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Lecture

Lec 8 Outline of World Religious History


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC250Y1
Professor
Joseph Bryant

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SOC250Y1 Lecture 8
November 3, 2010
Outline of World Religious History
- Make use of textbook *Chapter 2 & 3
Phase One: “Prehistory” (the time before writing, emergence of our species)
- Very important phase because question of whether religion is intrinsic to the human condition “do
we find evidence of religion at the same time we find emergence of homo sapiens (our species)?
Palaeolithic Era, c 2.5 million years to c. 10,000 BCE
o This period means “old stone age” then scholars would come up with middle and other
eras
o Much of this period is about the emergence of our species “human evolution”
Human evolution: australopithecines (~4 million years Before the Present) homo habilis
(handy/skilled) (~2.5 million years BP) erectus = standing up, developing bipedalism, brain
enlargement, declining sexual dimorphism in body size, limb proportions, jaw, teeth, lips, tongue, etc.
Tools, language, hunting & gathering (this is what we become after human evolution)
Homo sapiens from c. 250,000 BCE out of Africa thesis that is the earliest homo sapiens emerge in
Africa and big migration move to other continents, specifically into Eurasia then across barring’s into
Alaska and down to North and South America
o Key developments- we become increasingly bipedal (emergence of homo sapiens), more
erect posture, increased brain, jaw declines etc. all biological developments change nature
of humans and move us in the direction of more and more of a “culture-based” animal
o Importance of complex speech to our species- which is only possible if we have
flexibility in vocal region and if brain capacity increases which develops complexity of
thought
o Many animals have vocal capabilities, form of speech communication possible but none
approximate the tremendous possibility of human speech that will be quantitatively and
qualitatively different
Mesolithic Era, c. 10,000 to 7,000 nomadism homo sapiens moving into village life and grain
cultivation, done in conjunction with hunting and gathering but the critical turning point is the following:
Neolithic Era, c. 7,000 to 3,500 = settled agriculture, domestication of plants and animals, pottery,
wheeled carts first major towns: Catalhoyuk, Jericho, etc.- This is when human populations actually
settle down, agriculture dominates over hunting and gathering. We plant seeds and control food supply,
do that with animal species, domesticating animals like in the canine species (dogs who became partners
in hunting, guard dogs) but then we domesticated cattle, engage in animal husbandry (take care of

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animals, use hides, bones for implements of production), emergence of pottery for transport and storage,
first towns (earliest human settlements)
= the period of aboriginal or primordial religion (we can use this prehistory period to categorize
aboriginal or primordial religion) What are the original forms we can find and reconstruct from
limited evidence and make inferences? Below we find the cluster of the basic features of what we
will call aboriginal or primordial religion:
(Animism (Tylor), naturism (view humans were dependent on processes of nature and natural to regard
natural world as divine and spirits), ancestor cult (group life), totemism (Durkheim), earth mother as
fertility and grain goddess)
Phase Two: History & the Rise of the State- moving into actual history because written records, single
most important development is the emergence of the state! The creation of organized forms of
management, control, militarization. A lot of development in this stage, transformation of human history!
- The first civilizations in the great river valleys: the Fertile Crescent, the Nile, the Indus and
Ganges, the Huang He and Yangtze rivers (places where complexity if human life develop)
- We go from bone and stone to Metallurgy, writing & record-keeping, astronomy, (important for
settled agriculture) and calendars, complex of division of labour, artisans & merchants, trade,
private property, cities rising wealth & population (can produce more than they need for daily
consumption, hence a surplus due to breakthroughs) But you also get growing inequality because
some take on wealth and some will have to make do with less 2 big fundamental requirements
for production: need management and make sure people down stream and downstream are
working together; scholars have argued a territorial imperative emerged to coordinate people
living in river values which requires greater cooperation than hunter and gathering- same with
planting, need to plant at same time maximize productivity) the decision to settle in river valleys
carried with it many requirements which led to development of state because it is all politics
(demands and comply) As river valleys increase in population we see more powerful figures
emerging who are responsible for coordinating the entire territory. Because of tremendous
productivity there will be an abundance and as a result you must worry about protecting it (the
second part) What happens is a basic division between nomadic groups and settled groups (those
who live by leading animals to fresh land which are nomadic and settled live in uneasy world)-
Ex of pastoralist (Islamic powers- camel riding horse riding)
- Famous scholar Caldoon came up with theory of struggle between pastoralists and settled
populations to characterize Islamic history with settled populations that dominate and pastoral
people in the desert who sometimes come in to make new dynasty) = emergence of the state we
see an emergence of a professionalized body of people whose responsibility is to control and
command and becomes more hierarchical.
o Need for greater control, organization, and protection
o State formation = hierarchical structures of command (hereditary), rule by kings, their
officials (bureaucracy), and their royal troops or armies, and aristocratic elites
officialdom and army are natural outgrowth of requirements for management and
protection hard to avoid developing a state with a bureaucracy and officialdom and
professionalized military
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= the emergence of polytheistic religions emerge out of backdrop of aboriginal or
primordial religion
(With identifiable gods and goddesses; religious knowledge conveyed in mythology, and art; facilitated
by emergence of professional priesthoods, responsible for doctrines, managing rituals, etc.)
With professional priesthoods, they replace more informal religious professionals
at first stage (shamans: spirit talkers or mediums)
Origins of the Major World Religions *Space and Time*
India China Middle East Greece & Rome
(Mesopotamia/ Egypt)
( prehistorical inheritances: Animism, Naturism, Ancestor Cult)
POLYTHEISM
(ISRAEL & Persia emerge later)
Polytheism
Hinduism (oldest) which gives rise to Jainism and Buddhism
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