Religion is not finalized but a dynamic process of evolving and reshaping thoughts

It is not uncommon that people in East Asia believe in several teachings, so a single believer might be polyreligious to a certain degree: For instance, one can adopt elements of the Buddhist and the Daoist teaching at the same time. When asking where we are from, one can put the Dao into the foreground, when it goes to life one can take Buddhism into account, and when it goes to death, one can take Confucian views on spirits and ghosts. Or vice versa, Confucian morality shall lead through life, and one believes in Buddhism to be rescued after death (salvation). While in Confucianism heaven is in time and space, the Buddhist Pure Land is beyond time and space. The traditional Chinese belief in Heaven also probably influenced Buddhists in China, as it gives a certain safety that someone knows there is a place that can be reached, while nirvana is a rather abstract thought.

Out of the three teachings, there has been a development of new-religious movements throughout China’s history in which Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism and elements of folk religion have been syncretized and formalized, creating a new religion out of a polyreligious framework. For instance Luojiao (Luoism), a religion which was founded in China in the 15th century takes up a form of Buddhist eschatology, where the three Buddhas are described as ‘the three suns’. The three periods are called ‘green-blue sun’ (青阳), ‘red sun’ (红阳), and ‘white sun’ (白阳)[compare Hubert Seiwert: Popular Religious Movements and Heterodox Sects in Chinese History. Brill: Leiden/ Boston, 2003, p. 327]. Same as in Buddhism, the practitioners also seek enlightenment (which was also incorporated from Buddhism into some Daoist schools). Nonetheless, the creation of the world is very Daoist influenced. Luoists believe in a kind of ‘Unborn Ancient Mother’ to be the creator of the world, which goes back to the Daoist ideal that there is a kind of energy that created the Dao or from which the Dao evolved, called ‘hundun’ (混沌). This is very intriguing, because Laozi, whose scripture most famously depicts the nature of the Dao, does not give any origin of the Dao, so there is no mother of the Dao, but the Dao is simply there. Furthermore, the three Buddhas and the Unborn Ancient Mother also play an important role in Xiantiandao, which is a Chinese religion founded in the 17th century. Anyways, Xiantiandao is an exclusivist teaching and believers believe that their religion could overcome all other religions.

But we should not think that our religious landscape in the West was always “pure” from outside influence. I think I don’t need to place explicit proofs here, because theologians have pointed out that there are Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Hellenic influences on the Bible. The Old Testament still clearly shows traces of an early henotheistic belief which evolved out of polytheism. The Jewish religion, the founding of an Israelite ethnicity, was the result of distinguishing oneself from another people, the Canaanites and their polytheistic religion [cp. also Christine Hayes: Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible). Yale University, Fall 2006; Annette Henrietta Margaretha Evans: The Development of Jewish Ideas of Angels: Egyptian and Hellenistic Connections, ca. 600 BCE to 200 CE. Dissertation, University of Stellenbosch, 2007; Timo Schmitz: Ist der Monotheismus wirklich aus dem Polytheismus entstanden? – Eine Nachzeichnung Humes an biblischen Stellen (25 July 2019). In: Timo Schmitz: Politische und Philosophische Analysen. Trier & Vachendorf: Graf Berthold Verlag, 2022].

Therefore, we should not be surprised that religion is always developing. There was never a stage, when people stopped re-creating religion. And this is no surprise: If we say that God created human-beings in so many different ways and allowed different religions, then why should there be the one and only true teaching? So there is no religion which is fundamentally right and “we have to remember Zhuangzi, a short-living mushroom might know nothing about all the seasons and the world. And we are too small to understand the whole cosmos, and even what is beyond it” [Timo Schmitz: The aim for reaching the paradise – a tricky quest (28 August 2020). In: Timo Schmitz: A Divinely Way to Philosophy, Vol. 2. Trier & Vachendorf: Graf Berthold Verlag, 2022]. So religion is dynamic and a creative process of thoughts due to reflections. But just because religion is man-made, this does not mean in return that God is man-made. God Himself exists independently from man.

Timo Schmitz, 22 March 2023


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