If every creed passes on the same messages, why have different cultures fought against each other throughout history in bloody battles motivated by religious intolerance?
From a philosophical standpoint, there is no religion better than the other, there are only different cultural elements that covers a common message. The differences are a result of a misinterpretation of the original form of each belief system, and intolerance arises when people lose the connection with the essence of the religion and become attached to the shapes and forms.
What is Religion?
There are many different possibilities to define the word “religion,” but one of the most accepted definition is that religion is a tool to connect with divinity, or the highest instances of consciousness.
Religion is a set of rules, rituals, values and concepts that aim to lead people towards their best possibilities as humans, providing the necessary knowledge to make judgments and decisions that will ensure peace of mind, salvation, heaven, nirvana or whatever they name the state of mind that every belief system understands as the final destination of the soul. Reaching this instance can be understood as the objective of humanity, without which life would be simply an accident of nature – a vision that is advocated by non-religious groups. Religion is then, one of the paths that leads to this final spot.
Analyzing many different belief systems in the world in their original forms, it’s possible to identify an interesting point – the message of every religion is the very same.
The Common Sources of All Religions
According to many different philosophies, including Plato and the theory on the microcosm and the macrocosm, every human being is born with an intuition of an ideal world, of the archetypes that exist in a higher realm. As humans evolve, they build tools to be able to project this ideal world in the physical plain in an endless attempt to make Earth a perfect copy of heaven. Since humans are still imperfect, this projection is also imperfect.
In different locations and in different times, the religions that emerge along with their symbols, rituals, holy families, mythological stories, symbolic events and the sacred places are a result of this attempt to mirror the ideal world. So these archetypes that exist in a higher realm appear in different cultures under different names and shapes, but they all refer to the same idea or the same concept.
When prophets such as Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha and so many others emerge at some point in history, they become the great “revealers,” or those who are able to see the ideal world with more accuracy and therefore, inform others about how to make this bridge between ideal world and physical world.
Although there are many controversies about the existence of many religious figures, such as Jesus, from a philosophical perspective, it doesn’t matter whether they existed, since it’s the message and the path that leads to the human ideal that must be considered. In fact, the events described in the sacred books of humanity should be read as symbolic facts rather than historical events. Even if the historical facts are not accurate — and many of them really are not — what they intend to symbolize will be always true as they represent the psychological and spiritual journey of humanity.
The Decline of Religion
In their original form, all religions contain teachings to reach the human ideal and refer to the same reality as this ideal world is theoretically universal and immutable. One theory states that religion starts to decline when people begin to worship the shapes and not the meaning that gave birth to the shape, when the symbol or the name of the master becomes more adored than the message that the master professed and when the rites are performed in such a mechanic way that people believe that it’s the act of performing the rituals and not what they symbolize that brings salvation. The result of this is the assumption that other belief systems are evil for having a different form, even when they share a common meaning.
It has been suggested that this is when religion is cited as the motivation behind wars, terrorism, genocide and historical events such as the Inquisition, indicating the decadence of an era. Some believe that if people just knew that the heart of every religion is the same, that everyone is searching for the same things, no one would ever fight over different beliefs.