Evolution of Religion & Religious Conflicts


The following article on the ‘Evolution of Religion and Religious Conflicts’ is very much relevant in context of religious conflicts prevailing the Religion and Politics section these days and therefore, I'm sharing it. Once one reads it thoroughly and fathom, one would infer that it’s absolutely unnecessary to argue over such conflicts.

Evolution of Religion and Religious Conflicts

During formative days of human civilization, humans felt very insecure and helpless in front of natural calamities and search for food. They gradually tried to adjust, understand and sometimes overcome such problems. The main strategy to do that was to organize people and act as a group. That gave rise to group activities like hunting, cultivation etc. It increased their chances of success and survival. During this process humans gradually understood their own limitations. So they conceived the existence of supernatural powers, which they thought are behind all those forces. They also started believing that such supernatural forces strike when they (these supernatural forces) are not happy. They tried to keep them (supernatural forces) happy. They developed a set of rituals “worship”, as the mean to keep these “Gods” or “Spirits” happy. Each group of people tried to conceive supernatural powers according to their own experience. If they liked particular meat or drink, they used to offer those to their “Gods”. “Gods” also started looking like them, physically. So the same “God” is not exactly the same in southern India as compared to that of northern India. As most of the natural calamities used to be the same e.g. rain, flood, storm-wind, draught-sun, wild beasts etc., many such supernatural powers had high similarities (though not identical) world over. Gradually all such activities and concepts gave rise to religion.

Primitively, religion was evolved mainly to make societies more organized and to involve everybody to participate in different activities or "rituals", for betterment of the society. “Religion” made implementing the rules much easier. This gave rise to the concept of virtue and vice. Breaking rules was equated to sin or vice while obeying them was termed as virtue. During early phase of human evolution and the initial days of “religion”, all were busy to ensure their own survival. So they all were interested to search the reason, in other words, the truth (mainly behind natural calamities, food supply and reproduction). Later life became a bit easier due to many innovations and inventions. Then the main evolution of religion started (as we see it today).

Ancient religions are more inclined to have idol worshipping and have many Gods/Goddesses to take care of natural causes like wind, rain, flood, life threatening animals, birth, death etc. Example of such religions are Hinduism, religions from ancient Egypt, Greece etc. Many tribes in India and abroad practice such type of “religion” with many Gods. On the other side, more recent religions like Islam, Christianity and Sikhism etc. are more like an "ideology". Almost all of such recent religions conceive a single "God" and the person who introduced that “ideology” became a “prophet” as compared to many "Gods" in ancient religions. Evolution of such recent religions was possible as life became easier. Creation and spread of such recent religions also affected ancient religions. Leaders of those who were practicing “ancient” religions tried to invent some new “rituals” (which were not originally there) to strengthen their own grip over wealth and power. “Satidaha” (burning of brides), no beef eating, many marriages by men but not by women etc. by Hindus are some of this type of “rituals”. As people and their leaders from different religions came in contact of each other, competition to prove ones’ supremacy became more intense.

To maintain the social order and their own supremacy, group-leaders did not encourage the asking question. They started implementing their own version of “truth” in the name of religion. It became the norm. Gradually every religion started demanding un-questionable faith. “Search for truth” soon became the fight to establish one’s own version of “truth”. Now we see the fight among human beings to prove that their version of “truth” is more “true” than that of others! This deformed version of “religion” allegedly is the single most important reason behind human sufferings, conflicts and deaths in the past and remains so even today.

Thank you, if you've come this far while reading each and every line from the beginning. And a piece of advice:- One should focus on finding out why are things the way they are; than fighting, proving and protecting one's ground on what's wrong and what's right, as right and wrong are quite relative terms (not absolute terms).