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Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Jewish Orthodoxy, Hinduism, Buddhism, Bibliography

The very suggestion of a unified tradition implicit in the idea of the word orthodox renders its meaning problematic for the simple reason that conceptions of any religion's traditions are notoriously pluralist. Moreover, the term is hardly universal, since it is seldom applied to indigenous traditions around the world, even though there are some beliefs and practices within each aboriginal group that might be regarded as orthodox to some practitioners—for example, the Plains peoples in North America regard the Sundance as an "orthodox" rite. Generally the articulation of a theological system is one requirement of an orthodox tradition, and indigenous traditions rarely have such a publicly acknowledged construction. Despite its problems, though, major religions continue to use the term, and believers, external observers, and sometimes scholars find it useful. In the contemporary period, it embraces notions of the traditional, conservative, basic, and customary, all of which point to a normative idea about a religion's self-understanding. Because history, rituals, institutions, and doctrines all combine in manifold ways in each religion, orthodoxy really has to be understood from within each religion. Key notions will be drawn from diverse religious traditions.

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