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When Did Religions First Begin?

Discussion in 'Science and Religion' started by Sunstone, Jan 26, 2007.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    When did religions first begin?

    I personally believe they are as old as our species (at the least), which puts their origins back 160,000 years (at the least). But when do you think they began? Why?
     
  2. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    I would have to agree with you. I believe spirituality to be an innate need in humans and hence I would expect at the very least primitive religions to occur very early on indeed (and indeed there is evidence of religious thought very early on in the achaeological record). Of course the reason for that innate spiritualism, in my opinion, is going to differ rather to some other people's views, because of my faith as a Christian but I would have thought that the evidence for religion being as old (at least) as our species is relatively unquestionable.

    James
     
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  3. michel

    michel Administrator Emeritus
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    The first evidenced religion, apparently:-
    http://www.afrol.com/articles/23093

    Archaeologists have discovered what seems to be remains of the world's earliest religious worship site in the remote Ngamiland region of Botswana. Here, our ancestors performed advanced rituals, worshipping the python some 70,000 years ago. The sensational discovery strengthens Africa's position as the cradle of modern man.
    The new archaeological findings in Botswana show that our ancestors in Africa engaged in ritual practice 70,000 years ago - some 30,000 years earlier than the oldest findings in Europe, according to a report printed in the research magazine 'Apollon' published by the University of Oslo (Norway).

    While, up until now, scholars have largely held that man's first rituals were carried out over 40,000 years ago in Europe, it now appears that they were wrong about both the time and place. Associate Professor Sheila Coulson, from the Oslo University, however claims to have proof that modern humans started performing advanced rituals in Africa 70,000 years ago. She discovered mankind's oldest known ritual in Botswana.

    another site http://www.agnosticwitch.catcara.com/oldest-religion.htm reads:-
    It is quite amusing; I have found "This is definitely the oldest religion" (with confidence) dating hinduism or Judaism back to 15000 BC.........

    Obviously, it is not a clear cut case.
     
  4. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    I think it depends on your definition of religion. Personally I would have no hesitation to call such things as shamanism, animism and ancestor worship religions, and such things clearly predate any of the major religions of today. There are cult objects that have been dug up that are way older than that 15000 years and I dare say that even in the case of the 70000 year old religious site you mention, that religion is actually much older. In fact the article you quoted hints at as much by calling the practices advanced. Advancement, after all, requires a period of development. I would go so far as to argue that elaborate burial practices, which really are old, older than homo sapiens it seems, are evidence of religious thought, and quite strong evidence at that.

    James
     
  5. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    I would argue that what we know of human nature should lead us to expect religious activity to begin even further back than 70,000 years.
     
  6. Mike182

    Mike182 Flaming Queer

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    actually James, this might interest you.

    Karen Armstrong paraphrases Father Wilhelm Schmidt in her book call "A History of God", she says:

    "Schmidt suggested that there had been a primitive monotheism before men and women had started to worship a number of Gods. Originally they had acknowledged only one supreme Deity, who had created the world and governed humans affairs from afar. Belief in such a high God (sometimes called sky God, since he is associated with the heavens) is still a feature of the religious life of many indigenous African tribes.

    ... Schmidt's theory goes, (that) in ancient times, the high God was replaced by the more attractive Gods of the Pagan pantheons. In the beginning, therefore, there was one God. If this is so, then monotheism was one of the earliest ideas evolved by human beings to explain the mystery and tragedy of life"

    That was Schmidt's theory, but Armstrong concludes:

    "It is impossible to prove this one way or the other. There have been many theories about the origin of religions. Yet it seems that creating Gods is something that human beings have always done. When one religious idea ceases to work for them, it is simply replaced."
     
  7. michel

    michel Administrator Emeritus
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    Oh, I agree with you guys; I did post it as "Evinced Religion"; as in a "proper Religion", of which there are records.

    I am quite sure that when man first heard thunder, he would have designated "him" as the God of anger...
     
  8. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    If the theory oof this Schmidt is right (and it can clearly never be proven) then that would tie in rather nicely with the idea that the reason we yearn for the spiritual is because we are all created in the image of God. But that is rather an aside. I'm not expecting everyone here to agree with Christian anthropology.

    James
     
  9. Mike182

    Mike182 Flaming Queer

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    it's always good to find archeological evidence, but it's worth bearing in mind that religious belief does not necessarily have to transfrom into ritual practise.
     
  10. Mike182

    Mike182 Flaming Queer

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    it is an interesting idea, and it ties in well with Rudolf Otto's idea of the "numinous" - but yes, this is all an aside :)
     
  11. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Rituals of one sort or another are something that almost all religions have in common, so it's likely that ancient religions had rituals too. However, I think I see your point that an ancient religion would not necessarily leave an archeological trace. For instance: What if the religion used all perishable materials? There would be nothing in the archeological record left to speak of.
     
  12. James the Persian

    James the Persian Dreptcredincios Crestin

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    That is quite true. I dare say that there are plenty of religions that have left little to no mark on the archaeological record and, in fact, it's quite possible that a religion could indeed have a great deal of ritual practice and still leave very little trace on archaeology. Look at the Druid faith of the Celts, for instance. Almost everything we know about it comes from Roman historians (and very biased ones at that, which leaves us having to mistrust their words). Very little comes from archaeology. The same, but more so, can be said of Dacian paganism. Very little indeed is known about that, pretty much only the story of Zalmoxis, and that was preserved because its similarity to Christianity was the spur for the rapid Christianisation of the Dacians - so it was Christians that preserved it.

    James
     
  13. Mike182

    Mike182 Flaming Queer

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    Sorry Phil, yes, that it what i intended to say :D
     
  14. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    The fact so many religions have disappeared without a trace saddens me and makes me want to bronze my trampoline.
     
  15. RevOxley_501

    RevOxley_501 Well-Known Member

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    i agree with you, and so does Albert Churchward. Except he is so bold as to say that religion began with a devotion to the sun and moon when man noticed that they provided heat and light. The terms he uses are Solar and Lunar Cults....

    Note that he also believes freemasonry has the closest roots to these cults.
     
  16. doppelganger

    doppelganger Through the Looking Glass

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    Spirituality began with the first work of art. Religion began with the first person to interpret it. :)
     
  17. darkpenguin

    darkpenguin Charismatic Enigma

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    I would call it more of a want myself, humans don't need spirituality to survive.
     
  18. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Really? How would we know that? Large numbers of humans have never for long tried surviving without some form of religiosity.
     
  19. darkpenguin

    darkpenguin Charismatic Enigma

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    Maybe they should try, I never find myself needing a god or religion to pray to.
    As I have said many of times, religion was introduced as control and weak people followed.
    The only good thing I can see in the bible is the ten commandments but even then they are just common sense and courtesy.
    I'm fairly sure that cavemen never needed religion.
     
  20. jacquie4000

    jacquie4000 Well-Known Member

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    I think that religion has been around pretty much since the begining of man, or not to long after. Whether it be structured or not.
     
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