Religion is a collection of beliefs, usually including a set of moral codes, devotional or ritual observances that relate humanity to the spiritual.
In most religions, there is a hierarchy, with a head priest, priestess, clergy or senior devotee who is responsible for interpreting signs, portents or texts, leading and informing followers of their responsibilities. Some religions, like Buddhism, do not believe in Idols or worship Gods but are based on personal spiritual development through the practice of morality, meditation and wisdom. Atheists believe that gods are man made constructs, whilst an Agnostic neither believes or disbelieves, as there is currently no solid evidence on which to base the premise of a deity.
No one really knows when the first religion was conceived as the roots of spiritual belief go back further than written texts, however, archaeologists have found evidence of carved ancient fertility items and wall paintings that indicate our ancestors believed there was a spiritual connection.
Researchers of faiths, have often found similarities in religious texts with stories like The Good Samaritan providing moral considerations of others. If we put aside ritual observances plus everything written or told in religious context, other than the bare basic moral code, it may be difficult to distinguish between them. It is certain that many scrolls and texts have been lost, hidden, destroyed and misinterpreted over the centuries. Some beliefs have changed or been entirely lost when the civilization that held those beliefs disappeared or became integrated into other cultures, like the Aztec’s who believed that ritual human sacrifice would appease their Deity.
Humankind purports to be more enlightened than the animal kingdom, so we would hope that rituals and beliefs that include murder or the deliberate harming of another living being would be considered beneath us, however, there are many atrocities including wars that have and still are fought in the name of a religious belief.
The following videos include documentaries on a variety of religions and spiritual beliefs. My favourite is Fire on the Mountain… A Gathering of Shamans … A 10 day historic gathering of shamans at Karma Ling a Tibetan Buddhist retreat centre, in the Val Saint Hugon in Savoy, in the French Alps. The film was shot in 1997 and included 13 shamans, elders, voodoo priests and faith keepers from five continents who met with the Dalai Lama and high-level representatives of the world’s religions to learn from each other and discuss their concerns.