How Syncretism Increased the Popularity of Universal Religions
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Between 200 B.C.E and 800 C.E., there was a large development and spread of Universal Religions. The definition of a universal religion is a religion that has these characteristics: believes in one God, promises a type of salvation or after life, and a religion that is open to all people no matter what social class, race, or gender. Two of the large universal religions, Christianity and Buddhism were spread because of Syncretism. Syncretism is the adaptation to a religion by the religious leaders so that their beliefs are close to those of the local population. Although Syncretism is arguably the most important factor for the spread of these universal religions, there were other key reasons as to why these religions spread.
Somewhere around 320 B.C.E.; Christianity began its spread to Axum. This was a very big step for Christianity as a religion because Axum was a very powerful nation. Axum had a vast trading network, which was very important in that time period. A man named Frumentius who was an advisor to the King of Axum, and a tutor for the two Princes of Axum introduced Christianity into the community. Before he introduced Christianity he traveled to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem the patriarch in Alexandria named Frumentius Bishop of Axum. After he received this title he went back to Axum and baptized the Princes. This resulted in the King of Axum deeming Christianity the official religion of Axum. Christianity spread to Axum not only because of Syncretism and Frumentius’ influence over the royal family but also other factors. One factor given by Johnson was “conversion would enhance trading relations with Constantinople and with its large, prosperous Christian community.” This was one of the motivating factors that led to Chr...
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...to bodhisattvas. Buddhism took advantage of China’s turmoil and created a larger amount of followers because of Syncretism. Translating the major beliefs of Confucianism and Daoism in to Buddhist terms was very smart because people felt that they were converting to something very similar to their local beliefs. If it were not for Syncretism, Buddhism may not be the universal religion it is today.
Christianity and Buddhism are only two examples of universal religions that expanded through Syncretism. Although Syncretism is a very powerful tool, it will not succeed on its own. Factors like political alliance and positive motivators of the religion are very important for a large amount of people to commit to converting. In a universal religion, Syncretism along with other key factors were very important in the expansion of universal religions during this time period.