In a recent editorial for the Huffington Post Josh Schrei argues that the real difference between Hinduism and other world religions is that Hinduism is an “open source” faith, and that most of the others are “closed source” in their orientation.
“However, the key point of differentiation between Hinduism and these other faiths is not polytheism vs. monotheism. The key differentiation is that “Hinduism” is Open Source and most other faiths are Closed Source. “Open source is an approach to the design, development, and distribution of software, offering practical accessibility to a software’s source code.” If we consider god, the concept of god, the practices that lead one to god, and the ideas, thoughts and philosophies around the nature of the human mind the source code, then India has been the place where the doors have been thrown wide open and the coders have been given free reign to craft, invent, reinvent, refine, imagine, and re-imagine to the point that literally every variety of the spiritual and cognitive experience has been explored, celebrated, and documented. Atheists and goddess worshipers, heretics who’ve sought god through booze, sex, and meat, ash covered hermits, dualists and non-dualists, nihilists and hedonists, poets and singers, students and saints, children and outcasts … all have contributed their lines of code to the Hindu string.“
It’s an concept that could just as easily be applied to modern Pagan religions. Like Hinduism, Paganism is simply an umbrella term for a large number of individual faiths, traditions, and practices that happen to share a some commonalities that bind them together. Though I think Schrei might be overstating things when he initially claims that the differentiation isn’t about “polytheism vs. monotheism.” Isn’t it the theological openness of polytheism that allows both “atheists and goddess worshipers” to coexist and contribute to a religious culture? This point is all but conceded by Schrei later on in his piece.
“Western and Middle Eastern monotheistic faiths have simply not allowed such liberal interpretation of their God. They continue to exist as closed source systems.”
The similarities and shared outlooks of the Pagan and Hindu communities will be explored at the upcoming PantheaCon 2012 in San Jose, California, where members of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) will participate in a panel discussion entitled Hindus and Pagans: One Billion Strong. Perhaps the open/closed religion model idea will be discussed along with other topics.