View Full Version : What was the first religion?
12-17-2000, 10:58 PM
A question for all you anthropologists out there. From what we know about how the first humans lived, what do we know about their religion? I've gotten some bits and pieces from school and books, but nothing substantial. I think that it would be interesting to know what people were believing long before most of the modern religions were concieved.
12-18-2000, 12:37 AM
As far as pre-history, we know nothing of non-physical aspects of past lifeways. Unfortunately, there is no material to preserve. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not being a good scientist (good scientist, have a biscuit).
That's a bit harsh; there is actually a tradition in Archeology called cultural reconstruction, which does make claims as to the religion (and other non-physical aspects of culture). It is based on analogies with present people, however, in my view it has little merit. It assumes culture does not change over time (or does so in a deterministic fashion), which simply does not hold a lot of water for me. There is simply no way to test many of the assertions of culture reconstructionists.
In short: my answer is d) none of the above :).
12-18-2000, 12:44 AM
I think the short answer is, we know very little. There are some artifacts that suggest religion, such as the "Venus figurines" and various cave paintings, but archaeologists tend to interpret them in terms of modern animist religious practices. There are some who claim worship was more goddess-oriented back then because a lot of female images have been found, but that's conjecture.
There was some discussion of this topic in this thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=50506).
12-18-2000, 01:39 AM
Neanderthals buried their dead with flowers and tools. That tends to suggest some sort of belief in an afterlife. Religion may well predate modern humans.
12-18-2000, 04:45 AM
There was a big long thread on this very topic only a week or two ago! Might be a good idea to check before starting a new thread.
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