Religion appears to be a philosophy and a social construct; a memeplex that promulgates and prolongs itself by the structures, edicts and forms it mandates (or less often “recommends”). Religious or spiritual behaviour (ritual, spirituality, mythology and magical thinking or animism) may be as old as the Paleolithic era — between 300,000 and 30,000 years ago i.e. coinciding with the first appearance of Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens. (It’s generally accepted that religion “emerged” some 50,000 years ago, marking the transition from the middle to the upper Paleolithic era, as burial artefacts and cave paintings appear to provide evidence of a belief in “supernatural” entities.)
Three major religious groups, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, originated in the Middle East. Smaller minority religions, such as the Bahá’í Faith, Druze, Yazidism, Mandaeism, Gnosticism, Yarsanism, Samaritanism, Shabakism, Ishikism, Ali-Illahism, and Zoroastrianism, are also present in the Middle East.
The ones I’m interested in (for history and storytelling rather than enlightenment or gnosis) include:
Many religions of the ancient near East and their offshoots can be traced to Proto-Semitic religion. Other religions in the ancient Near East include Ancient Egyptian religion, the Luwian and Hittite religions of Asia Minor and the Sumerian religion of ancient Mesopotamia. Offshoots of Proto-Semitic religion include Assyro-Babylonian religion, Canaanite religion, and Arabian religion. Judaism is a development of Canaanite religion, both Indo-European and Semitic religions influenced the ancient Greek religion, and Zoroastrianism was a product of ancient Indo-Iranian religion. In turn these religious traditions strongly influenced the later monotheistic religions of Christianity, Mandeanism, Sabianism, Gnosticism, Islam, and Manicheanism, which inherited their monotheism from Judaism and Zoroastrianism.
- Egyptian, particularly the “Armana Heresy”
- Mesopotamian Religion
- Proto-Indo-European (reconstructed)
- Hinduism – the religion of the “Indus Valley people” i.e. India