According to the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, syncretism is "the fusion of different forms of practice or belief". Syncretism's application to world history is limitless and can therefore be considered an umbrella-like term that covers a wide range of processes and strategies by which cultures with different practices and beliefs adapt to one another.
As explained by Plutarch in his teachings on brotherly love, the word supposedly originated from a practice of the Cretans but was revived in the Renaissance, when scholars used it to identify the classical admixtures in Christian theology. The positive connotation of syncretism changed when these admixtures came to be viewed as signs of religious impurity with the negative view continuing into the 19th as well as into the 20th century (Plurtach, 1939).
Had syncretism not occurred, acculturation, which is the result of diffusion of alien cultures in a society on a massive scale, would not have occurred. The amalgamation of the highland Maya Indians and Chiapas of State of Southern Mexico into the American culture would not have happened. The new religious traits from these two cultures blended and worked into the indigenous cultural patterns and have now been added to and modified into the modern day American culture (P.N, 2003).
Religious syncretism is often the result of the blending of two or more religious systems into a new system. The Native American Church is the most widespread religion at the present time America and is a result of religious syncretism. This syncretistic church incorporates symbolic elements from Christianity as well as the elements of native spiritual practices from several different tribes. The modern American culture also borrows heavily from other religious systems such as Buddhism and Hinduism, exhibiting marked syncretism.
The Native American Languages are widely spoken on the country’s numerous Indian reservations, another result of syncretism. Present day American art and literature has also been influenced by syncretism as it can be seen to borrow a lot from different native and religious systems. National holidays such as Thanksgiving which evolved from the English pilgrims’ custom of “giving thanks” as well as other Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter, though celebrated in a secular manner are the results of syncretism.
Had syncretism not occurred in America, the constructive interaction and coexistence between different cultures would not have been realized. The modern American culture which includes both liberal and competitive elements and traditions and customs from the Native Americans and other ethnic subcultures is also the result of syncretism.
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