Identity is important. We need to know who we are and where we belong. But identity is shaped by separation, first of all from our recognition of ourselves as separate from our parents as we emerge from infancy to making a life for ourselves when we leave home. Religious identity too comes from separation. Most of the major world religions have grown out of another and found their own identity by stressing what separates them from their parent religion. I don't think there's a religious founder that belonged or even identified themselves with the religion that came to claim them as its founder. Siddartha Gautama was a Hindu, Jesus was a Jew, Baha'ullah a Muslim for example. What they were doing was offering a wisdom and way of life that might have sat within their own faith, even if a bit uneasily for some. When Siddartha Gautama became the Buddha he formed a community of monks to live out his teaching and carry his message forward but might it not have stayed a strand with the Hindu tradition which offers many and varied paths to salvation? The two faiths have a common origin, common beliefs and practices with one big difference being a belief in God though Hinduism also has its atheistic school of philosophy so that in itself would not have determined a separate identity. The same goes with Christianity and Judaism. Jesus lived and died a Jew. His teaching and way of life reflected that of the Judaism of his time; his followers were Jewish and even after his death followed him as their teacher while attending synagogues and keeping Jewish customs such as food laws and circumcision. With the growth of gentile followers disputes as to whether those who followed Jesus needed to follow Jewish customs led to the two faiths developing separately. Both wanted their identity respected and acknowledged.
In a sense each religion has left its original home but still retains aspects of the parent faith. The Baha'i Faith's month of fasting is similar to the Islamic month of fasting during Ramadan, Buddhist meditation and philosophy reflects that of Hinduism and Jewish worship and traditions feel familiar to Christians. In a sense all religions are mongrels and connected to what I'm calling their parent faith. Their beliefs have developed from the faith of their founder in dialogue with the society into which they were born and in which they developed. There's no really pure, distinct, separate religion though most think of their way of life as superior to that which has gone before. Often they see themselves as having superseded the religions that have gone before them. This certainly has been the case in Christianity with regard to Judaism and in Islam with regard to Judaism and Christianity. This can easily lead to the judgement that later is better, superior, more reflective of the truth - an attitude which holds within it the seeds of violence. It can lead to a certainty that I am right and you are wrong; it can set us against one another and in competition with one another; it can close us off from the wisdom in others; it can blind us to the reality of our religion and leave us in a state of illusion where we believe our religion is unaffected by others and pure in its belief and practice. It closes our hearts while giving us certainty. And we don't like this certainty to be challenged. If you are right then maybe I am wrong and if I am right you are definitely wrong.
This desire for certainty seems to be growing in our world both religiously and politically. The rhetoric surrounding the British vote to leave the European Union and the American Republicans' Convention showed a zenpophobia that was frightening and a certainty that 'our' country was great and would belligerantly show this to the world. Many religions too are beginning to display this strong, closed identity as right wing movements grow and national and religious identities get confused. Perhaps its understandable in a world which is so fast moving and insecure. A closed identity can give the impression of security and comfort, a refuge from bewilderments and confusion to a place of safety. But it seems to me to be a false security which will not answer our longings for hope and peaceful co-existence. It might for a time give us he impression of living peacefully but it will not be a lasting peace. This cannot be obtained by shutting ourselves off in our own little worlds. This is the peace of the graveyard and not the peace of harmonious relationships. We will only find a solution to living together well if we come out of our boxes and realise that together we have the potential to liberate and save our world. I'm reminded in all of this of an incident in CS Lewis' The Last Battle in which Aslan has saved the world and offered everyone an entry into a new world. The dwarfs in the story miss this opportunity because they are so inward looking that they think they are missing out on goodies that they then fight over. All they had to do was lift their eyes beyond themselves, open their hearts to see what richness was being offered to them.