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History of Religion

In the beginning there was...........

Most peoples of the West believe that all things have a beginning and therefore will have an end, more importantly human existence. However, most Far East religions believe that the earth, the skies, including the gods, have always been there and will continue to exist beyond. So..... in the context of these two beliefs , what is religion? And, for our discussion of reality, what is religious sensibility for these beliefs in terms of reality?

In broadest of context, religion encompasses the cultural beliefs of human kind in the spiritual realm. This definition, from the earliest cave man's belief in animal spirits, extends to modern day worship of a God and a reality of an after-life. Often in the past this was entitled mythology, as used in the general sense of the word, and extends all the way to religious reality. In the discourse of this site we explore religious reality, first through religious history and then through its development, with an attempt to relate religious reality to the scientific and philosophical reality as delineated in the related sections of this site.

History:

Found in the caves of Europe were discovered beautiful paintings of animals. These same animals were the substance by which the Cave Man sustained and thrived. Unearthed burial sites have indicate that they prepared their dead with all their needs in death that followed. Looking back from our present perspective, we conclude that Cro-Magnon humans had a well developed spiritual world where their reality included the spirits of the animals that they fed upon. The relics indicates that this reality included a belief in an after-life, where the things of this world were needed in that next existence. There is evidence that their predecessors, the Neanderthal, buried their dead with some earthly objects. This evidence appeared after Cro-Magnon showed up some 30 to 40 thousand years ago.
Cave Man
Cave Man

Early Origins of Religion

In the era of civilization embodied by the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians, the stage of cultural development exhibited many gods. These gods were oriented around the cosmology of the time, i.e. the sun, the moon and the stars, the formations where gods existed. These objects were thought to be real gods not just symbols of gods. By the time of the pyramids, about 2500s BCE, the deities were well established. The Egyptians were so enamored with the gods that they included a tunnel within the Pyramids. These tunnels, directed toward particular constellations, provide passage from the kings chamber to the gods of their worship.

The pantheon (a temple to all the gods) of the Egyptians was headed by a creator god who emerged from a lotus blossom. He emerged from the waters of the deep. He in turn created the other gods including Isis. It is not clear from Egyptian theology from where regular people emerged. Maybe this will be uncovered in some later time.

The Mesopotamians had a well developed pantheon that included human creation, at least as related in one story. The gods preceded first from a region above from which the gods created the region of the earth and all other regions below. Humans were created to do the work of building irrigation ditches and tending the fields because some of the gods didn't wish to do that work anymore. Thus, humans were created to toil in the fields and in the towns.

The Epics of Gilgamesh, king about 2500s BCE, include a flood story very similar to the Noah's flood. The epic related many adventures with and against the gods. Gilgamesh also built the
walls around the city of Ur to protect the citizens. In this theology the gods were very real and present in the affairs of humans.

Spirituality of the far east was first formed in the religion of the Hindus, then Buddhism later. Buddhism was founded about 500BCE on the Indian subcontinent by Siddhhart ha Ciautarna, a spiritual teacher. It is believed he was from the region now called Nepal.

 

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