Twentieth-century Urantia religions present an interesting study of the social evolution of man’s worship impulse. Many faiths have progressed very little since the days of the ghost cult. The Pygmies of Africa have no religious reactions as a class, although some of them believe slightly in a spirit environment. They are today just where primitive man was when the evolution of religion began. The basic belief of primitive religion was survival after death. The idea of worshiping a personal God indicates advanced evolutionary development, even the first stage of revelation. The Dyaks have evolved only the most primitive religious practices. The comparatively recent Eskimos and Amerinds had very meager concepts of God; they believed in ghosts and had an indefinite idea of survival of some sort after death. Present-day native Australians have only a ghost fear, dread of the dark, and a crude ancestor veneration. The Zulus are just evolving a religion of ghost fear and sacrifice. Many African tribes, except through missionary work of Christians and Mohammedans, are not yet beyond the fetish stage of religious evolution. But some groups have long held to the idea of monotheism, like the onetime Thracians, who also believed in immortality.
On Urantia, evolutionary and revelatory religion are progressing side by side while they blend and coalesce into the diversified theologic systems found in the world in the times of the inditement of these papers. These religions, the religions of twentieth-century Urantia, may be enumerated as follows:
1. Hinduism—the most ancient.
2. The Hebrew religion.
4. The Confucian teachings.
5. The Taoist beliefs.
11. Sikhism—the most recent.
The most advanced religions of ancient times were Judaism and Hinduism, and each respectively has greatly influenced the course of religious development in Orient and Occident. Both Hindus and Hebrews believed that their religions were inspired and revealed, and they believed all others to be decadent forms of the one true faith.
India is divided among Hindu, Sikh, Mohammedan, and Jain, each picturing God, man, and the universe as these are variously conceived. China follows the Taoist and the Confucian teachings; Shinto is revered in Japan.
The great international, interracial faiths are the Hebraic, Buddhist, Christian, and Islamic. Buddhism stretches from Ceylon and Burma through Tibet and China to Japan. It has shown an adaptability to the mores of many peoples that has been equaled only by Christianity.
The Hebrew religion encompasses the philosophic transition from polytheism to monotheism; it is an evolutionary link between the religions of evolution and the religions of revelation. The Hebrews were the only western people to follow their early evolutionary gods straight through to the God of revelation. But this truth never became widely accepted until the days of Isaiah, who once again taught the blended idea of a racial deity combined with a Universal Creator: “O Lord of Hosts, God of Israel, you are God, even you alone; you have made heaven and earth.” At one time the hope of the survival of Occidental civilization lay in the sublime Hebraic concepts of goodness and the advanced Hellenic concepts of beauty.
The Christian religion is the religion about the life and teachings of Christ based upon the theology of Judaism, modified further through the assimilation of certain Zoroastrian teachings and Greek philosophy, and formulated primarily by three individuals: Philo, Peter, and Paul. It has passed through many phases of evolution since the time of Paul and has become so thoroughly Occidentalized that many non-European peoples very naturally look upon Christianity as a strange revelation of a strange God and for strangers.
Islam is the religio-cultural connective of North Africa, the Levant, and southeastern Asia. It was Jewish theology in connection with the later Christian teachings that made Islam monotheistic. The followers of Mohammed stumbled at the advanced teachings of the Trinity; they could not comprehend the doctrine of three divine personalities and one Deity. It is always difficult to induce evolutionary minds suddenly to accept advanced revealed truth. Man is an evolutionary creature and in the main must get his religion by evolutionary techniques.
Ancestor worship onetime constituted a decided advance in religious evolution, but it is both amazing and regrettable that this primitive concept persists in China, Japan, and India amidst so much that is relatively more advanced, such as Buddhism and Hinduism. In the Occident, ancestor worship developed into the veneration of national gods and respect for racial heroes. In the twentieth century this hero-venerating nationalistic religion makes its appearance in the various radical and nationalistic secularisms which characterize many races and nations of the Occident. Much of this same attitude is also found in the great universities and the larger industrial communities of the English-speaking peoples. Not very different from these concepts is the idea that religion is but “a shared quest of the good life.” The “national religions” are nothing more than a reversion to the early Roman emperor worship and to Shinto—worship of the state in the imperial family.