Freaky, Free-Flowing, Friday Thoughts on God and Religion and Evolution

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?


  1. I have no idea, God and all that is something I am still so unsure of. I am a reluctant worshipper!

  2. Coming from the opposite perspective of your last commenter -- as someone who was raised to believe very literally in the Scriptures, Creationism and all -- I'll admit this is one of the challenges posed to me by taking a "broader" view of faith. The idea of a "caveman Adam and Eve" both intrigue and troubles me. You raise some really good questions here.

  3. Wow, that's a deep post for a Friday! *brain explodes*
    I have no clue but I'd like to think that everyone/everything has some sort of faith. But maybe I just watched too much Pochahontas as a kid?
    Very interesting post though.

  4. @Mrs.Mad at least you are a worshipper, right? Even if reluctant. I've had a long and winding faith journey but I can't bring myself to believe in nothing at all.
    @Trudy it is a bit scary to think about, isn't it? Particularly intriguing is the idea of the Neaderthals having a belief system. I wonder what it could have been like. Anyway, have you read the novel Eve by Elissa Elliot, yet? Another intriguing take on creation and first beliefs.
    @Livi, I think this may be my Friday thang. Could even make a bloggy carnival out of it - freaky free-flowing Fridays. Encourage people to think immediately onto the screen rather than compose their thoughts and see what comes out.

  5. Dara, this is a wonderful post and I love all the ideas and questions you raised. Before I became a Baha'i, I also wondered about these very same things and also regularly questioned how there could be a single path to God (esp. advocated by fundamentalist Christians) when there were so many wonderful and good people around the world worshipping God and doing good acts (Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Buddha, etc.) How could I ever feel comfortable believing that "Jesus was the only way" when I felt in my heart that all these other people had valid claims on God as well?

    One day, I was attending a wedding in Chicago and a woman who I was sitting next to mentioned the Baha'i Faith. I had never heard of it before. I asked he what it was. She said it was a religion that believed that ALL religions are one and part of a single unfolding religion that is being revealed progressively throughout time to all of humanity.

    For example, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Zoroaster, Muhammad, Baha'u'llah, etc. are all messengers of a single God and have each come to bring an installment of God's infinite wisdom and plan for humankind that is appropriate to the age and culture during which the people of the time are living.

    The ethical teachings are all the same from all these religions if you look at each of them in their original revelation (not necessarily the way people have interpreted or misinterpreted the teachings later). But the societal teachings change from age to age as people progress and society develops. (For example, teachings about one global society that Baha'u'llah brought would not have been understood by people during Jesus' time who did not travel outside their own local region of the world.)

    Baha'u'llah came to Persia in the 1800's and claimed that he fulfilled the prophecies of all the religions of the past and was the return of all the messengers of God. (All major religions claim that a prophet will come and return to bring peace in the future.) He claimed that he had come to educate humanity and bring about an age of peace. He taught about the things that we need to work for in this day in age in order to achieve world peace are: equality between men and women, elimination of racial prejudice, economic justice, elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty, universal education, and religion in harmony with reason and the pursuit of scientific knowledge.

    These things struck me and made me interested. The whole reason I am telling you all this is that one of the things Baha'u'llah explained is that religion and science are like two wings of a single bird. They work together and need each other to fly. He explained that creationism and evoltion are like this. They do not work against each other, but together. God created the world but he created it to unfold scientifically using the principles of evolution. The seed of humankind always existed even before it appeared on earth and lived in human form.

    Anyway, sorry to go on and on about this, but it is a topic I am very passionate about and your post made me think about all these things. Don't worry. I'm not trying to convert you or anything, of course, but I love being able to share about how a lot of the confusion I used to feel about religion and God was cleared up for me when I read the writings of Baha'u'llah.

    Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now. And I promise not to come to your door wielding relgious texts and prayer beads. At least not today....hehehehe.


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