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Why are there so many different beliefs/religions/philosophies?

  1. Jun 13, 2005 #1
    My question, without any intention to make this a religious disucssion, is this:

    If there is only one truth, one reality in the world (if you agree with this), then why are there so many different religions in the world?

    There is no need to refer to specific religions to answer this question. Just in general--philosophically, sociologically, psychologically, or in whatever manner -- what is it that has caused everyone to have all these different beliefs thinking theirs is the ultimate truth.

    I hope I'm clear enough with my question.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 13, 2005 #2
    The answer is that whatever this "one truth" is, God(s), or physical science created life as extremely diverse, as well as created human thought equally diverse and therefore the wide range of beliefs.
  4. Jun 13, 2005 #3
    Maybe it's free will; I don't know.
  5. Jun 14, 2005 #4
    The answer is because there is not one physical reality, one truth in the world. But then, some people would disagree with me.
  6. Jun 14, 2005 #5
    A long time ago, when people knew very little about the universe, they would form beliefs to fill the voids of their knowledge. Because these weren't based on fact (or that "one truth", as you said), they varied from group to group the way many other cultural aspects do.
  7. Jun 14, 2005 #6
    maybe because if there's one "truth" than that truth would probably be extremely difficult for any human to understand. So, we can only comprehend certain concepts at a time. certain religions or faiths or philosophies concentrate on different aspects of what could ultimately all be one ultimate "truth." It just depends on the values of the individual or group, eh?
  8. Jun 14, 2005 #7


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    I would say it's because these subjects do not use well-defined ideas, so you can't reach universal conclusions in them by logic alone, and they do not appeal to empirical research, so that avenue of objective evidence is closed too. So there's no way to truly refute "heresy", it's all at bottom a matter of taste, and the different tastes just proliferate.
  9. Jun 14, 2005 #8
    Because, we're cognizant of reality and the laws that govern existence even though many of the details escape our understanding for various reasons, but mostly because life is extremely intertwined with a vast amount of ruling dynamics; some acting intinsicly while others act extrinsicly, but still all part of one system. So we're left to fill in the blanks as we expand our awareness to the reality we're all apart of individually.

    And, since we live in this vast world full of variety, there are many outlets that induce thought to the nature of our existence from what it is, to how it works, to how we fit in the picture, and all the way to what are the possible intentions of existence if it happened to be as alive as we are but stretched over and beyond time.

    On top of it all, we're an acting force in nature as well, so we inspire thought amongst ourselves to reach that higher awareness which seems to be a type of conformed thought; as if intelligence was endowing itself into a single force by compounding various aspects of nature into a single being that can act individually of nature but still remaining as part of the whole.

    Where it goes from there is all speculation that we all investigate in our own way.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2005
  10. Jun 24, 2005 #9
    Religions spring from their cultures which are different.

    Religions are not meant to be tested experimentally, though one
    could devise expriments to test religions claims.

    People are complex and simple tests on complex systems typically
    don't give repeatable results.

    Finally, religions are practiced by people, and people
    can often be wrong about the things they beleive.

    Physics would be in the same state without the experiments
    needed to discard incorrect beleifs. This is not a process that
    should be applied to religion which is a personal matter of the
    inner life of a person- although it is healthy to examine the net
    effect on a culture and a person of a particular set of beliefs.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2005
  11. Jun 24, 2005 #10
    "Physics would be in the same state without the experiments
    needed to discard incorrect beleifs. This is not a process that
    should be applied to religion which is a personal matter of the
    inner life of a person- although it is healthy to examine the net
    effect on a culture and a person of a particular set of beliefs."

    Religion must be wrong then. So everyone who reads thius must realise they should stop being religious, instantly and without hesitation. Unless of course htye can prove their religion is correct.
  12. Jun 25, 2005 #11
    well, i'm not sure if many people would agree with me on this one, and however amateur it might sound, if looked at closely, all religions have a basic code of conduct, morality, ethics, etc. and they are all relatively similar, certain religious activities might seem weird, or odd to other people, and alone one religion might appear awkward,but all of them make sense when gone to the depth of the ritual or the fact... There are different religions by name, and the way things are done, but in the end we are doing the same things...
    A muslim lady is asked to cover her head so as to be modest, as are Hindu women, christianity also asks it's followers to be modestly dressed, as does Judaism... I'm not sure if they are requested to cover their heads though..
    There are so many other instances, forgive me, but i don't really have the patience to sit and type them all out...
  13. Jun 25, 2005 #12
    Religions should abandon things like god and faith and focus purely on things which actually do good, such as their morality and ethics. Basically anything they believe in which cannot withstand debate should be discarded.
  14. Jun 27, 2005 #13
    I do not agree with with abandoning God for reason not fit this forum but i absolutelly agree with you on abandoning anything from religion which cannot withstand debate. Those things entered religion through superstition and irrational beliefs while religious godfather were trying to usurp power forthemsleves. I speak this as a very religious person. Religion is designed for this world which is practical world and must solve practical things. Other than that is irrelevant.

    To answer the original question: Simply it is due to desires. Some differences were neccessary with mental development of those ppl. They could not hold knowledge of something which did not exists and therefore looking back in time for us their belief seem unreasonable. The problem was that ppl got dogmatic and were trying to hold on to their ignorance which can be seen today in all (mainstream) religions.

    gallileo said: I will not belief that same God who has given me brain would want me to forgo its use. This is statement which most religious ppl fear not knowing that the opposite is why we are here.

    I think TRUTH is only one. Just like we dont have european science and US science there must be "philosophical" truth which is ONE. This can be reached only if pp abandon desires to protect or promote their beliefs/convictions and search honestly for the truth. On small scale i can see this in science as well (for being a apprentice scientist) but the big picture is ultimatelly one truth

    Last edited: Jun 27, 2005
  15. Jun 27, 2005 #14


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    One could ask - "Why are there so many different cultures/languages?" Each religion is unique to a culture, the one in which it was founded. Religions and philosophies then evolve (and transform) as they spread outward to new cultures.

    People, i.e. each individual, have different perceptions of reality. Even my two children, raised in the same family, have different perceptions of the world. It's inherent in being an 'individual'.
  16. Jun 27, 2005 #15
    Thats is true, each individual has different perceptions of reality. This should not be changed, neither imposition of one's reality on another.

    However, there is a fundamental set of knowledge/beliefs known as ideology according to which each individual perceives new sensed knowledge. This ideology is only one. This is because there is need to correctly interpret our physical world around us (at least thats what we inherently strive for as humanity). Since our world seems to be obeying one univresal law the ideology/framework of thought should be one also i think. Otherwise we will always miss correct interpretation of the 'reality' and live our lives in delusion or illusion.

    How much does this make sense to you?

  17. Jun 27, 2005 #16
    I belive there is indeed, only one 'truth'; However it seems mankind has quite a hard time finding what this truth is. In my opninion, I don't see why God did not make the so called "only truth" more clear. So we have a bible, but we also have many other holy books and great prophets.

    In my opinion (because everybody belives differently) we need to atleast respect other faiths. If you want to be muslim, that is your choise. Others should not be the one to Judge wether or not that is the right choise.
  18. Jun 27, 2005 #17
    So if we find what is the problem why ppl do not seem to be finding this framework of mind with which they would interpret the physical world correctly we might move a step ahead from just keep inventing new ideologies/phylosophies which just keeps us going in circles.

    Since our mind can manipulate only and only sensations from physical objects and think only in relation to physical objects the 'ideology' with which an individual will process and integrate new perceptions into already existing knowledge/beliefs is very imporant one.

    WOuld it be wrong you to think (more or less of cause ) to conclude that the correct belief is key to correctly interpret our physical world (todays science). Simply it would be different if hypothetically someone who is creationist would interpret finding of evolutionistic evidence in life versus someone who is strong evolutionist interpreting the same data. Ultimatelly we are slaves of our beliefs?

    I belief there must be an 'inborn' 'sense' according to which our thoughts should be processed. Otherwise we are in illusion or delusion, we could infinitelly be inventing new ideologies instead of just discovering about our physical world.

    Is not it why scientists are comming up with the ultimate force theory that would anihilate theists for good? Of cause not per se, but the ideology of the scientific community and ultimatelly each of the individuals in it strive for answers for meanings.., eventhough the outward reason might be genuin..., the at human mind level...

    Does think make sense at some level?

    Last edited: Jun 27, 2005
  19. Jul 7, 2005 #18
    Sorry to arrive so late, but I wanted to add something. There are many religions, but if you examine the words of their founders you will find that they all agreed with each other. Thus Jesus, Mohammed, the Buddha, the writers of the Upanishads, Lao-Tsu and the rest all say the same thing. It is only later, once their teachings have been sufficiently garbled, that distinct religions are created, generally by those who want to found institutions and take positions of power within them rather than seek the truth for themselves, as the founders of their religion invariably advised them to do.
  20. Jul 7, 2005 #19
    You ask like you don't know the answer, but then...

    You limit the range or reply. You who ask the question have set up a criteria on what the proper answer will be. It will be non-religion specific. So I assume you already know the answer if you know what it is not.

    Yes, you are clear enough. You don't know the answer, but you know that the answer is not rooted in any one religion. But since you don't know the answer, how do you know it is not rooted in some religion?

    Steve Rives

    P.S. I suggest that if the truth of the matter was plain and obvious, it would still be suppressed. People don't really want to know the answer to this question. What they really want to know is that they are the captains of their own destinies. Any other answer than that will be offensive and rejected.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2005
  21. Jul 11, 2005 #20
    I think you're right. Furthermore I think that beliefs form from experiences, societal development, and adaptation. If it were free will like someone here suggested, everyone would have their own individual theories. They would be like the many posts on any one thread within this forum. This is not so, therefore, clearly, there are some societal variebles 'in the mix' as well.
  22. Jul 11, 2005 #21
    interestingly enough, three of the top religions are actually the same one. Christianity=Judaism=Islam. they just have minor differences in details. christianity says the messiah has come while judaism and islam are still waitiing. islam has a prophet that the others don't. there are probably more differences, but at the core they are the same. they have all of the same prophets except islam has a few that only it has and christianity has a few that only it has.

    a lot of stuff is taken from older religions as well. virgin bith=egyption mythology. flood=almost every religion ever.
  23. Jul 11, 2005 #22
    Really? Seriously: Really?

    Isn't that something like saying all speeches are the same because they have words, make a point, are given in public, have a speaker and an audience, are delivered by humans to humans, employ persuasion, have a start and an end, ...

    Or, isn't an argument like the one you give -- which I credit for representing how many folks look at it -- of the same sort as saying man=dog because both men and dogs have symmetry of body, are carbon based, have mouths, eat, make noise, have blood, two ears and two eyes each, are air breathing with spines, even have cell structures that are alike...

    That is, you argue from a perceived similarity to an equality: "Christianity=Judaism=Islam". But the devil is in the details, and that's where the equality gets ruined.

    Let me probe along these lines a little more: Isn't it true that things can be similar in many respects, even as they remain fundamentally different? So much so, that one does not do justice to supposed similar things with reductionistic formulas? For example, you might not get a lot of Orthodox Jews saying that, at the end of the day, Judaism is really Islam and Christianity with different cloths. We could postulate that all the Orthodox Jews are wrong because they are too close to the religion to be objective (hey, what do they know about their own religion anyway), but that would be misplaced arrogance.

    What's really funny about this, is that even within these three religions, there are serious religious debates. Consider the various interpretations of the Koran among the tribes in Iraq. There are some hard-core versions of that religion that have a difficult time identifying similarities among versions of Islam. So they war with one another while appealing to variations on the "same" religion.

    Among Jews in Israel, an Orthodox Jew might not even identify with a Reformed Jew on many important issues: so much so that the two sects seem to have little in common (at least on big important things).

    You are looking from the outside at three religions (unless you belong to all three), and you have picked what looks like to you to be similarities between them. But I suggest that even the things that appear similar to you may be wildly divergent after deep investigation. Another example: a Dispensational Arminian Christian Anabaptist may consider the Reformed Calvinistic Amillennial interpretation of the Messiah and his kingdom as heretical.

    Here is how it would work in science: The untrained laity might look at the DNA of a gorilla and of a human and think the two species could mate. But a specialist in the field would see hundreds (no, thousands) of reasons why such simplistic analysis can't hold.

    I suggest that your conclusions about these three religions might benefit from some tuning. Now, I don't think that your analysis is horrible or anything like that, but it may be knee-jerk, or even optimistic. But my own studies in multiple religions makes me think that the facts on the ground don't bear out your thesis.


    Steve Rives
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2005
  24. Jul 12, 2005 #23
    Okay, here's a direct, quick, hip-pocket answer to the question:

    Different religions reflect how men make truth in their own image and assign it to the heavenly realm. The heart of man is a factory for creating gods and images of gods that conform to their own ideas and ideals. For example, the gods of the philosophers became the unmoved thinking gods (which became the pattern for the West). The gods of the Greek heroes were the fighting gods. The gods of the Levantine farmers were fertility gods.

    Whatever one's highest ideal, that thing likely makes it into the metaphysical realm -- and a religion is made. It grows when a people of a region/area share similar ideals and adopt the most fit of the locally invented religions (for various reasons). Like tribes and people groups that come and go, so do their religions. Tribes that survive bring their religion with them. Nations and tribes that die, die with their religions. The Egyptian religion died after conquest. Ancient Middle Eastern religions died after conquests and perhaps after natural disasters (I can't think of an instance of this last one).

    Ultimately, to indirectly quote one thinker, men cast their highest hopes and dreams into the metaphysical realm and call it god. Why? Because they love to create truth that conforms to their own circumstances and identities.


    Steve Rives
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2005
  25. Jul 12, 2005 #24
    no, it's not, because their doctrine are exactly the same in most cases. they all use every bit of the jewish bible.
  26. Jul 12, 2005 #25
    Maybe saying that they're exactly the same is a bit strong. There are two ways of looking at this I think. If one reads the teachings of the founders of Christianity and Islam (don't know Judaism well I'm afraid), particularly if one reads the non-canonical accounts of Jesus, then it is clear that any differences between them are just cultural, linguistic etc. But this is not to say that today Christians and Muslims agree with each other, they certainly don't, although of course they share the same core belief in the divine. It is necessary always to distinguish between what followers of a religion believe or what the priests or other officials of the religion generally teach, and the original teachings from which the religion is derived. They are often very different, and in the case of Christianity and Islam they are very different indeed.

    Sufis consider themselves the true followers of Mohammed, not the theists, just as the Christian mystics, the Essenes, Gnostics etc, see themselves as the true followers of Christ, and you'd have a job identifying any point of difference between these two groups. It's a shame that science developed in opposition to official institutional Christian theology in Europe because for many Christians, and many others, the official dogma of the institution of the Church bears little relation to Jesus's teachings, and it has left science with a naive view of Christianity, a straw man for an opponent.

    This little Zen tale says it all I think.

    When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.
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