Origins and Ideas

by Robert Brow


  1. Origins and Development
  2.  1. The Original Religion of Man
    2. Priests, Priestcraft and Magic
    3. The Sixth-Century Revolt
    4. Idols, Incarnations and Saviours
    5. Ascetics, Monks and Renunciation
    6. Unitarian Reformers
    7. National Religions


  3. The Main Options
  4.  8. Meaning or Meaningless
    9. Theism or Monism
    10. Trinity or Unity
    11. Life after Death
    12. Ethics and Goodness
    13. Religious Experience


  5. Conclusion
  6.  14. Existential Decision

Preface to the 1996 Digital Edition

Religion: Origins and Ideas was first published 30 years ago in 1966. The second edition in 1972 had a few minor changes, but it was still dated in its use of masculine language and failure to engage with the important questions raised by Feminists.

 It seems worth republishing the book digitally without further revision because it is still quoted, and some of the ideas are worth tangling with.

 Many books on comparative religion still assume that religion emerged out of apish chatter into primitive animism, and that humans only later evolved a polytheistic and then a monotheistic model. Religion suggested that after at least a million years of anthropoid development, the humans spoken of in Genesis, or Genesis men and women, were the first creatures created in the image of God. And their religion was the worship of a monotheistic God approached by animal sacrifice. Models can neither be proved or disproved, but it seems that this is a model which merits serious consideration as an alternative to the unproved assumptions of a model of the slow upward evolution of religion.

 The book also offered a contrast to the museum method of doing comparative religion. Many books of comparative religion still set out the artifacts, beliefs, and practices of Hinduism in one room, Buddhism in another, Taoism in another, and Islam in another. Religion: Origins and Ideas offers a picture of the ancient priesthoods that emerged in all parts of the ancient world, and the sixth century revolt against priestcraft that resulted in the emergence of seven new religions within fifty years. To the author's knowledge the significance of the astonishing revolution about 650 BC that moved from Iran to India and China and back into Greece has never been properly researched or taken seriously.

 In the second half of the book there was a first attempt at Model Theology. The contrast between the models of Meaning and Meaninglessness, Theism and Monism, Trinity and Unity is still at the heart of the different explanations men and women give of their vision of life.

 But those alternative were too stark, and failed to capture the way explanations are given by ordinary individuals. In God of Many Names  using a post-modern approach to dialogue with other religions, the author has developed a Model Theology to include the fact that religious models are often communicated most effectively by parables and metaphor. And rather than trying to study the models of different religions it makes much more sense to question each person one on one, develop his or her explanatory model, and make sure that this corresponds with what the person really has in mind.

 With those qualifications it seemed helpful to offer Religion: Origins and Ideas for discussion in digital form on the Model Theology Web.

 Chapter 1...