I have this simple maxim regarding religion which I use in my daily life, but somehow people in general miss it. I believe each religion has its spirit, its special defining essence.
Yes most religions have similar characteristics, whether by common ancestry, or the fact that those “winning” characteristics are essential for the religion to flourish, or even thrive. But still, every religion has that “special ingredient”
Hinduism, although very broad and undefined, still has the conception of detachment, that spirituality is achieved by excluding yourself from the outside world. At a certain stage of spirituality, you should be able to isolate yourself from society, dedicate yourself to knowing God, and achieve enlightenment. There are parallels of the idea in other religions, but in none is it central or deep as in Hinduism
Judaism has the concept of nation, with sacred land, special people. Rules to define them, set them apart, centuries of heritage and tradition. It’s a religion that makes its adherents act as a nation, wherever in the globe they may be. Again, the elements are found in other religions, notably Islam, but no one does it like the Jews.
Christians are really into the idea of active charity, brotherly love. You know, opening up a church for the homeless in a bad neighborhood, that kind of stuff. (they also are the kings of proselytizing, but we’ll skip that for now ).
Islam is all about thinking as a group. Having a central focus, a unified purpose. It’s about building a powerful, advanced and just nation on earth. Social justice, a powerful economy, safe borders, good diplomacy with neighbors…etc.
So that’s what I’m trying to say in a quick skim. There are many other major and minor, common and unique characteristics of course, but those need their own blog.
In my experience, the loudest people in any religion are usually the ones who’ve gotten out of its spirit, and I hate that nobody calls that out. I mean why do we give utmost power to literalists? Why isn’t there a “spirit card”. Something like: ” I don’t care which scripture you twisted to fit into your bizarre theory. It’s against the religion’s spirit, so you’re out!”
-Neo-cons preaching about Jerusalem and the final battle: Doesn’t feel Christian, out!
-Girls banned from driving: Contrary to the point of having an advanced nation (we kinda need half of us you know), females have to be included, out!
If you’re Christian and are belligerent, you are against the spirit. If you are Muslim and are corrupt, you are against the spirit. If you think modesty has anything to do with clothes, you are against the spirit. If you eat halal slaughtered food but are against animal rights, you’re against the spirit.
Time and again I meet the religious in spirit. The monk dedicated to a life among the disabled. The Imam building a solid community in a foreign, strange land. The Aga Khan has to be one of the biggest examples of the spirit of Islam. But those people, they are invisible, they’re not on the news, they’re not talked about.
My conclusion is: Every religion has its essence, its pure soul. But don’t expect to find it with the people on the pulpit, the loud ones have lost it. Search for the quiet ones, and when you find them, you will feel it is what you’ve been looking for all along, the pure meaning.