This post is about a few things I’ve learnt about religion having read the book Sapiens by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari.
Religion is one of the most powerful concept humans have created and is unique to humans as far as we know.
Based on number of gods, we can classify religions into monotheistic religions and polytheistic ones
Monotheistic religions believe in one god
Polytheism is belief in many gods
Examples of monotheistic religions are Christianity, Islam, Judaism
Examples of polytheistic religions include Taoism and Shenism
Not all religions classify themselves as strictly one or the other. Hinduism for example is a range of philosophies and embraces both monotheism and polytheism.
It appears our ancient hunger-gatherer ancestors may have practised animism.
Animism is the belief that all things – objects, creatures and places all possess a distinct spiritual essence
As humans transitioned from hunter-gathers to farmers (agricultural revolution), their religions changed as well. That is, as humans gained more dominion over plants and other animals, so did their religion change to justify such dominion.
Polytheism has been around for a long time. That is, people prayed to different gods to help them with various things.
It was later that monotheism began to take a foothold.
Nowadays, some of the most popular religions like Islam and Christianity are monotheistic religions. Nevertheless, these so-called monotheistic religions incorporate elements of other types of religions. E.g. In Christianity, there are saints who are seen almost like gods.
There are also some religions that don’t even recognize the existence of any gods. E.g. Budhism. Furthermore, there are religions that don’t even recognize divine beings, but rather take certain concepts are simply the way nature works. Capitalism, communism, etc. can be seen as religions too. The reason is that, they all start with some concept/entity that is supernatural/an inherent part of nature. Then these ideas/concepts/beings dictate how we should relate with one another. That is, they help differentiate right from wrong.
To learn more about these concepts, Yuval Noah Harari goes into a lot of details in his book Sapiens. His subsequent book, Homo Deus, goes into further details on religion, explaining possible religions that may become popular in future. That’s all for now.