The question of where is a three fold question: where did the religions come from historically, where did they come from geographically, and where did they come from philosophically.
We answer these questions on our religion comparison chart which gives you an “at-a-glance” look at the major religions in the world today and “where” they came from in the threefold sense.
The most ancient records of religion or religious belief were not “recorded” at all but merely passed down via oral tradition from one generation to another. Such is the case with Animism, Judaism, Hinduism, and many of the ancient Chinese religions. When these religions began to record their beliefs, rituals, and practices, we find the oldest recorded religion to be Animism, but the oldest oral tradition to be Judaism, which, like many of the other major world religions, traces its roots back to monotheism or one single God or Deity-creator.
From the flow chart below we can see that there are primarily four main groups
or “families” of religious systematic belief:
____Monotheism – from which all religious and non-religious belief migrated
____Animism – The deification of created beings both animate and inanimate
____Polytheism – The belief that there are many gods and goddesses
____Atheism – The absence of belief in any deity of any kind.
History and Geography of World Religions
A. Timelines: Humanistic v. Christian
1. Atheism puts the founding of primitive religion at the Paleolithic period
(2mil –8K B.C.)
2. Christians put Monotheism as the foundation of all religions but as man
grew more corrupt he began to worship the crawling, flying, created things
instead of the Creator Himself
3. Historical timeline – combination of Atheist and Christian worldviews.
(see appendix 2)
B. The family tree flowchart of Religion
1. All religions flow from a monotheistic faith, the earliest account of belief
2. Monotheism gives rise to atheistic, animistic, and polytheistic world views,
from which everything else flows.
3. Atheism birthed Taoism, Confucianism, and combined with Hinduism
to produce Buddhism. Finally, the atheistic thought and
secular humanism of today have really been around since the ancient days and
can find many of the ideas of the humanist manifesto among the writings of the
ancient Chinese writings of Confucius and Lao Tzu.
4. Animism birthed Shintoism in the far east, paganism of the “barbaric” tribes
of Europe, Africa, Asia, the South Pacific Islands and then to North and South
America. Animism combined with Polytheism to produce the Pantheism of the
Caucaus mountain region. The most famous “son” of this pantheistic people
is Hinduism which is primarily practiced in India. Many religions sprang up
from Hinduism: Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism (joined with Islam) and todays
Baha’i faith all can trace their roots directly or indirectly back to Hinduism.
5. Polytheism produced the Greek and Roman Mythology and the Egyptian and Near
Middle East worship of multiple gods and goddesses. Even the Pharaoh was
considered a “god” c.f. Caesars of the Roman mythology. Polytheism is mostly a
dead belief system except in a very small religion in the Middle East known as
Zoroastrianism (supposedly still practiced secretly in Iran to this day).
6. Monotheism was not popular when the man from Ur named Abraham first appeared.
However, his family and followers became known as Hebrews who worshipped only
one God. This could be called a “restoration” of monotheism if one were to ascribe to
the Biblical account of the history of theology (the study of man’s relationship to God)
A couple millenia would pass and the Hebrews would become known
as Israelites, those of the nation “Israel”, which was a name given to Jacob, the
father of the twelve tribal heads that comprised the Mediterranean nation.
This nation then was split by civil war, dividing a Northern kingdom, Israel,
against the southern kingdom, Judah. The nation was eventually overrun by
conquering empires and the ancient belief of Abraham, Moses, and King David was
carried on by the Southern Kingdom comprised of the 3 tribes: Levites, Benjamites,
and the Judeans.
This group became known as the ‘Jews’ and today is known as Judaism. Judaism
then gave birth to Christianity and several centuries later, a man named
Mohammed combined the two belief systems along with the tribal beliefs of his god
“Allah” and created Islam. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are, for the most part,
monotheistic faiths (Islam is still debated as to whether or not it is truly a
monotheistic world religion in the truest sense of the word.
What do all the religions believe?
Take a look at our religion comparison chart which will tell you what each of the major world religions believe today regarding
the topics of:
1. Johnstone, Patrick Operation World 2001
2. http://www.adherents.com: created circa January 2000. Last modified 28 August 2005.
3. Mcdowell, Josh & Don Stewart Handbook of Today’s Religions 1983
4. Geisler, Norman Christian Apologetics 1983
5. Lehmann, Arthur C. and James E. Myers, Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion: An Anthropological Study 1993
6. Tylor, Edward Burnett Primitive Culture 1871
7. Hefner, Alan G. & Virgilio Guimaraes Article: Animism http://www.themystica.com
8. Bird-David, Nurit. Animism Revisited: Personhood, environment, and relational epistemology” 1991
9. Hallowell, A. Irving Culture in History 1960
10. Frazer, James G. The Golden Bough 1922
11. Maharaj, Rabi Death of a Guru 1984
12. Rood, Rick article: Hinduism, A Christian Perspective Probe Ministries & http://www.leaderu.com
13. Smith, Huston The Religions of Man 1958 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
14. Offner, Clark B. The World’s Religions 1976 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
15. Noss, John B. Man’s Religions 1969 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
16. Hume, Robert E. The World’s Living Religions 1959 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
17. Singh, Parveen article: Islam Probe Ministries & http://www.leaderu.com
18. Diller, Daniel C. The Middle East 1994 as reprinted in the article “Islam” by Parveen Singh
19. Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language 1995