Polyreligiosity

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The three "Abrahamic" religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are monotheistic: they believe that there is one, and only one, God. While this does not necessarily preclude believers from considering multiple paths to the same God, it does prevent them from adhering to multiple belief systems at the same time.

In Eastern Religious traditions this is often not the case. For example, in Japan it is not uncommon for a single individual to turn to Confucianism for moral guidance, to Shintoism for a wedding and to Buddhism for a funeral. This is polyreligiousity.

Identifying an individual as belonging to a particular religion in this context is somewhat difficult.

The same phenomena happens to a lesser extent in the United States, but often is not recognized for what it is. For example, most Americans celebrate Easter both by attending Christian church services discussing the life of Jesus and yet also make Easter eggs and carry out other pre-Christian pagan traditions. Likewise, most Americans are at least conscious of supernatural superstitions (step on a crack and you'll break your mother's back, etc.) that have little to do with their purported religious beliefs. For most believers, such expressions are cultural observances, and are seldom reconciled with one's declared faith.

Some religious groups and movements, however, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Puritans, the Church of Christ, and Atheists in U.S. History have been more aware of the subtle polyreligiousity of American life than most and have sought to avoid it. Other religious groups, such as the Catholic Church, have deliberately co-opted pre-existing practices and given them new Catholic meanings as part of their missionary effort.

Some people have identified Patriotic observances in the United States as a form of "civil religion".

Note that polytheism (i.e. the belief in multiple gods, typically within the context of a single religious frame work) while sometimes a result of polyreligiousity in the deep annals of history, is not the same thing as polreligiousity. Hindus are polytheists. Someone who engages in both Hindu practice and Christian practice, e.g., is polyreligious. A person like this is part of more than one religion. Note that, in theory, you can even be polyreligious without being polytheist. For example, if you are in a mixed religion family and identify and act like a Jew with dad and a Christian with mom, without merely "pretending" half of the time, you are monotheist, and yet polyreligious. This would be a relatively uncommon situations that theologically "shouldn't happen", but, of course, sometimes it does happen.

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