- Religion and Philosophy»
- The Role of Religion in History & Society
Religion: Where Are We Now?
The first one of a two part article on Religion and how it has changed since the early times.
As curious as cats are, Humans are certainly ahead in that race. Our ever growing curiosity of nature and its functions has long since been studied, recorded and theorized upon. This curiosity, sometimes shrouded as need, has brought about some wondrous ideas and inventions alike. Need is the mother of invention. Perhaps curiosity is related to awareness.
The earliest humans attributed all things on the planet with a soul. Their understanding was that a supernatural power animates and governs over the nature of all matter, animate or otherwise. Earth itself was considered alive and fertile. While the subsequent early civilizations looked to the heavens and wondered why the rain ceases to fall; it were to become customary to pacify the unknown. The unpredictability of nature was demanding. Fewer sacrifices were thought to be the reason for calamities. Prisoners were sent to their deaths to influence natural events. Wars were constantly raging, essentially to procure more sacrifices. Unfortunately enough, there was not just one God. As requirements go, the God of Hunt and the God of Fertility were not going to share sacrifices amongst them. As were the case with the early superstitious civilizations with their ever growing aspirations. Time was considered cyclic, and the concept of history and progress were absent. No doubt peace was not the standard.
The unpredictable journey of humans to make sense of his surroundings, to sate its curious mind named the extraordinary and ineffable, a supernatural occurring. All of us in the 21st century know why the rains fall and do not necessarily go off to murder our neighbor on said event. Our curiosity has let us become aware of a lot that transpires around us. Diseases have been quelled, life expectancy has dramatically increased from back in the Dark Ages of mankind. Today God has new names. Depending on where you are from. There are still a lot of multi theistic religions around, but without the bloodshed. Being Indian I am quite aware of polytheism and the ideas of pantheism. The Sikhs believe that God is everywhere in the physical world. Buddhism is found over the concept of how enlightenment of mind and body can transcend oneself. Islam teaches us that there is but one God, Allah and that he is merciful, omnipotent and cannot be visualized; being so unique. It preaches the ideas of peace, charity and faith. Christianity preaches the ideas of compassion and justice, through the ordeals of Jesus Christ.
Often deities and ideologies mirror the society that worships them. The Egyptians for example, ardently worshiped Anubis, the God of Cemeteries and Embalming, which apparently describes their fascination with the idea of afterlife and mummification. Often higher elements of their society were buried with servants, food and jewels to make their life after death a much easier affair. The norms have certainly changed the past few thousand years. Sacrifices have plummeted significantly, wars have not been fought in the name of religion in a long time. Peace though not absolute, has flourished over most parts of the world. How did it come to be? Were our curious minds taken over by the distractions of the material age? Or have we all really understood what it means to prosper as a race, to put our differences aside and realize the potential that lies within a peaceful community.
Neil deGrasse Tyson addressing the elephant in the room.
© 2017 Awijit Kotlia