The Brotherhood of Religions - Annie Besant - ebook

« Let us see in detail why we should not quarrel, apart from these general principles. It can be put in a sentence: Because all the great truths of religion are common property, do not belong exclusively to any one Faith. That is why nothing vital is gained by changing from one religion to another. You do not need to travel over the whole field of the religions of the world in order to find the water of truth. Dig in the field of your own religion, and go deeper and deeper, till you find the spring of the water of life gushing up, pure and full.Is the above sentence on the universality of religious truths true in fact, or is it only verbiage ? Four special lines of study may be followed in order to prove the fact is thus: common Symbols; common Doctrines; common Stories: common Morals. » A. Besant

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Annie Besant

The Brotherhood





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Annie Besant


The Brotherhoodof Religions

— 1913 —

A READER, pausing for a moment on the above title, may very well ejaculate: " Well ! whatever else religions may be, most certainly they are not brotherly." And it is unhappily true that if we look into the religious history of the immediate past, we shall find therein very little brotherhood; rather shall we find religions fighting the one against the other, battling which shall be predominant and crush its rivals to death; religious wars have been the most cruel; religious persecutions have been the most merciless; crusades, inquisitions, horrors of every kind, blot with blood and tears the history of religious struggles; what mockery it seems, amid ensanguined battle-fields and lurid flames of countless stakes, to prate of " the Brotherhood of Religions ".

Nor is it even between religion and religion that the continual strife is carried on. Even within the pale of a single religion, sects are formed, which often wage war against each other. Christianity has become a byword among non-Christian nations by themutual hatreds of the followers of the "Prince of Peace". Roman Catholics and Anglicans, Lutherans and Calvinists, Wesleyans, Baptists, Congregationalists, etc., disturb the peace of the nations with their infuriated controversies. Great Britain and Ireland are now paying the legacy of hatred entailed by the cruel wrongs inflicted on Roman Catholics by the terrible penal code created by a Protestant Parliament; at the present moment (1907) the United Kingdom has been precipitated into a great constitutional struggle by the hatreds of Anglicans and Nonconformists, who cannot even agree on a minimum of common Christian teaching, which may be taught in the national schools to the children of all Christians. France is rent in twain and is in danger of civil war, as a result of the revenge of Freethinkers on the Roman Catholic Church for the wrongs inflicted in the days of its supremacy. In Belgium, political issues are decided by the clerical or anti-clerical majority. Islãm has the fierce quarrels of its Shiahs and Sunnis, while both unite in denouncing the infidel Sûfi. Even in Hinduism there are now bigoted camps of Vaishnavas and Shaivas, who denounce each other with a narrowness borrowed from missionary examples. Religious controversy has become the type of everything most bitter and most unbrotherly in the struggles of man with man.

It was not always thus. The antagonism between religions is a plant of modern growth, grown out ofthe seed of an essentially modern claim — the claim of a single religion to be unique and alone inspired. In the elder world there were many religions, and for the most part religion was a national thing, so that the man of one nation had no wish to convert the man of another nation. Each nation had its own religion, as it had its own laws and its own customs, and men were born into and remained in the creed of their fatherland. Hence, if we look back into the history of the elder world, we shall be struck with the rarity of religious wars. Even when the Hebrews invaded Palestine, and murdered the idolatrous dwellers in the land, it was a war of conquest, prompted by ordinary greed, and a war between Jahveh, their particular God, and the Gods of the invaded people; in fact, the general ancient tendency to take into their own religion the Gods of the conquered tribes showed itself many times in their history; this tendency was bitterly denounced by their prophets, not as heresy, but as a national apostasy from their own particular Deity, who had liberated them from Egyptian tyranny and had conquered Palestine for them. We shall further observe that, within a single religion, there were many schools of thought which existed side by side without hatred. Hinduism has its six darshanas — six "points of view" — and, while the philosophers wrangle and debate, and each school defends its own position, there is no lack of brotherly feeling, and all the philosophies are still taught