How Syncretism Increased The Popularity Of Universal Religions

899 words - 4 pages

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 Christianity becoming the official religion of Axum since large trading network had many relations with Christian communities.

Another major step in the spread of Christianity was the Conversion of the Celtic peoples. The Celts migrated into West Asia and the British Isles in the first millennium B.C.E. Saint Patrick who lived from 385-461 C.E. brought Christianity to the Celts. Before he brought Christianity to the Celts, he was enslaved for six years during his youth. Once he escaped, he became a priest and tried to convert his former captors and eventually the Kings to Christianity. Syncretism helped his case in trying to convert the Celts. Earlier beliefs and sacred sites of the local religions became Christian ideas and holy places. An example of a sacred person that became a religious icon was Saint Bridget. Originally she was called Brigid, an “all-powerful and ever-helping local goddess, became identified with Saint Bridget.” Once Christianity accepted...

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