Few of the student’s discoveries are more off-putting than the discovery of our long history of religious conflict. In pursuing a detailed study of any of the world’s religions, we find that the dominant characteristic of religion is religious controversy.
In my experience, the most shocking discovery for the student of religion is the true nature of religious controversy. All religion is religious controversy.
I will admit that I prefer the correction of an editor who might offer that: religious controversy can be a part of some forms of religion, or even elements of religious controversy are found in all the religions of the world. I might prefer it; I might even wish this were so.
But the terrible lesson presented by the informed study of the world’s religions is that religion is religious controversy. Herein lies the force of the discovery: the two are indissoluble. And I do not offer this as a matter of perspective or interpretation. One religion is, in fact, a comment on another, or may have sprouted from another, or grown up in the shadow of another.
The gods of any one religion wag their fingers at and comment upon the gods of their neighbors, and all religion is a correction on some other religion. Throughout human history one religion is usurped, or stamped out by the other, or one religion is often the synthesis of what were once several warring religions.
An honest student will need a perennial courage to face the terrible fact that the various world religions represent one long continuum of a single aspect of our social and political disharmony.
No religion comes down to us without the influence of an older religion; no religion is isolated by culture or language or time, and no modern religion is created without another in mind. The unavoidable exposure to and awareness of religious controversy has prevented many students from attempting the careful study of the religions of the world. The posts developing this topic are linked together under the category Religious Controversy.