An Old Debate On Which Came First: Animism or Monotheism

This is from a larger debate, so you are coming into the middle of a conversation, FYI. This is from about 10-years ago?

Jenny said:

The indigenous peoples in the South American rain forests, and the Aborigines of Australia (before the total infestation of the white man) are two examples. These peoples, who granted have a rudimentary religious standpoint, based not upon a supreme ruling god, but on many godlike entities or species, do not get their morals from a need to worship, or fear of reprisal, for their “gods” do not hold such power. And yet, murder and thievery is still considered as wrong to them as to us.

Two points that need to be made.  First, if you read closely my original three posts, you will see that I use C. S. Lewis’s point that man cannot think of a new moral code. So yes, all men, whether in the rainforest to New York City (more of a jungle) know ultimately good from evil (for the most part). Secondly, you seem to be referring to a theory which has long been discredited but I may be wrong, please enlighten me some more if you do not mean the following. Most atheists seem to think that monotheism (belief in one God) is of recent refinement. In the nineteenth century, two anthropologists, Sir Edward Tyler and Sir James Frazer, popularized the notion that the first stage in the evolution of religion was animism (which involved the worship of spirits believed to inhabit natural phenomena), followed later by pantheism (the idea that everything is divine), then polytheism (a belief in a multitude of distinct and separate deities), and eventually monotheism.

However, recent studies in anthropology have turned this scenario on its head and show, for example, that the hundreds of contemporary tribal religions (including many which are animistic) are not primitive in the sense of being original. Writing from long time experience in India (one of the oldest religious peoples in the world), and after extended studies of ancient religions, the modern scholar Robert Brow states, The tribes have a memory of a High God, who is no longer worshipped because he is not feared. Instead of offering sacrifice to him, they concern themselves with the pressing problems of how to appease the vicious spirits of the jungle.

Still, other research suggests that tribes are not animistic because they have continued unchanged since the dawn of history and that The evidence indicates degeneration from the true knowledge of one God.

Another example is that of the mystery that confounded Confucius. One of the earliest a recordings of the worship of ShangTi is in Shu Ching (Book of History, compiled by Confucius), where it is recorded of Emperor Shun (c.2230 B. C.) as offering a sacrifice to this monotheistic God. This event (once a year) has happened for 40 centuries, until, that is, until the atheists took over when the dynasty was deposed in 1911. Chinese history and oracle bones speak of a tower where all the worlds people were once gathered, not to mention the flood and even eight people surviving on a chest full of animals. India has the same except for a few details lost in history.

All the world’s oldest religions remember a monotheistic God that they worshipped. I would study this a wee bit more to understand exactly where religion came from. Because the empirical evidence indicates that men didn’t create it, we just distorted it. That it didn’t evolve, but devolve.

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