Multiple religious belonging, also known as double belonging, refers to the idea that individuals can belong to more than one religious tradition. While this is often seen as a common reality in regions such as Asia with its many religions, religious scholars have begun to discuss multiple religion belonging with respect to religious traditions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Those who practice double belonging claim to be an adherent of two different religions at the same time or incorporate the practices of another religion into their own faith life. It is increasing with globalisation. One such example is a person attending a Christian church but also engaging in the Hindu practice of yoga.
In some religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, those who hold to an exclusivist understanding of religion see multiple religious belonging as problematic. This is in contrast with countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, whose cultures have a long history of being influenced by different religions. Moreover, in the postmodern period people tend to question their identity, because of the unlimited choices of religions, which leads to the difficulty in defining their identity.
Van Bragt showed that 79% of Japanese self-identify as Shintoists and 75% self-identify as Buddhists. The reason for the extremely high percentage of both religions is that many Japanese consider themselves as both a Shintoist and a Buddhist and do not consider it a problem to belong to more than one religion. (Whether this statistic is correct is arguable.[a]) This phenomenon, according to Van Bragt, is a "division of labour". Van Bragt argued that the cause of this phenomenon is that, different from the Western concept of religion, Shintoism and Buddhism in Japan are defined by their rituals and practices, not by their moral and social authority.[b] Thus, the Japanese can belong to several religions that do not conflict with each other in terms of social and ethical issues.
Scholars such as Catherine Cornille, Peter C. Phan, Francis Xavier Clooney, Jan Van Bragt, Aloysius Pieris and Devaka Premawardhana have questioned the possibility of defining oneself into multiple religions. For these scholars, "religious belonging" is not an individual's subjective sense of a particular religion but rather, in Cornille's words, "the recognition of one's religious identity by the tradition itself and the disposition to submit to the conditions for membership as delineated by that tradition." For Cornille, the ultimate purpose of a scholarly discussion on multiple religious belonging is to transform one's religion through the understanding of other religions.
Types of approaches
Based on Van Bragt's study, scholars have tried to investigate the possibility for adherents of a religion such as Christianity to belong to multiple religions. The approach to Christian multiple religious belonging, according to Devaka Premawardhana, can be divided into two trends: Peter Phan's approach based on a Christological ground, in which he emphasises on Christ's "asymmetrically superior status", and Francis Clooney's approach rooted in a methodological ground, which tries to cross boundaries into another religion just as religions must have discrete entities.[further explanation needed] These two approaches are summarised below.
Phan's approach emphasised the assymmetricality in which Jesus is the Logos made flesh and the climax of God dealing with humankind. In an attempt to resonate with one's cultural identity and tradition, Phan explained that multiple religious belonging is necessary in order for practitioners of multiple belonging to treat other religions as a qualifier of their identity. This approach, according to Phan, does not deny one's Christian identity, which functions as substantive in relation to non-Christian religion. Phan noted that multiple religious belonging is not a new issue in the twenty-first century but rather the common form of life of the first-century Christians recorded in the book of Acts. In Phan's view, the disappearance of this trend was "a tragic loss to both Judaism and Christianity", because it led to a subsequent history of bitter hatred, especially from the side of Christianity.
As a comparative theologian, Clooney writes about the diversity in the world nowadays, especially with respect to the flourishing of different religions. For Clooney, reflecting on one's religion in this pluralistic world is necessary, so that we can "see the others in light of our own, and our own in light of the other." Focusing on the study of scriptural and theological texts, Clooney compares them between Christian traditions and non-Christian religions, to "cross boundaries" to other traditions, so that one would re-think their own theology, which would thus shape their identity. After more than 40 years of studying Hinduism, Clooney concluded that he finds the distinctive disciplines of theology and Hinduism are "mutually enriching". By applying this approach, according to Clooney, one can start within his or her "home" tradition, enter a different tradition and return to his or her tradition, which is enriched and reformulated after crossing boundaries.
Challenges and controversy
While scholars studying multiple religious belonging attempt to appreciate other religions' traditions besides their own, the conservative segment of Christianity tends to question the inclusivistic view of multiple religious belonging because it implies that salvation can be found from somewhere else other than Jesus Christ.[c] In a 2010 article, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, a systematic theologian, questioned the approach of "othering" those that have traditions different from Christians' because God is the one who offers salvation; Christians only witness it. It is out of humility that Christians can say that salvation belongs to God, and God only, in Kärkkäinen's view. On the other hand, scholars studying multiple religious belonging such as John B. Cobb see this as an opportunity rather than a threat: "I do not see multiple religious belonging as the primary way into the future. The primary way is the transformation of the particular religious traditions, at least in the Christian case, through their new encounter with other traditions." For Cobb, engaging in interfaith dialogue helps smooth the tension between Christianity and Judaism and avoid misunderstanding toward Islam.
In a 2017 article, sociologist Steve Bruce pointed out that most of the published writings in which multiple religious belonging is studied are purely conceptual and offer "only anecdotes to illustrate theoretical or classificatory discussions". Bruce argued that the few attempts to gather empirical data on the phenomenon have conflated a variety of different attitudes that should not be given the label of "multiple religious belonging", attitudes such as: universalistic re-interpretation of multiple religions, multiple religious association through family ties, multiple religious interest or sympathies, ancillary religious respect for a specific aspect of a religion, and secular equal respect for all religions. Bruce argued that the term "multiple religious belonging" should be strictly confined to being "an observant 'member' of more than one religion (religion here meaning such high level abstractions as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism etc)", and since most religions have strict requirements for and expectations of observant members, sociologists should expect multiple religious belonging, defined in this way, to be "remarkably rare".
- Christianity and other religions
- Jewish Buddhist
- Religious liberalism
- Religious pluralism
- Theology of religions
- According to Mark R. Mullins's figures, there are only 30–33% of Japanese consider themselves as having "personal faith", while others usually see themselves as "without religion" (mushukyo). For further discussions, see Mullins 2011, pp. 197–198.
- According to Van Bragt, while Buddhism and Shintoism govern the rituals and practices of Japanese, Confucianism is regarded as the authority for morality and the source of principles of social life.
- For definitions of traditional typology such as exclusivism and inclusivism, see Migliore 2004, pp. 306–307.
- Cornille 2002; Phan 2003.
- Fox, Thomas C. (23 June 2010). "Double belonging: Buddhism and Christian faith". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
- McDaniel, Jay (2003). "Double Religious Belonging: A Process Approach". Buddhist-Christian Studies. University of Hawai'i Press. 23: 67–76. doi:10.1353/bcs.2003.0024.
- Frykholm, Amy (14 January 2011). "Double belonging: One person, two faiths". The Christian Century. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
- Phan 2003, p. 498.
- Aylesworth 2015.
- Van Bragt 2002, p. 8.
- Mullins 2011.
- Van Bragt 2002, p. 9.
- Cornille 2002, p. 4.
- Cornille 2002, p. 5.
- Premawardhana 2011, p. 77.
- Phan 2003, p. 503.
- Phan 2003, pp. 509–510.
- Phan 2003, pp. 504–505.
- Clooney 2010, p. 13.
- Clooney 2004.
- Clooney 2010, pp. 16–17.
- Premawardhana 2011, pp. 87–88.
- Kärkkäinen 2010.
- Cobb 2002, p. 27.
- Bruce 2017, p. 606.
- Bruce 2017, p. 610–611.
- Bruce 2017, p. 611.
- Aylesworth, Gary (2015). "Postmodernism". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (spring 2015 ed.). Stanford, California: Stanford University. ISSN 1095-5054. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
- Bruce, Steve (October 2017). "Multiple Religious Belonging: Conceptual Advance or Secularization Denial?". Open Theology. 3 (1): 603–612. doi:10.1515/opth-2017-0047.
- Clooney, Francis X. (2004). "Neither Here nor There: Crossing Boundaries, Becoming Insiders, Remaining Catholic". In Ignacio Cabezón, José; Greeve Davaney, Sheila (eds.). Identity and the Politics of Scholarship in the Study of Religion. New York: Routledge. pp. 99–111. ISBN 978-0-415-97066-2.
- ——— (2010). Comparative Theology: Deep Learning across Religious Borders. Malden, Massachusetts: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-7974-4.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
- Cobb, John B., Jr. (2002). "Multiple Religious Belonging and Reconciliation". In Cornille, Catherine (ed.). Many Mansions? Multiple Religious Belonging and Christian Identity. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books (published 2010). pp. 20–28. ISBN 978-1-60899-453-3.
- Cornille, Catherine (2002). "Introduction: The Dynamics of Multiple Belonging". In Cornille, Catherine (ed.). Many Mansions? Multiple Religious Belonging and Christian Identity. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books (published 2010). pp. 1–6. ISBN 978-1-60899-453-3.
- Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti (2010). "Dialogue, Witness, and Tolerance: The Many Dimensions of Interfaith Encounters". Theology, News & Notes. 57 (2): 29–33. ISSN 1529-899X. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
- Mullins, Mark R. (2011). "Japan". In Phan, Peter C. (ed.). Christianity in Asia. Chichester: Blackwell Publishing.
- Phan, Peter C. (2003). "Multiple Religious Belonging: Opportunities and Challenges for Theology and Church". Theological Studies. 64 (3): 495–519. doi:10.1177/004056390306400302. ISSN 0040-5639.
- Premawardhana, Devaka (2011). "The Unremarkable Hybrid: Aloysius Pieris and the Redundancy of Multiple Religious Belongings". Journal of Ecumenical Studies. 46 (1): 76–101. ISSN 0022-0558.
- Migliore, Daniel L. (2004). Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-8028-2787-6.
- Van Bragt, Jan (2002). "Multiple Religious Belonging of the Japanese People". In Cornille, Catherine (ed.). Many Mansions? Multiple Religious Belonging and Christian Identity. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books (published 2010). pp. 7–19. ISBN 978-1-60899-453-3.