It is a common thread through many of the world’s dominant religions that those who do not follow the same faith are barbarians.
Yet new research has now challenged the conventional idea that belief in a powerful and judgmental God is necessary to form large, complex civilisations.
Anthropologists have found that belief in supreme deities often emerged after complex societies had already formed.
The scientists studied the development of religion and cultures on Pacific islands that make up Austronesia.
FLOODS AND FAMINE MAY HAVE KICKSTARTED WORLD’S RELIGIONS
- They often form a central part of most biblical stories, but it appears that floods, famines and plagues may have also helped to start belief in some gods in the first place.
- Researchers at North Carolina State University found that belief in all-powerful and moralising gods tended to appear at times of hardship in human history.
- They claim that believing in such a supreme deity helps to ensure people within a society live by certain moral rules that are necessary when living in harsh environments or in times of hardship.
- The researchers studied the origins of 583 religious societies around the world.
- They compared these to climate, rainfall and plant growth data for each area to build up a historical picture of the conditions each society was living in.
- The findings may help to shed light on how religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam first emerged and why stories of hardship play such a central role.
Dr Joseph Watts, an expert in cultural evolution at the University of Auckland in new Zealand, said: ‘We found 22 instances of high political complexity through out historically and geographically distant regions of Austronesia.
“The results presented here cast doubt on the widely held view that moralizing high gods facilitate the emergence of political complexity.”
‘Although beliefs in moralising high gods do co-evolve with political complexity, believes follow rather than drive political complexity.’
Instead the researchers found that belief in systems of supernatural punishment – such as vengeful spirits – tended to precede the emergence of complex societies and civilisations on the islands.
These tended to be belief in anthropomorphic beings such as the spirits of dead ancestors.
The researchers found that 37 of the cultures sampled had beliefs of this type while just six believed in supreme deities.
Those that believed in a single all-powerful god tended to be clustered in southeast Asia including the Bontok and Tagbanwa cultures in the Philippines, the Batak Toba people of North Sumatra, the Manggarai tribes of Flores in Indonesia.
The names of their gods are Lumawig, Mangindusa, Mulajadi na Bolon and Mori Karaeng respectively.
The researchers then used trees of evolutionary connections between cultures, deduced from earlier studies of linguistic relationships, to explore how the societies were inter-related and exchanged ideas.
Islam is often seen as having been a civilising influence on Arab culture in the past and millions now make the pilgrimage to Mecca, shown above, every year. But the new research suggests that ancient religions like this that believe in an all powerful God may have emerged after complex cultures had already begun to grow.
Native Hawaiians evolved a politically complex society but without belief in a supreme deity. Instead the had a belief system that worked around the representations like wooden Ki’i statues, like those pictured above.
They were then able to model how the different religions influenced the development of the political structure and cultural complexity in each society.
Writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Dr Watts and his colleagues said: ‘For beliefs in systems of supernatural punishment, however, the beliefs seem to help political complexity to emerge, although by no means guarantee it.
‘We suggest that the concept of moralising high gods diffused as part of a suite of traits arising from cultural exchange between complex societies.’
However, Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading, told Nature that he believed the key to increasing political complexity was language not religion.
He said that societies became more complex as networks of trade and reputation emerged.
Instead he said that all powerful gods perhaps were useful as a tool to help those in power to cement their grip on a society.
He said: ‘As soon as you have a large society generating lots of goods and services, this wealth can be put to use by someone who can grab the reins of power.
‘The most immediate way to do this is to align yourself with a supreme deity and then make lists of things people can and cannot do, and these become ‘morals’ when applied to our social behaviour.‘
Source: Daily Mail
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Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils – 1 Timothy 4:1 (KJV).
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many (Matthew 24:11 (KJV)
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry – 2 Timothy 4:3-5 (KJV).
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction – 2 Peter 2:1 (KJV).
“Power and signs and lying wonders”…rejection of truth, and for this “God shall send them a strong delusion that they shall believe a lie” – 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11 (KJV). Satan, has already set the stage for deception – he teaches today the lie of the immortal soul. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: you will be like God, having ‘knowledge’ -Genesis 3:4 -5 (KJV).