Middle East Religion in place of Christianity


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The question as posed doesn't work.

Christianity and Islam are very, very weird among world religions in that they really resist syncretizing influences and tend to spread like wildfire. Judaism and Zoroastrianism were extremely resistant to syncretism, and Buddhism was proselytizing, but Christianity was the first faith which was really well suited to be both. Without it there's very little chance that you have a single religion come to dominate the region.
Well that's not true at all. Early Christianity spread so well across Europe and the Middle East before the collapse of the Western Roman Empire because it happily syncretized with existing polytheisms. Unlike Buddhism, which largely did not displace those polytheisms, early Christianity syncretized those religions out of existence by adopting core theological concepts (e.x. the idea that God could Incarnate into a human person), coopting major holidays (e.x. Saturnalia became Christmas), and recasting divine or semidivine figures as Christian saints or angels (e.x. St. Brigid). (See this paper for an explanation.)
The likely outcome is that the Middle East and Mediterranean world come to look a lot like China. What I mean by this is that Neo-Platonism, Stocism and other Hellenic philosophies occupy central role (like Buddhism and Confucianism) while most people follow folk cults and worship an array of gods depending on their heritage and needs. Likely something similar to OTL Gnosticism spawns out of Platonism even without Christianity, it may become the dominant belief. But without Christianity our very defintion of religion is going to change from an exclusive categorization to something that is unique to literally every individual.
I disagree. A unifying theology or philosophy across an area as vast as China or the Mediterranean requires a unifying state or statelike entity to enforce it. China maintained continuity because institutional hegemony was recurrent and cyclical. Consider the unification of the numerous Dharmic religious sects into a singular Hinduism, which only occurred in reaction to both the Mughals and the British. The Mediterranean world was only dominated by one empire just the once! OTL the Catholic West and the ERE weren't even able to maintain philosophical unity, and they nominally shared a religion!

Absent Christianity, Judaism would remain dominant in the Levant and eventually be the majority across the Mashriq. OTL is was relatively widespread, with Jewish kingdoms across north Africa and Arabia as late as the Islamic conquests. It, alongside Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Neoplatonism, and other religious theologies would continue to persist throughout the Mediterranean, whereby different groups in a post-Roman world would adopt one or more of them as unifying philosophy.
 
Consider the unification of the numerous Dharmic religious sects into a singular Hinduism, which only occurred in reaction to both the Mughals and the British.

On the contrary, there was a much greater degree of unification in Indian philosophy than Roman paganism, despite the political fragmentation. Sure, there were different religious practices and specific cults, but they all worked within the same core philosophical framework developed from Upanishadic philosophy, though Buddhism and Jainism had a slightly weaker connection.

I do agree that the idea of a specifically "Hindu" identity as such was a creation of the British in terms of a religious community that you can belong to in the model of the Muslim ummah, but I think you've slightly misunderstood that to mean there wasn't a shared philosophy, which there most definitely was (which even proved strong enough to incorporate the ritual and social practices of Islam as part of that common philosophical tradition).
 
On the contrary, there was a much greater degree of unification in Indian philosophy than Roman paganism, despite the political fragmentation. Sure, there were different religious practices and specific cults, but they all worked within the same core philosophical framework developed from Upanishadic philosophy, though Buddhism and Jainism had a slightly weaker connection.

I do agree that the idea of a specifically "Hindu" identity as such was a creation of the British in terms of a religious community that you can belong to in the model of the Muslim ummah, but I think you've slightly misunderstood that to mean there wasn't a shared philosophy, which there most definitely was (which even proved strong enough to incorporate the ritual and social practices of Islam as part of that common philosophical tradition).
Shared philosophy doesn't necessarily mean either political unity or mutual recognition. Judaism and Islam share the vast majority of their core theological concepts, for example.
I don't dispute that there was a shared underlying philosophy in Hinduism before colonialism. I'm disputing the preexistence of a single Hindu identity shared between all or most of the disparate groups.
 
I'm disputing the preexistence of a single Hindu identity shared between all or most of the disparate groups.
Well yeah, there definitely wasnt a political identity or a single Hindu identity, but the fact that they shared the same philosophy was recognised. A jew and a Muslim might recognise in each other points of similar philosophy while still saying that they're fundamentally different identities, but a Brahman Vaishnava from Kashmir and a Nath Yogi Shaivist from Banaras would have acknowledged that they share belief in a philosophy derived from the same Upanishadic texts, and also accept most puranas and definitely at least the symbolic value of the Vedas. They might not agree that each others practices are the best way of achieving moksha, but they'd still share a unified intellectual tradition.
 
Also, calling the religious situation of the ME pre-Christianity 'hunger games' is kind of inaccurate. Aside from Judaism and Zoroastrianism (and their assorted offshoots) the religions in play were polytheistic and generally pretty happy to syncretise. Nobody much cared if you worshipped Ba'al Hammon, Ištar, Hathor and Zeus. So long as you participated in the community festivals and didn't make trouble.
I'm just saying that there were many different faiths before Rome fell and after it did the region is nor 85% Islam. I'm pretty sure Islam is the clear winner otl.

The question as posed doesn't work.

Christianity and Islam are very, very weird among world religions in that they really resist syncretizing influences and tend to spread like wildfire. Judaism and Zoroastrianism were extremely resistant to syncretism, and Buddhism was proselytizing, but Christianity was the first faith which was really well suited to be both. Without it there's very little chance that you have a single religion come to dominate the region.

The likely outcome is that the Middle East and Mediterranean world come to look a lot like China. What I mean by this is that Neo-Platonism, Stocism and other Hellenic philosophies occupy central role (like Buddhism and Confucianism) while most people follow folk cults and worship an array of gods depending on their heritage and needs. Likely something similar to OTL Gnosticism spawns out of Platonism even without Christianity, it may become the dominant belief. But without Christianity our very defintion of religion is going to change from an exclusive categorization to something that is unique to literally every individual.
Would Gnosticism have any major changes now that it has to take influence from Judaism and Zoroastrianism exclusively?
 
As several people said upthread, I guess the answer to your question is there would be many different religions and no clear winner.

Alternately, but it's a fairly unlikely scenario (but then 500 years after a POD nearly everything is fair game) you get a single syncretic religion which is a mix of all or most of the religions in the region. Sort of a super-Mythraism.
 
As several people said upthread, I guess the answer to your question is there would be many different religions and no clear winner.

Alternately, but it's a fairly unlikely scenario (but then 500 years after a POD nearly everything is fair game) you get a single syncretic religion which is a mix of all or most of the religions in the region. Sort of a super-Mythraism.
So Mithraism isn't monotheistic? Admittedly I might've misunderstood the faith but I always assumed it meant you worshipped only Mithras.
 
So Mithraism isn't monotheistic? Admittedly I might've misunderstood the faith but I always assumed it meant you worshipped only Mithras.
AFAIU Mithraism was a weird thing that sat on the fence, just like Hinduism does. I am not clear whether Mithras was supposed to be the ONLY or the MAIN deity, but that it was fantastic at syncretizing elements of basically any other religion of the time into itself. Sort of what Egyptian religions did thousands of years earlier.
 
Well that's not true at all. Early Christianity spread so well across Europe and the Middle East before the collapse of the Western Roman Empire because it happily syncretized with existing polytheisms. Unlike Buddhism, which largely did not displace those polytheisms, early Christianity syncretized those religions out of existence by adopting core theological concepts (e.x. the idea that God could Incarnate into a human person), coopting major holidays (e.x. Saturnalia became Christmas), and recasting divine or semidivine figures as Christian saints or angels (e.x. St. Brigid). (See this paper for an explanation.)
Syncretism is probably the wrong word. What I mean is that while Islam and Christianity do absorb aspects from other religions, the concept of a single all-powerful god who doesn't share any power with any other being in existence makes it very difficult for they themselves to be absorbed into other traditions. Their natures resist incorporation.

Think of how Hinduism was able to pick and grab parts of Buddhism and come out relatively unscathed by it, but then hasn't managed to assimilate Islam even a little bit.

Islam and Chrisitanity arriving in a new land has tended to spell doom for the indigenous faiths.
 
Think of how Hinduism was able to pick and grab parts of Buddhism and come out relatively unscathed by it, but then hasn't managed to assimilate Islam even a little bit.
That's kinda debatable, in that Islamic philosophy kinda did get assimilated, if you see the numerous assertions by very educated Muslims that the science of Vedanta is coterminous with the science of Sufism.

Nevertheless I see your point, and I'm reminded of the debate I saw in Audrey Truschkes latest book. Essentially, Indologists are still not fully sure how to describe indo-islamic powers. The rival terms include islamicate, persianate, persian, Islamic, Muslim led etc etc. Truschke warns against the term islamicate, because she says it makes it seem like there's the Muslim religion and then separate from that is islamicate culture, which includes the political theories, the clothes they wear, the social structure, legal aspects. She says that islam as a religion can't be interpreted as just the theology and philosophy, you have to take the society and legal system and material culture as a core and essential part of Islam.

Listening to her, maybe our conversation here should be focused on the fact that Islam and Christianity, unlike classical philosophies and precolonial Hinduism as a broader category, functioned as clubs that gave even their lowest member specific social rights not accorded to members of the outgroup.

The ummah and the ecclesia are thus positioned as the cause of abrahamic expansion, not the resistance to syncretism of Allah or Deus or whatever.

As far as I'm aware, there wasn't a specific term for a community of believers in Roman or any other polytheism.
There wasn't one either in Hinduism I suppose, but I'd suggest as a working theory that perhaps caste association filled that niche, as membership in a caste group gave you specific rights and tied you to the worship of specific cults. I don't know how thisd tie in with Roman collegia lemme take a look at it and come back in a bit. Perhaps too strong state intervention meant collegia were no longer able to protect their members?

From an initial glance it looks like collegia became part of the state bureaucracy rather than social clubs, hereditary and mandatory rather than voluntary, and the only way they could make their voice heard was by using state appointed defensors as lawyers, so I guess they'd lost their popular appeal. I'd hazard the Christian community wouldn't have grown either if bishops were all state appointed.

Nevertheless they seem to have maintained paganism relatively late within Roman cities, and because they served essential functions, the state couldn't just ban them and even made sure people didn't abandon membership.
 
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