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Religion can be defined as “a system of beliefs based on the worship of a higher spiritual power that often takes the form of a god or group of gods” (“Religion”). There are many different types of religion such as monotheism, which is the belief in one god, and polytheism, the belief in more than one god (Spielvogel 409-410). Throughout history, religion has influenced so many aspects of peoples’ way of living, and their everyday interactions. “As humans left behind their hunter-gatherer ways and developed agriculture, they began to settle in communities, eventually forming the world’s first civilizations.
People in these early civilizations saw the processes of the natural world as the work of supernatural forces and developed a mythology that assigned these processes to individual gods or goddesses. They tended to portray these deities in human form and gave them characteristics they saw in themselves and their society” (“Religion”). Religion has defined so many traditions and brought so many different people together in community.
Religion is an important aspect of how humans live in community because it greatly influences culture, architecture, and government in many civilizations.
Through their everyday sacrifices and dependence on their gods, it is clearly evident that Greek culture is largely impacted by their religion. “Greek religion was intricately connected to every aspect of daily life; it was both social and practical” (Spielvogel 67). The Greeks’ religion was polytheistic, which meant that they believed and worshiped many gods and goddesses. (Spielvogel 67). Festivals were a great aspect of ancient Greek life, and they were created to celebrate and honor the deities (Spielvogel 67).
“In Athens, more than 60 days of the year were devoted to festivals annually (Salisbury and Aldrete). This shows that their culture was greatly influenced by the Greeks’ religion because they put in a great effort and a lot of time in making sure the gods were pleased with them, illustrating their dedication. “The most prestigious Athenian festival was the Panathenaea or All-Athenian Festival, held annually on the birthday of Athena, the city’s patron goddess” (Salisbury). Cattle were sacrificed to Athena, then were divided among the people. (Salisbury). The festival included many different and unique competitions (Salisbury).
The Panathenaea festival shows how much the Greeks’ lives were influenced by their religion, because most of their entertainment was celebrations honoring the deities. The Greeks’ had twelve main gods and goddesses that they worshiped. They relied on the gods for advice, and they believed that they controlled everything in their own lives. “Among the twelve were Zeus, the chief deity and father of the gods; Athena, goddess of wisdom and crafts; Apollo, god of the sun and poetry; Aphrodite, goddess of love; Poseidon, brother of Zeus and the god of the seas and earthquakes” (Spielvogel 67). The Greeks looked up to the gods and goddesses and based most of their opinions off of them. Unlike modern America, the Greeks viewed religion as a public affair (Sacks). “Events as diverse as the annual sprouting of crops, disease epidemics, victory or defeat in war, and individual victories in sports events—which modern observers might assign to scientific causes—were seen by the Greeks as proof of the gods’ involvement in human events great and small” (Sacks). The ancient Greeks’ festivals and dependence on their deities, show that their polytheistic religion brought them together in community, specifically influencing their culture and everyday lives.
Great Egyptian pyramids and temples illustrate the impact of their religion on their buildings and structures. The Egyptians built massive structures devoted to their gods, and centered their society around their religion. “The Egyptians had no word for religion because it was an inseparable aspect of existence in the world in which they lived” (Spielvogel 18). The Egyptians believed that many gods had many parts in all different aspects of life (Brier and Hobbs). Their everyday lives were centered around their gods, especially their architecture. The massive temples they built were the gods’ home, not a place to gather like other cultures’ were (Brier and Hobbs). One of the most prominent examples is the Giza pyramids (see fig. 1).
Fig. 1. Shows the massive Giza pyramids from Jerzy Strzelecki. Giza Pyramids, Egypt. online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=215134&itemid=WE49&iid=122133. Accessed 8 Feb. 2020.
“Many of today’s Egyptologists believe that the pyramids at Giza were built using a crew of about 20,000 to 30,000 men, who were mostly skilled laborers” (Stockdale). The amount of men used to build the pyramids show that the Egyptians’ architecture was greatly impacted by their religion because the pyramids were dedicated to the gods. They devoted so much time, energy, and money trying to please the gods by building beautiful and elaborate structures. The Egyptians willingly participated in the construction of the pyramids, showing their priority of religion (Stockdale).
Israel’s government was centered around their religion, because they followed God’s instructions and organized their administration around those. Although the Israelites established and elected leaders, their ultimate authority was God. Almost every leader, prophet, and king that directed the Isrelites was chosen by God, and took direction from Him. After complaining, and complaining to God that they wanted a “real” king, God gave them King Saul. After Saul came David, a man after God’s own heart (Melton and Nadell). Israel’s government was directed and organized directly from God. Their entire lives were centered around Him, and they trusted God, their leader to guide them. Moses talks to God and receives His commandment. “So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord” (ESV Student Study Bible, Exodus 19. 7-8). The people of Israel obeying God’s command shows that their faith in God brings their culture together, and also shapes their society’s leadership structure. Moses is leading the Israelites physically, but ultimately they are all taking instruction from their authority in Heaven.
In many diverse societies, religion has brought humans together in community, influencing culture, architecture, and government structure. This is still true today, in our modern world. Religion, specifically Christianity, brings people together at church and even small groups. It provides a common ground for people all across the world to connect with each other. It can be argued that Christmas for example, is the most important or popular holiday during the year. Many people celebrate the holiday, even non-Christians. It is an opportunity to share the origins of the holiday with others. Because of the religion, Christianity, many people gather together in community.
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