Origin and Evolution of Religion

Origin and Evolution of Religion

Origin and Evolution of Religion

Origin and Evolution of Religion

Excerpt

Every religion is a product of human evolution and has been conditioned by social environment. Since man has developed from a state even lower than savagery and was once intellectually a mere animal, it is reasonable to attribute to him in that state no more religious consciousness than is possessed by an animal. What then, the historian must ask, are the factors and what the means whereby humanity has encased itself in this shell of religion, which almost everywhere has been raised as a protective growth about the social body?

The simplest answer to this question has been that man is not a mere animal but differs from the beast in having an immortal soul and a religious instinct. The argument is as follows: Assuming that there are no races which can be shown to be utterly devoid of religion, this element of human thought, because it is universal, we must consider as essential; hence, being essential, belief in a soul and in spiritual life is part of human nature; based on this natural conviction religion is the product of man's religious instinct.

But the historian may assume neither the universality of religion (for there are human groups which make this an assumption of doubtful validity) nor the existence of a soul, because even the "religious instinct" does not require this assumption. Therefore the instinct itself cannot be assumed. Nor is such an instinct probable. Children have no religious ideas or impressions. Personally, the investigator may or may not believe in God . . .

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