Prehistoric Religions Essay, Research Paper
When looking at the history of the religions of the prehistoric age there is one event more than any other that changed the face of religion as well as society itself. This particular event was the development of agriculture. Previous to this religion and society were much different than they are now. Before farming people roamed around in small groups called tribes and lived by hunting and gathering. Religion had a more significant presence in people s lives before agriculture. Everything from hunting to death had a religious significance. For example when an animal was killed during a hunt the hunters often prayed thanking the animal for allowing itself to be killed so that they may eat. They also used every bit of the animal to show respect. Another aspect of pre-agriculture religion was that there was little distinction between conditioned and unconditioned reality. That is to say that everything that happened good or bad was an act of the gods.
If one looks at a history of the development of these peoples they will find, surprisingly, that they knew of agriculture long before it became an accepted practice. One might ask why these people did not begin farming as early as they could considering all the benefits it has produced. The answer lies in the belief that such a practice would be very disrespectful to the gods. They believed that only the gods could make food and that they should not try to gain the powers of these gods. To do so might mean punishment for these people whom depended on the gods for their survival. Soon however many began to plant their own food and so began the shifting of these people from nomadic hunters and gatherers to a more stable permanently settled people. Their views on religion also experienced great changes as well.
The development of farming had an affect on both religion as well as society. There are several ways in which their religious views were changed. One was that agriculture led to an increase in sacrificial practices. This was done to appease the gods so that they may have a good harvest. The people began to see a clear distinction between conditioned and unconditioned realities in that things such as hunting were not so religiously significant. Man began to rely on himself more than prayer. Agriculture more greatly influenced society itself than it did religion. Previous to farming people as stated earlier roamed about in small tribes hunting and gathering as they went. The development of agriculture allowed these people to stay in one area since they no longer had to search for food. Many of these tribes began to merge together combining their religious beliefs. At the same time the first towns and cities of significant size began to develop. A more stable way of life led to an increase among cultures that practiced agriculture. The settling of these tribes into permanent settlements caused several changes. First of all people who previously spent most of their time hunting and traveling now had time to pursue other activities. Other jobs and skills were developed which led to a division of labor. Some farmed other hunted while still others made tools or other useful objects. The last major development was the first written languages. Before agriculture stories and beliefs were passed down from one generation to another by word of mouth. Writing allowed these stories to be permanently recorded for the first time. The development of writing also paved the way for the first written scriptures.
To conclude the most significant event in the history of religions was the development of agriculture. It practice led to many changes in both religion and society as a whole. Among these are the first permanent settlements, written languages, and also the development of a gap between the conditioned and unconditioned realities.