Creation Factsheet No. 18: The Origin of Religion
Factsheet No. 18
THE ORIGIN OF RELIGION
IT is difficult to find, anywhere on earth, people from any tribe or nation who do not practise some kind of religion. Humans are religious by nature, whether they worship many gods, man-made idols, or the one True God. Deep within human beings there seems to be a hunger for something outside themselves, and beyond this physical world. How did religion originate? Not surprisingly, evolutionists believe that man's spiritual awareness has gradually developed, just as they believe in physical evolution.
The evolutionary scenario of the development of religion goes something like this: early in man's evolution his growing self-awareness resulted in belief in magic. Next came belief in spirits and also the spirits of the departed, this latter developing into what is known as animism. Then, so the theory goes, these spirits began to be identified with imaginary personalities, who became gods. Eventually this belief in many gods polytheism is said to have evolved into belief in one supreme god, known as monotheism.
It is important to recognize that the evolutionary view of the origin of religion is only based upon the assumption that since everything else evolved, so religion must have evolved too. The author of one book on world religions states, '... questions about the origin of religion are guesswork.'1 There is little factual evidence from which to piece together the history of religion. There is evidence of the worship of many gods and idols, but no evidence that this evolved from more primitive forms. The Neandertals, whose remains have been found in caves, buried their dead in a similar manner to ourselves. They also placed flowers on the grave, and apparently believed in an after-life. Evolutionists claim that this shows that by the time the Neandertals appeared, an advanced religion had already developed. They cannot, though, demonstrate what that religion evolved from; they can only guess. All that the facts tell us is that the Neandertals had an 'advanced' religion.
MEMORY OF A 'HIGH GOD'
Anthropologists sometimes claim that the tribal religions and magic of so-called 'primitive' tribes represent an earlier stage of religious development than our own and give us clues to the evolution of religion. This assumption has no basis in fact. 'Research suggests that virtually all so-called primitive, tribes have a memory of a 'High God' who is fatherly and good. There is also growing evidence to show that the sacrifices of witchdoctors for magical purposes are a degeneration from higher forms rather than a remnant of primitive religion.'2
The alternative view of the origin of religion is found in the Bible, and is consistent with such evidences as that quoted above. In the beginning, true religion the worship of One Creator-God was revealed to man by God Himself the God who made heaven, earth, the sea, and all that is in them.3
The first man, Adam, was created in the divine image, and with a personal relationship with his Creator. This is the highest form of religion. This man-God relationship was spoilt by sin and, gradually, there was a drift into the worship of false gods and idols. New religions and belief systems have sprung up, but they all represent a degeneration from the original revealed religion.
THE TRUE GOD
At the time of the flood, Noah alone of all mankind was found to be godly, and after the flood, as men spread over the face of the earth, religion again degenerated in all kinds of ways, as people made their own gods of wood, stone, or precious metals. However, ever since the beginning, the True God has had His witnesses. Abram was called to leave his family, who worshiped the moon god, Sin and re-establish the worship of the true God.
The Old Testament records how God continually sent prophets to call the people of Israel back to Himself, as they drifted into idolatry and paganism. Indeed, in the Bible God reveals His true nature as a God of love and holiness. Revealed religion reached its climax with the coming of Jesus Christ God made man and the Christian Church became the channel through which the worship of the One True God is maintained.
The logical conclusion of the evolutionary view is that there is no God! The late Sir Julian Huxley once declared in an interview, 'God is the creation of man.' Or as another writer put it, 'God is man's response to a legacy of evolutionary discontent.'4
The Christian view is that all people alive today have descended from a very godly man Noah and that 'primitive' and non-Christian religions represent digressions from the true religion which was revealed to man at creation. Today, the Creator God is calling all His lost children to return to Him through Jesus Christ, His Son, through Whom alone they can enjoy that unbroken relationship with Him that He originally intended when He created humans in His own image.
- Ninian Smart, The World's Religions, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 35.
- The Lion Handbook to the Bible, 1976, p. 29.
- Exodus 20:11.
- John Allegro, Lost Gods, Michal Joseph, 1977, p. 7.
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