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Selections from Religious Traditions of the World, H. Byron Earhart (editor), Copyright © 1993 by HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 


"Although it is easy for the average person to recognize the universal presence of religion in one’s own and other cultures, by no means does this imply that religion is a rather simple matter."

H. Byron Earhart (ed.), Religious Traditions of the World,
Part Two

As human beings – as members of our own culture – we realize that our culture has its religious dimension, whether or not we decide to take an active part in it. And, as we place ourselves within the larger family of the human race, we recognize that every culture has its religious dimension, too: Although other religious traditions may be quite different from the one or more traditions with which we are familiar, nevertheless, every culture has its own religious aspect and possibilities. Without becoming a world traveler, just by virtue of our own humanity, we have a sense that all individuals and cultures are or can be religious.

We do not have to be professional scholars of religion in order to recognize the presence of religion in our life and culture and the existence of religion in other people and cultures. In fact, two of the most obvious reasons we look into other religious traditions are natural curiosity and an innocent kind of "selfishness." We are curious about other peoples’ religions, to see how they live their lives and to learn how their experience of the world is similar to and different from our own. This interest in the "other" always brings each of us back to an interest in "self" – an inevitable selfishness as the tendency for self-understanding, in wondering how our own religious heritage shares with or departs from other religions. We like to know how others are religious, for to be religious is a central part of what it means to be human, and everyone has a personal interest in how he or she fits into the larger picture of the human race as a whole.

Although it is easy for the average person to recognize the universal presence of religion in one’s own and other cultures, by no means does this imply that religion is a rather simple matter. Nor is religion something uniform – the same in all cultures. Layperson and scholar alike face an amazing variety of beliefs and practices in the huge number of religious traditions that have appeared in human history. Something that fascinates us and persuades us to explore religion is the fact that its universality in all cultures is matched by an amazing diversity of particular forms.

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