I’ve not read Stephen Prothero’s recent book “God is Not One.”  But, listening to him interviewed last night I was much attracted to his list. What each of the eight major world religions treat as their big problem, and what their solution is.

Religion Problem Solution
Buddhism suffering awakening
Christianity sin salvation
Confucianism chaos social order
Daoism conformity naturalness, simplicity
Hinduism endless cycle of reincarnation release
Islam pride submission
Judaism exile return to God
Yoruba disconnection follow our destiny as revealed by diviners

It is likely I’ve made mistakes in the above, it’s based on some web browsing and what I recall from the interview I listened to. More rows and columns would be fun. For example principle rituals would make a great additional column.

I am a sucker for frameworks like this.  That is a variation on one of my favorites.  This one about sketching out the differences between Puritans and Quakers –  a dialectic that has much to says much about American culture.

It would be fun to have a table like that for programming languages.

9 thoughts on “Problem/Solution

  1. Emmanuel Lécharny

    You have to add :

    Atheism | religions and the millions of killed people because of them | No religion

    Not that being an atheist protect human beings from bestiality, mass murder or any atrocity, but at least, you can’t find no justifications for such behavior.

  2. Ben Hyde

    Emmanuel, Violence is scale free; as is religious adherence, language choice, and oh so many other things. Such things all get used when it’s time to spin up some polarization. But I don’t know that the atheist problem is religion, some of they yeah. Maybe it could be “atheism|*|rolls eyes”.

  3. Emmanuel Lécharny

    Well, an atheist does not claim he will solve any problem on earth (contrary to what many religion say…). Probably ‘*’ should be ‘god’ instead of religion, because many religions does not have such a thing called ‘god’…

  4. mtraven

    My impression is that it is Buddhism, not Hinduism that is concerned with release from the cycle of reincarnation. But IANAL (I am not a Lama).

  5. Ron Krumpos

    Orthodox, institutional religions are quite different, but their mystics have much in common. A quote from the chapter “Mystic Viewpoints” in my e-book at on comparative mysticism:

    Ritual and Symbols. The inner meanings of the scriptures, the spiritual teachings of the prophets and those personal searchings which can lead to divine union were often given lesser importance than outward rituals, symbolism and ceremony in many institutional religions. Observances, reading scriptures, prescribed acts, and following orthodox beliefs cannot replace your personal dedication, contemplation, activities, and direct experience. Preaching is too seldom teaching. For true mystics, every day is a holy day. Divine revelation is here and now, not limited to their sacred scriptures.

    Conflicts in Conventional Religion. “What’s in a Word?” outlined some primary differences between religions and within each faith. The many divisions in large religions disagreed, sometimes bitterly. The succession of authority, interpretations of scriptures, doctrines, organization, terminology, and other disputes have often caused resentment. The customs, worship, practices, and behavior within the mainstream of religions frequently conflicted. Many leaders of any religion had only united when confronted by someone outside their faith, or by agnostics or atheists. Few mystics have believed divine oneness is exclusive to their religion or is restricted to any people.

    Note: This is just a consensus to indicate some differences between the approaches of mystics and that of their institutional religion. These statements do not represent all schools of mysticism or every division of faith. Whether mystical experiences vary in their cultural context, or are similar for all true mystics, is less important than that they transform each one’s sense of being to a transpersonal outlook on all life.

  6. bhyde Post author

    Ron, your post seems a bit off topic and self serving, but what ever.

    I gather that the book Prothero’s draws some value from drawing out a distinction between the stories we tell about mystics and the institutional religions.

  7. Ron Krumpos

    In an earlier comment I had mentioned the similarity of the mystical traditions vs. the difference of orthodox religious doctrines, as outlined in my e-book at In fairness to Dr. Prothero, I came across a later editorial review in which he states:
    “Mystics often claim that the great religions differ only in the inessentials. They may be different paths but they are ascending the same mountain and they converge at the peak. Throughout this book I give voice to these mystics: the Daoist sage Laozi, who wrote his classic the Daodejing just before disappearing forever into the mountains; the Sufi poet Rumi, who instructs us to “gamble everything for love”; and the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich, who revels in the feminine aspects of God. But my focus is not on these spiritual superstars. It is on ordinary religious folk—the stories they tell, the doctrines they affirm, and the rituals they practice. And these stories, doctrines, and rituals could not be more different. Christians do not go on the hajj to Mecca; Jews do not affirm the doctrine of the Trinity; and neither Buddhists nor Hindus trouble themselves about sin or salvation.”

  8. bhyde Post author

    Bobby9 – Your discomfort at stumbling upon a bit of comparative regligon is amusingly in alignment with my blog’s tag line. – ben

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