A big difference between big and small religions is the origin of the cooperation between their adherents

A big difference between big and small religions is the origin of the cooperation between their adherents

Christianity – 2.2 billion faithful. Islam – 1.6 billion faithful. Hinduism – 1.050 million faithful. Buddhism – 488 million faithful. Shintoism or Shintoism – 104 million faithful. We all know the majority religions. But what about the minority hundreds? What is the difference between these and those? And between the official and the popular?

A group of anthropologists and historians of religion have wanted to answer this question by comparing official and popular religions in the following study .

Differences and relationships

The great traditions are centrally literate, authorized and regulated, and also take place in urban settings . Small traditions are popular, unauthorized and locally variable, and mostly take place in rural areas.

The authors of this study thus argue that traditions great and small are the fruit of different forms of cooperation : the large tradition sustains cooperation and loyalty with larger groups that include strangers without a kinship relationship. The small tradition would serve to support cooperation with family and friends, that is, a small-scale and more local cooperation where the emphasis is on interpersonal relationships.

To further investigate this theory, a series of studies was conducted with followers of both large and small traditions within Burmese Theravada Buddhism . Burmese Theravada Buddhism provides a vivid illustration of the main points of contrast between traditions great and small, due to the gulf between doctrinal Buddhism and local ‘animistic’ beliefs and practices, including devotion to spirits and demigods (nats) , magicians (weikza), and other beings, as well as astrology and magic.

At the same time, in addition, the so-called secular religions arise, which can be observed in some social movements and, above all, political ones. An explanation is offered in A Theory of Political Parties: Groups, Policy Demands and Nominations in American Politics by Kathleen Bawn and her co-authors: Programs increasingly match activists’ interests , and there are various psychological incentives to radicalize. You can expand on it in the following video: