How Did Religions Start

How Did Religions Start?
Where did all these religions come from? How did religions start? Generally, all religions can be traced to the ancient Near East and classified in three categories: polytheistic, pantheistic, or monotheistic. Atheism is really a modern belief that resulted from the "Enlightenment" of the 18th century.

How Did Religions Start? The Three Categories
Polytheism (a belief in many gods) is thought to have originated with Hinduism in about 2500 BC. Hindu beliefs were recorded in the Bhagavad Gita, which revealed that many gods were subject to a supreme Brahman god. Polytheism was also the religion of many other ancient cultures, including Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece and Rome. The ancient polytheistic belief systems viewed gods as being in control of all natural events such as rainfall, harvests and fertility. Generally, polytheistic cultures believed in sacrifices to appease their gods. For instance, the Canaanites sacrificed to the male god, Baal, and his female counterpart, Ashteroth. Baal controlled the rain and the harvest, while Ashteroth controlled fertility and reproduction. The Greeks and Romans developed polytheism to a highly structured pantheon of gods and goddesses.

Pantheism (a belief that all is God) prevailed in numerous ancient cultures. The belief that the universe itself was divine was typified in the Animism beliefs of the African cultures, the later Egyptian religion under the Pharoahs, and Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism in the cultures of the Far East. Pantheistic beliefs are finding resurgence among various New Age movements.

Monotheism (a belief in one God) is the foundation of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim line of religions, which began with a man named Abraham in about 2000 BC. From this point in history, God began revealing Himself to the world through the nation of Israel. The Jewish Scriptures record the journey of the Israelites from slaves in Egypt to the "promised land" in Canaan under the leadership of Moses. During a period of about 1500 years, God revealed what became the Old Testament of the Bible, relating the history of Israel with the character and laws of God. During the period of the Roman Empire, Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem as the long-awaited Messiah. The ministry of Jesus ended in about 32 AD with His crucifixion and resurrection. After Christ's ascension into heaven, the Christian church grew in His name and the New Testament was written. About 600 years later, Muhammad began preaching in Mecca. Muhammad believed he was the ultimate prophet of God, and his teachings became the precepts of Islam as recorded in the Qur'an.

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