This is just a brief thought that randomly occurred to me, but I think it’s thought-provoking enough to merit a quick blogging.

Religions evolve to suit the needs of the people who worship in them. They change over time and location to offer something to the people that the regular, material realm cannot.

When religion started out, it was pretty barbaric. It boiled down to my god can beat up your god, and I’ll kill you if you say otherwise. It was a time of sacrifice and tribal warfare, and it wasn’t really all that pretty. This is the case for early Judaism and Hinduism, where there was a whole lot of focus on killing.

Later, during the axial age. (which is a few hundred year period when all religions pretty much had an overhaul, independent of one another) things began to change. The Hindu Upanishads were published, calling for a ban on animal sacrifices, Buddhism was founded, Judaism went through its own revolution, and although it was a couple hundred years after the official Axial age, Jesus was born. This period of religion was basically, hey, maybe instead of all this killing, we should be nice to one another?

Even later than that, Islam came along. Islam is a religion of social justice that was founded on the belief that maybe there was more to religion than being nice to one another, and maybe society as a whole should actually take care of its people. And though it happened a thousand years later, I would call the Protestant Reformation similar to this, as though it focused more on the individual, it did call into question the power dynamics of authoritarian regimes. These would be the revolutionary religions (that have since stopped being so revolutionary, but isn’t that always the case?)

These days, the new religions offer nothing so revolutionary. The newest being the super scam-y Scientology which is obviously just a disaster, but Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and all the recent, weird Christianity sects don’t offer anything new to the world either. They’re just slightly different stories, with slightly different rules and regulations, but there is nothing actually new being offered.

However, we do have an abundance of grass-roots organizations today fighting for social justice and equality. Not just the belief that we need to take care of those less fortunate, but that the less fortunate also have a voice and need to be seen as equals. Could we be in the middle of a new religious reformation, but with society’s general disenfranchisement towards religious institutions making it a secular one? All of the previous religious revolutions happened during times when religion was simply a part of the worldly paradigm. However, that paradigm has drastically shifted towards a much more secular version, and perhaps that means that our methods of revolutionizing the way people think has taken that turn as well?

I have no evidence for this and it would be impossible to prove anyway, but it’s certainly something interesting to think about.

This is obviously a very bare-bones retelling of the history of religion, and if you’re interested I’d recommend reading A History of God by Karen Armstrong.