In the beginning was a “big bang”. No one is sure how it happened but it happened about 14 billion years ago (in Earth time, that is). All the material in the universe came from this event. The material in the form of dust slowly gathered to form galaxies, suns, planets and satellites through attraction. The planet we call Earth was formed about 4 billion years ago, a little after the formation of the Sun, the star which gives us the energy for our survival, around which we revolve. Life on Earth began around 1 billion years ago in the form of simple cells. Our species – Homo – is perhaps one to two million years old. Civilisation in the form of societies and writing came about perhaps 20,000 years ago. Recognisable society is perhaps 7,000 years old. We know these things because we are smart.
Homo was descended from apes (evolution and natural selection), our closest relatives on the African continent. Modern Homo left Africa around 70,000 years ago through Egypt and spread into the Mesopotamia, Indus and then moving along the coast eastward perhaps into China, and also into Europe. These are the four great civilisations from which we descend.
Of the great civilisations Indo-European is perhaps the most important in terms of influence and migration. It gave us Zoroastrianism and Brahmanism. From Zoroastrianism we were given the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the dominant religions of today. From Brahmanism came the religions of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, just a few other important religions.
Zoroastrianism began the ideas 1) of one god above the others (or no other), 2) of the struggle between good and evil forces, 3) that the beginning of the universe must have had a first cause (cosmology) and 4) that there shall be a purpose and meaningful end to life (eschatology).
Religions were the simplest way to explain the things that Homo did not understand. By positing into an unseen and infallible god all the answers to the unknown many – if not all – things could be explained. The power of the imagination was then to let that is unknown to be believed and to be known through the process of naming (Let there be “God”).
The rule of the all-powerful and unquestionable god had controlled the Homo’s way of life until perhaps 500 years ago when Homo (mainly European societies) realised that things can be explained in a way not reliant upon faith and belief. In other parts of Earth Homo, lived without the baggage of one god, first causes, judgement day and the like. Good and evil, however, was a nice analogy that seemed to be acceptable.
Today, Homo continues to live with religion alongside science and philosophy, just two of many of the alternative ways to explain the nature of reality and existence. Amen, gassho, namaste, far out man, To be Continued and/or The End.