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Latest researches show with an abundance of evidence, that modern religion (including Christianity) are evolved from primordial believes system as a reflection of its social and political structure. Following this concept, one could draw an evolutionary tree (in the attached picture) that would depict Christianity (and other modern religions) as a descendant of shamanism.

In practice, it is argued that religion is a product of human society, evolved over time, and not a product of divine intervention. How would you object to this thesis?

enter image description here

Main reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4958132/

closed as off-topic by curiousdannii, depperm, KorvinStarmast, Ken Graham, Lee Woofenden Jan 26 at 19:04

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    Different varieties of beliefs considering themselves Christian will have different perspectives on this question. A Biblical literalist, for example, would probably give a very different response than a Christian Atheist. Whose perspective are you interested in? – Matt Gutting Jan 21 at 12:07
  • Both I guess... – alec_djinn Jan 21 at 12:11
  • Why the downvote? – alec_djinn Jan 21 at 12:12
  • my guess for the dv is because this is such a broad question not aimed at one specific denomination, which is off topic – depperm Jan 21 at 13:38
  • mmm... I don't think it is too broad. Can someone help me out editing the question to make it conform to the expected format? – alec_djinn Jan 21 at 13:44
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In practice, it is argued that religion is a product of human society, evolved over time, and not a product of divine intervention.

The evolution of religions as shown in the diagram is predicated on the assumption that none of the religions depicted are actually true. In other words, Judaism can only be said to have 'evolved' from Caananite polytheism if there was no actual God who revealed himself to Abraham. Christianity can only be said to have 'evolved' from Judaism if there was no Jesus of Nazareth giving a divine revelation.

Also, drawing a diagram is not an argument. Anyone who presents this diagram as an argument against religion needs to explain its assumptions, what evidence backs it up, and why they think what it depicts is actually the case.

(Incidentally, the diagram is somewhat oversimplified even from a secular comparative religion point of view. Academic studies would show some more complex interactions.)

  • I agree with your answer, but I fear it may not be enough to counter the argument. Aside from the diagram, that is a very simplistic one, if you read the linked reference, they put forward quite a lot of pieces of evidence supporting that religious rituals were present all around the earth way before the invention of the writing. Those rituals ended up being codified as proper religion later on, by different cultures, adapting over time. – alec_djinn Jan 21 at 15:17
  • It bothers me, but, even recently, Christianity is changing. Maybe in 1000 years it will be so different that I would not recognize it anymore... – alec_djinn Jan 21 at 15:20
  • If you are concerned about evidence of this kind you are unlikely to get a short answer on a website that satisfies you. Talk to Christians who know about this field in person. – DJClayworth Jan 21 at 15:30
  • @alec if you're under the assumption the Christianity is changing, you probably should ask about that. I've learned quite a few interesting tidbits here that connect modern practices (especially The Sacrifice of the Mass) back to the 1st couple of centuries. – Peter Turner Jan 21 at 22:24
  • At some level the practice of Christianity is definitely changing. To take a trivial example, a thousand years ago owning slaves would be perfectly acceptable. Even the Catholic church today has doctrines that were not doctrines a thousand years ago. – DJClayworth Jan 21 at 22:27
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I am by no means an academic, but I'll attempt to give my opinion on the matter.

The paper which you referenced in question concludes that, contrary to previously accepted theories, belief in God did not develop from animism or shamanism:

The majority of traits of religion we investigated exhibit a correlated pattern of character change on phylogeny. The results suggest that belief in an afterlife, shamanism, and ancestor worship evolve in concerted fashion as an integrated system of beliefs and practices. However, neither high gods nor active high gods exhibit correlated evolution with the rest of the religious traits, including ancestor worship, despite Spencer’s and Tylor’s suggestions.

The paper does not attempt to explain how belief in God developed, but does note that other papers attempt to link belief in God to various social and political structures. These papers seem to only describe correlations between the two, but it has been well established that correlation does not equal causation. I would argue that academic research on this topic is far from settled and should not be taken as definitive.

But again, I am not an academic, scholar or expert on this topic; this is just my perspective on the matter.

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The Bible is an extensive record of about two thousand years of religious history, from Abraham to the life of the last Apostle, John, plus highlights of the time going back to Adam. One approach to comprehending all the changes that occurred over that period is called Dispensationalism. Dispensational doctrinal systems attempt to answer the question: If God is unchanging, then why do some ancient laws and customs that He laid down for people (such as the Jews) to follow endure while others have been replaced or modified? According to the various dispensational views, you have this view of the development and change of religion over time:

1) Some changes are due to cultural drift, invasion (by Assyria, Babylon), syncretism with neighboring peoples (like the Canaanites), corrupt kings (most of them!) or the influence of false prophets (like the Baal worshipers that Elijah fought). The Bible shows how these practices were forcefully opposed and ultimately rejected.

2) Some changes are due to additional revelation from God. These changes are remarkably consistent with what was revealed before.

3) Some changes introduce a New Covenant or a dramatic change in the mode of worship, such as with Noah, Moses, David, and Jesus. The important thing here is that such changes are foreshadowed by the prophets. As it says in Amos 3:7, “Truly the Lord GOD will do nothing he has mentioned without revealing his purposes to his servants the prophets." The reliability and great number of fulfilled prophecies is what set Judaism and Christianity apart from other religions.

So I would say that Christianity stands apart from other changeable human religions in that its changes were planned by God and announced in advance, while still preserving much continuity. For example, if I read about the ethics practiced by Job, a man who lived almost 4,000 years ago, I see nothing objectionable or foreign or outdated in his beliefs. Indeed, Job, a Gentile, prophesies the creation of an authoritative book collecting God's oracles to man, he prophesies Jesus walking on water, refers to his savior as the "Son of Man", lists dozens of other historical events later found in the Bible, and even describes the beasts that figure prominently in the Book of Revelation.

Christianity is not like religions of human origin. As it says in 1 Thessalonians:

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.

  • I really don't see how Dispensationalism is relevant to the question. – DJClayworth Jan 21 at 16:52
  • Dispensational doctrinal systems attempt to answer the question: If God is unchanging, then why do some ancient laws and customs that He laid down for people (such as the Jews) to follow endure while others have been replaced or modified? – Paul Chernoch Jan 21 at 18:26
  • But it has nothing to say about how (or if) Judaism evolved from other religions. – DJClayworth Jan 21 at 18:46
  • Aside that the Bible accounts for way more that 2k years, yes, it doesn't fit the question. – alec_djinn Jan 21 at 18:48
  • "So I would say that Christianity stands apart from other changeable human religions in that its changes were planned by God and announced in advance, while still preserving much continuity." if the pope says to be omosex is ok, it was part of God's plan? – alec_djinn Jan 21 at 18:50

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