Saturday, 8 October 2011

Theory of Religion Evolution: Sect of Thought

In the history of cultural anthropology, there is a sect known as evolutionism embraced by scholars. This sect sees that human gradually achieving their development. From the lowest to the highest. This shift from the lowest to the highest happened so slow until it seems almost invisible.

Usually, the followers of this thought focusing more to a certain culture. Some would be focusing to human relation, and some would take a look at their art. Others would base their studies on the subjects such as mans' religion and their belief in supernatural world.

Among those who talked about theology according to this theory is Edward B. Tylor. Around 90 years ago, based from the book's publication year, he had an opinion saying that the first stage of human level in belief was that they believed, there are supernatural creatures called as ghosts, spirits, genies, or ancestral spirits (Rahmat, 1979).

According to Tylor, animists living in the primitive economic stage. In the beginning, people founded this belief when they find the fact through dreams. It is the fact about life and death. According to knowledge and science, dream is some kind of hallucination or imaginary experience which could not physically being touched or sensed. 

In dream, a person might find out various experience, sometimes sad, sometimes misery, sometimes pleasant. In dreams, a person feels that he visits places which he had never been before. In this experience, his physical body is on his bed but he feels like he had traveled far. In this condition, primitive community had this conclusion that there is something which comes out from physical mass and traveling here and there. The one which travels is the non-physical body of human which lives in physical mass. Now, they had come to the classification of human into two elements which is physical mass and spirit which generates the physical mass, making it moves. Physical mass will die but spirit is eternal.

Primitive human views that not only human have spirits. In dreams, they could also see animals, plants, rocks, places, river, houses, and etc. Hence, they view that everything consists spirits. The form of spirit is the same as the physical mass, only the essence is discreet. From this belief to spirits, human begin to belief that there is ghost and the worship of ancestral spirits.

When their economy stage developed to livestock and farming where they did not collecting fruits or hunting animals; other stage of belief arise which is polytheism. The more developed human culture, the lesser the spirits as the rank and the power of spirit developed. Spirit now is called as god, deity, or anything related to it.

From polytheism, then it develops to monotheism. Monotheism means believing only in one deity. According to Tylor, monotheism is the final result of human intelligence after going through stages such as animism, polytheism, and monotheism.

So, this is Tylor opinions regarding humans' belief to the God. He did not elaborate in detail whether human will keep going with this evolution in their creed after they reached monotheism stage or it stops at the stage. If it is still in evolution, will it bring everyone to atheism? Perhaps, this hypothesis could also be applied by atheists as a ground for their opinion regarding what they hold?

Tylor's book known as Primitive Culture consists of two volumes which are the Origin of Culture and the Religion in Primitive Culture. The first volume talks about various aspects of ethnography such as social evolution, linguistics and myth. The second volume deals with the interpretation of animism.      

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