Re: not ethnocentric so much as ahistorical

Brian Michael Howell (bmhowell@ARTSCI.WUSTL.EDU)
Thu, 11 Apr 1996 16:15:42 -0500

On Wed, 10 Apr 1996, Daniel A. Foss wrote:

> The discussion of religion seems to have bypassed the massive fact that,
> prior to the rise of Christianity and, to a somewhat lesser degree, Mahayana
> Buddhism, our taken-for-granted preconception as of today of religion did
> not exist. That is, we posit some body of tenets or beliefs (in addition to
> rituals, ceremonies, deities, formulas of adoration or worship public and
> domestic) whereto the believer subscribes. The faith is *portable*, that is,
> it can be transferred from one cultural context to another, where for the
> people of the latter, the possibility of *conversion* exists. Not merely
> the possibility, but established procedures for transforming pagans, infidels,
> gentiles, heathen, or other unbelievers targeted for missionary effort, into
> *true believers*.
> Prior to Christianity in the Roman Empire, there was no such thing as a
> religion to which conversion was possible, hence this most readily explains

Actually, a quick look at the Book of Ruth will show that conversion to
Judaism was quite possible. (There are a number of other references in
Judaic teaching.) Plus, Christianity was not the first "sect" to draw
its adherents from other belief systems.