Religion’s Future in View of Its Past
Part 1—4026-2370 B.C.E.—Religious Disunity—How It Began
“Man is by his constitution a religious animal.”—Edmund Burke, 18th-century Irish statesman
HUMANS have an instinctive need to worship. The New Encyclopædia Britannica says that “as far as scholars have discovered, there has never existed any people, anywhere, at any time, who were not in some sense religious.” Right from mankind’s beginning, man and woman logically turned in adoration to their Creator. They looked to him as the Authority to offer them guidance and counsel. Thus, for all intents and purposes, the birth on earth of religion coincided with Adam’s creation. According to Bible chronology, this was in the year 4026 B.C.E.
Some may object to the use of the term “Adam’s creation.” But the unproved theory of evolution has recently met with severe setbacks, even from its own supporters. For additional information, see the book Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Today, a person cannot factually argue that the Bible’s account of a common origin for mankind is unscientific. A 1988 Newsweek article reported that geneticists now tend to agree that modern man originated from a single mother. It quotes Harvard paleontologist S. J. Gould as saying that “all human beings, despite differences in external appearance, are really members of a single entity that’s had a very recent origin in one place.” He adds: “There is a kind of biological brotherhood that’s much more profound than we ever realized.”
These facts speak for the accuracy of the Bible. This indicates that there is no reason for us to doubt its explanation of how religious conflict began.
How One Religion Became Two
The Encyclopedia of Religion says that almost all known religions have certain beliefs that, while differing in detail, are surprisingly similar. For example, they believe that mankind fell from an original position of divine favor, that death is unnatural, and that sacrifice is necessary to regain divine favor. This is strong circumstantial evidence indicating that all of today’s religions had a common origin.
The Bible explains how this came about. It tells us that the first man and woman rejected God’s direction and turned to another source for guidance and counsel. Although evidently not aware of Satan and his rebellion against God, they took an independent course and followed the counsel of a creature, represented by the serpent, rather than the Creator. The Bible later revealed that Satan was the true voice behind the misleading serpent.—Genesis 2:16–3:24; Revelation 12:9.
Thus man moved out from under theocratic rule and established his own standards as to good and evil. By their independent actions, Adam and Eve set mankind on a course that would result in many different religions, all of them constituting false worship in contrast with the true worship practiced by Jehovah’s faithful witnesses down through history. Directly or indirectly, the beneficiary of that false worship has been the great Adversary, Satan. Thus, the apostle Paul was able to write: “The things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons.” He went on to show that there are only two forms of worship, saying: “You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of ‘the table of Jehovah’ and the table of demons.”—1 Corinthians 10:20, 21.
Therefore, Adam’s rebellion initiated a second form of worship, one that placed the creature ahead of the Creator. And the real sponsor of that new religion was the new self-appointed “god,” Satan the Devil.—2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19.
Adam and Eve’s first two sons, Cain and Abel, offered sacrifices to the Creator, indicating that both of them were religiously inclined. The subsequent course of events, however, showed that they were not religiously united. This became apparent less than 130 years into mankind’s history, when a sacrifice made by Abel was accepted by the Creator, whereas Cain’s was rejected. Obviously, God was not willing to accept just any personal religion. This fact angered Cain and motivated him to murder his brother.—Genesis 4:1-12; 1 John 3:12.
For the first time in human history, religious hatred stained the earth with innocent blood. It would not be the last time. “Probably half or more of the wars now being fought around the world are either openly religious conflicts or involved with religious disputes,” noted a modern-day newspaper columnist.
In the days of Enosh, a nephew of Cain and Abel, “a start was made of calling on the name of Jehovah.” (Genesis 4:26) Since Abel had previously made a start of calling on God’s name in faith, this later “calling on the name of Jehovah” is understood to mean that people began to use the name profanely or in a debased way. It was clearly a case of religious hypocrisy.
The Jewish Jerusalem Targum, or paraphrase, notes: “That was the generation in whose days they began to err, and to make themselves idols, and surnamed their idols by the name of the Word of the Lord.” Idolatry, coupled with a pretense of representing God, has characterized false religion ever since.
At Jude 14, 15, we read of faithful Enoch’s prophecy regarding idolatrous mankind of that first millennium. He said: “Look! Jehovah came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment against all, and to convict all the ungodly concerning all their ungodly deeds that they did in an ungodly way, and concerning all the shocking things that ungodly sinners spoke against him.” This prophecy was fulfilled in the second millennium of man’s history, when false religion was rampant. The ungodliness may even have included the idolizing of angels who in disobedience to God had materialized on earth and married “the daughters of men,” producing a hybrid race of “mighty ones who were of old, the men of fame.”—Genesis 6:4.
Noah, however, “found favor in the eyes of Jehovah” because he “walked with the true God.” (Genesis 6:8, 9) He and his family, a total of eight adherents of true religion, were greatly outnumbered by the wicked. Because false religion and those who practiced it were in the majority, “the badness of man was abundant in the earth,” and “the earth became filled with violence.” (Genesis 6:5, 11) God determined to bring a flood to destroy people who practiced false religion. Only Noah and his family survived under God’s protection, reason enough for them afterward “to build an altar to Jehovah” as an act of true worship. (Genesis 8:20) The Flood had clearly identified which of the two religious systems existing in Noah’s day was true and which was false.
The foregoing is based on the premise that the Bible record is true. But in addition to the proofs mentioned at the beginning of our article, take a look at the evidence presented in the box “Was There Really a Global Flood?”
Religion’s Future—Your Future
The gaining of knowledge about religion’s past is vital because there basically are only two kinds of religion—one acceptable to mankind’s Creator and the other clearly unacceptable. Logically, then, if a person is to have the Creator’s approval, he must share His views on religion. Do not forget that all of us are involved because “man is by his constitution a religious animal.”
In looking at religion’s past, let us do so with an open mind, even more importantly, with a receptive heart. Whenever a particular religion comes under scrutiny, let us pause long enough to ask ourselves whether its teachings are understandable, clear, and logical. And what about its accomplishments? Has it drawn its members closer to the Creator by impressing upon them the importance of obeying his commands, or has it instead allowed them to set up their own standards of conduct? Has religion taught people to trust in God to solve world problems? Or has it instead misled them into trusting in political means to do so? Has it promoted unity and peace among earth’s inhabitants, or has it instead fomented disunity and instigated wars?
These and other questions will help us distinguish between the one original religion introduced by mankind’s Creator and the many counterfeit kinds introduced by his adversary.
Is religion implicated in the present moral breakdown and collapse of ethics? The following article will briefly discuss that question.
[Box on page 7]
Was There Really a Global Flood?
“Far from the Genesis Flood being an unlikely event in recent geological times it fits quite naturally into such a period . . . In fact it was the most likely period for such a rapid and violent upheaval.”—The Flood Reconsidered.
“Archaeology has also unearthed other versions of the [Genesis] story of the Deluge . . . The similarities are more striking than the differences.”—Digging Up the Bible Lands.
“A world cataclysm during which the earth was inundated or submerged by water [is] a concept found in almost every mythology in the world. . . . In Inca mythology it was provoked by the supreme god, Viracocha, who was dissatisfied with the first men and decided to destroy them.”—Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend.
“Even greater similarities to the Genesis account are present in another Babylonian epic whose hero bears the name Gilgamesh. . . . It most likely came into existence around the beginning of the second millennium. . . . [Clay tablet XI] is virtually intact, thus providing the most complete version of the deluge story in cuneiform script.”—Encyclopædia Judaica.
“Like the Hebrews, Babylonians, Greeks, Norsemen, and other peoples of the Old World, many Indian tribes of North and South America had traditions of the Deluge. . . . ‘When the earliest missionaries came’ . . . , the Reverend Myron Eells reported in 1878, ‘they found that those Indians had their traditions of a flood, and that one man and his wife were saved on a raft.’”—Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest.