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.

Book Chapters

Doctrinal/Philosophical

1. One Universal God

2. Ordered Universe

3. Interconnectedness

4. Love

5. Flawed Human Condition

6. Death

7. Afterlife

8. Salvation

9. Belief in Other Worlds

10. Revelation

 

Narrative/Mythic

11. Metaphorical Interpretation

12. Teaching by Parables

13. Chariot Imagery

14. Prophets as Shepherds

15. Mysterious Birth

16. Deification of Prophets

17. Creation Myths

18. Journey and Return

19. Sacred Time

20. The Word

 

Practical/Ritual

21. Mantra and Daily Recitation

22. Prayer and Meditation

23. Rituals

24. Praxis

25. Fasting and Diet

26. Sacrifice

27. Grace and Surrender

28. Clothing/Attire

29. Sacred Spaces and Objects

30. Music

 

Ethical/Legal

31. Golden Rule

32. Forgiveness and Repentance

33. Nonviolence and Peace

34. Pluralism

35. Service and Justice

36. Supremacy of Intention

37. Moderation

 

Social/Institutional

38. Money

39. Family and Community

40. Conversion and Proselytizing

41. Priests and Prophets

42. Sacred Books

43. Sectarianism and Politics

44. Wholeness

 

Experiential/Emotional

45. Focus on World Within

46. Life's Illusions

47. Dreams

48. Suffering

49. Stillness and Silence

50. Learning from Nature

51. Light and the Unseen

53. Awe

54. Alternative Spiritualities