The origins of religion: how it appeared and why?

Throughout history, faith and religion have been an important part of society, keen to offer an explanation to the unknown. Today Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism are the five great religions, although there are many other religious professions.

And many more have appeared and disappeared over time. But different religions did not come out of nowhere, but at some point in history human beings began to have and structure such beliefs. In this article we will try to do a brief reflection on the possible origins of religious faith.

    What is religion?

    By religion we mean everything organized and structured set of beliefs, usually mystical and spiritual in nature which allow the human being to seek and develop an explanation of the world and of reality and which is expressed in rituals.

    Religion offers an explanation of the world and a framework for interpreting faith-based reality, often using many symbolisms to try to make its precepts understandable. They usually include, in addition to this, a number of rules or precepts that govern conduct and facilitate the creation and maintenance of a community.

    They are usually related or use supernatural elements and inexplicable facts from empirical knowledge of the moment. It is also common for them to try to explain complex phenomena, such as the reason for our existence and our appearance in the world, and one of the themes common to almost everyone is the preoccupation with what is happening in the world. moment and after death. In general, faith sustains itself, Be resistant to modifications and falsifications.

    Some religions also have the notion of the existence of deities, whether they are one (monotheistic religion) or multiple (polytheistic religion), although not all religions consider the existence of a superior being capable of ruling us or with the ability to influence our luck or fate.

    Religion throughout evolution

    It is difficult to determine when in human evolution religious beliefs began to emerge, and it is not possible at this time to determine when the first organized religions appeared from the beginning. it goes back to prehistoric times (There are no written documents in this regard).

    What we can determine is that there are strong indications that clearly show that religion predates Homo Sapiens, being the first religious-type beliefs before the expansion of our species.

    Specifically, we know that our Neanderthals were already performing ritual burialsSomething that shows the existence of a sense of death and a worry about what happens next. In the rest of the colonies of certain tribes or clans, a certain type of cult seems to be observed in certain animals, such as bears.

      Evolution of the psyche

      Another aspect to underline is the taking into account which makes possible the emergence of religious thought. In this sense, it is necessary to have a series of basic mental capacities: it is the necessary capacity for abstraction, the existence of a theory of mind (which allows the subject to realize that others have their own perspective and goals and wills separate from their own), the detection of causative agents and the ability to make complex associations.

      Faith is considered to have arisen either as a beneficial adaptation that has been by natural selection (as it enables group creation and cohesion, facilitating survival and reproduction) or as a by-product of the emergence of skills. cognitive.

      The first type of religious beliefs

      Another aspect to be valued is the fact that religions often include different types of beliefs, some types of beliefs surely arise before others.

      In this way different hunter-gatherer societies were analyzed and the different types of beliefs they possess, being an example of that made in 2016 by Peoples, Doubt and Marlowe in which animism, belief in gods, belief in the afterlife, ancestor worship and shamanism were valued.

      The results of the study show that animism, the belief in the existence of a life force or a soul in all animals, plants or even geological accidents and natural phenomena, possessing in them a will clean, it is the most widespread and oldest type of religious belief. This type of belief serves as the basis for the further development of belief in the supernatural or mystical.

      Right after, there is the belief in the hereafter or the afterlife, which is considered to be one of the most common and oldest aspects of religions. This is why the concept of soul or something that exists beyond death is necessary, precisely because it is necessary that animism has existed before.

      After that, the idea of ​​someone expert can be developed to generate rules that allow access or contact with the hereafter. From there would be born the shaman, and later the clerical institution. He would become an expert in the communication and management of the religious fact. Belief in ancestor worship can also arise.

      Finally, belief in gods is something that can be derived from belief in higher beings who can look at us and affect our lives, but which seems to come from a reflection of the way a society is organized, a tribe.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Peoples, HC, Duda, P. and Marlowe, FW (2016). Hunther-Gatherers and the Origins of Religion. Buzzing. Nat., 27 (3): 261-282.
      • Atran, S. and Norenzayan, A. (2003). The evolving landscape of religion: counterintuition, commitment, compassion, communion. Behavioral and brain sciences.

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