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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. Atheism is really a modern belief that resulted from the "Enlightenment" period of the 18th century.
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.