Thursday, January 29, 2009

Early Religions

The most recent discussion in class revolved around the earliest man (living in roughly 7500-5000 BCE) and the initial creation of religion. The ruins at Catal Huyuk demonstrate that even the earliest human had within him a belief in religion. For most of this time, that religion was polytheistic.

The major question that you should consider for this discussion is really "why do people turn to religion?" The answer to that question has certainly evolved throughout history. In class today, we discussed why the people in places like Catal Huyuk might have turned to religion-a big reason for their beliefs stemmed from what they needed to be explained to them. There was a lot that they simply didn't understand, from the reason for day and night to the rain (or lack thereof). Polytheism created many gods, each of whom could be responsible for something the ancient people did not necessarily understand. Polytheism made a lot of sense in ancient times, because religion was thought of in terms of a "transaction." If you needed something, you prayed for it and hopefully the god of that thing gave you what you wanted. It was a little like a cosmic slot machine-put in a quarter and hopefully it pays out.

This, of course, is very different from why people today belief in religion. As we know, polytheism has given way to monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam to name a few). And monotheism conceives of religion in a very different way. Its rarely seen in terms of transactions; its more like a way of life. As I mentioned in class, monotheists are much more likely to consider their religion to be a defining characteristic of who they are. As such, religion today takes on a very different meaning for people throughout the world than it did 7000 years ago.

So, the question for today's comment section is this: what do you think is the role of religion in the world today, and if we've answered so many of the questions that created religion in the first place, why is it still around (and incredibly important to people and a powerful force) at all?

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