Lowest Common Denomination
If it's true that all religions share some common ground, but vary in their opinions regarding other matters, isn't it fair to say that the overlapping bits are those which have been found to be true (or useful) by more than one civilization? For instance, many successful religions include a taboo onthe eating of pork. And before we all knew about trichinosis and the requisite temperature for killing such parasites, following this advice could save your life. It's still not a bad idea. Another example: at least 80 distinct cultures, many of which are thought to have no recentcommon ancestor, have a "flood myth" resembling the Biblical story of Noah and the Ark. Similar elements include the building of a boat, pairs of animals, and one man who, along with his wife /family, survives the catastrophe. Of course, the story of Cinderella has also been discovered tobe more or less culturally universal -- but that one's just about marrying up, isn't it? Anyway; we tell the same stories, and we follow the same rules. Only not
the samestories, and not
the same rules. Which is fine -- hooray for diversity and all that. But if you're looking for a deeper truth, why not start with what damn near everybody believes? Sure,being "wishy-washy" or "New Agey" in one's faith is frowned upon by old-school Christians (not tomention Muslims & Jews). But I fail to see the value in absolute certainty.People who claim to be sure about what happens after death are either (a) blessed withmiraculous knowledge from beyond the grave, (b) mentally ill, or (c) scoundrels who make thingsup for the purpose of manipulating their fellow men. Can't we all agree that
of the contentof
religions was generated by those in category (c)? And if
, why not admit that it's
of the stuff that doesn't overlap -- at least in other people's religions? As in, "I don't knowabout all that past-life nonsense, but the concept of karma seems pretty right on..."It's the same thing with a Muslim who's moved by the Sermon on the Mount but just can't getdown with the Old Testament slaughter of the Philistines or Jacob's divine right to be the ancestor of every living human being on Earth. There's no reason he needs to come around to the point of view that the Pope's infallible. Of course, examining Christianity from the perspective of anoutsider, he's going to reject the parts which seem ignorant or false. Rather than scorn his judgment, shouldn't we recognize it as a little more objective than our own?I don't think we ought to revive Odin and Loki, or revert to matriarchal, "pagan" forms of worship.Those things died out for a reason. But we aren't much better if we continue to propagate thoseelements of our own religion which have become obsolete. The millennialism isn't foolinganyone, 2000 years after Jesus is reported to have said "Behold, I come quickly" and a decadeafter the latest apocalyptic scare. Opposition to contraception is getting a little old in a worldwhere we've just passed the 7-billion-human mark. It's time to let go of such things.