- Homo sapiens emerged from a 4-million-year process of hominid evolution to
become the animal that speaks, makes tools, buries its dead, and thinks
- The first humans live in hunter-gatherer societies.
- In the indigenous religions, virtually everything is alive – the world itself is a
collective of living entities.
- Not just humans and other animals but trees, mountains, rivers, and special stones
– all are said to have souls or spirits that give them life or “animate” them.
o Animism – a worldview in which conscious life is attributed to all entities.
- Indigenous religions convey the truth that people, like the land, the sea, and the
forests, undergo an eternal process of birth, death, and rebirth.
- Each of the thousands of indigenous peoples who have lived on earth has had a
unique cosmogony, or account of the world’s origins and its essential powers.
- Everything in indigenous group life reinforced a collective sense of common
o A person’s identity was not tied primarily to unique and transitory
individual experiences but deeply embedded in the collective, eternal
identity of the group.
The Modern Human as Homo Religiosus
- The universality of religion in human societies even led Mircea Elieade to call our
species Homo religious, or “religious humanity.”
Hunter-Gatherers and the Prehistoric Origins of Religion
- Men predominantly the hunters and women the gatherers.
- The !Kung are nomads who use simple tools and build temporary houses.
- Scholars interpret the Venus figurines as icons representing a protecting,
nurturing “mother goddess”.
o They have speculated that the makers of these objects recognized and
revered a special female power behind the mystery of conception and
birth; they focused on the miracle of females producing beings from their
own bodies and celebrated the ability of women to perpetuate human life.
Prehistoric Hunters and the Secret of the Cave Ritual
- Caves are dangerous places, and the fact that people would venture sometimes
several hundred meters under the earth, traversing narrow, damp passageways,
would seem to suggest that they were engaged in no ordinary task.
- A successful hunt demanded not group c