Diversity and Rights

Religious Statistics

Ancient Wisdom


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Last updated 10/11/2012


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