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Syncretism

Syncretism In The World Religions, Syncretism In Japanese Shinto, Santeria And Voodoo, The Ghost Dance

Syncretism—the process whereby two or more independent cultural systems, or elements thereof, conjoin to form a new and distinct system—is among the most important factors in the evolution of culture in general, but especially in the history of religion. Indeed, all of the so-called world religions, that is, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, are to a fair extent syncretistic. But the process occurs whenever previously independent belief systems come into sustained contact, no matter what their respective levels of sophistication may be. This article briefly surveys examples of syncretism drawn from several traditions, including the aforementioned world religions and Japanese Shinto, as well as three syncretistic belief systems that emerged as a result of Western colonial expansion, slavery, and/or proselytizing: Santeria, Voodoo (or Vodou), and the Ghost Dance, which twice swept across large areas of Native North America in the late nineteenth century.

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