Why Has the West Not Produced Any Major Religion?

Jun 2013
2,361
--
#1
It's really interesting that all the major religions throughout history were born in the East: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Manichaeism, Mithraism, etc. I cannot think of any single major religion coming from the West, not counting Western pagan cults that were generic and local. Even during the Hellenistic era Greek theology had no lasting impact on the East; it was as if the whole Near East simply ignored the religious aspect of Hellenic culture.

Philosophy was thriving in the Graeco-Roman world, so why did it not produce a major creed? It seems like the West was comfortable with importing Eastern religious ideas and gods, like some aspects of Zoroastrianism and some gods like Mithra or even full religions like Manichaeism and Christianity.

Thoughts?
 
Jan 2009
8,488
In the Past
#2
That is because Rome adopted Christianity, and replaced all the prior Religions.

Graeco-Roman Religion was a rather major religion. And the religion of the Gauls might have become stronger, if Rome hadn't conquered it. German Religion also was replaced by Christianity, which only happened because Rome adopted. They adopted Christianity for a number of reasons, which I don't have time to list off.

Essentially, the West would have had much bigger religions (including Graeco-Roman) is Rome hadn't put Christianity on top.
 

Salah

Forum Staff
Oct 2009
23,284
Maryland
#3
Christianity is effectively a Western religion. It was a sect of Judaism until the Romans got ahold of it.
 
Aug 2014
1,170
Portugal
#4
Christianity is effectively a Western religion. It was a sect of Judaism until the Romans got ahold of it.
Isn't it an oversimplification? What about Christians outside the Roman Empire?

Christianity is an Eastern religion with elements from the Hellenistic age and with some later influences from pagan Europe and Africa - that's the contribution from the West. But Christianity is Eastern to the core.
 

BenSt

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,565
Canada, originally Clwyd, N.Wales
#5
I think we also have to look at definitions of religion. The mold of what constitutes a religion and what doesn't was developed by Christians in the 19th century... in that time where alternative spiritual traditions were beginning to be treated on an equal footing with Christianity.

I disagree that the pagan cults of Europe could not have become bigger. The locality of religion meant that religion was a tribal and ethnic thing. Judaism fit this tribal cult stereotype very well.

Roman Religion before Christianity could easily have been said to be a missionary religion. The Romans didn't try to convert people when they conquered, they just simply assumed that the god you were worshipping was one of their own in a disquise. Roman Syncreticism WAS their philosophy and the religion of the masses. If Christianity didn't exist and Europe continued to practice Roman religion even after barbarians etc,.came in we could find temples in America dedicated to... oh I don't know, Coyote Mercury... or Quetzacoatl-Apollo.
 

BenSt

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,565
Canada, originally Clwyd, N.Wales
#6
Isn't it an oversimplification? What about Christians outside the Roman Empire?

Christianity is an Eastern religion with elements from the Hellenistic age and with some later influences from pagan Europe and Africa - that's the contribution from the West. But Christianity is Eastern to the core.
I disagree completely. Eastern orthodox is closest to the Eastern mystery religions, I think. Western Christianity as it exists right now is more heavily indebted to Rome and Roman culture/philosophy. The major fathers of the Church were Roman and had the mindset.
 
Oct 2011
7,654
MARE PACIFICVM
#7
I would chalk it up to the fact that Europe never produced a Universal religion. Universal religions spread much more easily and are less reliant on ethnic identity for converts than are particularistic religions.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,478
#8
It's really interesting that all the major religions throughout history were born in the East: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Manichaeism, Mithraism, etc. I cannot think of any single major religion coming from the West, not counting Western pagan cults that were generic and local. Even during the Hellenistic era Greek theology had no lasting impact on the East; it was as if the whole Near East simply ignored the religious aspect of Hellenic culture.

Philosophy was thriving in the Graeco-Roman world, so why did it not produce a major creed? It seems like the West was comfortable with importing Eastern religious ideas and gods, like some aspects of Zoroastrianism and some gods like Mithra or even full religions like Manichaeism and Christianity.

Thoughts?
Its actually an excellent question and one to serve back to those who keep on ranting about the west's supposed moral superiority and inventiveness.

But to be honest the same question could be asked of Latin America and Africa

I dont have an answer but perhaps one needs to look at the conditions required to create a universal religion and why they were never fulfilled in the west.

This being said I personnally think that Christianity is a Greek invention, or rather adaptation of judaism.. Let's not forget that the ME was greek controlled since Alex the Great.....when the greeks merged with the Roman empire that control continued till the Eastern roman empire came about...
 
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Moros

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
3,094
#9
Mainly because Europe was largely backwards and barbaric. The East was advanced and exotic - so more attractive to copy for those people in between the two. Also Europe only ever had one period of a united empire - Rome. And Rome either absorbed or wiped out the earlier religious contenders, and was itself a culture attracted to the exotic East. Eastern empires rose and fell, diffusing their own religions across large areas.

Druidism is the only major religion of the (non Roman) West that I can think off. I'm curious to know why you want to reject Western paganism as a religion because it is widespread. Doesn't that universality imply that it was a major belief, even if it is hard to pin it down?
 

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