What subject more appropriate to start such a blog?
Religion has been an implicit part of our society so long. Presumably some sort of organized superstition predates history. What makes us so compelled to believe?
Before I start, I feel I should preface my commentary with a simple statement. There is no point in this post that is intended to offend, insult or slander in anyway. If for some reason you find my post truly offensive, you have my apologies. If you suffer from a knee jerk reaction that simulates offense, however, I implore you stop for a moment and think over why you’re offended. If someone presenting you with information that dilutes or contradicts your opinions offends you I believe it may be time for you to do some soul searching, as that is not a healthy way to live.
Shall we proceed? Excellent.
It’s most sensible to start at the beginning, so let’s explore the origins of religion.
Signs of cultural superstition start as early back as early as the Homo Heidelbergensis/rhodesiensis and Neanderthals as far back as 220,000 BCE. Neanderthals started burying their dead, and over the next hundred thousand years refined this practice including burying their dead with venus figures, adorning grave sites with antlers and stones and even cremation.
The first signs of organized religion would be quite a ways down the road, however.
Mesopotamia is generally looked upon as the place where it all started for humans. Life, civilization, culture and Religion. The Mesopotamians started a very common practice in religion that would never really go away: the concept of a God-King. Enlil would be instated as ruler of the Gods and controller of the world. I use the word control very deliberately of course, as this religion would become an established societal law device. In fact, “Law” was still a rather young concept at this point in culture. Religion and Law would both evolve over time in a very intimate relationship. Later on the Egyptians would appear. The concept of religion being law became even more important. The Egyptians as well had a ruler God in Ra/Horus. Sun worship came farther to the forefront as he sun provided all life with nourishment. The Egyptians took the concept of a God-King farther, however. They believed that their Pharaohs were divine and ruled over the lands under jurisdiction of the Gods. The belief evolved into the idea that their king-god Horus was once a Pharaoh in life who became a God. It was through this “divine” power that the Pharaoh could control his kingdom.
Much later(after many more religions) , Judaism would appear, and subsequently Christianity. Judaism governed almost all aspects of life and provided a social structure for a culture without a country. It was the closest thing to nomadic law.
Christianity would be front and center, adopted as law for hundreds of years. Through the reign of kings, as well as several inquisitions and crusades, Christianity would become a very aggressively expanding force in the world. Christianity is unique in the way it would be the impetus for colonization.
There is a very clear arc in history regarding the power to control that religion provides countries. There is no greater tool for micromanaging your people.
So, Religion started as a means of Government in early culture. Seems obvious enough, right? After all when Law was unrefined how else would you make people step in line if not for an omnipotent threat from a deity? It’s the same idea as Santa Clause (who we can thank the Romans for). Kids believe in Santa because we need them to behave. Little Timmy needs to behave or Santa won’t give him presents. Kids are smart. They see their parents every day and see first hand how flawed humans are. So our natural instinct is to scare them into appropriate behavior. It’s the same reason you hear that parent yell at their child in Walmart every time you go there; they are not equipped with the appropriate tools to parent, so they intimidate their kid into submission. That’s what religion is; it’s societies way of scaring it’s kids until they listen.
Just like parents though, people start to see the flaws. Like a ten year old who gets grounded, they start to question what they’re told. As society has grown we’ve started needing religion less. Because of that we’ve been more inclined to question it. It’s the same reason Christianity exists. People started to question laws in Judaism. They started to wonder why eating meat on a Friday was bad, what was so terrible about pork, and what was so evil about a woman’s menstrual cycle. They grew tired of stoning people to death.
To counter act this the Church had to make changes or risk losing control. They had to use a little more carrot and a bit less stick.
The most fascinating addition though might be Hell.
You see, Hell doesn’t really show up in the old testament. The creation of Hell was a genius move on the part of Christianity’s inventor. Earthly scares fade away when you die, but Hell? Death let’s you escape an inquisitor but no one can escape eternal suffering. What better tool to scare people into believing? Believe and be loved and suffer if you don’t. This is why Christianity is so powerful. It’s message thrives on the uncertainty of life and gives a fairly easy worshipping practice. According to the bible all earthly transgressions are forgiven by believing. It is no surprise of course that Christianity has long leveraged politics. Even after cultures grew out of theocracies its been used to garner votes for politicians. Because so few Christians have even read the bible in it’s entirety, politicians and leaders are able to say “this is what you’re expected to do as a Christian”.
Of course it’s not just Christianity, the middle east controls it’s people with Islam(Which interestingly enough worships the same God as Christianity). I like to think of them like Pepsi and Coke.
I believe that’s enough for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little exploration on the roots of Religion. Comments welcome (but please keep them civil, relevant and rational).