Western Religious Traditions
WARREN S. BROWN
A fundamental and often referred to distinction in descriptions of the world's major religions is between “Eastern”and “Western. ”But what is the nature of this difference, particularly with respect to developing and understanding the relationship between psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) and religion?
The terms Eastern and Western religions do not really correspond to the Eastern and Western Hemispheres of the earth but rather to the religious traditions born in the Near East, North Africa, and Europe (Western) versus those born in countries of the Far East (Eastern). However, this difference is not wholly geographic. The terms Eastern and Western also refer to a fundamental difference in an individual's view of life, of God, and of his or her relationship to both.
Hinduism and Buddhism (Eastern religions) both arose in India, although Buddhism moved out of India and is practiced chiefly in Southeast Asia (see chapter 12). Hindus and Buddhists believe that there is no real meaning to human existence and that the life of the individual is not important (Haskins, 1991). Hindus' greatest fear, therefore, is that life may continue on in an endless cycle of births and rebirths on earth. Their greatest hope is that they will find a way to escape this eternal earthly life and unite with a universal spirit that is above meaninglessness and meaning and is therefore impersonal.
By contrast, the Western religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam— have a common origin and therefore share fundamental beliefs regarding