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Old 2011-06-25, 23:34   Link #3161
Urzu 7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erneiz_hyde View Post
As one who dabbles in science and engineering, the realization that we humans are even less than a microdust in the face of the universe actually turned me towards religion in the search of some meanings in life, because I just couldn't accept that we humans are so irrelevant. We and our planet didn't even make up 0.05% of our own solar system.
Which religions interest you the most? Which do you have a greater affinity to? Western religions or Eastern religions?
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Old 2011-06-25, 23:52   Link #3162
erneiz_hyde
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I'm born Muslim, though I explored other religions quite a bit. I inherently have more affinity with Abrahamic religions. If interests, I'm rather fascinated by Taoism. I'd say that Modern Physics is similar to Taoism (Duality? Relativity? Taoism covered all that long ago).
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Old 2011-06-26, 08:14   Link #3163
wigglypuff
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catholic...
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Old 2011-06-26, 08:57   Link #3164
DonQuigleone
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Urzu 7 View Post
Which religions interest you the most? Which do you have a greater affinity to? Western religions or Eastern religions?
You really need to do a bit more splitting up. There's also extinct religions that are just as interesting. At a glance we have:

Abrahamic religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity)
Mediterranean Paganism (still very influential)
Germanic Paganism (not quite as influential)
MesoAmerican/Andean religions.
Tribal Religions (This could probably be subdivided, but would get too big)
Middle Eastern and North African Paganism (including Egyptian and Mesopotamian)
South Asian Religion (Hinduism, Buddhism and their branches)
East Asian Religions (Chinese Traditional, Daoism, Shinto, Eastern Philosophy)

I like the Polytheistic Pagan religions the most, because I find they are the most relatable.

While on the surface Abrahamic religions are easy to understand, they have many aspects that are difficult, and god himself is not nearly as "human" as the gods of the pagans. God in the abrahamic sense is very distant, and emotionless.
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Old 2011-06-26, 10:19   Link #3165
Irenicus
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Just some points, if I may:

Careful with the label "Paganism." It is inherently a Christian term and can be extremely misleading. I'm not talking about political correctness or anything like that, but rather that "paganism" can mean very different religious traditions.

For example, what you termed "Mediterranean" paganism and "Middle Eastern and North African" paganism are actually classified by mythologists as the same "Semitic" religious tradition. It is a very diverse tradition of course, but there are regular similarities between various Egyptian, Hittite, Mesopotamian, Phoenician, and Greek gods, among other cultures. The Romans, last of these traditions, synchronized inherited Etruscan traditions, themselves already influenced by the Greeks, with, well, what they borrowed from the Greeks.

Their remarkable similarities owe much to the similarity of life: sun, moon, seasons, war, birth, agriculture, alcohol (lol), and so on. Their differences can also be geographically traced at some level -- Egypt naturally centered its religion around the Nile.

The many cults of what are essentially nature worship lend themselves easily to syncretism with the increasing contact between the cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Near East. These processes, the subsuming local cults and worships by more popular, but similar, gods, are most famously represented by the Olympian "takeover" of Greece (they even made a myth about it!). Mythologists speculate, for example, that the various titan cults that were subjugated under superior Olympian gods were actually surviving traces of older cults that preceded the Greeks' new religion, and the various ways the Olympians themselves were worshiped, their many epithets and local peculiarities, contradictions and remnants of different eras of legend, reveal this syncretic effect. Why else would Herakles, whose name seems to glorify Hera herself, would have a legend that had Hera as his nemesis and Zeus his father and benefactor but for the change that must have happened at some point with the legend of this hero?

Needless to say the cultures of the Mesopotamian region have even longer histories, though I know less about how Sumerian gods might be transferred to the Akkadians and Assyrians and so on.

You could say that among the rich religious traditions of Antiquity the Jews were a tribe of peculiar monotheists, and those "Christians"...eh, cultic Jewish extremists.

But of course a monotheistic religion is by nature a far more powerful tool of control than a polytheistic religious tradition. Contradictions are less (makes more "sense"), worship is more focused, local differences minimized and marginalized, moral authority stronger, and central control by an interested imperial power so, so much easier. Even Aristotle preferred to speculate about the one "God" (as later Christian scholars eagerly interpreted him) over what he saw as the tall tales and myths of the Greek religions.

______________________________

On the other hand, your conception of an "East Asian" category of religions is difficult. It is sort of necessary, as there were native religious traditions developed prior to the introduction of Buddhism to China and the rest of East Asia: Chinese ancestral worship of the Shang dynasty (we have the famous oracle bone fragments for evidence), Japanese Shinto animism, local Chinese cults for various different gods, and so on. But these cannot, today, be cleanly separated from the Buddhism which so radically changed the landscape of East Asian religions. It was the introduction of the malleable, energetic Mahayana Buddhism after all that spurred the energies of the Daoists and led the descendants of those high-mind (literally high?) metaphysical philosophers to create a more "religious" tradition with gods and rituals. They, and Confucianism (and in Japan Shinto also), were not just competing for dominance, they changed each other, affected each other, to a degree merged with each other. Before Buddhism, gods existed in "Daoism" (really more of an umbrella term recognizing various mythological figures and their cults at that point -- it's complicated, the sort of complications which arise when a hundred schools of thought were reduced to three), but they were not an important feature of Daoism until Buddhism gained popularity and alarmed the practicing Daoists so.

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And of course, contemporary paganism owes much more to Celtic and Germanic traditions than Zeus and Europa, Osiris or Mithra.
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Old 2011-06-26, 11:05   Link #3166
Endless Soul
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I was raised as Seventh Day Adventist, but now I have no interest in religion at all with the exception of mythology.
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Old 2011-06-26, 11:42   Link #3167
Vexx
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Originally, "pagan" simply meant "of the country".... a thousand years of aggressive "wipe out the competition" Abrahamic off-shoot state religion retuned it into a pejorative with negative connotations.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiki-gods
Paganism (from Latin paganus, meaning "country dweller", "rustic"[1]) is a blanket term, typically used to refer to polytheistic religious traditions.
It is primarily used in a historical context, referring to Greco-Roman polytheism as well as the polytheistic traditions of Europe and North Africa before Christianization. In a wider sense, extended to contemporary religions, it includes most of the Eastern religions and the indigenous traditions of the Americas, Central Asia, Australia and Africa; as well as non-Abrahamic folk religion in general. More narrow definitions will not include any of the world religions and restrict the term to local or rural currents not organized as civil religions. Characteristic of Pagan traditions is the absence of proselytism and the presence of a living mythology, which explains religious practice.
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Old 2011-06-26, 12:36   Link #3168
Laguna Loire
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Old 2011-06-26, 14:10   Link #3169
DonQuigleone
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@irenicus + Vexx, I was just trying to give an overview of what's available out there, not trying to give an academically rigourous list of what's available.

Rather then dwell too much on classifications, I think it would be better to focus on the how they relate to one another.

I disagree that Monotheism makes more sense then Polytheism, from the human perspective, I think Polytheism makes much more sense. From the polytheistic perspective you can assign each portion of your understanding of the world to a different god, who you can have an intimate connection with (usually through an idol), while Monotheism is far more abstract, and more academic.
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Old 2011-06-26, 15:37   Link #3170
Dirtytrenchcoat
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erneiz_hyde View Post
As one who dabbles in science and engineering, the realization that we humans are even less than a microdust in the face of the universe actually turned me towards religion in the search of some meanings in life, because I just couldn't accept that we humans are so irrelevant. We and our planet didn't even make up 0.05% of our own solar system.
I often think about this too!
But whats funny is thats one of (many) reasons why I turned away from religion.
So yup, Atheist here. :3
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Old 2011-06-26, 18:00   Link #3171
Vexx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DonQuigleone View Post
@irenicus + Vexx, I was just trying to give an overview of what's available out there, not trying to give an academically rigourous list of what's available.

Rather then dwell too much on classifications, I think it would be better to focus on the how they relate to one another.

I disagree that Monotheism makes more sense then Polytheism, from the human perspective, I think Polytheism makes much more sense. From the polytheistic perspective you can assign each portion of your understanding of the world to a different god, who you can have an intimate connection with (usually through an idol), while Monotheism is far more abstract, and more academic.
I don't think Irenicus was saying it "made more sense" - only that it made for an easier tool to control the masses. I agree (from a science/engineer viewpoint actually) that polytheism (or more precisely for me, animism) more accurately models what one actually observes in the world: a collection of many different forces that act either in concert, in opposition, sometimes to our benefit, sometimes not. You don't necessarily worship them, but you should respect them and perhaps allow for their tendencies.
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Old 2011-06-26, 18:17   Link #3172
DonQuigleone
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
I don't think Irenicus was saying it "made more sense" - only that it made for an easier tool to control the masses. I agree (from a science/engineer viewpoint actually) that polytheism (or more precisely for me, animism) more accurately models what one actually observes in the world: a collection of many different forces that act either in concert, in opposition, sometimes to our benefit, sometimes not. You don't necessarily worship them, but you should respect them and perhaps allow for their tendencies.
Well, I think it's also more accessible from a human perspective. It's easier for the person to build a relationship with a household god, over a distant god.

In fact, a lot of these "paganistic" beliefs lived on in the form of folk beliefs and superstitions, for instance stuff about warding off the evil eye, witches, trolls, goblins, and of course saints taking the place of minor gods.
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Old 2011-06-26, 19:20   Link #3173
Irenicus
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Originally Posted by DonQuigleone View Post
Rather then dwell too much on classifications, I think it would be better to focus on the how they relate to one another.
Which is why I pointed out that when you separated your Mediterranean "Olympian" religions from the Near Eastern religions you've actually unintentionally obscured a very major relation -- they are the same tradition, the same umbrella of religions and cults. You'll be "reading it wrong" if you separate them in the way you separated Germanic and/or Celtic nature worship from the Greeks.

And Vexx got it right of what I meant. Most cultures produced polytheism of some kind (the world just looked that way), but the messianic appeal of a monotheistic religion resulted historically in a trend towards the latter, survival of the fittest among the gods (lol). The Greeks had some compromised sort of unity -- the preeminence of the Delphic Oracle, the Olympians subsuming local cults (this process includes various other "Semitic" religions during the Hellenistic era in the Greek-conquered Near East); the Egyptians had its priest-bureaucrats; the Romans forged Imperial cults to glorify their emperors; the Persians eventually adopted Zoroastrianism as a symbol of their national identity; but nothing could hold a candle to the fanaticism and strength of belief brought by the promise of salvation from the One God, even if that god was given his role through an offshoot cult of a minor desert people's religion.

Although you were right to note that "paganism" often survived in monotheism through folklore, local traditions, and superstitions of supernatural elements. Do note however that a monotheistic civic religion with enough power often took it upon themselves to eradicate these traditions. With fire and sword and occasionally education.
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Old 2011-06-26, 19:36   Link #3174
RandySyler
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Originally Posted by DonQuigleone View Post
, and of course saints taking the place of minor gods.
I've never really thought of saints being minor gods, but I have seen polytheism in Abramic angels, demons, devils, and so forth, even though Christianity and Judaism insist that Yehwah is the Lord thy God they overlook the obvious.
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Old 2011-06-26, 21:04   Link #3175
Urzu 7
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Originally Posted by RandySyler View Post
I've never really thought of saints being minor gods, but I have seen polytheism in Abramic angels, demons, devils, and so forth, even though Christianity and Judaism insist that Yehwah is the Lord thy God they overlook the obvious.
Islam has angels and demons, too. And it even says there are desert demons called Jinns.
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Old 2011-06-26, 22:38   Link #3176
DonQuigleone
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Originally Posted by RandySyler View Post
I've never really thought of saints being minor gods, but I have seen polytheism in Abramic angels, demons, devils, and so forth, even though Christianity and Judaism insist that Yehwah is the Lord thy God they overlook the obvious.
While there not minor gods per se, functionally the fill that niche

Quote:
Originally Posted by Irenicus View Post
And Vexx got it right of what I meant. Most cultures produced polytheism of some kind (the world just looked that way), but the messianic appeal of a monotheistic religion resulted historically in a trend towards the latter, survival of the fittest among the gods (lol). The Greeks had some compromised sort of unity -- the preeminence of the Delphic Oracle, the Olympians subsuming local cults (this process includes various other "Semitic" religions during the Hellenistic era in the Greek-conquered Near East); the Egyptians had its priest-bureaucrats; the Romans forged Imperial cults to glorify their emperors; the Persians eventually adopted Zoroastrianism as a symbol of their national identity; but nothing could hold a candle to the fanaticism and strength of belief brought by the promise of salvation from the One God, even if that god was given his role through an offshoot cult of a minor desert people's religion.
An interesting counter point is India. Hinduism, as a religion, is polytheistic and of a similiar nature to the paganism present throughout the Europe and the middle east. Unlike those religions Hinduism never gave way to another "messianic" religion, despite being exposed to them on multiple occasions. The first instance was Buddhism, which, while not Messianic in the typical sense, does strip away the polytheistic elements from hindu philosophy. Buddhism was succesful in India for a while, but in the end never lasted. In the form it was preserved in China and elsewhere, it often took on polytheistic elements (EG Boddhisatvas). Buddhism has other similiarities to Christianity, in that they're both built around central charismatic figures, and both also had an emphasis on monasticism and asceticism.

Again, later India was exposed to Islam, though in this case it was as much by conquest. Islam was succesful in parts, but likewise never really took off.

There were several other monotheistic movements as well, like Sikhism, which never really took off outside the Punjab.

So Hinduism is a unique case of a very persistent set of polytheistic beliefs. Elsewhere in Asia Religion was very much subsumed by Buddhism, though it varied from place to place. I don't really know why Hinduism was so much more persistent then polytheism in other places.

China is also a unique instance, though more for it's large numbers of millenial and messianic cults, which were often more succesful then in other parts of the world.

I'd appreciate any insights into India, or China as I know little.
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Old 2011-06-26, 22:56   Link #3177
Kameruka
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Old 2011-06-26, 23:08   Link #3178
Kondrath
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Originally Posted by Endless Soul View Post
I was raised as Seventh Day Adventist, but now I have no interest in religion....
Same here. Went to SDA schools all my life. It was a great experience, lots of amazing people. But I dunno', after actually reading and researching on my own, I shied away from it. Makes less and less sense the deeper I go, so I'm taking a break from it all. Not even sure what I am at this point. "Nothing", if that's an option. lol. Maybe agnostic. Who knows.
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Old 2011-06-27, 05:18   Link #3179
Irenicus
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Originally Posted by DonQuigleone View Post
An interesting counter point is India. Hinduism, as a religion, is polytheistic and of a similiar nature to the paganism present throughout the Europe and the middle east. Unlike those religions Hinduism never gave way to another "messianic" religion, despite being exposed to them on multiple occasions.
Interesting.

I must admit I'm not thoroughly familiar with India's religious makeup and especially the history of Hinduism. However, now that you mention it Hinduism did went through several crises brought about by the introduction and growth of those different, monotheistic faiths.

Quote:
The first instance was Buddhism, which, while not Messianic in the typical sense, does strip away the polytheistic elements from hindu philosophy. Buddhism was succesful in India for a while, but in the end never lasted. In the form it was preserved in China and elsewhere, it often took on polytheistic elements (EG Boddhisatvas). Buddhism has other similiarities to Christianity, in that they're both built around central charismatic figures, and both also had an emphasis on monasticism and asceticism.
Buddhism really was remarkably successful at one point. The Maurya emperor Asoka was a sponsor who really made it take off, an Indian Constantine.

But unlike Constantine and Theodosius Asoka did not seek to impose Buddhism as the sole religion of his empire. He and his descendants, as well as the subsequent Indian states following the splintering of the empire, did not consider religion as a political tool the way the Roman Emperors thought of it. India was after all a subcontinent of "a thousand cultures," to put it poetically, and intolerance was an unwise choice for most rulers. Those who did choose that path rarely lasted long.

So even though Buddhism had mass appeal with its egalitarian, messianic message, its "missionaries" rarely sought to eradicate competing religious traditions the way the Nicene Christian authorities did (in fact Buddhists incorporated much of Vedic mythology into its framework). Also, I think we have to note that the "Hinduism" that gave birth to Buddhism was really a proto-Hinduism of sorts, the Vedic religion, which was far less organized, more philosophical and animistic, and less...political. A "weaker" Hinduism than the Hinduism that faced the invasion of Islam, but also one which did not engender hostility.

I don't know much about the historic decline of Buddhism in India following its meteoric rise (I knew of its rise because I was raised a Buddhist), though I speculate it probably was similar to what it also encountered in China, that the prior "native" religions (in China's case it was "Daoism") felt the threat, borrowed some of its ideas (or alternatively pull off a "Counter-Reformation"), organized themselves more and began to expand their appeal, and challenged it for dominance.

I recall some movements that reformed Hinduism in different ways during Medieval India, though I don't know much about them (the Advaita movement, etc.), and even then Hinduism was and still is not a religion that has a clear dominant figure. It has a supreme trinity of sorts, Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, but each cult places varying amounts of importance on each of these gods. Some consider Shiva the highest deity; others Vishnu. The philosophically inclined (those rare ones) place that role more on the really rather obscure Brahma. And then there is the notion of Moksha, which like its Buddhist counterpart Nirvana is an esoteric term that didn't fit the Abrahamic model of the cosmos whatsoever.

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In China too Buddhism faced plenty of challenges from local religious leaders and the scholar-bureaucrats who saw it as a foreign religion. It did have many centuries in China since its introduction during the Han dynasty to grow and take root, be given support by the "barbarian" dynasties during the centuries of division and the unified Sui and Tang dynasties (the founders were Buddhists), before the brutal purges of Buddhist monasteries during the late Tang and the hostility of the anti-foreign Song largely subdued its active growth, if not its existence.

Quote:
Again, later India was exposed to Islam, though in this case it was as much by conquest. Islam was succesful in parts, but likewise never really took off.
There was practically a religious war for many centuries in Medieval India, and like Zoroastrianism for Sassanid Persia, I think Hinduism during this time took on a proto-nationalistic aspect -- it was the "native" religion fighting back against the conquerors. So even if its priests didn't promise an easy heaven, the native nobility had a clear respect for it as part of their "heritage" as they fought back against the Muslim tribal invaders.

Later when the Mughal empire really took root, the most successful Mughal emperor (Akbar) made it a major policy of his reign to reach out to the Hindus. When one of his successors (Aurangzeb) sought to impose Islam once and for all, there were rebellions and decades of vicious war that sapped the empire's strength so completely it was never to recover.

One could argue that this centuries-long religious conflict, while interrupted by the British Raj, erupted one last time with the brutal population exchanges that occurred during the Independence of India and Pakistan, a conflict that even Gandhi himself died trying to prevent.

Quote:
China is also a unique instance, though more for it's large numbers of millenial and messianic cults, which were often more succesful then in other parts of the world.
Those are, I think, indeed uniquely Chinese. On one hand, they fill the role that early Christianity filled in the Roman Empire -- a promise of salvation for the downtrodden classes -- heck, the last great messianic rebellion was "Christian," albeit a rather warped version. They are like comets, live fast burn hard and die young (and often horribly). They were banners with which a peasantry suffering from famine, misrule, and natural disasters could rally around to fight against the existing order. On the other hand, Imperial China had the very powerful Confucian bureaucratic class which survived every millenarian threat it encountered, if not always without losses. Every Chinese ruler knew all too well that the only way they could have governed that massive empire was with the help of the bureaucrats, so millenarian movements had to either eventually conform or suffer the brutal suppression of an empire that instinctively despised any form of peasant rebellion.

Even the Three Kingdoms had a story of one of these millenarian movements in Hanzhong, whose theocracy was overthrown but its adherents scattered and the religion survived the centuries after all, though in a much milder form. And of course the infamous Yellow Turban Rebellion was a millenarian movement of the first order, and true to form the landowning classes of the Han empire rallied to destroy it with extreme prejudice.

The Taiping rebellion, the "Christian" millenarian movement of China, also saw a similar phenomenon whereby its meteoric rise was fueled by discontent of mismanaged (Qing) rule, and its suppression carried out largely by the (Han Chinese) Confucian classes who saw it as a threat to everything they held dear.

In short, one could say that the Imperial order was the reason why China never turned "millenarian." If messianic monotheism owns polytheism, then an empire which has already crafted its own elaborate, secular imperatives, supported by its ruling class and its massive resources, and completely jealous of its power and extremely suspicious of "populist" religions, owns messianic religion in turn. :/
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Old 2011-06-27, 07:07   Link #3180
DonQuigleone
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@irenicus, regarding India. Hinduism certainly went through many changes, and in many respects solidified the rule of ruling classes (through the caste system, for instance), but the religious systems of Europe did similiar and yet were eventually swept away by monotheistic religions. The fact that it occured twice, with Islam as well, indicates to me that they had some quality that allowed them to take root and stay where othermonotheistic religions didn't. Islam benefitted from being the nexus of an Empire, but that Empire was ultimately short lived, and afterwards Islam wasn't used as a tool for maintaining most of the subsequent states. Then again, Christianity didn't fulfill the role to the same extent either after the fall of Rome. But the fact that Christianity managed to supplant the religions of the invaders is more significant. Perhaps Hinduism had nationalistic elements attached, but can't the same be said for all polytheistic religions?

Regarding China, in a sense, much of China's state theology had elements making it uniquely prone to Millenarianism, and that tradition may even reach down to the present day communists. The whole concept of the "Mandate of Heaven" meant that when a dynasties rule collapsed, and natural disasters etc. occured, the people had license to overthrow it. Given that the emperor's rule was divine itself, it made the people more willing to embrace another form of divine rule, like the Taipings (who I love to read about).

However I don't think it's a satisfactory explanation why they were often so large and bloody. Equivalent movements in Europe never reached that size. Perhaps the divided nature of European nation states prevented these movements from crossing linguistic boundaries? Then again, other movements (like the Reformation, or Liberal Revolutions) did so succesfully so...
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