Old-time religion

Nothing past the Bronze Age (though even that is a big new-fangled). Which ones are still going strong? There are still quite a few Zoroastrians, but does the cult of Horus still celebrate the winter solstice? Do pilgrims frequent the Temple of Inanna? Is the Dreaming revered in Australia?

Which old-school religions are alive and well today?


Baptists claim John the Baptist. I’m not saying it’s so, that’s just what they teach at my church.YMMV.

He’s well past the bronze age, though.

Oh, ok. Schooled, again.

It’s my understanding that Judaism as we know it today is a product of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in AD 70.

Since the Jews haven’t had a religion based on temple sacrifice since then, isn’t it accurate to say that it’s somewhat of a different religion from the religion of the OT Hebrews, even though they worship the same deity?

If today’s Jews can claim the OT religion as their own, then couldn’t Christians and Muslims too, since it’s the same deity?

Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Not really. To say that would be like saying that Catholics stopped being Catholic because it was outlawed to eat and drink in Churches, and they couldn’t take the Communion. Yes, technically, it would change their religious practices, but it wouldn’t remove the compulsion to do so, nor would it change any other doctrine.

Obviously, it depends on how you want to view it, but I think most people would agree that the religion is the same, it’s just that reality has changed around it.

Judaism underwent numerous changes over time, going from polytheistic, to monolatrist (only have one god but did not deny the existence of other gods) to monotheistic, to the destruction of the Temple (twice), with heavy modifications due to the Babylonian Captivity, the return, and any time something bad happened to Jerusalem. (This isn’t including related religions, such as that of the Samaritans, which is basically an early offshoot.)

Some Jews tried to restore the high priesthood in the 600s, during a brief period when they controlled Jerusalem. Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sasanian_conquest_of_Jerusalem

As a result of the destruction of the First Temple, Judaism ended up with competing clergy, the priests (based in the Temple) and the rabbi (based in synagogues outside the Temple). With the rebuilding of the Second Temple, the rabbi took a subordinate position to the priests. With the destruction of the Second Temple, the rabbi became the only clergy. (Of course, I heard there was another class or two of clergy out there, but I’m not a religious scholar. My interest comes from reading about history.)

Whats interesting and sad is that the world probably once had endless thousands of religions. Now it basically has 2. Abrahamic faiths (Christianity and Islam) and Indian religions (hinduism and buddhism). Combined they have almost 6 billion adherents in a world that is almost 8 billion (many of those remaining 2 billion are secularists).

Looking into it, there are 400 million practitioners of ‘folk religion’ out there.

Define “old school” and “alive and well”. There are probably tens of thousands of religious groups in the world that we don’t hear about because they keep to themselves. And they may or may not adhere to the original tenets of the first believers.

I kept things deliberately fuzzy, other than defining “old-school” as that which identifiably originates before the Bronze Age collapse. The examples of Judaism and Hinduism show there is room for interpretation as all religion keeps evolving. As for alive and well, even if moribund it might be interesting to hear about, as long as the group has an ancient history and is still practicing. Now, I’m positive that if you look you will definitely find a group that claims to worship Zeus and Poseidon, say, or Cthulhu, so in each case knowledge and judgement is required as to whether they maintain the tenets of or continuity with the original believers.

Ooh, ooh, I nominate the Sentinelese islanders.

They’re named because they practice adult baptism, no? He’s not especially important, certainly less so than Jesus. If you’re looking for a religion where JtB is actually important, look at Mandeanism (2 AD so not ancient, about 60,000 people now),

There are some religions like Norse and Baltic paganism, as well as Wicca, who claim to revive ancient practices. But they’re almost wholly new religions.

San/Bushman groups like the ǃKung still practice their traditional religion, including trance dancing and shamanistic hunting rituals.

Yes it is.
Though as a white fella I’m not the person to make the case any more definitively.

Hinduism has barely been mentioned, but definitely precedes the Iron Age and is presumably older than Zoroastrianism.

The Qemant people of Ethiopia — not to be confused with the Beta Israel (‘Falasha’) — have a traditional religion described as “Pagan-Hebraic,” whose similarities and differences with Judaism seem to attest to a very ancient common origin. (But the Qemant religion is now on the verge of extinction.)

Places like rural Thailand have “animist” beliefs independent of Buddhism — I don’t know if these can fairly be described as inherited from prehistorical religion.

I doubt if there are any written records of Bronze Age religions, so by definition there could only be oral tradition, and who knows how many variations and mistransmissions might have crept in over the millennia? Who knows how many metaphorical hammer-heads and handles will have changed along the way, so who can tell how close what survives is to beliefs and practices from so long ago?


No, because the lack of sacrificial service is a matter of circumstance, not a change in law. Jews (Orthodox ones, at least, those more knowledgeable in the liturgy of the other streams can chime in if it’s true in those) still pray every day for the restoration of the Temple and, consequently, of sacrificial service. Jewish laws of sacrifices, temple services and ritual purity, while of little practical application today (though with the Temple Mount under Israel’s control, who knows for sure), are studied and debated in Talmud and in Maimonides’s legal works. (Most later legal works focus exclusively on what laws are applicable to daily life in the more immediate term.) The lack of sacrificial service in the absence of the Temple was built in to the religious codes since earlier times, the fact that this is the law that applies to the current circumstance does not make it a different religion.

It may be the same deity (though some might debate Christianity being so), but Christianity and Islam do not consider the OT to be the authoritative scripture of their religions. Christianity believes that the New Testament overrides the Old (where applicable) and Islam believes the Quran is the only proper truth, and any revelations to prophets other than Muhammad were incomplete or otherwise flawed. If the scriptural basis is different, then they are not the same religion.

Using the terms OT and AD (or BC) when discussing Judaism is a little tone deaf. Not a huge deal, but it always jumps out at me as someone discussing Judaism through a different lens.

When OP wrote “Nothing past the Bronze Age” he may have intended to denote a general time-frame, rather than to focus on the smelting of iron specifically. Thus the following may be an off-topic hijack, but I don’t want to be accused of sowing disinformation.

AFAIK the exact dates of the Rigveda Samhita are controversial, but in about 1380 BC a treaty between Suppiluliuma, King of Hittites, and Shattiwaza, King of Mittani, invokes “the Mitra-gods, the Varuna-gods, Indra, the Nasatya-gods” — all gods of the ancient Vedic Hindu religion. For over a century after 1380 BC, iron daggers remained rare objects of very high prestige in the Middle East, so my “definitely precedes the Iron Age” seemed fair.

However, I double-checked and see a recent (pdf) paper that concludes “iron using and iron working was prevalent in the Central Ganga Plain and the Eastern Vindhyas from the early second millennium BC.” :eek:

Perhaps we need to reconsider the time and place of the earliest Iron Age.