Philosophical Story Challenge of the Week

Well, life is interesting. My web browser randomly crashed on me tonight, which made it difficult to get online. I’m actually still trying to trouble shoot it as we speak. Anyway, I have a question for you: where did religions come from? There are a few different theories about this. Some of the more popular are the Evolutionary Development theory, which argues that religions developed progressively from least complex (i.e. simple spiritualism) through various stages (animism to polytheism to henotheism to monotheism to atheism) as cultures developed and more questions found naturalistic answers. This theory admittedly has the advantage of fitting in with many modern scientific worldviews, and of being able to treat all religions as fundamentally equal, though ultimately untrue. This theory tends to see religion as a progressive search for answers that has been rendered largely unnecessary by scientific advances over time to the point that it now serves a purely aesthetic and social purpose. It is also somewhat supported by the fact that many primitive cultures currently in existence are animistic or polytheistic in nature. However, the theory has the disadvantage of having relatively little evidential support. Scholars who oppose the theory point out that not only has such a progression of religious belief never been seen in a living culture, but we don’t have records of such a clean progression either. Many religious changes happen because two religions intersect and must either grow together or further define themselves (as with Zoroastrianism and Judaism), others happen because of violent conversion (as with the early spread of Islam), etc. Those few records we have of natural religious development don’t show a clear nature of progression. For instance, the Chinese moved from the seemingly henotheistic or monotheistic worship of Shang-ti in the Shang dynasty to a more polytheistic religion by the time of the Qin dynasty.

Opposed to this theory is a theory known as Original Monotheism which argues that progression happens in the opposite direction. This theory argues that early humans were apparently monotheists, but that various cultural developments led to significant splits that resulted in the creation of other religious forms ranging from animism to pantheism. Again, this theory has certain advantages: while it does propose an original monotheism, it does not argue for a clear or consistent progression of religious development across cultures, which better fits the historical record. Further, in many ancient cultures there is some evidence (though often very slight) for an ancient monotheistic belief, though whether they can all be attributed to the same monotheistic belief is highly questionable. Original Monotheism also has the advantage of generally taking religion more seriously than the Evolutionary Development theory has, and many supporters believe that there is at least some kind of reality behind at least some religious beliefs, though the extent varies widely. However, Original Monotheism suffers from the same general lack of evidence. There are many cultures that show no clear evidence of monotheistic belief anywhere in their recorded history, which raises questions for the theory. Original Monotheism also often sees other forms of religion (i.e. polytheism, pantheism, animism, etc) as devolutions or deformities from the original.

There are also many religious opinions about the origin of religions. For instance, some Christians believe that non-Christian religions were originated by demonic forces bent on corrupting mankind. Others believe that different religions represent different real and equivalent spiritual forces, or that all religions are simply cultural attempts to understand the same fundamentally real spiritual power.

So, this is my question for you today: where did religion come from?

Write me a 1000 word story the presents and defends your opinion.