CREDOS: Early religions — II

During the Neolithic era, megaliths (structures composed of extremely large stones), and stones circles were erected all over Europe — from the Maltese temples of Tarxien and Hagar Qim to Carnac in France, where the purpose of the great stone avenues is unknown. Stonehenge in England dates from the early Bronze age, and is thought by some to have astrological meaning.

A belief in the afterlife seems to have been usual, with animal sacrifice still common, mentioned as it is in sources as varied as the Old Testament and the Sanskrit Vedas (collected hymns of the earliest priesthood of the conquering Aryan tribes in Northern India). In each oral culture, stories and complete mythologies were woven around the pantheon of gods. To the early Semites of Babylonia, Syria and Phoenicia, their gods were tribal deities, offering protection in time of war. Babylonia had Bel (‘lord’); the Syrians had Rimmon; the Israelities had Yahweh. Much later, Islam was also to consider Allah a conquering tribal god.

The early religions of China are difficult to study because Chinese script consisted of ideograms and was hard to read. It seems that the sky god Shang-Ti ruled supreme, with his cult of open-air worship and sacrifice until the teachings of Confucius together with Taoism, transformed this ancient, naturistic belief system. The highly organised, centrally administered civilisation of ancient Egypt was something new in the world. — Religions Of The World