WorldReligions
Paperback edition                                      General EditorPublished in 2004 by                                 ...
WorldReligions    Martin Palmer
C O N T R I B U T O R SContributorsMARTIN PALMER                                                              TARA LEWISGe...
C O N T R I B U T O R SJIM PYM                                                                  serving as a special advis...
C O N T E N T SContentsIntroduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8             OCEANIA...
C O N T E N T SCHRISTIANITY                                                                                 Jewish Festiva...
I N T R O D U C T I O NIntroductionSince the earliest days of humanity, religion has played a part in bothstructuring life...
I N T R O D U C T I O NWhere it has been possible, we have asked thatmembers of the living faiths of ourcontemporary world...
I N T R O D U C T I O N                                                       years, has re-emerged as a major player on t...
I N T R O D U C T I O N– is a challenge to the rest of the world to listen   wonderful poetry and literature the world has...
T H E   R O O T S    O F   R E L I G I O NThe Roots of ReligionReligion Before HistoryOur knowledge of prehistoric religio...
R E L I G I O N    B E F O R E   H I S T O R Yinterpretation to place upon these figures. Do     their worship of a single...
T H E   R O O T S    O F   R E L I G I O NThe Nature of ReligionReligion, for billions of people, is a vital way of making...
T H E   R O O T S   O F   R E L I G I O Nslavery, and every religion has its fair share ofguilt here, from the cruelty of ...
A   R E L I G I O U S   W O R L D - V I E W                                                                  had strong as...
Ancient Religions                      THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST                      The Sumerians                      Sumer...
T H E   S U M E R I A N Swas Anu, ruler of Heaven, who was later                The Epic of Gilgameshreplaced by Enlil, Lo...
A N C I E N T   R E L I G I O N SThe BabyloniansThere were two empires of Babylonia –the Old Empire (c. 2200–1750 BC) and ...
T H E       B A B Y L O N I A N SBABYLONIAN BELIEF                                             was necessary first of all ...
A N C I E N T            R E L I G I O N SThe AssyriansReligion had important political significance in Assyria.Kings were...
T H E      A S S Y R I A N S                        THE LIBRARY OF KING ASHURBANIPAL   King Ashurbanipal of Assyria, who r...
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Palmer m.(ed) world religions

  1. 1. WorldReligions
  2. 2. Paperback edition General EditorPublished in 2004 by Martin PalmerTIMES BOOKS Director of the International ConsultancyHarperCollins Publishers on Religion, Education and Culture77-85 Fulham Palace Road (ICOREC)London W6 8JB ContributorsThe Collins website address is See pages 4–5www.collins.co.uk Editorial and Design Team for Flame TreeFirst published by Times Books 2002 Jennifer Bishop, Michelle Clare, Vicky Garrard, Dave Jones, Nicki Marshall,Copyright © Flame Tree Publishing 2002, 2004, Sonya Newland, Nick Wells, Polly Willis,part of The Foundry Creative Media Company Ltd Tom WorsleyMaps © Times Books Ltd 2002, 2004 Editorial and Design Team for HarperCollins Philip Parker, Martin BrownAll rights reserved. No part of this publication maybe reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, ortransmitted in any form or by any means electronic,mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without theprior written permission of the publishers andcopyright holder.Printed and bound in SingaporeBritish Library Cataloguing in Publication DadA catalogue record for this book is available fromthe British LibraryISBN 0 0071 9991 0
  3. 3. WorldReligions Martin Palmer
  4. 4. C O N T R I B U T O R SContributorsMARTIN PALMER TARA LEWISGeneral Editor; Roots of Religion; Taoism ShamanismMartin Palmer is the Director of the International Consultancy on Having obtained a joint Honours degree in Comparative ReligionsReligion, Education and Culture (ICOREC). ICOREC specialises in and History of Art, and researched a thesis on ‘Shamans in the workprojects related to religious, environmental and development issues of Siyah Qalam’, after travelling widely in Asia for her studies,Taraand works with a variety of international organisations such asThe Lewis went on to work for the Alliance of Religions and ConservationWorld Wide Fund for Nature (WWF),The World Bank, UNESCO, and (a UK-based charity). She established ARC Asia, organising andthe World Council of Churches. He was also instrumental in the developing conservation projects with religious communities increation of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation first launched Cambodia,Thailand, Indonesia, Mongolia and China. She is currentlyin 1995 by HRH the Prince Philip of which he is now Secretary editing Mongolian Sacred Legends of the Land.General. In 1997 he founded the Sacred Land Project which worksworld wide preserving sacred sites from Mongolia to Mexico. JIMMY WEINER Martin is the author of many books including Travels through Oceania; Australian AboriginalsSacred China, Sacred Britain, Christianity and Ecology, Sacred Dr. James F. Weiner received his PhD from Australian NationalGardens and the forthcoming Jesus Sutras which is a translation of University in 1984. He has held teaching and research positions inthe sacred texts of the Nestorian Christians, China’s first Christian anthropology at Australian National University, University ofcommunity dating from AD 635. He frequently appears on television Manchester and University of Adelaide. He has worked for overand radio, has presented a number of series on sacred topics and three years in Papua New Guinea with the Foi people and hasalso writes for a wide variety of publications. published two books on New Guinea mythology. Currently he is Martin studied theology at Cambridge, with a special emphasis working as an independent consultant in native title for Aboriginalon Chinese and Japanese studies. He founded the Centre for the communities throughout Australia. He is also working on a bookStudy of Religion and Education in inner city Manchester and has about the Hindmarsh Island sacred site case in South Australia.been a pioneer in the areas of interfaith environmental education. GRAHAM HARVEYBRENDA RALPH-LEWIS The MaorisThe Ancient Near East; Zorastrianism Graham Harvey is Reader in Religious Studies at King Alfred’sBrenda Ralph Lewis is a freelance author specializing in history, College, Winchester. He is particularly interested in Maori andwith particular reference to ancient civilizations. Her most recent Ojibwe spirituality, but has also published books aboutbook (out of a total of more than 90), published in 2001, deals with contemporary Paganism and ancient Judaism. His (edited)the philosophy and practice of ritual sacrifice in both ancient and Indigenous Religions: a Companion brings together excellentmodern religion. Mrs Lewis has also written over 25TV and video writing about issues in indigenous religious and their study.scripts on the history and culture of ancient civilisations. She ismarried with one son and lives in Buckinghamshire. FREDA RAJOTTE Native North AmericansROBERT MORKOT Rev Dr Freda Rajotte has always been dedicated to both justiceAncient Egypt issues and to preserving the integrity of creation. As a GeographyRobert Morkot is an ancient historian specialising in North-East professor she focused upon the related issues of economicAfrica. He studied at London University and the Humboldt- development and environmental conservation. She also gaveUniversity, Berlin, and currently teaches at Exeter University. As courses in Comparative Religion. Freda has numerous First Nationwell as many academic publications he is author of The Penguin colleagues, relatives and friends. Always interested in encouragingHistorical Atlas of Ancient Greece (1996), The Black Pharaohs: Egypt’s better understanding between people of different cultures andNubian Rulers (2000) and The Empires of Ancient Egypt (2001). faiths, for seven years she was the director of the Canadian Coalition for Ecology, Ethics and Religion. During this time, thanksMICHAEL KERRIGAN to the contributions and assistance of many First Nation leaders,Greece and Rome she compiled and published First Nations Faith and Ecology.An Edinburgh-based freelance writer specializing in the civilizations of Freda is married and has six children.ancient times, Michael Kerrigan has written on almost every aspectof archaeology, ancient history and culture, covering subjects from KEVIN WARDthe origins of agriculture to the icons of Byzantium, from the rise of African Traditional Religionsthe Greek city-state to the fall of Rome. A regular contributor to such Dr Kevin Ward teaches African Religious Studies in the Departmentjournals as the Times Literary Supplement and the Scotsman, his recent ofTheology and Religious Studies at the University of Leeds. Hebooks include Ancient Greece and the Mediterranean (2001), Ancient worked for over 20 years in East Africa, as a teacher in Kenya andRome and the Roman Empire (2001) andThe Instruments ofTorture (2001). as a lecturer at a seminary in Uganda. He is ordained in the Church of Uganda.NIGEL CAMPBELL PENNICKNorthern Europe MICHAEL SHACKLETONNigel Pennick was born in Surrey in 1946.Trained in biology, he Shintopublished descriptions of eight new species of marine algae before Michael Shackleton studied at Cambridge University, and alsomoving on to become a writer and illustrator. He is author of over 40 at the University of Manchester from which he received a post-books on European spiritual traditions, arts and landscapes. graduate diploma in Social Anthropology. At present he is Associate Professor of Social Anthropology at Osaka GakuinSUSANNA ROSTAS University in Japan with a special interest in Japanese Religion (inCentral and South America particular New Religions and traditional mountain cults, orSusanna Rostas has a D.Phil in Social Anthropology and has ‘shugendo’). He undertakes research, which has recently taken himtaught at both Goldsmiths’ College and Durham University. She is to Southern Ethiopia and Southern Sudan. Michael is also involvedcurrently a Research Associate in the Department of Social in working with Martin Palmer (General Editor) on the Alliance ofAnthropology in Cambridge. Her publications include The Popular Religions and Conservation (ARC) scheme. He currently lives inUse of Popular Religion in Latin America with Andre Droogers. Japan with his wife and two children.4
  5. 5. C O N T R I B U T O R SJIM PYM serving as a special advisor to Jathedar Manjit Singh, one of theBuddhism spiritual heads of the worldwide Sikh community, he has alsoJim Pym has been a Buddhist for over 40 years. He is the author of You served as a board member for the North American InterfaithDon’t Have to Sit on the Floor; a book on practical Buddhism inWestern Network. Dr Singh founded the Sikh Council on Religion andculture (Rider Books 2001), editor of Pure Land Notes, a Buddhist Education (SCORE) in 1998, based in Washington DC, of which hejournal, and a member of the Council of the Buddhist Society, London. is currently the chairman. Acting on behalf of SCORE, he has been invited to speak at the White House, the US Congress, the VaticanALAN BROWN and by various non-governmental organizations to present the SikhChristianity perspective.Alan Brown is director of the National Society’s Kensington R. E.Centre and R. E. (Schools) Officer of the General Synod Board of MARK TULLYEducation. He has written a great many books about the Christian East Meets West; Multi-faith Societiesfaith and world religions, as well as numerous articles, reviews and MarkTully was born in Calcutta, India, and was educated atbooklets. He is also tutor and examiner forThe Open University Cambridge University where he did a Masters in History andcourse, ‘The Religious Quest’. Theology. He worked as a correspondent for the BBC for 30 years, and for 22 years of that time was the Delhi correspondent. SinceJOHN CHINNERY 1994, Mark has been a freelance broadcaster and writer. His mostConfucianism recent publications include Amritsar – Mrs Gandhi’s Last BattleDr John Chinnery formerly headed the Department of East Asian (1985), Raj to Rajiv (1985), No Full Stops In India (1988), The HeartStudies at the University of Edinburgh. He is a frequent visitor to of India (1995) and Lives of Jesus (1996). In 1992 he was awardedChina and has written on a wide range of Chinese subjects, from the Padma Shri by the Government of India, and in 2002 receivedphilosophy to the theatre. He is currently Honorary President of the the KBE.Scotland China Association. ELIZABETH PUTTICKRAMESHCHANDRA MAJITHIA New Religious Movements; Women and ReligionHinduism Dr Elizabeth Puttick is a sociologist of religion, specializing inRameshchandra Majithia was born inTanzania. He graduated with a women’s spirituality and new religions (including New Age,BSc in Engineering from the University of London and followed a shamanism and paganism). Her publications include Women incareer as a teacher of mathematics and graphic communication at New Religions (Macmillan/St Martin’s Press). She teachessecondary level. He was responsible for informing organised religious studies at the British American College, London, and alsogroups to Shree Sanatan Mandir, the first Hindu temple to be works as a literary agent and publishing consultant.established, about Hinduism; he is also editor of the bimonthlymagazine published by the temple. He gave Hinduism input to RACHEL STORMReligious Education students in teacher training, and has co- Rastafari; Scientific Religions; Glossaryordinated Hindu religious education for children aged five to 16 for Rachel Storm has studied and written about mythology and religionthe last seven years at his local temple in Leicester. since the 1980s. She is the author of three books in the area and has contributed to a number of encyclopedias, as well as to nationalAMAR HEGEDÜS and international magazines and newspapers.IslamWriter, reviewer, broadcaster and lecturer on Islamic subjects, SUSAN GREENWOODAmar Hegedüs established the Islam in English Press (IEP) to Contemporary Paganismprovide ready access, in comprehensible style and language, to this Susan Greenwood is lecturer is the School of Cultural andfrequently misrepresented subject. He networks with other faiths in Community Studies at the University of Sussex, an Opencommon initiatives to create better understanding between peoples, University Associate Lecturer and Visiting Fellow at Goldsmithsand provides spiritual and pastoral care to the community. He is College, University of London. She gained her doctorate fromChaplaincy Imam to the South London and Maudsley NHSTrust. research on Paganism, and her recent publications include Magic, Witchcraft and the Otherworld: an anthropology (2000).DR SHAHJainism PAUL VALLELYProfessor Natubhai Shah teaches Jainism at the FVG Antwerp, The Culture of the West; Conflicts of IdeologySelly Oak Colleges University of Birmingham and occasionally at Paul Vallely writes on religion for The Independent newspaper, ofthe SOAS London University. He represents Jainism at the highest which he is associate editor. He is chair of the Catholic Institute forlevel and was responsible for the creation of the beautiful Jain International Relations and is the editor of The New Politics:temple in Leicester, and for establishing Jain Academy and Jain Catholic Social Teaching for the 21st century (1999) and is the authorStudies courses in the UK and Mumbai University. He was awarded of Bad Samaritans: First World Ethics and Third World Debt (1990) andJain Ratna by the Prime Minister of India in 2001. He is the author of various other books.Jainism: The World of Conquerors (1998).RACHEL MONTAGUJudaismRabbi Rachel Montagu is Assistant Education Officer for theCouncil of Christians and Jews and teaches Judaism and BiblicalHebrew at Birkbeck College and Allen Hall. She read Classics atNewnham College, Cambridge and studied Judaism at Leo BaeckCollege, London and Machon Pardes, Jerusalem. She is marriedand has two sons.RAJWANT SINGHSikhismDr Rajwant Singh was born in Calcutta, India, and emigrated to theUnited States. In 1984 he helped initiate the Sikh Association ofAmerica, and he is a founding member of the Guru Gobind SinghFoundation, a Sikh congregation based in Maryland. As well as 5
  6. 6. C O N T E N T SContentsIntroduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 OCEANIA Death, Ghosts and the Soul . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .60THE ROOTS OF RELIGION . . . . . . . .12 The Mythic Chieftainship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .62Religion Before History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12 Millenarian Movements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64The Nature of Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14A Religious World-view . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16 AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINALS The Dreaming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .66 Initiation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .68ANCIENT RELIGIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST THE MAORISThe Sumerians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18 Maori Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .70The Babylonians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20 MaoriTraditional Knowledge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72The Assyrians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22The Canaanites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24 NATIVE NORTH AMERICANS North American First Nations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .74ANCIENT EGYPT Spirituality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .76The Kingdoms of Egypt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26 Ceremonies and Rituals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .78The Egyptian Pantheon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28Temples and Worship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30 CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA The Amazonians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .80GREECE AND ROME The Huichol . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .82Classical Origins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32 Highland MayaToday . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .84Homeric Gods and Heroes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .34Civilization and Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36 AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGIONThe Gods in Imperial Rome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38 Religion in Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .86Religion and Philosophy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40 African Cosmologies, Gods and Ancestors . . . . . . .88Religions Under Rome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42 The Celebration of Life and Cults of Affliction . . . . . .90 African Religion, Politics and The Challenge of Modernity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .92NORTHERN EUROPEReligion of the Landscape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44 SHINTOCeltic Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46 The History of Shinto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .94Germanic Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .48 Shinto Shrines (jinja) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .96Slavic and Baltic Peoples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .50 ShintoToday . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .98CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA WORLD RELIGIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .100The Maya . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .52 BUDDHISMThe Aztecs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .54 The Buddha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .100The Incas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56 Early Buddhism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .102 Theravada Buddhism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .104INDIGENOUS RELIGIONS . . . . . . . . .58 Mahayana Buddhism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .106SHAMANISM Zen Buddhism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .108Shamanism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .58 Living Buddhism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1106
  7. 7. C O N T E N T SCHRISTIANITY Jewish Festivals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .178The Life andTeaching of Jesus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .112 Jewish Movements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .180The Early Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .114 Judaism in Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .182The Christian Bible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .116 Jewish Worship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .184Central Beliefs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .118 Anti-Judaism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .186Rites and Practices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .120Festival and Celebration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122 SIKHISMThe Catholic Church Worldwide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .124 Origins and Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .188The Orthodox Churches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .126 Guru Nanak’sTeachings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .190The Anglican Communion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .128 Sikh Philosophy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .192Luther, Calvin and the Reformation . . . . . . . . . . . . . .130 SikhismToday . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .194The Protestant Churches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .132The Pentecostal Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .134 TAOISMThe Diversity of Christianity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .136 Origins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .196 Taoist Beliefs and Practices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .198CONFUCIANISMThe Life andTeachings of Confucius . . . . . . . . . . . . .138 Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .200After Confucius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .142 Taoism Beyond China . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .202HINDUISM ZOROASTRIANISMFoundations of Hinduism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .144 Zoroastrianism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .204Major Beliefs and Concepts of Hinduism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .146 NEW RELIGIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .206Hindu Gods and Goddesses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .148 East Meets West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .206Hindu Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .150 New Religious Movements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .208Hindu Places of Worship (mandir) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .152 Baha’i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .210Hindu Festivals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .154 Rastafarianism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .212 Contemporary Paganism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .214ISLAM The Culture of the West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .216Allah’s Guidance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .156The Early Years of the Prophet Muhammad . . . . . . .158 RELIGION IN THE MODERNRevelation in Makkah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .160 WORLD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .218Revelation in Madinah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .162 Conflict of Ideologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .218The Book of Allah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .164 Multi-faith Societies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .220The Prophet’s Example . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .166 Science and Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .222How Islam is Spread and Lived . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .168 Women and Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .224JAINISMOrigins and Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .170 Chronology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .226Jain Philosophy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .172 Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .236 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .242JUDAISM Names Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .248Origins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .174 Subject Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .251SacredTexts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .176 Picture Credits/Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . .256 7
  8. 8. I N T R O D U C T I O NIntroductionSince the earliest days of humanity, religion has played a part in bothstructuring life and explaining life.Through ritual, myths and legends, dance,art, buildings, beliefs, teachings and daily practices, faith has guided, inspiredand shaped the way people have lived. As with all things human, even thoseperhaps touched by the divine, this has led to great acts of generosity and greatacts of arrogance; it has brought peace and has created wars; it has held thosewho are suffering wiping away their tears and it has been the very cause of tears.Religion, like any human endeavour, brings out the best and the worst in people.However, for most people, throughout history and today, religion has made themundane sacred; given meaning to what could otherwise be experiencedas a meaningless world and has taught that small acts of kindness andthoughtfulness are the true fruits of religion.I n this Encyclopedia, we explore what this travels from the great ancient faiths of antiquity means and has meant. Our notion, and to such as Egypt or Greece to the most modern of some degree definition, of what is religion faiths – such as the Baha’is or some of the newranges from the vast arrays of indigenous pagan movements. Together and over time thesereligions still to be found today to the great ideas, thoughts, beliefs and practices, have, formissionary faiths such as Buddhism and Islam. It better or worse, made the world we live in today.
  9. 9. I N T R O D U C T I O NWhere it has been possible, we have asked thatmembers of the living faiths of ourcontemporary world be our guides. Forultimately, faith is personal and thus tounderstand its significance we need to do morethan just stand outside and examine its shapeand form. We also need to know something ofwhat it feels like to live within a worldview suchas, for example, Hinduism or AfricanTraditional religion. Buildings and rituals areimportant but more important is the reason whythey exist. To understand this we need tohear the voice of faith as well as see itsoutward manifestations. Such a voice comes from allowing the faithitself to determine that which is important andsignificant, and this is something we asked thecontributors to do, albeit in dialogue with thoseof us with overall responsibility for this book.What can appear to outsiders as the mostimportant aspect of a faith can upon closerexamination be of less significance to thebeliever. For example, most outsiders viewChristmas as the most important Christianfestival. While it is very important and throughthe stories, activities, symbols and celebrationsone can indeed gain a good idea of Christianity,it is not the most important festival. That falls to Easter and without understanding why Easter is the more significant, an understanding of Christianity would be incomplete, indeed rather lopsided. The decision was taken early on in the construction of this Encyclopedia to include faiths which have died. Religion is always changing and although the great faiths of today may seem unaltered through time, in fact they are constantly adapting. The faiths of the world are the oldest surviving human institutions in the world. As such they have learnt a thing or two about continuity. But some faiths have not survived. They have become part of the rich tapestry of our world but only as now fading colours in the background. Yet without an understanding of the shifting ideas, which are manifested in the changes, for example, the insignificant role of humanity in Egyptian religion to the nuanced role of humanity in for example Middle Eastern religions of ancient 9
  10. 10. I N T R O D U C T I O N years, has re-emerged as a major player on the world scene. This is for good, bad and indifferent reasons. The good is the increasing role of religions in social and environmental issues. Where once science and the state were seen as having taken over the traditional role of faiths as guides through social and ecological upheavals, now increasingly, religion is being included as a partner once again. In part this is due to the collapse of ideologies such as Marxism and state control. In part it is because in the end people relate better to locally led initiatives rather than governmental and especially inter-governmental initiatives. The faiths have the best network for reaching virtually all-local communities, in the world. They are now beginning to offer this in partnership with humanitarian movements and environmental and social concerns. The bad is the rise of extremism within so many faiths. Labelled as ‘fundamentalism’ – a phrase which is usually insulting to all major faiths – extremism is religion with its back to the wall and fighting back. It arises from the sense of helplessness, which so many who lie outside the sphere of the benefits of modern technology and economics feel. It is often a cry of pain and frustration from the most powerless and as such demands serious attention from the world. Sadly, however, it is often then forced or chooses to take the path of violence in order to be heard. The rise of extremism in the world’s faiths – there is no major faith without such a movementMesopotamia, our current notion of whatit means to be human cannot adequatelybe understood. The need for an Encyclopedia, which thusopens up the worlds of faiths, has perhaps neverbeen so urgent. It was conventional wisdom inthe twentieth century to assume that religion wasdying. Science, modern secular politicalmovements and the growth of pluralism wereseen as the potential death knells of religion. Thiswas especially so for writers – who were themajority writers on religion – from the Westwhere in many European countries, overtpractice of traditional religion was in decline. The reality in the twenty-first century is thatreligion, having suffered the most extensiveperiod of persecution in history in the last 10010
  11. 11. I N T R O D U C T I O N– is a challenge to the rest of the world to listen wonderful poetry and literature the world hascarefully to the root concerns and to offer help ever seen. Through its rituals and liturgies,before the movement feels completely isolated prayers and actions it brings hope to many andand literally at war with the rest of the world. offers vehicles for living, which aid billions in The indifferent is the increasing recognition making sense of a difficult world.that, far from fading, religion is transmogrifying Its understandings of what it means to bein many cultures. Pluralism has led many whose human and its recognition that thegrandparents were of one faith to embrace either world is more than just that whichanother faith or to include into their religious can be observed, noted andworldview, elements of different faiths. This catalogued means that itspluralism has weakened some traditional faiths, approach is truly encyclopaedic.but it may be that from such an interaction, new What, therefore, could be morereligions are beginning to emerge as well as new appropriate than an encyclopediaexpressions of the older faiths. of world religions. Finally, religion embodies the wisdom andexperience of humanity through countless Martin Palmergenerations. It contains some of the most 2002 11
  12. 12. T H E R O O T S O F R E L I G I O NThe Roots of ReligionReligion Before HistoryOur knowledge of prehistoric religion is, of necessity, scant and uncertain.Our only evidence is archaeological, and the range of interpretationspossible from any one artefact or site is enormous. For many years there wasa tendency to interpret virtually any prehistoric object as religious – no matterwhat its nature – and for evidence to be twisted and bent to fit the pet theoriesof the researcher, commonly extrapolated back from anthropological theorieswhich are often now discredited themselves. In the final analysis, our besttheories are only speculation.T HE FAMOUS CHAUVET cave hunted, or even direct worship of the animals paintings, over 30,000 years old, themselves. Possibly, though, their purpose is discovered in France in 1994, depict in simply artistic; perhaps the men and womenvivid and splendid detail animals which now who painted these wonderful paintings did solong extinct, are perhaps our earliest evidence of purely in order to celebrate and delight in beautyreligious activity. Undisturbed patterns in the and their own ability to create. We simply dodirt of the floor seem to show signs of dancing; not, and cannot, know.there is a bear skull on a stone block whichmight be a shrine; and a strange figure at the PALEOLITHIC VENUSback of the cave seems, possibly, to combine Perhaps the most striking prehistoric artefactsaspects of beast and man. are the so-called ‘Venuses’: carved female stone The depiction of the animals may represent a figures with prominent and exaggerated breastssymbolic invocation of the animal spirits to fill and genitalia, sometimes headless, whichthe hunters with power, or an attempt to appear all over Europe from 40,000 to 25,000increase the numbers of the animals to be BC. Again, it is hard to know what
  13. 13. R E L I G I O N B E F O R E H I S T O R Yinterpretation to place upon these figures. Do their worship of a single ‘Goddess’ became anthey represent the exultation or the degradation orthodoxy of the study of prehistoric religionof the female form? Were they intended to until the 1970s, and virtually any figure, dot,celebrate or perhaps increase female fertility? spiral or curve was interpreted as representingOr were they simply pornographic? After all, the Goddess. Although now discrediteddrawing naughty pictures has been academically, it is still a common belief in bothcommonplace in virtually all cultures. feminist and neo-pagan circles. The hard truth of it is that there is absolutely no evidence of aWAS THERE A GODDESS? universal prehistoric ‘Goddess’, it is a projectionThese figures are a keystone of a powerful back of our own need for a figure to counteractmodern myth – the ‘Cult of the Great Goddess’. the masculine God of the Judeo-ChristianFirst proposed in the nineteenth century, the tradition, and highlights the problems of how tobelief that prehistoric societies were united in interpret a silent religious prehistory. THE GREAT SITES There are spectacular prehistoric sites, conjunctions and alignments there are may such as the long barrows and stone circles be for purely dramatic or architectural of England, or the mound cultures of North purposes; after all, the windows of many and South America, which may have had a cathedrals are aligned to light up the altar in strongly religious purpose. In the case of sunlight, but nobody would claim this was the long barrows, dating from around their primary purpose. Many of the stone 4000–3000 BC , they may have been part of circles are near areas that show signs of a tradition of ancestor-worship; skulls trade and industry; perhaps they were seem to have been regularly moved in and boundaries within which making a deal was out of them, probably for some ritual sacred. Again, we simply cannot tell. purpose. Perhaps the spirits of the Really, all we can be sure of is that some ancestors watched over the tribe, or joined form of religious activity, some form of them at festivals. veneration and worship, was taking place. As for the stone circles – easily the most The dead were certainly buried with some impressive and awesome prehistoric sites in respect for their future fate; perhaps this is Europe – their purpose remains essentially the most telling sign of religion.The nature of unknown. Certainly at the larger sites, such religious activity, towards whom or what it as Stonehenge, they probably had a was directed, the cosmology into which it ceremonial or dramatic function. They have fitted, and the nature of the ceremonies often been associated with astrology, but the involved all remain hidden behind a veil that evidence for this is scant, and what will never be lifted. 13
  14. 14. T H E R O O T S O F R E L I G I O NThe Nature of ReligionReligion, for billions of people, is a vital way of making sense of their life, and of giving purposeand meaning to existence.Through ethical and metaphysical theology, and through ceremony andliturgy, religion imbues people with a powerful sense of meaning. Many attempts have been madeto define religion, most of which fail before its vast diversity, but one factor that links almost allreligions is their belief in a reality beyond the material world, that there is something greater thanjust the here and now.T HERE IS A strong argument about the the last century has been towards the etymology of the word ‘religion’ itself, second approach; religion is increasingly which reflects two rather different seen as a matter of personal conscience, notviews of the purpose of religion. It may be public commitment.derived from the Latin religare, ‘to bind’,suggesting that the first concern of religion is to ATTITUDES TOWARDS RELIGIONbind humanity and the divine together, and to Religion has often been attacked as essentiallybind us together in community; to those an oppressive, even tyrannical force. It has beenopposed to religion, this binding can seem like linked to racism, war, dictatorship, sexism andan imprisonment. On the other hand, it may bederived from relegare, ‘to tread carefully’,reflecting a respect and care for both the naturaland supernatural worlds, which for many is theprimary concern of religion – to provide us withguidance as to how to live. Indeed, religion provides us with a purposegreater and more profound than simple survival,forging a bridge between the world of humanexperience and the supposed greater realm of thedivine. For some religious people, this meansforsaking the temporal pleasures of this world insearch of a transcendent meta-reality, throughfasting, celibacy and so forth. For others, it leadsto a desire to improve this world, to bring thematerial closer to the divine and to honour thepresence of God in everything.A PERSONAL OR PUBLIC APPROACH?There has always been something of a tensionin religion between the community and theindividual. Structured communities, from theCatholic Church to the Hindu caste system,have always been a part of religion, as havecommunities bound by less formal ties, andmany people find that the experience ofworshipping as a community – and the supportthat a community can provide – powerful andprofound. Others find religious communitiesstifling, sometimes even oppressive, andapproach the divine in a more individual way.Generally speaking, the shift in the West over14
  15. 15. T H E R O O T S O F R E L I G I O Nslavery, and every religion has its fair share ofguilt here, from the cruelty of the Inquisition tothe slave-keeping Buddhist monks of China.Karl Marx (1818–83) famously wrote that‘religion is the opium of the people’ and manyhave seen religion as essentially soporific,designed to keep the oppressed anddowntrodden quiet before their masters. However, Marx also wrote that religion wasthe ‘heart of a heartless world, the soul ofsoulless conditions’. As much as religion hasbeen used to justify human horrors, it is alsooften a profoundly redemptive and powerfulforce, providing hope and liberation for billionsof people. In the end, the success of religion lies,perhaps, in its providing powerful explanations,or legitimising the asking of questions about, theissues of existence, the cosmos and good andevil. It may not settle all questions, but it givesmany people a way of coping with the problemsof their lives, and a means to explore even deeperquestions about the universe. THE ULTIMATE POWER Broadly speaking, almost all religions claim to worship or venerate one ultimate power – God, Buddha, Tao – the names change. For some faiths, especially Islam and Judaism, the being of God is so unknowable that it is forbidden even to try to depict ‘God’. In other faiths, such as Hinduism and Taoism, this power is depicted in many different ways and is accompanied by a wide range of gods and goddesses. In faiths such as Christianity and Islam, there is a strong emphasis on the relationship between God and humanity, with humanity’s proper role being seen generally as submission and acceptance before God’s might. God is generally seen as omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent; reconciling these three attributes with the reality of suffering is often a problematic concern. Other religions, however, such as Shinto and Hinduism, have a more practical focus. They often have a profound side, but there is also the simple question of ‘What can this god do for us?’ In Chinese folk religion, for instance, the gods are essentially seen as being useful patrons to whom one makes offerings in return for favour. Something of this same pragmatism can also be seen in ancient Greek and Roman religion. 15
  16. 16. A R E L I G I O U S W O R L D - V I E W had strong associations with the nonconformist churches, and the support of religious leaders is often essential in elections. Two-thirds of American Jews consistently vote Democrat, reflecting the Jewish commitment to social justice and a concern for minority rights. Even now, some states are entirely committed to one religion. This is particularly common in Islamic countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, where Islamic religious law is used as the basis for the justice system, and the rights of members of other religions are circumscribed; for instance, non-Muslims can only worship in private in Saudi Arabia and cannot attempt to convert others. Communist states, dominated by an atheist ideology, often carried out terrible religious persecution, such asfamous scientists have been religious and have Stalin’s purges of the Jews, and the Culturalseen the discovery of the laws of nature as a Revolution in China. The situation in Chinasacred charge from God. eased after 1977, though the government retains Science has seemed to answer some questions a cautious attitude to religious activity.about the origins of life and the nature of the In recent years, faiths have found themselvesmind better, perhaps, than religion, and some being brought more strongly into partnershippeople believe that the sphere of influence of with secular structures that formerly thoughtreligion will shrink as our knowledge of science religion obsolete. The environment movementgrows. Many, however, believe that there are now has a strong involvement with all the majorcertain questions, particularly concerning the religions, while the World Bank is working withmeaning and purpose of existence – if there is faiths to try and find new economic andone – that science simply cannot answer, and developmental models.that religion provides far more powerful answers Alongside this runs the quest for deeperto such questions. spiritual meaning. It is not without significance that, worldwide, the practice of spiritual retreatsRELIGION AND POLITICS is growing. While patterns of religiousAs with science, there is little distinction between observance are changing, the quest goes on.religion and politics for many people. Indeed,the separation of Church and State is essentiallya product of the eighteenth century, followingterrible European religious wars betweenCatholic and Protestant. Before that, the Statewas strongly associated with a particularreligion, and followers of other religions werefrequently persecuted, such as Cathars and Jewsin medieval France, or Christians in Shinto-dominated Japan. Wars were often religiouslymotivated, from the Crusades to the Hinduextermination of Buddhism during the ninth tothe twelfth centuries in India. A religious world-view, however, also oftenleads to a powerful motivation for social change.The socialist movement in England, for example, 17
  17. 17. Ancient Religions THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST The Sumerians Sumeria, the earliest known city civilization, set the religious tone for the rest of Mesopotamia. Sumeria seemed to be saturated with divine presence and its concept of myriad gods and goddesses, each controlling their own aspect of life, together with the sacrifices required to humour them, greatly influenced other Mesopotamian religions. T HE FIRST PEOPLES settled in Sumeria, Sumerians believed that humans had been Mesopotamia, in around 4500 BC, but created out of clay in order to relieve the gods of it was another 12 centuries before the their workload. It followed that humans were Sumerian tribes from Anatolia established a the servants of the gods. Nevertheless, the gods number of city states where the Sumerian were envisaged as much like humans, with civilization developed in which religion and its similar physical form, needs, appetites and rituals were all-pervasive. Their purpose was to characteristics. This was why food became the deflect the anger of the gods by constant prayers most frequent form of sacrificial offering. The Spread of Ancient Near and sacrifices. Sumeria, like the rest of Eastern Peoples The area of the Ancient Near East Mesopotamia, was not an easy place to live and GODS AND GHOSTS comprises part of what is now known divine fury was thought to reveal itself through The vast Sumerian pantheon represented as the Middle East, a section of western Asia encompassing the eastern disasters such as drought, floods, pestilence, aspects of the world – the harvest, the wind or Mediterranean to the Iranian plateau. crop failure or the silting up of rivers. The the sun – in divine form. The principal deity The Sumerians built the region’s first- known civilization between the Tigris 3300 BC Immigrants from Anatolia arrive in Sumeria and build city-states and Euphrates rivers from the fourth 3100 BC Temples built at Uruk, along the ancient course of the Euphrates millennium BC. By the eighteenth 2600 BC Sumerian king list (a list of the names of Sumerian kings, discovered by archeologists) century BC the new state of Babylonia 2200 BC Ziggurats built in Sumeria had been formed and this gradually 2000 BC Myths of Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, written in the Sumerian language on clay tablets overtook that of Sumeria.The 1720 BC Shift in the position of the Euphrates River leads to collapse of Nippur and other Sumerian cities Babylonian Empire eventually absorbed that of Assyria. Tepe Hisar zg irt Mala Elburz Mts ia an Urm e V Lake Lak r Harha adam ndiz iyah Ham ˆ ig Elaz ˘ Rawa man Sialk ni ir Ninev eh Sulay Erga iyarb ak Gür ün D ybin Arba il kha nshah Mala tya Nusa Arrap Kerma shKane r Baz ar ts tan a Zagros Mts M Sariz Elbis ik Chag Ashu r us Birec Harra n r mish MESO u IA t s Carche Euphra POTA Eshnun na SusaTa IC s M tes Der MI A IL sus ma nu Alepp o Mari Hit C Tar A h Ebla I A Sippar Nippu r Tigr is lak Mer sin Ala Uga rit S Y R Babylo n Kish Adab Umma possible ancient ra Isin Lagash coastline c. 2000 BC Qatna Palmy ancient course e of Euphrates Agad Larsa Ur k Uruk uppa s Shur Eridu Per s ascu sia Byblo Dam n G ulf The Spread of Ancient Near Eastern Peoples by 2000 BC Tyre Hazo r Sumerian cultural area ad De a Gaz Sea 18
  18. 18. T H E S U M E R I A N Swas Anu, ruler of Heaven, who was later The Epic of Gilgameshreplaced by Enlil, Lord of the Winds. There Gilgamesh, the fifth king of the first dynasty of Uruk, in present-day southern Iraq, reigned in around 2600 BC,were also some 3,000 other deities in Sumeria. and was the subject of five Sumerian poems probablyIn addition, individual villages had their own written six centuries later. Gilgamesh became thelocal gods, as did inanimate objects. Enlil, for hero not only of Sumerian, but also of Hittite, Akkadianinstance, was god of the hoe through his and Assyrian legend. The Epic tells how Gilgameshconnection with the moist spring wind and the searches for immortality, but after many adventures, he fails and is forced to recognize the reality of death.planting season. Enlil’s son, Ninurta, was godof the plough. Concepts of reincarnation and libations of water were poured over sheaves ofthe afterlife were alien to Sumerian theology. grain or bunches of dates so that the gods ofThe dead, Sumerians believed, had no specific fertility would grant rain for healthy crops. Allplace in which to continue in the same style manner of offerings were brought to the prieststhey had known while living. Consequently, the in the temples for use by the gods: clothing,living were thought to be constantly at risk beds, chairs, drinking vessels, jewels,from their presence and only by regular ornaments or weapons. All these were classedofferings of food and drink could these ghosts as divine property and were placed in thebe dissuaded from haunting them. temple treasuries. Clothing was first offered to the gods, then distributed among the priestsTHE PRIESTS and other officials who staffed the temples. ThePriests in the Sumerian temples acted as high priest had first pick, and the last went toconduits between the gods and human beings. the lowly sweepers of the temple courtyards.They conducted the daily services and presidedover festivals, such as Akitu, the festival of thenew year, which fell approximately at the timeof the Spring equinox. They interpreted theentrails of sacrificed animals, usually sheep, inorder to learn the divine will. They performedthe public sacrifices which usually consisted ofgoats, cattle and birds, as well as sheep. Thedivine portion of an animal sacrifice comprisedthe right leg, the kidneys and a piece of meat forroasting. The rest of the animal sacrifices wereconsumed at the temple feast. In addition, ZIGGURATS The high temple towers known as ziggurats, the Tower of Babel, which is popularly which were topped by a small temple believed to have had links with the ziggurat dedicated to one of the Mesopotamian at the temple of Marduk, the national god of deities, were a feature of religious Babylonia. The Tower of Babel, having been architecture around 2200 BC and 500 BC. The built in the vicinity of Babylon, is regarded practice of building ziggurats began in by some archaeologists and anthropologists Sumeria, spreading later to Babylonia and as an extension of the worship of Marduk at Assyria. The step-sided ziggurat bore little his ziggurat temple in the city. resemblance to the later pyramids of Ancient Egypt. There were no internal rooms or passageways and the core was made of mud brick, with baked brick covering the exterior. The shape was either square or rectangular, with measurements averaging 40 or 50 sq m (130 or 165 sq ft) at the base. The most complete extant ziggurat, now named Tall al-Muqayyar, was built at Ur in south-west Sumeria (present- day southern Iraq). The most famous was 19
  19. 19. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SThe BabyloniansThere were two empires of Babylonia –the Old Empire (c. 2200–1750 BC) and theNeo-Babylonian Empire (625–539 BC).Both the Babylonian and Assyrianreligions, which bore a closeresemblance to one another,originally derived from that ofSumeria. However, differencesbetween them evolved over time.The Babylonian religion stressedgoodness, truth, law and order,justice and freedom, wisdom andlearning, courage and loyalty.Thechief Babylonian god was Marduk,‘king over the universe entire’.B ABYLONIAN FAITH encompassed WORSHIP AND RITUAL IN BABYLONIA the whole universe and each sector of it Worship and ritual at the Babylonian temples was under the rule of a particular deity. usually took place out of doors, in courtyardsHeaven, earth, sea and air comprised one where there were fountains for washing beforesector, the sun, the moon and the planets prayers and altars where sacrifices wereanother. Nature, as manifested in rivers, offered. The private areas of a temple, themountains, plains and other geographical monopoly of the high priest, the clergy andfeatures was a further sector and the fourth royalty, were indoors. The occult tendency inwas the city state of Babylon. Marduk, the Babylonian religion was fully representedchief god, presided over the pantheon. Like among the clergy. They included astrologers,the Sumerians, the Babylonians believed that soothsayers, diviners, the interpreters oftools and implements – bricks, ploughs, axes, dreams, musicians and singers.hoes – had their own particular deities. In Sacrifices took place daily. Oneaddition, individuals had their own personal Babylonian temple kept a stock ofgods to whom they prayed and looked for 7,000 head of cattle andsalvation. Magic was prominent in 150,000 head of other animalsBabylonian religion and Ea, god of wisdom, for this purpose alone. Apartwas also god of spells and incantations. The from animals, sacrificessun and the moon had their own gods, consisted of vegetables, incenseShamash and Sin respectively. Shamash was or libations of water, beer andalso the god of justice. Adad was the god of wine. There were numerouswind, storm and flood and Ishtar, a dynamic, festivals, including a feast for thebut cruel deity, was goddess of love and war. new moon and the most important,Although the general tenor of Babylonian Akitu, which lasted 11 days andreligion was beneficent, there was also a involved lively processions. At Akitu,negative, fearful side to it. This was worshippers purified themselves,represented by underworld gods, demons, propitiated the gods, offereddevils and monsters who posed an ongoing sacrifices, performed penance andthreat to the wellbeing of humanity. obtained absolution.20
  20. 20. T H E B A B Y L O N I A N SBABYLONIAN BELIEF was necessary first of all to confess sin andThe ethos of Babylonia was essentially admit to failings. Only then would anphilanthropic. Compassion and mercy were individual’s personal god intercede for themprime virtues. The poor and unfortunate, with the greater Babylonian deities. There waswidows and orphans, were accorded special no comfortable afterlife in Babylonian belief.protection. No one, however virtuous, was After death, the spirit parted from the bodyconsidered to be faultless so that suffering, and all that awaited it was descent into thewhere it occurred, was never entirely dark underworld. There was no protectionundeserved. The gods handed out punishment from a wretched existence after death, notfor unethical or immoral behaviour. To obtain even for those who had led righteous andthe help of the gods in solving problems, it ethical lives. THE COSMOLOGY OF BABYLON The renowned Babylonian skill in astronomy and mathematics developed from the interest in the heavens that was an integral part of their religion. Using only the naked eye, astronomers would observe the movements of heavenly bodies and use them to make prophecies or cast horoscopes. In Babylonian times, the seven planets visible in the sky – the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – were wanderers among the fixed constellations of the zodiac. Each of them had its own god or goddess. In common with the Sumerians, the Babylonians believed that heaven and earth had once been joined as a single enormous mountain. This was imitated by ziggurat temple towers which were regarded as cosmic mountains. Apart from the Tower of Babel, whose construction was detailed in the Biblical Book of Genesis, the most apposite was the ziggurat built by King Nebuchadnezzar (c. 630–562 BC ), the Temple of Seven Spheres of the World. This had seven tiers, one for each stage of heaven, as represented by the seven visible planets. Inside was a vault, also constructed in seven levels, which represented the seven gates through which Ishtar, goddess of sex and war, passed during her regular descents into the underworld. c. 2200–1750 BC Old Babylonian Empire When Anu the Sublime ... and Bel, the lord of Heaven and earth c.1900 BC Epic of Gilgamesh ... assigned to Marduk ... God of righteousness, dominion over c.1790 BC Code (of laws) of Hammurabi, sixth king of the Amorite dynasty of Babylon earthly humanity ... they made [Babylon] great on earth, and c. 1750 BC Death of Hammurabi founded an everlasting kingdom, whose foundations are laid as 625 BC Establishment of New Babylonian Empire solidly as those of heaven and earth. by King Nabopolassar c. 587 BC Marduk as chief god of Babylonia From the Prologue to the Laws of c. 539 BC Persian conquest of the Babylonian Empire Hammurabi, king of Babylon 21
  21. 21. A N C I E N T R E L I G I O N SThe AssyriansReligion had important political significance in Assyria.Kings were believed to derive their power from Assur, thechief god, and both divination and astrology were initiallyfacilities for the use of the monarch. Underlying this though,was a popular religion based on fear and superstition.R ELIGION WAS A VITAL factor in ascetic Babylonians, Assyrians favoured rich unifying and strengthening the Assyrian decorations, large statues and elaborate reliefs on Empire (746–612 BC). This was a state their temple buildings. The temples were thereligion, with the king himself as chief priest and scene of daily rituals that included feedingrepresentative on earth of Assur the chief the gods. To judge by Assyrian records, theAssyrian god, from whom Assyria likely takes its expense was considerable.name. Divination and prophecy were religiousfunctions of the State, designed to aid the king by ASSUR, NATIONAL GOD OF ASSYRIArevealing the destiny of the Empire. Even the Four of the six major Assyrian deities – Ishtar,libraries of Assyrian cities had a god of their own: Shamash, Adad and Sin – were identical in both The Near East 1000–600 BCNabu, son of Marduk, principle god of name and function with those worshipped in At its height the Assyrian Empre wasBabylonia, and the god of scribes. Considering Babylonia. However, Assur replaced Marduk as focused around the capital at Nineveh, but other cities were also greatthe importance of scribes and their records, this the chief deity and Ninurta, god of hunting and centres of learning. This map showsmade Nabu effectively the deity overseeing war, was Assur’s eldest son. Assur was raised to the key cities of the empire. With theAssyrian government administration. Assyrian prominence by King Sennacherib of Assyria destruction of Nineveh in 612 BC by the combined forces of the Babylonians,temples, modelled on those of Babylonia, (d. 681 BC). Originally, it was Marduk, chief god Syrians and Medes, the empire oftended to be monolithic. Unlike the more of Babylonia, who featured in the great ritual at Assyria finally fell. R T U U R A Malazgirt Lake Van Lake Urmia Tig ris Tarsus Khorsabad Aleppo Nineveh Nimrud MEDES Arbail Jebe l Bis hri Ashur Kirkuk Harhar Calah Arwad Euphrates Mediterranean Sea Der Babylon PERSIA (by N Susa 6 S 40 ) Nippur CHA LDA 671, 667 BC The Near East 1000 – 600 BC EAN Assyrian campaigns S against Egypt Neo-Assyrian empire in 745 BC Arabian Petra Neo-Assyrian empire at its greatest Deser t extent,c. 705–612 BC Per sian Neo-Babylonian empire under Gul Nebuchadnezzar II, 604– 562 BC f22
  22. 22. T H E A S S Y R I A N S THE LIBRARY OF KING ASHURBANIPAL King Ashurbanipal of Assyria, who reigned other subjects: omens, the motions of the between 668 BC and 627 BC, gathered sun, moon, planets and stars, prayers, together a collection of texts, written in incantations, rituals, proverbs and creation cuneiform (a wedge-shaped script) that stories. Scientific texts were also stored represented the first systematically in Ashurbanipal’s library, together with folk catalogued library in the Ancient Near East. tales, one of which, ‘The Much of present-day knowledge concerning Poor Man of Nippur’ Assyria comes from tablets preserved from prefigured the famous this library, including the text of the Epic of stories of ‘One Thousand Gilgamesh. An important purpose of the and One Nights’ from library was to furnish information for priests Baghdad. The library was and diviners in their work of advising the discovered by Sir Henry king and seeing to his spiritual needs. Layard during excavations Ashurbanipal’s sources were the libraries of at the palace of King temples all over Mesopotamia, together Sennacherib between with tablets from Ashur, Calah (an ancient 1845 and 1851. More than Assyrian city south of Mosul in present-day 20,000 tablets from Iraq) and the king’s great capital at Nineveh. Ashurbanipal’s collection Scribes were ordered to copy texts were later placed in the concerning a wide variety of religious and British Museum.the Akitu festival, which celebrated his victory The struggle for survivalover Tiamat. Tiamat was a primordial creature imposed on those whowho had created monsters to avenge the death of lived there produced aher ‘husband’ Apsu at the hands of Ea, one of popular religion permeatedtheir children, the younger gods. In his role as with the power of thechampion of the younger gods, however, supernatural and dominated by superstition.Marduk killed the monsters and Tiamat as well. Devils and evil spirits lurked everywhere and May all the gods curse anyone who breaks, defaces, or removes this Sennacherib, however, ascribed the deed to charms and incantations were frequently used to tablet with a curse which cannotAssur after he conquered and destroyed Babylon exorcise them. To the Assyrians, devils and be relieved, terrible and mercilessin 689 BC and so gave the god his central place in demons had the power to enter the human body as long as he lives, may they let hisboth the festival and the Assyrian pantheon. and the clay and metal charms worn to fend name, his seed be carried off fromThis was a political rather than a religious move. them off included human heads and monstrous the land, and may they put his fleshIt was believed that Assyria had been granted its animals. Repeating seven times the seven in a dog’s mouth. Curse on book-thieves, from theempire by Assur and that its armies were under magical words inscribed on stone tablets was library of King Ashurbanipalhis protection. Assyrian kings used to present another commonly used means of averting evil.Assur with their reports on campaigns they had The supernatural appeared so all-pervading inconducted, virtually making the god a divine Assyria that a series of omens was developed,commander-in-chief. listing every conceivable piece of bad luck, with instructions on how to avoid them. A specialRELIGION AND SUPERSTITION class of priests – the baru, orAssyria was an extremely harsh land, with few seers – dealt with the sciencenatural advantages and much arid desert. of omens and portents. 745 BC Succession of KingTiglath-Pileser III, who turned Assyria into an empire and a military state 732–722 BC Assyrian conquest of Palestine and Syria 710 BC King Sargon II conquers Babylon 705 BC Nineveh, rebuilt by King Sennacherib, becomes capital of Assyria 689 BC Assur made national god of Assyria 668–627 BC Reign of King Ashurbanipal 612 BC Destruction of Nineveh by Babylonians, Syrians and Medes; fall of the Assyrian Empire. 23

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