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What is religious syncretism?

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Religious syncretism is the practice of combining aspects of one religious belief or practice with another. This may involve merging two or more different religions together to form a new belief system, or it may simply involve adopting deities, practices or other aspects of one religion into another. One notable example of this practice was the Roman adoption and renaming of many Greek deities, creating a new version of an established pantheon.

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In some cases, syncretism is a tactic designed to appeal to believers in a rival religion. For example, the early Christian church often adopted feast days and festivals from pagan religions to appeal to those believers. The Christian holiday of Christmas occurs near the winter solstice, a traditional time of celebration in older belief systems. Similarly, Easter falls near traditional celebrations of spring and features similar themes of rebirth.

The Rastafarian movement is a notable example of modern syncretism. It combines aspects of Christianity, Hinduism, apocryphal books of the Bible, the Pan Africanism movement and other aspects of Caribbean culture. Similarly, the Mormon religion combines the traditional New and Old Testaments of the Bible with a third volume penned by Joseph Smith, detailing new revelations involving the indigenous people of the Americas.

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