Last night I thought about God. Specifically, I contemplated whether my belief in my personal God was based more on my innate feeling of connection with said deity or on the beliefs that were revealed to me through my upbringing and studies.
When did I begin to believe? How has my belief changed. Whose God do I believe in? My own, my parents, my religion's?
And then it occured to me, or really it occured to me to think about, how at some point in human history there must have been a first belief. Finally I understand why creationists are so adamnant about sticking to the Biblical version of human history. For if we believe in evolution - which frankly I find impossible not to believe in - then at some point in the interim between animal and homo sapiens we had to have come to an awareness of God or spiritual powers of some kind. This means that at some point we were not aware. It also means that the idea of God as a creation of humans rather than the other way around is leant some credence.
When did it happen I wonder? I remember from my anthropolgy and archeaology classes that there's debate over whether the seeming symbolism of Homo Neanderthalensis burial sites points to a religiosity. If so, is it something they learned from observing co-existing early homo sapiens populations or something they understood on their own? What were the differences between the two emergent populations?
What happened between 60,000ya (the date of early burials) and 5000ya (the approximate date of Abraham's assertion of monotheism) that lead us to God. To one God as opposed to a pantheistic system.
And if burial rites are a strong indicator of religiousity do we perhaps not give animals their due? What of the legendary Elephant Graveyard? Sure it has not been proven that such exists, but scientists have found the Elephants recognise thier own skeletal structure and definitely seem to mourn their dead. Chimpanzees, too, seem to have an awareness of death and if not a ritualised burial rite, they do engage in mourning. And what of all the salmon that return to where they were born to spawn and die? Is this truly just instinct or is there ritual inherent in it? Are there salmon that don't go home? Can we prove that none stay in the ocean, choosing not to spawn and subsequently die.
So if death and burial rituals are to be taken as one of the first signs of religiousity and awakening of spiritual awareness, and animals engage in such, does that not mean they are capable of religiousity? And if so, perhaps some of the things we pen as animal "instinct" are actually ritual. For would it not take just one individual diverging from the prescribed path of "instinct" to show that it is not actually biological, but could be spiritual or emotional?
Which brings me back to my original questions: at what point in our evolution did Humans become religious beings? Was it at the beginning of homo sapiens or could it have happened sooner. Could it have even happened before our earliest ancestors developed into the homo species lineage at all? Was Australopithecus not only walking upright, but kneeling in prayer?
What do you think?