Did you know that the word religion was born out of the Latin word “religio” which means “to bind” or “to connect.” Well, if you look at the world around us with all the madness and chaos that has been festering within societies, nations and communities, we can see that the “connection” or a “binding” between people is the last thing that is being upheld and observed. But, the really weird thing here is that in the modern world, religion is growing like a booming industry, with Gods and beliefs and ideologies being created by the minute. Isn’t that a paradox, almost like “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!” , which can be further refined as “Religion, beliefs everywhere, but let the world got to waste!” So where did we go wrong along the ever unfolding chapters of history? In order to understand and possibly make sense of the present world-view with regards to religion, we need to go back to the very origins of religion itself and see if we can find a silver lining among the darkness of blind faith.
In order to understand where the concept and practice of religion originated from, we need to look towards the tribal communities of ancient times who used to believe in a phenomenon known as Animism. So, what exactly does this mean? So, in ancient times, when things were much greener and more natural than they are right now, which entailed a belief in the tribal communities of those times that there was much more to the world around them than meets the eye! When we dig into the annals of ancient history, we find huge puddles of information which point to the fact that the ancients actually believed that everything around us, the animals, the trees, the waterfalls, the rocks, the crevices, the craters, the sky, the moon, the sun, thunder, lightning and anything else that can be clubbed into the “everything around us” definition is as alive, if not more, than they themselves are.
Animism is the belief that each animate and inanimate object around us is imbued with a spirit or “consciousness” and hence is as much alive as humans are. The most intriguing aspect regarding Animism is the inclusion of spirits in the culture of these people seemed to be quite literal in the case of the ancient tribes, including numerous communities that inhabit the Amazon basin even today, such that they formed a deep connection and reverence for everything around them in the natural ecosystem in which inhabited. This is much in lieu with the idea of coexistence with everything that is, in a harmonious way so that the balance between the environment and “I” is not broken by an overtly individualistic approach towards nature and life in general.
The religions which we have today started to build up on the “spirit” part of the Animism theory, which caused a considerable uproar of beliefs and philosophies that included invisible deities who looked after humans and decided the fate of the Universe. The thing to understand here is that tribes and ancient civilizations had a definite and undeterred belief in the existence of the spirit world, which was considered as a world that existed in complete harmony with the physical world. The concept of the spirit world was so ingrained into the culture of these tribes that they did not need to separately label this belief in the form of a religion or even attribute a word to its existence. I mean, they just knew it and accepted it as simply as we accept that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. They believed that spirits existed in the wind, in the fire, and even in the shadows.
As we evolved into modern civilizations, religion and science took up the mantle that was left by the ancient acceptance of Animism (which is a label that we stuck on an ancient way of life). On one hand, science has started to get curious and has expanded into several areas which reflect on the ideals of Animism, such as the existence of dimensions other than the physical, the existence of non-visible spectra of light, phenomenon such as dark matter and so on. Moreover, it has also started to work on recreating Animism in the real sense, by imbuing life into the everyday things around us through technologies such as the Internet of Things. Yeah, now slowly, everything around us is becoming alive and connected to us in more profound ways than we can imagine.
On the other hand, where has modern day religion progressed to? Well, it seems that they have gone into the world of fantasy and decided to take believers on a whirlwind ride into the world of stringent beliefs and perceptional illusions and restrictions. Where there was once a world where people lived in harmony with everything around them, with deep reverence for nature and community, we now see a world where your belief in individual entities determines how you live your life, who you commemorate with and how you look at other people. For instance, if I believe in a particular entity and you believe in another, it is my birthright to kill you as you are an abomination! This particular asset of religion has been molded into a more refined way, where nowadays people belonging to different religions conduct online protests, rants, and the occasional suicide bombings.
So, let see where we are at right now. We are at a crucial crossroads, where we can either use science as a vessel to rediscover the roots of Animism so that we regain the innate reverence that we had for nature as well as for our fellow human being. On the other hand, we can use religion to fight over books and entities who probably do not exist or even if they do, they do not give a shit about our petty tantrums and wars. How about a counterculture where science and technology form the vehicle for exploration of the unknown rather than sticking to blind beliefs that poison our minds.
One step further in the cosmic game, if you are brave enough to grow: