As my multitude of readers already know, I've been reading a history of the world book.
I've been shocked at the role of religion in the earth's history. It seems that as soon as intelligent man evolved or was created or whatever, he's been trying to cope with death.
Growing up in a Christian household, I was mainly brainwashed to believe that was all there was. I was also brainwashed to think that Texas was the only state in the union worth a damn and the USA was the only country worth living in.
Since I turned 20, it's been one startling revelation after another. More so after 30.
If you go back in time as far as archeologically possible and discover the world's first religions, they were pretty simplistic. Areas of the known world were largely controlled by powerful people who were able to conquer via war and keep control via brain power. Someone would invade Egypt and claim his victory was by his allegiance to the Sun god. Everyone knew there were lots of gods, but this guys god led him in his domination of Egypt. A very hard country to capture. Thus, people wanted to make him happy so they'd worship his god as well. Or maybe they'd fear his retribution and pretend to worship his god. Or maybe they thought the powerful sun god would bless them as well.
As time progressed things got more complicated. There were lots of gods and different ones promoted different things. Thus, there became Mars, the god of war, Venus, the god of love, etc.
At some point, someone came up with the idea of a "one true god" and named him Yahweh. The pagan religions of the time were accepting of this. They accepted Yahweh as just another god. I worship Jupiter, you worship Yahweh. It's no big thing.
As the worship of Yahweh became popular, rules were laid down. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" type rules. The people who worshiped Yahweh were fanatical and the leaders of the time saw this as an opportunity. If you are the leader of a large population, who do you want on your side? The accepting people who leave each to his own, or the fanatics? The fanatics are more likely to expand your empire. It's like trying to hire a salesman. Do you hire the quiet one or the loud one? The loud one of course.
So these kings and leaders gradually encouraged the worship of Yahweh and his teachings were expanded upon. Soon, he became God and there was no other. The Pagan religions died out because they were too accepting and they were killed for not accepting God. Their empires were peaceful, but peaceful didn't last.
Then you get into John the Baptist and Jesus, who both really stirred things up, but I feel I've pissed off enough people for one post.
Islam? Islam is popular because of Muhammad. What did he do? By charisma and conquest he created an Arabic empire the likes of which had never been seen.
The fanatical violent religions prosper. The peaceful religions generally go away. Well, most of the time.
Back when the Egyptians were getting taken over by the conquerors and their sun gods, the people of India and parts of China were in such a bad location that their king was the conqueror of the day. He never had enough time to setup a religion before the next conqueror came along. Buddhism was born.
I'm going at this from memory. Some of it may be factual. Other parts of it are opinionated based on what I've read and what was implied in my little head.
Buddhists and the Tibetan monks preach harmony. I guess back in the day of the sun gods, these guys simply got tired of being invaded so they started practicing peaceful religions and they still thrive today. I don't know as much about their beliefs as I would like. I don't expect failure includes the promise of an eternity in a fiery pit of hell.
And they make cool music too.