I decided to use this photo,
which I took in Vietnam a few years ago, because there is something
about the Cao Dai temple which suggests a number of things about
religious traditions that are important to note.
Cao Dai itself is an example of what
we call a syncretic tradition--one which merges elements from a number
of previous traditions, here in rather surprising ways (for example.
the French novelist Victor Hugo is one if its most revered
saints). It appeared in the 1920s in Vietnam and has managed to
survive despite war and the Communist government's antagonism to
religious organizations. Below are a couple of sites to check for
more about its history and its teachings.
In considering what is required for a
new religious tradition to survive, one thing is how it recruits and
holds its members. As you look at the material about Cao Dai on
the web, think about why someone would want to join--and why someone
would want to stay.
In looking at evidence that any
tradition is surviving one indicator is its architecture--what
buildings are being put up and maintained, and how the style reflects
the beliefs of the group. The Cao Dai temple is colorful, to say
the least. Look again at my photo, and if you want to see still
more go to a collection
of photos from
Professor Robert D. Fiala of Concordia University in Nebraska.