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Thread: Where does religion come from?

  1. #1 Where does religion come from? 
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    Almost no religion would say that their deity just appeared somewhere along the course of history; and yet there are very few religions (currently practiced) older than a fraction of mans existance.

    What causes a religion to start in the first place and why do the followers choose to believe this new religion or how are they convinced that this new idea is the universal truth that has only now been discovered?


    Last edited by Arkadios; March 29th, 2012 at 03:56 PM. Reason: Clarification
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arkadios View Post
    Almost no religion would say that their deity just appeared somewhere along the course of history; and yet there are very few religions older than a fraction of mans existance.
    You don't know that. It may be that some animistic beliefs are as old as man.


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    our self judging power enable us to differentiate btwn right and wrong
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Arkadios View Post
    Almost no religion would say that their deity just appeared somewhere along the course of history; and yet there are very few religions older than a fraction of mans existance.
    You don't know that. It may be that some animistic beliefs are as old as man.
    The only major religion I am aware of that could even begin to make such a claim would be hinduism. Other animistic religions have little to no solid proof that their religions could claim the same.

    But lets create a hypothetical situation in which the religion of 'the Monkey' dates back to 'as old as man' (lets say 150 000 years or more). There would be no written or painted recordings of this religion for the major part of its existance. The only way it could be carried down to each new generation would be by word of mouth. (Inspite of the insistance of each religion of visions or hearing voices or dreams; I believe a religion can only be transferred from one person to another by speaking words or partially by observation - this proves that the religion is false; but I digress)

    Now lets take mans phenomenal ability to 'adjust' stories or history as it gets passed along. Each link in this information chain changes the information a little bit until (If the chain is long enough) you have an entirely different version to the original. Now consider 150 000 years worth of 'links' I presume it is accurate to assume that whatever the religion started out as; it has gone through a complete transformation several times.

    I would therefor consider it as a new religion as well. Unless every aspect of the religion has remained unchanged it cannot say that it is as old as its origin.
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    Quote Originally Posted by laizla View Post
    our self judging power enable us to differentiate btwn right and wrong
    I love your approach; but the idea implies that it is a religion in itself with the self as god. Is there any testible proof to your statement?
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    While not unequivocal, there's pretty strong evidence going back tens of thousands of years that our ancestors were religious. Heck even Neanderthal might be able to make that claim with precious goods buried with their dead.

    Quote Originally Posted by "laizla"
    our self judging power enable us to differentiate btwn right and wrong
    Dogs, cats and many other animals demonstrate that ability--but we'd be hard pressed to claim they are religious.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arkadios View Post
    Now lets take mans phenomenal ability to 'adjust' stories or history as it gets passed along. Each link in this information chain changes the information a little bit until (If the chain is long enough) you have an entirely different version to the original. Now consider 150 000 years worth of 'links' I presume it is accurate to assume that whatever the religion started out as; it has gone through a complete transformation several times.

    I would therefor consider it as a new religion as well. Unless every aspect of the religion has remained unchanged it cannot say that it is as old as its origin.
    I was thinking of religion in general rather a specific religion.

    It seems you have either made your question unanswerable (religions evolve and develop from previous ones and so there is no "start point") or you have answered it (religions evolve and develop from previous ones). I'm not sure which.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Arkadios View Post
    Now lets take mans phenomenal ability to 'adjust' stories or history as it gets passed along. Each link in this information chain changes the information a little bit until (If the chain is long enough) you have an entirely different version to the original. Now consider 150 000 years worth of 'links' I presume it is accurate to assume that whatever the religion started out as; it has gone through a complete transformation several times.

    I would therefor consider it as a new religion as well. Unless every aspect of the religion has remained unchanged it cannot say that it is as old as its origin.
    I was thinking of religion in general rather a specific religion.

    It seems you have either made your question unanswerable (religions evolve and develop from previous ones and so there is no "start point") or you have answered it (religions evolve and develop from previous ones). I'm not sure which.

    You then probably don't understand the question. These two answers are poor conclusions from a small part in the observation of religions (namely that they are likely to change significantly in the long run).


    In the question I was referring to: 1.) If there is no existing religion; what would be the motivation to 'start' one and to keep believing in it. And 2.) What is the motivation for the apparent lack of consensus between religions with specific reference to the 'constructing' of new/different religions?

    But I think you do understand what I was aiming at and I do not care for your attitude towards answering a post. If your intent is merely to partake in intelligent conversation without stirring unnecessarily; I sincerely apologize and suggest a more scientific approach to your answering of questions rather than aiming at the person asking.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    While not unequivocal, there's pretty strong evidence going back tens of thousands of years that our ancestors were religious. Heck even Neanderthal might be able to make that claim with precious goods buried with their dead.

    Quote Originally Posted by "laizla"
    our self judging power enable us to differentiate btwn right and wrong
    Dogs, cats and many other animals demonstrate that ability--but we'd be hard pressed to claim they are religious.
    Animals may or may not demonstrate that ability but (Correct me if I am wrong) I think laizla is referring to the ability of man to consciously decide between right and wrong without the need to resort to predefined structures of religion; or the mystic commands of deities or beings. Man can rather use his own insight in such situations. I conclude that this perception can be viewed as a religion since 'god'/you provide the answers (in this case) to the question of right and wrong that is also asked in religion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arkadios View Post
    You then probably don't understand the question. These two answers are poor conclusions from a small part in the observation of religions (namely that they are likely to change significantly in the long run).


    In the question I was referring to: 1.) If there is no existing religion; what would be the motivation to 'start' one and to keep believing in it. And 2.) What is the motivation for the apparent lack of consensus between religions with specific reference to the 'constructing' of new/different religions?
    OK. Let me attempt to answer again.

    We have evidence, as Lynx Fox says, of some sort of symbolic perhaps religious thought going back as far as man exists. As the human brain probably hasn't changed a great deal in that time, it doesn't seem unreasonable to assume that these early people had some sort of "primitive" religious beliefs perhaps like modern animistic religions, many of which we know go back into prehistory.

    Obviously, you are right, there will have been changes over that time as their environment changed, they relocated, etc. But my understanding is that oral traditions can be remarkably conservative. Because people have to make an effort to learn the stories by heart they don't tend to change them.

    But, given they will change, there is no way of saying if or when it has become a "different" religion. So, to my mind, you might as well say it is the same one. Hence my initial statement that animism is as old as man.

    That's the fuller version of my response to your first sentence!

    I think it is relevant because it is a possible indication that the desire (or need) to believe is built in to human nature. (Which, of course, doesn't mean that everyone believes.)

    It is also relevant because you say "no religions older than ..." But that depends on a clean definition of age, and hence beginning. That is not possible for "traditional" (pantheistic/animistic) religions. It may be possible for new religions (from Christianity on, I guess).

    In the case of modern religions I can think of two ways a "new" religion starts: either by a schism (for either theological or political reasons) or an individual getting some sort of revelation/inspiration from (their) God. I'm not sure these two are really that different; in both cases it builds on the pre-existing religious substrate.

    You ask why these splits develop in religions. It seems to me to be inevitable as they are human institutions. The religions are not based on "objective facts" but on religious texts and stories which are, inevitably, ambiguous and open to interpretation. Different people will interpret them differently to suit their personality and needs. Each will, of course, believe their interpretation is the correct one. Unless the religion and its leader are flexible enough to live with this variety of beliefs, this will lead to a split. You will also have more people who are (or claim to be) bringing the word of God, which introduces yet more diversity. And some people will want to believe in the old version and not the new and so might deny the divinity of this prophet, etc.

    I am absolutely certain that if you took a group of people (babies ideally) and brought them up without language or religion then within a generation or two they would have both fully developed language and religion. And probably heretics, dissidents, schisms and non-believers. Unfortunately, we will never be able to perform that experiment so I don't have any evidence to support it.

    That is probably far more than I wanted to say on the subject...

    rather than aiming at the person asking
    I'm not sure why you thought that was the case. But I apologise if I gave that impression.
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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  12. #11 Historical view 
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    Oral tradition has been verified as a reliable source of history; that is, oral tradition does not change radically over time. The premise of oral tradition wildly changing and being unreliable is not a good starting point for an argument.

    According to the researchers in the field, humanity begins somewhere between the divergence of Hominini somewhere around 2.35 million years ago to 'anatomically correct humans' around 200,000 years ago to 'behaviorally modern' humans around 50,000 years ago. (This from the Wiki summation and is probably close to the conventional wisdom within an eon or two all the way around.) I'll leave the question of 'when did humans originate?' to someone else.

    The Bible says - for what it's worth - the Universe was created by a single God. It goes on to say this same God created humanity some time after. Then it makes the assertion this God dealt with those initial humans and continues to deal with humanity ever since. (The Bible also goes on to talk about other religions and such.)

    So, from the viewpoint of Jews and Christians, the only 'new' religions are those that do not acknowledge the pre-existing Creator God. Other religions probably have different views, of course. However, nearly all religions presume a god or gods which were in existence prior to the existence of the world.

    Judaism began - sort of - about two thousand years B. C. during the life of one Abram, a man from Mesopotamia. However, the Bible (which is the only source for information regarding Abram and the beginnings of Jewry) also mentions Melchizedek, the king and high priest of 'Salem' (later Jeru-salem) who was '... priest of the most high God.' From all appearances, this was the same God as appointed Abram. Five to six hundred years later, Moses met up with his father in law, Jethro aka Reuel, who was also listed as a priest. From the discussion in Exodus 18, it appears Jethro also worshiped the single God of Abram and Melchizedek. However, Jethro was not of the Jewish lineage or tradition. So the 'religion' of the most high God did not begin with Judaism.

    Christianity of course begins with the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus claimed He was the fulfillment of the Jewish - Mosaic Law and therefore doesn't really rate as a 'new' religion; it is the extension of Judaism and whatever Melchizedek preached. (Not much of his sermons remain.) Arguably, Christianity is not a 'new' religion. (Arguably it is as well; it takes on different forms and does not require sacrifices and so forth. I don't see it that way, others differ.)

    One of the few religions that can be dated as to origin is Buddhism. The Buddha lived - by the guesses - in the Fifth Century B. C. The religion of Buddhism followed from that.

    Hinduism is older than Buddhism and has roots in a single monotheistic frame. The 'other gods' were added in over time.

    So, it strikes me very few 'religions' are actually invented on the spot. Most of them seem to be modern era inventions and most eschew the complication of a god who demands anything. (I'm thinking of the 'self-help' sort of arrangements.)

    Without going on for pages and pages, that's the recap of which I know. I hope it sheds some light.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Archie View Post
    Oral tradition has been verified as a reliable source of history; that is, oral tradition does not change radically over time. The premise of oral tradition wildly changing and being unreliable is not a good starting point for an argument..
    Neither is dramatically overstating their veracity. Many are based in eye witness accounts which are notoriously untrustworthy even directly after the event. Furthermore, while truthful grains might exist generations later, they only continued at all because they were enshrouded, exaggerated, wrapped in surprises, or humor, or in a song and rhyme, various tricks and otherwise heavily modified to make it a memorable story so it could be passed on.
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    exactly...one can know very well that what is wrong and what is not..we feel satisfied when we are following the right path..just a little insight is required..other wise evry 1 feel satisfied if he doesnot ponder over facts.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arkadios View Post
    In the question I was referring to: 1.) If there is no existing religion; what would be the motivation to 'start' one and to keep believing in it. And 2.) What is the motivation for the apparent lack of consensus between religions with specific reference to the 'constructing' of new/different religions?

    If we have a look at Christianity, (as it is one of the latest religions to arise and because it has a definite approximate beginning) the motivation that began the religion started off from one man's disdain for the current belief system, Jesus believed the Jewish religion was in need of a revamp and so set about spreading the new word of the Father. Also during this time the Roman Empire controlled much of the known world and Roman belief was very much Pagan, however, Jewish Orthodox were allowed to practise their beliefs in a Roman controlled Jerusalem as a means to control the majority populace.

    As with any new idea that challenges the status quo it caused dissent amongst the people and led to the crucifixion of Jesus, which was also sanctioned by the Romans to maintain order. By the time of Jesus' crucifixion his teachings had spread too far throughout the middle east and started to encroached upon the rest of the empire with the disciple Paul spreading the word. As a result Emperor Nero declared them heretics to the Roman faith and persecuted the followers of Jesus unrelenting and as a by-product of this persecution it engrained the belief even more.

    When Constantine became emperor he declared Christianity the faith of the empire, with himself converting to the new found religion and the tide turned from Christians being the persecuted to being the prosecutor of the old Roman faith and hence became the majority religion of the empire.

    So...

    A religion, as part of the state, is a weapon used to control the populace, and you can see this clearly with the Roman Empire, who not only used this example to declare their will on the people but throughout the Roman empire history. Conquering of the Germanic; Saxon; and Frankish tribes, the empire assimilated those tribes faiths into their own forcing the tribes to adopt the 'Roman way'.

    All it takes is for one man to challenge the belief of the accepted norm to sprout the beginning of change. IE, King Henry VIII in establishing the Church of England (albeit, for his own desire.)
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    By the time of Jesus' crucifixion his teachings had spread too far throughout the middle east and started to encroached upon the rest of the empire with the disciple Paul spreading the word.
    Bullox. First off many of "his teachings," already existed before he was born in other religions from the East. I doubt you can show credible evidence that ideas specific and unique to Christianity was spread even a few hundred miles before well after his death. I'm pretty sure Josephus is the first bit of credible evidence that anyone even thinks Jesus existed..and that was a full generation after his death very close by.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arkadios View Post
    Almost no religion would say that their deity just appeared somewhere along the course of history; and yet there are very few religions (currently practiced) older than a fraction of mans existance.

    What causes a religion to start in the first place and why do the followers choose to believe this new religion or how are they convinced that this new idea is the universal truth that has only now been discovered?
    Why not domesticate an animal, no?

    Where does religion come from?

    Do you think animals know?

    Do you think their ability to betray your commands is a betrayal of faith?

    Of course......not.

    Faith is far more advanced, yes?

    Of course it is.

    And you know why. Eternal life. What animal can do that?
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    Quote Originally Posted by ming View Post

    Why not domesticate an animal, no?

    Where does religion come from?

    Do you think animals know?

    Do you think their ability to betray your commands is a betrayal of faith?

    Of course......not.

    Faith is far more advanced, yes?

    Of course it is.

    And you know why. Eternal life. What animal can do that?
    Are you on a Quest to post gibberish?
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    You're a fan also.

    I like that.

    No, to be blunt.

    Quest failed. There is no Quest. A "Quest" warrants support in another forum.




    I do agree with you, if a quest has a shadow, I am shadow.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ming View Post
    I do agree with you, if a quest has a shadow, I am shadow.
    You are now a memory. Sixteen post of unintelligible gibberish quips, several member reported threads, three mod warnings, and a trashed thread is enough.
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    By the time of Jesus' crucifixion his teachings had spread too far throughout the middle east and started to encroached upon the rest of the empire with the disciple Paul spreading the word.
    Bullox. First off many of "his teachings," already existed before he was born in other religions from the East. I doubt you can show credible evidence that ideas specific and unique to Christianity was spread even a few hundred miles before well after his death. I'm pretty sure Josephus is the first bit of credible evidence that anyone even thinks Jesus existed..and that was a full generation after his death very close by.
    For starters Lynx_Fox, I never once said that Jesus' teachings originated from him, I know they did not. He adapted a lot of the already dogma to his own teachings only changing certain aspects of that teaching. And it does not matter if people believe if he existed or not. The fact that a majority world religion has sprouted up from his teachings and named in honour of him only elevates that which you have quoted from me. Also, his preaching had reached from Israel to Egypt, to Asia Minor, Greece and Rome even before his death and this was indeed cause for concern with the emperor.

    After Jesus death and christianity was legitimised as being a religion was when this faith truly took off. Roman policy was to not house an army in the same homeland to which they were drafted, and so sent their armies all over the empire thus spreading the word.

    To find the true existence of the beginning of religion itself is a pointless task with no references to take from. Sure, pictures were painted in caves depicting animals, and Paganism no doubt blossomed from this along with worshipping the stars and nature in general. However, I would doubt to call it the beginning. Religion needs one thing to legitimise it and that is culture.
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    My issue was with your time line "By the time of Jesus' crucifixion," there's simply no credible evidence that it had spread very far at all.
    Also, his preaching had reached from Israel to Egypt, to Asia Minor, Greece and Rome
    This is a science forum....provide credible evidence.

    I don't dispute at all that generations later his supposed teachings rapidly spread throughout the Roman empire. Also it wasn't really legitimized for centuries.

    I never once said that Jesus' teachings originated from him,
    Than perhaps you shouldn't have said.
    the new word of the Father.
    if you meant to associate it with existing ideas from religions such as Zorastrianism--which coincidently someone growing up and possible traveling with a merchant uncle would have been familiar with.
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    to arkadios...we our self are a proof..dont u here a rebuke 4m ur inside when u r going to do smthng wrong?? i thnk it depends on our self.analysing power..
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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    My issue was with your time line "By the time of Jesus' crucifixion," there's simply no credible evidence that it had spread very far at all.
    Also, his preaching had reached from Israel to Egypt, to Asia Minor, Greece and Rome
    This is a science forum....provide credible evidence.

    I don't dispute at all that generations later his supposed teachings rapidly spread throughout the Roman empire. Also it wasn't really legitimized for centuries.

    I never once said that Jesus' teachings originated from him,
    Than perhaps you shouldn't have said.
    the new word of the Father.
    if you meant to associate it with existing ideas from religions such as Zorastrianism--which coincidently someone growing up and possible traveling with a merchant uncle would have been familiar with.
    Apologies, I should have made my position a bit more clearer. I do not believe that Jesus ever actually existed. Just the idea of Jesus to spark a religion into existence.

    'A generation after Jesus' death, when the Gospels were written, the Romans had destroyed the Jerusalem Temple (in 70 C.E.); the most influential centers of Christianity were cities of the Mediterranean world such as Alexandria, Antioch, Corinth, Damascus, Ephesus and Rome. Although large number of Jews were also followers of Jesus, non-Jews came to predominate in the early Church. They controlled how the Gospels were written after 70 C.E.'


    -Bruce Chilton, Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College (Bible Review, Dec. 1994, p. 37)

    What I am arguing is that christianity was at the time a new sect that was given a relevant stage in which to evolve, as that is what any religion tends to do, evolve from current forms of religion, sometimes overshadowing the others. That Jesus had merely sat on top of other mythical beings ie, Mithra (sorry, I can not think of any others off the top of my head at the moment).

    If we can remember, the OP:

    What causes a religion to start in the first place and why do the followers choose to believe this new religion or how are they convinced that this new idea is the universal truth that has only now been discovered?

    Now I refer you my post number #14
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