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Is Christianity a Superior Religion to those of Early Civilizations?

Updated on August 19, 2009

Common Origins

I have often wondered why we commonly consider early civilizations' practice of worshipping the sun in a different light to the story of man called Jesus.

If I was to pronounce my belief in the mighty sun god today, would I not be seen as unreasonable when compared to the good citizens at the local church.

It seems that there is a dividing line between the 'lesser' religious beliefs of early civilizations and those structured religions that have continued to the current day. On looking closer, there are a few characteristics common within each group.

1) Early religions tended to worship natural objects. The moon, the sun, fire. They focussed on the things that had the largest effect on their lives. The weather and seasons were responsible for their crops, migratory movements and comfort. Animal breeding and movements were also closely tied to this.

Modern religions tend to be based on a historical, charismatic figure. This figurehead has long since died or moved on to another plane of existence.

2) Early religion was more distanced from their deities. They tended to be wrathful gods, less concerned by the everyday activities of the average man. They were not closely related to the moral goings on of the earthly population and interactions between the two were (perceived as) violent. This was the age of sacrifices on the alter.

Modern religion has closely aligned itself to moral behavior. The lessons are typically taught via the 'perfect' example of someone (or something) that walked the earth at some stage. There is more focus on both reward and punishment for good and bad behavior.

So why has one group outlasted the other?

It can be argued that the development of religion is a natural response to the unknown. We have a basic desire to understand the reason for the events we witness. The mind does not readily accept 'random' as an explanation. The sun has such a control over our lives that it is easy to extend this control beyond the limits of its influence.

The main problem limiting the longevity of religions based on natural objects is the discoveries that follow. The sun and moon, although astounding objects of natural beauty, are not so mysterious when the structure of the solar system is taught in school. The role of religion in helping us deal with the unexplainable is destroyed when the central religious point itself is fully explained.

By focussing on deceased (or temporarily departed figures), and what occurs after death modern religions have removed the threat of definitive evidence against their existence. They also have a significant history and a hierarchial system that combined with the 'education' of successive generations helps maintain the core belief structure.

The inability to decisively prove either side of the argument has led to some interesting conjecture.  'Pascal's Wager' is an argument by a French mathematician. It states that no matter how unlikely the existence of god may be, the downside of being a non-believer, in the event there is a god, is of such great magnitude that we should all err on the side of safety and believe.

John Allen Paulos, of Temple University, Philadelphia, in his book "Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up"  labels theology as a kind of 'verbal magic show' and organized religion as a "creationist Ponzi scheme". Having said that, he respects the right of anyone to believe and is strongly against those who "personally and aggressively question others' faith or pejoratively label it as benighted flapdoodle or something worse. Those who do are rightfully seen as arrogant and overbearing."

Stephen Unwin's 2003 book The Probability of God, which calculated the likelihood of God's existence at 67 per cent. This is somewhat lower than Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne who calculated the chance of Christ's resurrection at 97%.

Famous atheist, Steven Wienberg, a Nobel prize winning physicist made his thoughts known with this quote: - "With or without religion, good people will do good, and evil people will do evil. But for good people to do evil, that takes religion."

It is difficult to say for sure if all of the good deeds done in the name of religion over time are sufficient to make up for the atrocities done in the same name.

Regardless of opinion, we are at a stalemate. There will be no proof for either side.

The question that remains for me is on the origins of religion. The basis of all religions seems to be the same. A way of dealing with the unknown. As more becomes known the role of religion seems to be less of a natural decision to the average person and organized religion's failure to address modern issues makes it seem to me like sun worship.

My belief, and I know this may be offensive to some, is that religion is a stage in the evolution of humans and we are approaching a turning point. Many countries across the world are seeing a decrease in the levels of participation in organized religion.

Although I do not believe in a deity, I respect the right of others to believe and I have seen the strength that faith gives people.

I will be very interested in your comments. This tends to be an area that everyone has an opinion on.


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    • Druid Dude profile image

      Druid Dude 6 years ago from West Coast

      I liked it Cabral should write a hub...oh, that's right! He just did...on this one! LOL Still like it.

    • profile image

      Baileybear 7 years ago

      Yes, I wonder this myself. Even until recently, indigenous cultures had their myths, which were similar. I saw a website with a very interesting theory that the story of Jesus was really just the sun thru zodiac - ie just transferred from object to person

    • Antecessor profile image

      Antecessor 7 years ago from Australia

      Good hub, I personally see religion as the result of mans yearning exceeding his reach, thereby he invents a world where these things are more equal.

    • CabralAJ profile image

      CabralAJ 8 years ago

      ....continued from earlier post....The conflict between science and religion is not the mastery of man over nature but rather when man deems his work of labor to be the standard by which he himself knows what is progress because that is when he holds his own downfall. That essentially is the warning God gave Adam and that is applicable to man today regardless whether his labors are for religion, politics, science, etc. It is Christianity which compels us to step outside of ourselves while evolution in contrast presents a organizing principle ruled by self-preserving attributes. Christianity compels us to step beyond what an evolutionist would describe is our evolutionary "selfish" instinct to survive. You grasp at an idealized world when you invoked a "next stage" but evolution is not the proper mechanism because at its most fundamental operation is the primal instinct for man to preserve himself which always put himself at odds with the "greater good" if it is at the expense of his sacrifice. It is ironic that while you explain the turning point in evolution is when man frees himself from the need for religion, it is the message and example of Christ that compels us to a greater good; but Christ's example requires us becoming the "fools". Now wouldn't that truly be a "turning point" if each one of us freely accepted Christ's message to love one another regardless the cross, or to use your word, regardless how "unreasonable' we may appear?

    • CabralAJ profile image

      CabralAJ 8 years ago

      There are many topics and themes you present in your essay that need to be addressed and in particular I point out the following:

      mentioning Christianity in the same context as nature based religions

      irrelevance of religion when faced with the power of scientific explanation

      atrocities in the name of religion outweigh the good religion may have contributed

      religion is a stage in evolution and we are reaching a turning point

      You compile these topics and themes as a way to elucidate the nature of religion, to add several pieces of information to perhaps paint a broader picture of the absurdity of religion or paint Christianity as really no different from other failed religions that may have been used to explain reality. However, each piece misses the mark on their own and as a result you have not captured the gestalt of what Christianity is to really offer a compelling critique. Each piece exhibits an under-developed catechism and elucidates more a person who had some knowledge, but then stopped learning, rather than a mature catechism, and unless motivated by faith probably not a subject of much academic interest to pursue yet will expound upon. I hope I can offer some guidance and corrections to hopefully lead you into further inquiry before summarily dismissing Christianity out of ignorance in the truest sense of the word, ignorant- lacking knowledge - and not as an insult.

      I agree with you in the "Common Origins" section of your essay that yes, you would seem just as unreasonable to believe in Jesus as worshiping the sun. Yes, it is foolish to believe in Jesus just as it is foolish to worship the sun. That I would agree, but that is where the similarity of Jesus and worshiping the sun would end. Your analogy is strained when grouping Christianity with nature-based religions. The person of Jesus is not linked to worship of celestial objects. In your essay you hint that religion can not stand up against the facts of nature as revealed by science and therefore the absurdity of religion necessitates is eventual "turning point" to irrelevancy in man's evolution, but this incorrectly presupposes that Christianity seeks a natural theology to maintain its validity. The Judeo-Christian tradition is not rooted in a "mechanics" but always in human relationship to God. For example, in Genesis God hands over the care of nature to man for man's use, not worship. The centrality of Genesis is not creation of nature per se nor even about man; Genesis does not culminate in the creation of man on the sixth day. Creation culminates on the seventh day. God created man on the sixth day along with the other beasts, but it is on the seventh day that God distinguishes man from nature and solidifies our relationship as a day when man contemplates God, the meaning of existence as it relates back to God. Our labors come into significance when we "rest" i.e., contemplate why we work; why there is existence. Nature is meaningless; man is meaningless without our relationship to God. Again, the "mechanics" of creation as described in Genesis is a buildup to revelation.

      As I mentioned, the person of Jesus is not linked to a worship of nature, but the person of Jesus is intrinsically linked to same creation story where nature and man is created in Genesis. Genesis goes on to explain what happened to our relationship to God and here is the centrality of Genesis: the promise God made to restore our relationship. In the garden, man's hubris severed the relationship by eating from the tree of knowledge, tricked into thinking he too could be like God. The temptation of the false promise to be "like God", knowing what is good and evil independently of God as the devil explained it, was too desirable, and this is ultimately our downfall. This drama in Genesis plays out over and over again in the bible and more importantly everyday, right now, in this age, with each one of us. When man thinks he can ascertain knowledge divorced from God, that is when we hold our own demise. God warned us as a parent would warn their child, but man's desires, his relationship to himself superseded the relationship with God. In the garden, Adam fails to stand up to the devil, fails to put himself last when tempted but instead put his desires first which is contrary to being in communion with God in love. However the story comes full circle in another garden, the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus, the "second Adam", says yes to God and places himself last to the point of death. Jesus appeared to be the "fool" as he was mocked, laughed at on the cross in his yes to God. We too are asked to put ourselves last, to be the fool and trust in God's plan. Appearing "unreasonable" to use your word is the lesson of humility that Christianity teaches. The cross and the Eucharist in the Catholic mass that reenacts the sacrifice at the cross is the "big-bang" of the Catholic faith: in this act is the origin of the universe's mystery - the unending love of God to be in a relationship with man AS WELL AS man's final destiny- complete communion with God once again. All of history is rolling towards, being "pulled" towards this event which in Aristotle's terms would be the "telos", the final cause.

      In contrast, evolution as described by adaptation by natural selection, proposes an accumulative process, a successive string of random events (i.e., mutations), where the organizing principle is rooted in the survival of the mutation most fit. That is, at the heart of evolution is the "selfish" survival of the unit most capable of harnessing resources thereby guaranteeing its own survival and consequently enabling its proliferation. However, there is no purpose, no end point, no "telos" but a random walk, meandering but successively building. What is striking is your almost oxymoronic statement of a "turning point" to a next stage in evolution. Your assertion that religion is a stage in evolution and from which we will reach a turning point presupposes a future known point as if evolution is being "pulled" to some cumulative point which is antithetical to the principles of evolution you are invoking. It is as if you have 1) not yet wrapped your mind around the idea of randomness that evolution presupposes, i.e., it does not accommodate a "next stage" and/or 2) you have not "evolved" to your own standard since you exhibit a vestigial tendency to project some sort of illusory "higher" plan in evolution. One can recognize a novice to evolution theory when they appeal to emotional arguments that usually start out as, "Eventually man will evolve and develop..." and then they add their own idealized trait. You dismiss Christianity but yet you still appeal to the very tenet of Christianity that this world is purposeful, on track - not random.

      Which brings me to another specious comment you offer as yet another reason the usefulness of religion is overrated namely: the atrocities committed in name of religion outweigh the good religion may have offered humanity. This is an unscientific statement not in character with someone hoping to offer science as the model to achieve understanding of reality. Do you really want to enumerate the atrocities versus good? Do you really want to tally the atrocities committed under the secular regimes of Mao and Stalin as counter examples? What are the standards of measurement and what are you going to do with the tally? Are you suggesting that if we find that the number of good is +1 more than the tally of atrocities, are we to conclude that religion is good and thus we can forget all about the atrocities? Your statement is a self-serving, meaningless argument and more importantly, an example of an under-developed understanding of Christianity. It is Christianity that explains that man, although not evil, is the conduit for evil irrespective of any system he creates be it religion or science WHEN he does not contemplate his relationship to the source of his meaning - i.e., to love. Science is not a de facto panacea to the world's atrocities; science is not immune to man's desires. The conflict between science and religion is not the mastery of man ove