"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.
9. Teaching by Parables
10. Holy Books
11. Creation Myths
12. Ordered Universe
16. Belief in other Worlds
20. Prayer and Meditation
21. Mantra and Daily Recitation
22. Fasting and Diet
26. Sacred Spaces and Objects
27. Priests and Prophets
28. Prophets as Shepherds
29. Mysterious Birth of Prophets
30. Deification After Prophet's Death
32. Conversion and Proselytizing
33. Family and Community
34. Hero's Journey
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
49. Sacred Time
50. The Word
51. Learning From Nature