In spite of the constant existence of religious fanaticism and prejudice experienced in most parts of the word, there has been a notable growth in religious tolerance.
The view that diverse religions as well as spiritual customs have a suitable approach has recently become more prevalent. In the contemporary world, religion is continually being characterized by the adherence of one true religion. In the past, some religions were viewed with a lot of contempt and were usually seen as forms of myths or superstitions.
This notwithstanding, the concept of religious harmony is progressively being embraced by many nations which adhere to many religions. This essay presents an outlook of some of the major religions practiced throughout the world and the extent to which they have contributed to religious tolerance. These religions include, Hindu-Buddhist, Chinese Religion as well as Abrahamic monotheism.
In order to indicate religious tolerance, some aspects of Buddhism have been incorporated in Hinduism. For instance, in Hinduism, Buddha is usually seen as an Avatar of Vishnu. As recorded by the Puranic text Bhagavata Purana, among the twenty-five avatars, Buddha is the twenty-fourth avatar predicting an impending incarnation.
Moreover, the majority of Hindu customs describe Buddha as the latest among the ten principal avatars that are identified as the Dasavatara, which means the Ten Incarnations of God (Fernandez, 2010). However, Buddha’s traditions are said to oppose the authority of the Vedas as a result of which Buddhism is regarded as heterodox school. Owing to the variety of teachings within Hinduism, there is no definite perspective or agreement on the Buddha’s precise position with regards to the Vedic tradition.
The position of the Buddha as the avatar who principally endorsed non-violence continues to be an accepted conviction in several contemporary Vaishnava organizations which include ISKCON (Stietencron, 2005). Moreover, other outstanding contemporary proponents of Hinduism, who include Vivekananda as well as Radhakrishnan, regard Buddha as an instructor of an unchanged universal truth that triggers all other religions represented in the world.
According to these proponents, Hinduism is distinctively valuable as it recognizes the fact that all religions are one. The Vaishnava sect of Maharashtra, identified as Varkari, adores Lord Vithoba. Despite the fact that Vithoba is generally viewed as form of little Krishna, for several years, there have been a strong conviction that Vithoba is a form of Buddha.
This has been echoed by several poets of the Maharashtra such as Tukaram and Eknath who have clearly referred to him as Buddha. The representation of Vithoba as an avatar of Vishnu has mostly been associated with Buddha in an effort to incorporate Buddhism within the Hindu customs.
Traditions of Buddha have also been uniquely integrated in Varkari Vaishnavism as well as the conventional Vedic values. In an attempt to explore the contemporary Hindu opinion on Buddhism, it is important to consider the question of whether, or to what extent, Buddhism is a component of Hinduism.
Even though the integrity of Hinduism, cannot be weakened in case all the exclusively Buddhist elements were left out, some Hinduism details would definitely be insufficiently elaborated or less emphasized. In most cases, the Buddhist fundamentals do not differ from the Atmanists, even though they represent a more elaborate statement of the law of causality as the indispensable mark of the world of Becoming (Stietencron, 2005).
The Chinese Religion
China is a country that is usually known for its widespread diversity in religious beliefs. The major religions in China include Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Protestantism as well as Catholicism. According to the Chinese constitution, the citizens of the country are allowed to choose and express their religious values and affiliations freely.
According to recent research, there are approximately 100 million followers that adhere to a variety of religious faiths, at least 85,000 sites where religious functions can be held, around 300,000 clergy and more than 3,000 religious organizations in China (Fernandez, 2010). Furthermore, China has at least 76 religious schools as well as colleges which are mainly run by religious organizations guiding the clerics.
In China, Buddhism records a history of about 2,000 years. Today, the country holds 13,000 Buddhist temples which contain at least 200,000 Buddhist monks and nuns. In addition, China has about 3,000 Tibetan Buddhism temples and almost 10,000 Bhiksu and senior nuns, and not less than 1,600 temples of Pali Buddhism.
On the other hand, Taoism, is native to China, and records a history of not less than 1,700 years. Currently, the country has about 1,600 Taoist temples and not less than 25,000 Taoist monks as well as clerics. Conversely, Islam and Catholicism came into China during the seventh century.
Currently, China has at least ten national minorities, 18 million of whom come from Hui and Uygur, who mainly conform to the Islamic faith. China has a minimum of 30,000 mosques which are mainly directed by 40,000 Akhunds and Imams. On the other hand, Catholicism did not spread widely until after the Opium War in 1840.
Today, China has a minimum of four million Catholics, led by 4,000 clergy. However, Protestantism was introduced in China at the beginning of the 19th century. The religion only spread widely after the Opium War. At present, China has at least 10 million Protestants, 18,000 clergy and 12,000 protestant churches.
Furthermore, China has several religious organizations which include; Taoist Association of China, Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, Buddhist Association of China, Islamic Association of China, China Christian Council, Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of the Protestant Churches of China and Chinese Catholic Bishops’ College. In China, the religious leaders as well as the leading bodies in most religious organizations are often ordained with regards to their distinctive set of laws.
In China, all the major religious activities are mainly held at designated sites or in believers’ homes in harmony with the normal religious customs such as the worship of Buddha, church going, rehearsing scriptures, praying, observing Mass, baptizing followers, monkhood instigation, fasting, commemorating religious festivals among others. In China, all these activities are protected by the Chinese constitution, the dealings of religious bodies as well as the believers and hence are not liable to be interfered with.
This notwithstanding, the 1976 Cultural Revolution in China had a devastating outcome especially on the aspect of religion. However, in an attempt to correct the mistakes of the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese government made great efforts to revitalize and execute the policy of freedom of worship.
It also rectified the unfair and false cases which had been imposed on religious personages, and revived several sites for religious activities. As a matter of fact, since 1980, above 600 Protestant churches are built annually. Moreover, by 1996 at least 18 million Bibles had been produced. This was achieved through some special tax exception treatment which hastened the publication.
In addition, at least 8.5 million hymn books have already been dispensed. Furthermore, between 1958 and 1995 128 Catholic bishops had been ordained by the Chinese Catholic church. During this period, at least 900 young Catholic priests have been teaches and persuades the religious leaders to unite all religious believers in order to dynamically contribute to the development of the country. The religious believers in China have developed a habit of loving their nation and respecting other religions.
All the different religions in China embark in serving the society and supporting the citizen’s interests. This can be seen in instances where the Buddhists engage in activities that honor the country and assist the citizens, the Catholics and Protestants worship God and support the people, the Taoists undertake compassionate, diplomatic and harmonious activities, saving the people and the Islam’s pray to Allah to reward this world at present and in future. All the Chinese religions have equivalent status and co-exist in harmony.
As a matter of fact, religious disagreements are rare in China. A big percentage of religious followers as well as the non-believers acknowledge and revere each other. For these reasons, the religions in China indicate the influence of Chinese compatibility and religious tolerance, and the implementation of the right of religious belief. China has set up a politico-religious relationship that matches to the country’s national conditions.
The term monotheism originates from the Greek term ‘monos’, which signifies one and ‘theos’, representing god. Therefore, monotheism can be described as a belief in the existence of one god. Since monotheism is based on the notion that only one god exists, those who conform to monotheism also believe that this god formed all that exists in the world and is thus entirely independent. This is what is presented in Abrahamic monotheism which comprises Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Sikhism (Fernandez, 2010).
With regards to Islam, God is represented as undifferentiated, everlasting, incomparable and not by any means anthropomorphic. However, several of these monotheistic religions are often limited in nature. They not only believe in one god but also rebuff the existence of the gods of any religious denominations. At times, the followers of monotheistic religions view other alleged gods as elements or manifestations of their single utmost god.
However, this is rare and mainly happens when shifting from polytheism to monotheism, when explaining why other gods should be done away with. In view of Christianity, God is represented as being anthropomorphic as he is signified by three persons in one. For this reasons, monotheistic religions worship different types of gods. The main thing that they have in common is the focus on a distinct god. Abrahamic Monotheism has its source from Abraham who was Jewish.
According to the biblical book of Genesis, Abraham, together with his household, obeyed the instructions of their God whom they referred to as Yahweh. Abraham’s people developed into the people of Israel who produced Judaism, the initial monotheistic religion, and only prayed to Yahweh their god.
This was during the second millennium B.C. Later, in the first millennium CE both Christianity and Islam based their teachings upon Judaism and came up with novel religions that worshiped this god. As it expanded, Christianity spread to several parts of the world. It was mainly established around the Mediterranean Sea and then spread to Europe and into other continents in the mid-second millennium CE, during the era of colonization.
Today, Christianity has become widespread especially in North America and southern America, Australia and in some parts of Africa. On the other hand, Islam rapidly spread into the Middle East and the northern half of Africa, from where it headed eastwards, colonizing the Indian sub-continent and spread into Indonesia and Malaysia which currently composes the most crowded Muslim nation.
Currently, Christianity contains approximately one third of the world’s population, which is about 2.3 billion people. On the other hand, Islam follows with approximately one quarter of the world’s population, which comprises around1.8 billion followers. The third largest religion is Hinduism which emanated from India. The nation has approximately one billion followers which is about 14 percent of the world’s population.
The majority of Buddhists reside in Asia, and their population ranges from 300 to 350 million followers. As a result of the exclusivity that characterize monotheistic religions, they have been seen to display less religious tolerance as compared to polytheistic religions such as Hindu-Buddhist which has managed to integrate the gods and values of other denominations with relative ease. Abrahamic monotheism can only achieve this without admitting it and while refuting any authenticity or legitimacy to others’ faiths.
In conclusion, it is clear that Abrahamic monotheism comprise the largest religions in the world. Religious tolerance in these religions is limited as they are characterized by little unity as both Islam and Christianity are highly wary of each other.
Most religious groups under Abrahamic monotheism scarcely, acknowledge that they are members of the same religious body. For these reasons, Abrahamic monotheism contains several, wrangling members. On the other hand, the Chinese religions indicate more compatibility and religious tolerance which is seen through the mutual religious relationship that exists in the country.
Moreover, Hinduism and Buddhism represent immense religious tolerance as they are seen to incorporate aspects of each other’s beliefs. However, governments and religious leaders should endeavor to revitalize and execute the policies of freedom of worship and thus promote religious tolerance.
Fernandez, F. (2011). World: Brief history. New York: Prentice Hall, Inc.
Stietencron, H. (2005). Hindu myth: Hindu history. New York: Prentice Hall.