1 0 Things That Prove Religion is Made by Humans (NOT a God/Goddess):
Religions are belief systems; idea structures that are built from dreams. The dreams that create
religions vary from the otherworldly visions of mystics and prophets to the transcendent ones of
a group wishing for a better world, or sharing hallucinogenic trances. But whether utopian,
apocalyptic, or visionary, the systems are the products of our subconscious minds. Religions
are made of our hopes, fears, and desires, and proof of their human origin is obvious and easy
The clearest most compelling evidence of the human origin of religion is the way religions
constantly evolve. Divine or supernatural creations should – in theory, be perfect and need no
change. But religious beliefs are forever changing; just look at the examples below.
Religions have changed radically over the millennia;
human sacrifice is no longer widely practiced.
1 . Religions have changed in response to developments in technology and culture.
Radical changes in religions have occurred as human societies themselves have changed over
the course of history. Hominids (that is, human-like creatures) have existed for about 5 million
years; the use of fire goes back about 1 million years; Homo Sapiens sapiens, our own species,
is about 200,000 years old.
Over that entire span of time, there is no evidence of any kind of spiritual belief. The first
evidence we have dates about 40,000 years ago to the end of the Pleistocene age (the ice
ages in Europe). At that time the first known burials occur, indicating a belief in some sort of
afterlife, along with the first artwork and grave offerings
The artwork is mainly cave paintings, which depict human animal hybrids scholars think are
shamans or magicians, and carved figurines of exaggerated feminine figures, possessing
swollen breasts and bellies. While we can't be certain of the meaning of this art, the symbolism
is fairly clear. Humans were struggling for survival, and the main concerns of the group were
success in the hunt, and fertility.
The grave offerings we recognize from pollen; flowers laid in graves, and also bones - both
human and animal, bearing the marks of teeth and knives, the first evidence of human and
animal sacrifice. Religion emerged just as human societies themselves began to develop.
2. Religions changed again with the domestication of animals and agriculture.
Religions changed dramatically with the next phase of technological development – the
domestication of animals (about 1 5,000 years ago), and agriculture (starting about 6000 years
ago). With herds of animals came the concept of property, different social classes, the
specialization of labor, and the building of priesthoods and temples.
Specialization – the creation of trades, summoned forth gods and goddesses. Before this there
were just spirits, some more important than others. The sun, the moon, the hunt God and the
mother Goddess – these were gradually crowded out by more detailed divinities as human
activities became more complex. Goddesses of love, wisdom, and the home, gods of wine, of
war, and so on. Deities changed as human societies did. The less we became concerned with
animals and bare survival the more complex religions became. It is blindingly obvious that
religions have evolved right alongside human cultures.
Ancient coins: Bottom: the first coins - far l. a Lydian stater; m. Aeginetan stater,
(front), far r. Aeginetan stater (back), Top: Chinese coins dating from c. 600 BCE to 1 4
CE. Lydia and Aegina were the first city-states to mint coins.
3. Radical religious changes came with the invention of money.
The greatest change to religion came at the same time as the invention of money. The concept
of coinage leads to the “commoditization of nature”. This is the idea that nature belongs to
humans, and its only value is the one we assign it. This violates ancient ideas about nature,
namely that nature is a sacred being deserving of worship with whom we have a spiritual
relationship. There is considerable evidence that the philosophical crisis money causes gave
rise to the monotheistic religions.
Monotheistic religions developed only along trade routes that lead from ancient Greece in the
west to China in the east (the sole exception was Egypt – and that was a special case involving
a ruler attempting to break the power of a priestly caste). The first coinage emerged in ancient
Lydia about 640 BCE, along the southern shores of the Black Sea. Comparing a timeline of the
historical figures responsible for the first monotheistic religions makes the connection obvious.
Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)
604-51 4 BCE
Kung Fu Tzu
Cultural Responses: Greeks (no gods needed; rationality); Persians (dualism; good v. evil);
Indians (Buddhism: world is evil/pain; Jains: life is sacred);
Chinese (Taoism: nature is teacher; Confucians: hierarchy/control).
Within a span of 1 50 years – the blink of an eye compared to 6000 years of recorded history,
coinage had spread throughout the ancient world, and every major monotheistic belief system
emerged. The later religions of Christianity and Islam are the direct descendants of Judaism,
whose monotheistic aspects derive from Zoroastrian dualism.
4. Religions were transformed by the triumph of the scientific method.
The last great shift in religions occurred in response to the triumph of empiricism, also known
as the scientific method. Science demands proof, and its immense success in controlling
nature has infected religion. Modern religions – those that have developed since the Industrial
Revolution, have been forced along with ancient religions to focus on spirituality, and the need
for believers to have an actual mystical experience.
Science has so altered the worldview of people around the globe that no belief system can
retain credibility without providing some kind of evidence that supports its beliefs, at least
minimally. The rise of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movements (in Protestant and
Catholic congregations, respectively) - emphasizing a direct experiential connection to God,
are a good example of this trend. They are among the very few branches of Christianity that
continue to attract new followers.
5. No universal definition of good and evil.
Another proof that religion is a human artifact is the lack of any universal definition of good and
evil. Huge differences in ethics occur between cultures depending on geographical conditions
and the attitudes and needs of each society. There is no 'divine' standard; human concerns
determine what is right and wrong.
For example, the Inuits (Eskimo), and other tribes in harsh climates, find survival difficult, and
unproductive extra mouths can mean starvation for all. Inuit ethics demands that when elders
can no longer contribute they go out onto the ice until they die of exposure or are eaten by polar
bears. Suicide by the elderly was considered the correct and proper thing to do in Inuit society
(until very recent times). Another example is the concept of spiritual purity. In some societies
entire races of people are considered 'unclean', as with the 'Untouchables' in the Hindu caste
system, whereas in other cultures some objects or animals are spiritually impure. What one
group holds it highest honor can be considered disgusting in another – such as the Hindu
sacred cow versus the Muslim impure pig. The two groups eat and revile each other's sacred
animals, causing great grief and violence in India where they live side-by-side.
6. Mythologies/religious stories differ radically. How life and the universe came into being; why
people behave as they do; the way people should live – all these derive from mythology. The
stories that provide the answers to these questions differ so much from one society to another
they might as well be from different planets.
As the eminent mythographer Joseph Campbell pointed out, there are “A thousand faces of
God”, and in his brilliant work on mythology - “Hero of a Thousand Faces”, he outlines the
fascinating differences (and similarities) between cultural hero archetypes. One of his principal
themes is the arbitrary nature of myths - so dependent on geographical factors and the
peculiarities of a given culture.
7. The religious definition of reality. Termed cosmology
and metaphysics, this is also clearly a product of
human culture. Time, place, and historical imperative all
determine the nature of reality, and therefore the
foundation of religion itself.
Religious explanations of how the universe operates
fall along a spectrum, from ones like Animism, that
believe the world is purely spiritual, where magic
controls everything, to (at the other end) ‘scientific’
religions such as Scientology, that insist the world is
purely physical, without supernatural influences, a
place following inflexible scientific laws. Metaphysics
and cosmology flow from a religion’s founding
mythology - so it’s natural they should vary so wildly
from group to group, through history.
400 years ago, the story of the sorcerer
Faust was European 'reality'.
8.The idea of the afterlife (utopia or heaven).is also obviously based on human desires and
needs, not on some divine or spiritual being. What one group considers perfect bliss, another
considers torture. For Muslims heaven is (for men) an eternal supply of virgins and hashish;
Christians see it as sexless spirits eternally singing hymns to God; Animists see the return to
Earth as a river, mountain or a flower as ideal. That's the nature of dreams - bizarre and lacking
any (except internal) logic.
The very idea that a “perfect” place exists itself disproves any religious claim to supremacy - as
it’s impossible that one environment - however “divinely” designed, could satisfy every human
culture as being perfect bliss - a precondition of heaven (if one believes in an omnipotent
God/Goddess, of course).
9. Religions are all focused on human archetypes,
namely – they all posit a family structure for deities,
they all concern themselves with human meaning, and
all rely on teachers and believers ignoring or criticizing
alternative kinds of communities.
Humans may be very special beings, with a highly
developed consciousness and tool-using abilities. But
the conceit of religions grotesquely inflates this to
cosmic proportions. Humans are - after all, only one
species on a planet containing millions of other beings,
Human conceit: divine beings are always
many of them possessing highly developed consc-
humanoid (at least, those created after the
-iousnesses of their own (whales and dolphins are both likely equal to humans in the
complexity of their cultures, and the great apes are closer than we’d like to believe, just to
name a few cases). That a creator would choose to slavishly follow the quirks and habits of
only one of his creations is ridiculous.
1 0. Religions cater to human needs. Where science seeks an understanding of nature and the
physical, religion is concerned with providing comfort to humans – hope, a sense of community,
meaning, and a way to create a legacy. Religion is the sharing of dreams and nightmares and is
an attempt to make them real.
Not all religions devote themselves solely to serving human desires, but all formed to deal with
the needs of the communities/groups that spawned them, and this - above all, proves the
human origin of religions. No religion would long survive if it didn’t serve believers in some
fundamental way, a fact that is at odds with any concept of the supernatural or divine - beings
that, by definition, are beyond human cares and concerns.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more on this subject, please visit my website at:
http://www.thenatureofreligion.info, or check out my book (The Nature of Religion, by T.M.Hoy)
available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine bookstores everywhere.