Geography of Religion Wk 1&2


Humans have always known there was a force greater than them in the universe since the beginning of time. We respond to this knowledge by worship, attempts to gain understanding, or the realization that we cannot in fact truly understand. Dreams have always brought us closer to our beliefs and inspire us to ask some of the oldest questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Every culture has a different answer. There are other unanswerable questions as well. Humans have always seen the power of the ocean or a storm or the birth of a human and wondered “if something was powerful enough to create all of this, is there some way for me to also control this much power?” The idea of a higher being has also been used to enforce laws and ways of living together in harmony since the very beginning of civilization. Punishment or rewards after death for living a certain lifestyle are a powerful motivator in all cultures to obey the rules and stay in line. Evidence shows that even people as ancient as the Neanderthals may have placed special items in the graves of their loved ones to accompany them to the afterlife. While there will never be a way to prove or disprove the existence of any God(s) there is no denying that ancient civilizations have depended on their beliefs to grow and prosper, and without the confidence that there is someone higher up than us, we would not be where we are in the world today.


As long as people have been believing in gods, they have also made up stories to explain things which we cannot comprehend. Humans constantly assign physical bodies (things like certain plants, animals, or natural disasters) to their gods as it helps them envision the invisible better. For example, cats were worshiped in Egypt as a physical embodiment of the cat goddess Bast. Native american culture is famous for giving certain animals human characteristics and using these animals as characters in their creation stories. Ceremonies of the Kwakiatl tribe include donning painted masks of specific creatures to channel their spirit. Most animals (and therefore gods) had a good and bad side in Native American mythology and really any other belief system. The Christian God mainly plays the role of a kind, loving, merciful creator, but can also be a brutal judge and executioner when times call for it. There is clearly a lot more to any belief system than simply bowing down to a shapeless figure in the sky that penetrates our world from the smallest little bush to the tallest mountain.

Geography of Religion//Susan T. Hitchcock & John L. Esposito


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