Friday, June 17, 2011

World Religions: It is Abraham versus Dharma

When one thinks of religion one rightly thinks of divisions upon divisions.  Many new denominations are formed everyday in Christianity, many branches of Islam of come and gone, and the various schools of Buddhism have stark differences between them.  However, if one zooms out and looks at the overall basis of all these denominations and religions one will see that two schools of religion dominate the world:  Abrahamic and Dharma.

Map from Wikipedia
The above map shows the nominal dominance/plurality of Abrahamic and Dharmaic religions.  The three main religions which base themselves after Abraham's God are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  The major religions based on Dharma, the ancient Vedic code of divine and natural laws, are Hinduism, Janism, Buddhism, and Sikhism.  Abrahamic religions are shown in purple while yellow represents Dharmaic faiths.  Black shows a lack of data, however, only North Korea with it's imperial cult can be described as clearly non-Abrahamic or Dharmaic.

The success of Abrahamic religions is due to the missionary zeal of Christianity and Islam.  While in some places like the Middle East and the initial wave of Spanish conquests of the New World where conversions were due to top-down pressure, in many places missionary work within local societies was the primary leading cause because colonial officials' powers in places like Africa and India rarely expanded beyond the urban hubs.

The spread of Dharmaic faiths occurred because Buddhism abandoned many of the caste and ethnic-national restrictions of Hinduism which would actually make a convert to Hinduism's life worse.  Buddhism with its missionizing zeal spread throughout Asia.  The only reason it is not more wide spread is because it lost ground the a rapidly growing Muslim rim around the Indian Ocean and a revival of Hinduism in India.

Two points may be brought against the map and the idea Abraham's God and Dharma control almost all the world.  The new great world religion is Atheism which has spread across the globe because of Communist targeting of religions and general Western Enlightenment-thought which slowly has abandoned religion.  Some places like the Czech Republic probably can be thought of as truly plurality Atheist.  However, in post-Christian Western Europe many immigrants, both European and Islamic, are keeping religion alive in those places.

Another objection is to call many Christians and Muslims in Africa not true Christians or Muslims.  While some of these denominations do fall off the Abrahamic path with multiple gods, it is important to remember the vast majority are just adopting their culture and faith, much like Greek, Roman, and Northern European Christians did when Christianity spread throughout Europe.

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