Developing A Universal Religion/Introduction to Part Two

Humanity - our species Homo Sapiens Sapiens - emerged about 3 million years ago. What distinguishes us from other species is our unique survival strategy (wisdom). Whilst all animals have brains with some memory and anticipation (emotions), we have imagination. We can project several imaginary futures based on our existing experience, and communicate and compare these ideas rationally. Truly "In the beginning was the word...."

Many millennia ago, humans faced many hazards, and conquered them with the knowledge they then possessed. Questions about the nature of threats in the natural world, of course, about what might happen after death were crucial, for human minds then (just as they do for us today) would have appeared to have an existence of their own, somehow separate and distinct from the body they inhabit.

Wise leaders solved such abstract problems, and from the practices they suggested, improved the probability of survival for their followers. Successful habits became enforced, and so people built religious institutions to develop and exploit the social benefits of civilisation over open warfare.

Vital to that persuasion and pacification is the threat of lethal force, and so warriors then as soldiers now, have to believe that the good of their society depends on killing other people, and themselves risking death, for which heroism they will be rewarded - if not in this world, then in the next.

As communal living tends to unify concepts and actions, enlarging clans and evolving tribes would have had to unify their beliefs about the unknown, if only to reduce internal conflict and standardize rituals and behavioural norms. Tribal trading and assimilations would periodically introduce new ideas, and undoubtedly these would have disturbed the status quo and created debate about the validity of existing practices, thoughts and even beliefs.

Now and again different kinds of leaders would appear and systematize practices. Military leaders would unify people and property. Philosophical leaders would unify facts and theories. Religious leaders would unify beliefs and dogmas. Successful leaders would attract followers, and these would help to consolidate and strengthen fiefdoms, as well as understandings and theologies, for such is the way societies are built.

This part of the book examines the critical role that leaders play in originating and developing religions. It explains the source of the inspirations that illuminate and empower leaders’ activities. Details about some of the world’s major religions are then provided; these serve to illustrate our religions’ diversity and to highlight some of the many benefits we derive from religions.