A Denomination is defined as an organized Christian group. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has estimated that there were 34,000 denominations in 2000, and rose to an estimated 43,000 in 2012. In 1900 there were an estimated 1,600 different Christian denominations. Now one important distinction that needs to be made is that although these denominations are defined as separate organizations they do not necessarily have separate beliefs, but they might. There might be a different nuance here or there about where you start, where you are going and how you get there. If there wasn’t then why would we need 43,000 different ones?
To add to this already jumbled equation there is an estimated 4,200 different religions in the world. Yes, there are a few more than just the big five of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. So what does that tell you? What it tells me is that one religion thinks with all its heart and soul that they got it right and 4,199 others got it wrong and that one could be one of 4,200 different possibilities.
I write a lot about what I perceive to be the arrogance of the Christian faith, but honestly they are probably no more arrogant than some of the other 4,199 religions out there. Christianity just hits close to home, gets more press, at least they do here in the United States. According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, 71% of Americans identified themselves as Christian, while only 47% indicated an affiliation with an organized Christian denomination that is attended a church. The same study says that other religions including Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam collectively make up only about 6% of the U.S. population. So have you done the math yet, we got 23% of the American souls out there unaccounted for, 74,000,000 people who haven’t picked a side or a team to root for. Wonder what they are waiting for?
“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” – H.H. the Dalai Lama XIV
As I have written on several occasions I don’t care what your religion is if, and this is the big ass IF, if it makes you a more loving, compassionate, and tolerant person to EVERYONE even those that don’t believe what you believe. If you think you have to spend your day recruiting and judging rather than helping and hugging then I am not really a fan of your faith. Is that judgemental of me? Maybe, but here is the thing, the thing I think I know, the thing I believe, our beliefs, our religions, are at best just guesses. We may think we are right. We may think the side we have chosen is the “only” side and everyone else got it wrong. We may even be willing to defend our “rightness” to the death but in reality death will be the only action, the only elucidation to know if we got it right or wrong, if we picked the correct team or not or if it even mattered. Maybe as a Universalist I am simply hedging my bets but what I am really counting on is a merciful Creator with a sense of humor, otherwise I think we all got it wrong.
“This is my simple religion. No need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple. Your philosophy is simple kindness.” – H.H. the Dalai Lama XIV