Origin of Religion - Ancient Foundations
The origin of religion can generally be traced to the ancient Near East and classified in three
basic categories: polytheistic, pantheistic and monotheistic.
Origin of Religion - Polytheism
The origin of religion and polytheistic systems: Polytheism (a belief in many gods) is thought to
have originated with Hinduism in about 2500 BC. Hindu beliefs were recorded in the Bhagavad
Gita, which revealed that many gods were subject to a supreme Brahman god. Polytheism was
also the religion of many other ancient cultures, including Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece and
Rome. The ancient polytheistic belief systems viewed gods as being in control of all natural
events such as rainfall, harvests and fertility. Generally, polytheistic cultures believed in sacrifices
to appease their gods. For instance, the Canaanites sacrificed to the male god, Baal, and his
female counterpart, Ashteroth. Baal controlled the rain and the harvest, while Ashteroth controlled
fertility and reproduction. The Greeks and Romans developed polytheism to a highly structured
pantheon of gods and goddesses.
Origin of Religion - Pantheism
The origin of religions and pantheistic systems: Pantheism (a belief that all is God) prevailed in
numerous ancient cultures. The belief that the universe itself was divine was typified in the
Animism beliefs of the African and American Indian cultures, the later Egyptian religion under the
Pharoahs, and Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism in the cultures of the Far East. Pantheistic
beliefs are also finding resurgence among various New Age movements. Generally, pantheism is
the principle that god is everything, and everything is god. Therefore, nature is also part of god.
We must be in harmony with nature. We must nurture it and be nurtured by it. Mankind is no
different than any other animal. We must live in harmony with them, understand them, and learn
from them, focusing on the relationship between mankind and the elements of nature.
Origin of Religion - Monotheism
The origin of religion and monotheistic systems: Monotheism (a belief in one God) is the
foundation of the Judeo-christian-muslim line of religions, which began with a man named
Abraham in about 2000 BC. From this point in history, God began revealing Himself to the world
through the nation of Israel. The Jewish Scriptures record the journey of the Israelites from slaves
in Egypt to the "promised land" in Canaan under the leadership of Moses. During a period of
about 1500 years, God revealed what became the Old Testament of the Bible, relating the history
of Israel with the character and laws of God. During the period of the Roman Empire, Jesus
Christ was born in Bethlehem as the long-awaited Messiah. The ministry of Jesus ended in about
32 AD with His crucifixion and resurrection. After Christ's ascension into heaven, the Christian
church grew in His name and the New Testament was written. About 600 years later, Muhammad
began preaching in Mecca. Muhammad believed he was the ultimate prophet of God, and his
teachings became the precepts of Islam as recorded in the Qur'an.
Origin of Religion – Atheism
Atheism is the belief that there is no God or any other divine relationships. Atheism is not a
complete religion in the sense that Christianity, Islam, and, Judaism are. Atheism is not generally
perceived as offering a complete guideline for living as do most religions. However, Atheists
frequently derive their own ethics and philosophy of life and worldview using their Atheism as a
starting point. They are generally derived from secular considerations, and not from any
"revealed" religious text. Many Atheists now celebrate the Winter Solstice. Some Atheists, when
asked what their religion is, will answer, simply, "Atheist." Others will say that they "have no
religion, they are an Atheist." Though Atheism has existed throughout time, it is only during the
18th century enlightenment that it became prominent.