Universal Religions and the History of the World

  • Length: 2 pages
  • Sources: 1
  • Subject: Religion
  • Paper: #18053830

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Universal religions have grandiose political and social schemes. Unlike smaller-scale spiritual faiths, universal religions are those that seek to expand their locus of power and control over larger areas, such as through proselytizing or linking with political rulers. Universal religions also extended deeper into more areas of individual, family and community lives. For example, universal religions propagated specific social norms, morals, and ethics, and became one of the fundamental means of establishing laws. Universal religions also became linked with culture and ethnicity, providing a means by which people forged collective and individual identities. Yet unlike ancient religions, universal religions did not limit their scope to specific geo-political terrain. Believers would spread universal religions far beyond the place where they originated. Universal religions were believed to possess transcendent truths, which could be communicated to and received by people from various cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, and belief systems. Unlike the localized faiths, universal religions attracted new converts. Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism were the three most important universal religions. Each of these universal religions shaped world history, and particularly the politics and societies of Afro-Eurasia at the end of the ancient world.

Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism spread far from their places of origin, albeit in different ways. Unlike the ancient religion of Hinduism (or the Vedic traditions), Buddhism became a universal religion. Buddhism originated in India, but spread throughout the rest of Asia. Although at one point, Indian Emperor Ashoka adopted Buddhism as a state religion, but Buddhism did not take root for long due to competition with other faiths and traditions. Therefore, believers in Buddhism traveled, taking their belief systems and doctrine with them. Buddhism spread throughout Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, and East Asia, transforming each place by infiltrating its society and adapting to local customs and norms. Therefore, each place that adopted Buddhism evolved a unique brand or type of Buddhism. Theravadan Buddhism became the norm in Southeast Asia, for example. Local kings and rulers capitalized on the ability of Buddhism, as a universal religion, to provide a guiding truth and moral framework for the people. Universal religions do enable social control to a degree that provincial religions do not.

Similar to the spread of Buddhism, Christianity also spread far from its origin in the Middle East into the Caucasus and Europe. Like Buddhism, the first three centuries of Christianity did not take root. Only after…

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