Family Unity and Togetherness

Community is a fundamental aspect of religious life in any tradition, with family—the first micro-community we inhabit—serving as a scaffolding  for broader community systems. The health of a community heavily relies on the strength of its members’ family dynamics.The family unit is where we first learn to love and be loved. Without learning these essential skills, it becomes challenging to love our neighbors, let alone those who are different from us. This connection is explicitly stated in the scriptures and doctrines of many religions, which is why God is often referred to as ‘The Father’ or ‘The Mother,’ and strangers are described as our brothers and sisters.

But what constitutes a family? Is it just mother, father, and grandparents? Does it not include the person who cooks for you daily or your classmate who sat next to you for ten years? In today’s rapidly changing world, where structures and norms evolve faster than the seasons, the concept of family has expanded to include surrogates. Instead of the traditional mother-father paradigm, there could be two fathers, a single parent, a grandparent, or a mentor. The possibilities are endless, yet their nurturing roles remain the same—providing unconditional love and fostering the gradual development of all faculties.

Even before globalization, many religions extended the concept of family beyond those we can see and know. In Chinese traditions like Taoism and Confucianism, this extends to reverence for departed ancestors. Confucianism emphasizes filial piety, while the Baha’i faith views the world as one family, promoting equality within the worshiping community.

In Japan, Okinawans live by the principle of ichariba chode, meaning “treat everyone like a brother, even if you’ve never met them before.” Similarly, Hindu Rishis advocated the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, meaning “the whole world is your family.” In India, it is common for strangers to address you as brother, uncle, aunt, sister, son, or daughter.

All religions emphasize that the ultimate expression of love is to see the entire world as your family, treating even the most remote stranger—be it a crow, a monkey, a tree, or a piece of earth—as your closest kin.

Judaism

  • “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” —Hebrew Bible (Exodus 20:12)
  • “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” —Hebrew Bible (Proverbs 22:6)

Islam

  • “Your Lord has commanded that you should worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say no word that shows impatience with them, and do not be harsh with them, but speak to them respectfully and lower your wing in humility towards them in kindness and say, ‘Lord, have mercy on them, just as they cared for me when I was little.’ Your Lord knows best what is in your heart.” —Qur’an (17:23-25)
  • “Hold fast to God’s rope all together; do not split into factions. Remember God’s favor to you: you were enemies and then He brought your hearts together and you became brothers by His grace. Be a community that calls for what is good, urges what is right, and forbids what is wrong: those who do this are the successful ones.” —Qur’an (3:103-04)

Christianity

  • “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” —The New Testament (2 Corinthians 6:18)
  • “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” —The New Testament (1 Timothy 5:8)

Hinduism

  • “When a family declines, ancient traditions are destroyed. With them are lost the spiritual foundations for life, and the family loses its sense of unity. Social chaos is hell for the family and for those who have destroyed the family as well. It disrupts the process of spiritual evolution begun by our ancestors. The timeless spiritual foundations of family and society would be destroyed by these terrible deeds, which violate the unity of life.” —The Bhagavad Gita
  • “Discrimination saying ‘this one is a relative; this other one is a stranger’ is for the mean-minded. For those who’re known as magnanimous, the entire world constitutes but a family.” —Mahōpaniad

Baha’i

  • “A family is a nation in miniature. Simply enlarge the circle of the household, and you have the nation. Enlarge the circle of nations, and you have all humanity. The conditions surrounding the family surround the nation. The happenings in the family are the happenings in the life of the nation. So it is in the great family of nations, for nations are but an aggregate of families. Therefore, as strife and dissension destroy a family and prevent its progress, so nations are destroyed and advancement hindered.” —‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Taoism

  • “Cultivated in yourself virtue becomes real. Cultivated in your family virtue grows. Cultivated in your village virtue multiplies. Cultivated in your state virtue abounds. Cultivated in your world virtue is everywhere. Thus view others through yourself. View families through your family. View villages through your village. View states through your state. View other worlds through your world. How do you know what other worlds are like? Through this one.” —Tao Te Ching (ch 54)

Buddhism

  • “The sangha is a community where there should be harmony, peace, and understanding. That is something created by our daily life together. If love is there in the community, if we’ve been nourished by the harmony in the community, then we will never move away from love.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

Modern Philosophy and Theology

  • “Religion creates community, community creates altruism, and altruism turns us away from self and toward the common good.” —Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
  • “The associations with flourishing are much stronger for communal religious participation than for spiritual-religious identity or for private practices. It may be the confluence of the religious values and practices, reinforced by social ties and norms, that give religious communities their powerful effects on so many aspects of human flourishing.” —Tyler J. VanderWeele

Prophets 

Most religions have a founding prophet who serves as the first leader of the faith. For example, in Islam, Allah sent prophets to various parts of the world at different times. The Qur’an mentions twenty-five prophets by name, though the actual number is believed to be much higher.

The similarities across religious prophets or texts are not mere coincidences but rather indicate a common divine origin. Differences in religions arise not because the prophets received different messages from God, but because they interpreted these messages based on their unique contexts.

One of the key characteristics of great prophets was their refusal to claim divine status, seeing themselves as mere messengers of God. Spiritual leaders like Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad emphasized the teachings revealed to them by the divine source, not themselves. We are instructed to revere the divine source, not the human vessel delivering its teachings.

Prophets convey God’s message, while priests help people connect with God. Priests are expected to follow ritual cleansings, lead ascetic lives, and pursue knowledge and prayers to serve as intermediaries between humanity and the divine. However, many false priests have emerged, exploiting their power and encouraging blind faith. Consequently, some religious groups have chosen to eliminate formal clergy and return to the source.

While priests can play important roles in our spiritual lives, it is crucial to remember that they are human and their words should not be followed blindly. Trust should be placed cautiously to avoid being misguided by false priests.

Christianity

  • “For false Messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” —The New Testament (Matthew 24:24)

Islam

  • “Muammad is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him.” —The Qur’an (3:144)

Judaism

  • “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” —Hebrew Bible (Deuteronomy 18:15)

Baha’i

  • “Fear thou God, but not the priest.” —Bahá’u’lláh

Buddhism

  • “The purpose of studying Buddhism is not to study Buddhism, but to study ourselves. It is impossible to study by ourselves without some teaching. You have a teacher for yourself, not for the teacher.” —Shunryu Suzuki

Hinduism

  • “If my spiritual guru and God were both in front of me, I would show my reverence and respect to my guru first. It is only because of the guru’s guidance that I am able to find God.” —Kabir

Beliefs about other worlds

 Humans often believe our world is the only one, but physicists and philosophers suggest there may be many more worlds or even universes. Deep-sea exploration reveals a self-sustaining universe underwater.

 

These interconnected worlds imply that our actions here matter beyond our finite existence. Life now is neither meaningless nor inconsequential. It is essential to cultivate our minds and spirits in this world.

Certain Biblical passages suggest that the Abrahamic God created—and perhaps destroyed—other worlds. Hindu cosmology also posits a cyclic creation and destruction of the world, implying infinite worlds.

If God created our world, it is plausible from a religious perspective that God may have created other worlds. Whether these worlds exist or are products of our imagination, they have been creatively depicted in literature, film, and storytelling, reflecting humanity’s need to understand this possibility.

In Buddhism, there is a hierarchy of rebirth realms, including pure lands for buddhas and bodhisattvas and hellish realms for evil beings. Taoism also believes in realms for demigods.

In Hinduism and Jainism, the universe is divided into various worlds. Buddhism has six worlds, while Hinduism has fourteen lokas. The heavenly lokas are “Svarga,” the earthly lokas are “Prithvi,” and the hellish lokas are “Patal.”

You don’t need to adhere to a particular belief system to acknowledge the possibility of other worlds. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals thousands of galaxies in a small area of space, suggesting countless planets. Whether these planets harbor life or other universes exist remains a mystery, with different religions, including the religion of peace, offering unique perspectives.

Christianity

  • “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’” —The New Testament
  • “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.” —C.S. Lewis

Islam

  • “It is God who created seven heavens and a similar [number] of earths. His command descends throughout them. So you should realize that He has power over all things and that His knowledge encompasses everything.” —The Qur’an (65:12)

Judaism

  • “God carries everything beneath His arms. With His right arm he carries the heavens, and with His left arm he carries the earth. How much do God’s arms carry? The left carries the 18,000 worlds that surround this world. The right carries 120,000 worlds of the World to Come.” —Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism

Baha’i

  • “That world beyond is a world of sanctity and radiance; therefore, it is necessary that in this world he should acquire these divine attributes. In that world there is need for spirituality, faith, assurance, the knowledge and love of God. These he must attain in this world so that after his ascension from the earthly to the heavenly Kingdom he shall find all that is needful in that life eternal ready for him.” —‘Abdu’l-Bahá
  • “Likewise, the rewards of the other world are the eternal life which is clearly mentioned in all the Holy Books, the divine perfections, the eternal bounties, and everlasting felicity. The rewards of the other world are the perfections and the religion of peace obtained in the spiritual worlds after leaving this world.” —‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Buddhism

  • “What worlds are there herein? I’ll tell you. In these seas of fragrant waters, numerous as atoms in unspeakably many buddha-fields, rest an equal number of world systems. Each world system also contains an equal number of worlds. Those world systems in the ocean of worlds have various resting places, various shapes and forms, various substances and essences, various locations, various entryways, various adornments, various boundaries, various alignments, various similarities, and various powers of maintenance.” —Avatamsaka Sutra

Hinduism

  • “How many fires are there, how many suns, how many dawns, how many waters?” —Rig Veda (10:88)
  • “Insects in a fig cannot imagine worlds other than the fig. There are so many fig-trees in these woods: and so many more vast clusters of stars.” —Hindu poem

Daoism

  • “Our time in this world is a journey through the cycle we call life. As guests, we linger for a while in this realm before we depart for another. And who can tell how long this traveler will stay in the next realm before embarking on another visit to the realm of the living?” —The Book of Lieh Tzu
  • “The sage will not speak of what is beyond the boundaries of the universe—though he will not deny it either. What is within the universe, he says something about but does not pronounce upon.” —The Book of Chuang Tzu

Confucianism

  • “The identification of the high ancestors of humanity with tian, an ambiguous term encompassing a deity and the physical sky, blurs categories that usually separate the human world from the natural world.” —Ruth H. Chang

Modern Philosophy and Theology

  • “The uniquely human capacity for detached, creative thought, which includes the ability to conceive of imaginary beings and alternative worlds, stands behind literature, art, science, and, of course, religion.” —Todd Tremlin
  • “The content of these individual worlds, of course, is very different in each case, but the process of creating a world is a universal human attribute.” —Jeffrey J. Kripal

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