Periods in Religious History • I. Hunter-Gatherer Religious Practices tended to revolve around…… * life & death * the human-animal relationship, * spirits * ancestors * shamans
II. Agricultural religious practices • Sky Gods, Rain Gods, Mother earth • Fertility • Seeds to plant = Life from death = rebirth Time: calendar festivals Sacrifice
III. Ancient Empires(around rivers of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China) • Civilizations: sedentary and specialized. • Religious specialists: priests • Increasing formal connections between religion, leadership and governance. • Towns grow trade • Tribes unite • Conquest exposure to other gods and religious practices Growth of a rich and diverse ancient polytheism
IV .The Birth of Written Language Former oral traditions become… • Written history • Written scriptures Greater exposure to other traditions and becomes possible.
Karl Jaspers calls the 8th – 2nd century BC The Axial Age Zoroaster Confucius This period sees big new ideas in religion appear independently in different civilizations in many parts of the world. Jaspers suggests man’s consciousness reached a new level of moral awareness. Upanishads Buddha Socrates/Plato/Aristotle Hebrew Prophets
4 Ways Ancient Religion Responds to the Meaning of History(pp.16-18) • Epic • Ritual • Founders • Wisdom A mythic epic retells the history of a people as a great story with religious significance. Ex: Torah, Kojiki, Aenid, Iliad, Revelation. First oral, later written. A calendar of recurring ritual /holidays to remember or reenact sacred realities. Institutions preserve these rituals Ex: shrines, temples, priests, courts, royal families. One great person breaks into history with a new revelation that changes and shapes the course of history. Ex: Abraham, Moses , Jesus, the Buddha, Mohamed, Confucius. The tradition writes down its sacred truths as wisdom literature (scriptures, Vedas, sutras, Greek philosophy) or embodies them in a mystic person. (shaman, prophet, guru, saint, bodhisattva)
V. Medieval Period: Europe & Asia Devotions: deep emotional, romantic connections with…… • ….images: icons & statues Mary, crucifixes, Krishna, Ganesha, Amida Buddha. • …mystical experiences: Sufi Islam. Led to an explosion of artistic religious expressions. Reactions against it: a. iconoclasm b. sola scriptura
VI: Modernism • Science and technology: changed worldviews and gave a new definition/methodology for finding finding what is true. • Progress and positivism: a belief that change always inevitably involves creating a better society. • Religion goes from being the central reality connecting both the inner and outer world to becoming… • …..detachable: religion as an inner reality, while the external world (society) can be defined apart from religion • …..disposable/optional: people began to imagine (and then create) totally secular compartments within their lives, within societies (politics, education, art) and attempts are made to create totally secular societies (20th century: USSR, China). Religious conservatives tend to see modernism as a threat to be resisted or overcome. Religious liberals tend to adjust religious ideas and practices to accommodate modernism. An assumption of modernism: religion would gradually disappear as science explained more things and technology solved more of our problems.
VII: Post-Modernism Doubting the naïve assumptions of modernism. Maybe newer isn’t always better. Maybe more technology isn’t really always progress. Maybe science can’t figure out everything. Religion doesn’t really seem to be going away, though it does change. (So whether you believe in it or not, you need to understand it if you are to understand the modern world) Science deals with what can be measured and determined through controlled experiment Religion deals with a spiritual realm that can’t be measured (deeper within / farther beyond). Aristotle divides knowledge into 2 types: physics Metaphysics