Evolution of God

Many believe that God is an eternal and unchanging entity. To the contrary, God has grown, matured, changed and evolved along with human society for millennia.

Beginnings of supernatural belief

It is generally believed that animism and animatism were the earliest forms of supernatural belief. Animism, first identified by EB Tylor, is the belief in the supernatural power or significance of plants, animals and inanimate objects. Animatism, a term coined by Tylor's contemporary Robert Marett, is a kind of physical supernaturalism. To the animatist believer, the material and the immaterial are not inherently distinct. The soul is not separate from the body.

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Personification of nature and polytheism

As people sought to better understand the forces and objects of nature, they projected human qualities onto them. The idea of supernatural "people" controlling nature aided tremendously in understanding the world, and it opened the possibility that the world could be somewhat influenced by humans. Sacrifices could be made, ceremonies performed, and even day-to-day personal behavior could be adjusted, all in an effort to appease the "people" controlling the world.

Polytheistic belief and practice was born. The idea of a controller for different aspects of nature was an extremely powerful shift in human thinking. Although nature was still essentially beyond our control, now we could at least communicate with the people who controlled it, have a conversation with them, influence them or negotiate with them. Just the notion of a consciousness behind nature was an extraordinary concept that changed the world.

Odysseus angers Poseidon

Reducing the number of gods and the birth of monotheism

A “pantheon” of gods developed in many cultures, and an organized belief system and mythology around it. Often the idea arose of a “king” of the gods. One god in particular was either more important and more powerful than the others, or occupied a leadership role of some kind.

Then, if one god ruled over all the others, perhaps this god was the only one people should focus on. More time and effort should be spent on him, and only minor attention to the lesser gods. Hence monolatry--the belief that while other gods may exist, only a particular god was worthy of worship.

The idea of one major god gave way to simply one “God,” and none other than him. The lesser gods evolved into angels, saints, spirits, ghosts and other supernatural characters.

Evolution of monotheism

At its most developed, monotheism sees God as the only supernatural force in existence. There are no other spirits or ghosts or lesser deities. This idea is most developed in Islam, while Christianity and Judaism include traditions that do identify such forces.

God has evolved and matured during his life. The earliest incarnations of God were violent, bellicose, xenophobic and vengeful—just like the cultures that believed in him. As societies grew more enlightened and tolerant, God followed suit. Today, for instance, after centuries of refinement, the Christian God is a very loving, tolerant, forgiving and reasonable character. For the most part, first world Christians prefer to ignore, rationalize or renounce altogether his nastier qualities, which were ascendant during the Middle Ages.

In Islam, practiced mostly in places with less knowledge of science and greater tolerance for violence, God explains much larger segments of human experience, while constituting a presence to be feared at least as often as one to be loved.

Decline of monotheism

Many atheists like to say that humans have, through history, been getting closer and closer to the real number of gods. Today there is a rise of pre-monotheistic or non-monotheistic traditions such as pantheism and animism.

Many people, rejecting the traditional idea of God, prefer to think in terms of an unconscious force or forces that, while understandable and accessible by humans, do not have personalities, goals or desires for us. Many others reject the supernatural altogether, affirming that it cannot be verified or understood rationally, even if it did exist, and that it is not needed to explain the world, in light of modern science and reason.

God, like all creatures, will continue to evolve to match the demands and constraints of his environment. He is likely to become smaller, more distant and less conscious. He may become relevant only on an occasional, freelance basis, rather than a full-time employee of human culture. But God will be around for a long time to come.

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Comments 22 comments

aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Or it could be that humanity just took a long time to recognise Him as God, in the same way as it took humanity a long time to understand that Christ marked a radical change in Gods plan.

It's the old half full, half empty analogy at work.

But a good hub, and I enjoyed reading it, and it will bolster your supporters to know that another mystery is explained.

John


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Agua - How could Christ make a "radical change" in God's plan, when Christianity holds that Jesus and God are the same being (only different)?

And it's not "the old half full, half empty analogy at work". God was supposedly recognized from the beginning in the Garden of Eden, and again as the "burning bush" and again and again as various manifestations with various names.

The only mystery here is why so many people were duped into believing in "magic"!


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Austinstar the radical change in Gods plan was not a surprise to God, He did the whole Genesis through to Malachi in order to show His people that they could never be righteous on their own merit, the radical change was bringing Christ into the picture, to show us all how we can be made righteous before God. No other way!

The 'half full, half empty analogy' refers to Secularist10's stance verses mine, he is trying to rationalise God as a figment of imagination made real by people, I just see it different.

'duped into believing in "magic"!'

No 'magic' in Christ (LOL), but I have seen miracles and many lives changed for the better.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

And I have seen many lives changed for the worse. Christianity and religion in general gives false hope which improves some people's lives and destroys others.

Choose for yourself and enjoy.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Aguasilver--there's a lot of reason to believe that the Christian God is simply one in a VERY long line of religious characters. Far more reason than to think he is the one, true God. The ancient Babylonians believed in their supernatural explanations just as strongly as you believe in yours. The same can be said for the Hindus, Muslims, pagans around the world, etc. And they all make arguments just as convincing as yours. So who's right.

BTW, you said

"He did the whole Genesis through to Malachi in order to show His people that they could never be righteous on their own merit"

But being "righteous" only means anything in reference to God, because God is good and good is God. (Unless one introduces a non-God standard of goodness, which undermines the whole idea.)

So this is really saying, "God showed his people they could never adhere to him without him." Kind of silly.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Austinstar--indeed, the many negative effects of religious believe would seem to compel a certain humbleness on the part of believers, given that their way of thinking has proven to have such unstable and dangerous potential.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Oh, but the unstable and dangerous potential is always conveniently blamed on the devil.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 5 years ago from New York City Author

Ah, now there's a good idea for a hub--the evolution of the devil. Although I have a feeling that story wouldn't be as interesting.


EK Lippenmeyer profile image

EK Lippenmeyer 4 years ago from Perth, Western Australia

Greetings, secularist10. Your opening lines prompt me to say:

It is the God CONCEPT that has " grown, matured, changed and evolved along with human society for millennia"; you are ruling out the existence of the God of more advanced definition by saying "To the contrary..." Thus your position is one of faith (unscientific), along with that of the theists.

Nevertheless, your article was a stimulating read.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Thanks for coming, EK.

Well, this is hardly a scientific article. I am obviously talking more rhetorically than literally.

Disbelief or non-belief is obviously the default position of the human mind with respect to any new claim. Thus it is the theist, not the atheist or agnostic, who has the burden of proof for his positive claim.

I have plenty of other hubs that are more rigorous and logical in demolishing the God concept.


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 4 years ago from Malaga, Spain

"Thus it is the theist, not the atheist or agnostic, who has the burden of proof for his positive claim."

Is a presumption that we care whether you believe or not.

Believers already have 'touched and seen that the Lord is good"

Secularists are the folk who have the disbelief, and a blindness to 'taste and see'.

It's like my daughter who could not eat local food (too spicy) when she first got here to Penang, but who is now starting to enjoy some of the foods, as her original bias has been tempered by experience.

She started off liking curry puffs and has progressed to stronger stuff!

Had she demanded that I prove to her that she WOULD enjoy spicy food, she would still be eating plain rice and egg.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Well, since theists are the ones constantly trying to recruit souls (like a vendor trying to sell spicy food), it is still up to the recruiter to prove that their "product" is palatable.


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 4 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Not in the least Austinstar, sorry to spoil the game, but our street vendors may cry out the merits of their food, but if folk cannot be bothered to try it, they have no problem, they just serve those who do like spicy food.

The rest eat crap western food, like they have been trained to do.

No obligation on the vendor at all, if you prefer hot dogs and hamburgers, and refuse to try the local fare, it's your loss,and you will never even know you have missed a taste experience.

I just got fed up with western processed food that kills you.


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Haha, uh, Agua, I don't know about this spicy food analogy of yours. Although thinking about God does sometimes give me indigestion. Lol!

Anyway, it's up to the business making the food to market it to me, the consumer. As a consumer, I am not born with a desire to buy that product. So this just proves my point for me--the default state is non-belief or non-acceptance of a claim, and the burden of proof is on the one making the claim to convince others.

"but if folk cannot be bothered to try it, they have no problem, they just serve those who do like spicy food."

Actually they do have a problem. They don't make as many sales. I thought you had a background in business, Agua?

The fact that street vendors shout about their food, or that missionaries shout about their lord, shows that they are all trying to convince people that what they have is better than what people currently have, and that others should want it.

Clearly you are very passionate about the superiority of Southeast Asian food, so I won't touch that one.


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 4 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Our street vendors never have to look for customers, Penang is a very multi cultural society and we EAT as a principal form of fellowship, the hawkers stalls are very large areas where many different food vendors sell food side by side, you walk around and order, giving them your table number, and someone brings the dish to you and collects the cash.

When the product is good and the people are hungry, there is no need to sell, people seek you out and buy it from you.

Nobody need go hungry, however I had a friend visiting who was, lets say very conservative in her eating habits, so she missed everything that was great to eat, dismissing it as 'slop' (and a lot of our food may look like 'slop' I agree, but it tastes divine)so she spent her months holiday with us eating omelettes and chips.

I never tried to force her to eat a more varied diet, and when at home, I cooked food she could recognise and enjoy, but she went back ignorant of the wonders she could have enjoyed had she not been so closed minded on the matter.

"As a consumer, I am not born with a desire to buy that product."

At least not while you can eat a diet of junk food, but when you get hungry, you will look for a restaurant which can serve your needs.

My background in sales has taught me that when a product is good, you don't need to sell it, you just need to find the people who need or want what you have.

I no longer sell to anyone, I do business with anyone who wants to trade with me, and if they don't like what I offer, I simply find those who do.

The essence of the matter is to find a product that works and then fulfil the needs of those who want it.

Only folk with a crap product need to sell it to people, when you have a good product, people buy it.

John


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Again, John, you are missing the point.

People that want to believe in religion will head on in to a church to find it, but if the "product" doesn't live up to the standards of those seeking it, they will not "buy" it.


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 4 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Not really Austin, people who do 'taste and see' are rarely disappointed, it's the folk who refuse to taste, that miss out, at least in my experience that is true.

Anyhow, Christ is not a product, He is a relationship, and one that everyone either accepts of rejects, the food analogy was just that, an analogy that demonstrates the foolishness of refusing to taste something until you have proof that you will like it, or enjoy it.

I drink a glass of psyllium husks in water every night, it's tasteless and not particularly enjoyable to drink, but what it does for my health and general well-being is amazing, so I keep taking it.

There is no way I could sell it to you on it's taste and feel, but if you started using it daily, you would see the benefits of it in a very short time, however, very few of those I know would try something that had no pleasant smell or taste to 'prove' to them it would do them good, though they will willingly drink Coca Cola, which is poison for the body.... people are strange!

Off to bed now, 3.21am my side of the world!

John


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 4 years ago from New York City Author

Well, it seems that more and more people are not buying Christianity these days. Presumably seeing it as a "crap product." Hence the need for more salesmanship on the part of believers. Witness the Catholic Church's recent advertising campaign, for instance entitled, fittingly, "Catholics Come Home."

Anyway, nobody on earth would be a Christian without missionaries or the legacy of missionary activity and Christian state dominance. That indicates that people are not born Christian, not born theist or anything else. They need to be told or taught, and thus the burden of proof is shown.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Yes, if you were born with an automatic relationship with God, no one would be confused about it or seek to prove God's existence one way or another. It would be engrained in our 'soul'. And everyone one would know the 'truth', they would be able to see and taste immediately.

Because we are not born to this realization is proof to me that God does not exist. Religion is just something that is dished up to us by adults who had it dished up to them who had it dished up to them and so on.

Absolutely no one was born 'knowing' about this God concept.


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 4 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Hi Austin, got to disagree again, we all have a 'God shaped hole' in us, and we all seek to fill that hole, some recognise God is what's missing, others find science and knowledge, or whatever they find that 'fits' their hole.

Babies start searching for knowledge very early on, it's a given that they need to try and stick their fingers in the electricity plug, or test the patience of those around them to see how far they can go.

Nobody teaches a child to be inquisitive and/or naughty, its natural. That is the beginnings of searching the world and your inner self to establish identity.

We all need to find out who we are, and if a child is not allowed to do this, they will experience some form of problem later in life, i.e. if you don't let a child explore and satisfy this craving for identity, they will be unfulfilled and need to find it later, perhaps when the parents are dead, or they have broken away from their societal moulds.

Like I said, some find God, some choose something else, it's our choice and we live with the results we choose.

God will not "engrain in our 'soul'" a hard-wired option that we MUST find Him, that is what this whole existence is about, finding out what WE choose as our 'god'.

We just live and die with the choices we make.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Sorry, John. A God shaped hole just doesn't cut it. We have natural curiosity true, but we do not have natural curiosity for "God". This has been proven several times by children being raised by religious indifferent people.

If no religion is thrust upon a child, they will not seek one out unless and until someone else points it out. There is no "natural curiosity" to cause someone to go out and look for invisible gods.


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 4 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Well my parents certainly never pushed any religion at me, I did about three Sunday school classes and dismissed it as crap.

But I did seek answers to questions about life the universe and everything else from about puberty, and explored many religious options, rejecting them all in favour of believing nothing, then in my mid 30's I came to a general woolly understanding that we were in possession of a spiritual element in us, and assumed for a while that this 'spirit' would rejoin with whatever was out there and meld into the 'whole spirit', become a part of it, so to speak, but with no definition, and that was sufficient for me until I encountered spirits that were patently not good, when I had started to exert my own spiritual energy.

My path to finding God was long and varied, and I have come from no belief to certain belief, and although I admit that any parent, believer in something or not, will influence their child's development, either encouraging them to find what they believe or discouraging them from even seeking, we all EVENTUALLY come to realise that we are rather small and insignificant, no matter how grand we may think we have become.

Experience has shown that as we move closer to realisation of our mortality, we seek to check out more closely what options are available out there.

Anyhow, we will not agree in this place, so let's just leave it that all are entitled to believe or disbelieve as they wish, but there is no point in trying to persuade anyone who has reached a different understanding that they are wrong, they may not be!

John

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