Reflecting our Shared Humanity
"When we go to other parts of the world and see things that might change our lives, we still come back home. It is just that ‘home’ is now a little different, too. Why can't we do that intellectually and religiously as well?"

— Francis X. Clooney, S.J.
Jesuit priest and scholar of Hinduism, Harvard University Professor

The culmination of several years' work, the UEF's series on "Common themes across Religions" is an undertaking in religious research, the bolstering of religious literacy, and of interfaith understanding.

For centuries, religion served as a force for social cohesion, and providing a moral core for human behavior. At the same time, traditional forms of religion can be dangerously divisive in contemporary global society.

Very often, this can be traced back to a lack of religious literacy and cross-faith understanding, and this series is an important step toward building a future characterized by world peace, empathy and universal love.

The inspiration for this work comes from founder Akhil’s upbringing in India, one of the most religiously pluralistic places on Earth, where from a young age he learned to respect all religions and to see them all as different refracted expressions of the same basic truths.

How can we see people from different faith backgrounds as enemies if we are aware of these commonalities? We believe that, at their core, the myriad belief systems of the world are fundamentally more similar than they are different: they all make up parts of humanity's intrinsically shared quest - that of meaning-making.

The goal of our research into the world’s religions has been to identify and make these commonalities clear to others. The approach we took breaks away from the traditional siloed process of examining religions; our approach is instead lateral. Chapter by chapter, the book slices across religions to reveal a singular theme to illuminate how it is explored by all the major religions.

We shed further light on the recurrence of certain ruminatory concepts in religions by integrating theory and research from the fields of neuroscience and philosophy; to answer the question not only of which common themes frequently reappear across vastly different religions, but indeed, why.

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Common Themes

2. Love

3. Interconnectedness

4. One Universal God

5. Service and Justice

6. Nonviolence and Peace

7. Moderation

8. Simplicity

9. Teaching by Parables

10. Holy Books

11. Creation Myths

12. Ordered Universe

13. Death

14. Afterlife

15. Salvation

16. Belief in other Worlds

17. Revelation

18. Rituals

19. Praxis

20. Prayer and Meditation

21. Mantra and Daily Recitation

22. Fasting and Diet

23. Sacrifice

24. Clothing

25. Music

26. Sacred Spaces and Objects

27. Priests and Prophets

28. Prophets as Shepherds

29. Mysterious Birth of Prophets

30. Deification After Prophet's Death

31. Sectarianism

32. Conversion and Proselytizing

33. Family and Community

34. Hero's Journey

35. Wholeness

36. Money

37. Suffering

38. Grace and Surrender

39. Stillness and Silence

40. Forgiveness and Repentance

41. Supremacy of Intention

42. Metaphorical Interpretation

43. Chariot Imagery

44. Focus on the World Within

45. Authentic Self

46. Flawed Human Condition

47. Life's Illusions

48. Dreams

49. Sacred Time

50. The Word

51. Learning From Nature

52. Light

53. Pluralism