Are we alone in this universe? When and how did the universe begin? Is climate change induced by Global warming and is going to end the world as we know it? These are the questions that modern human beings face but our ancestors from the first group of Homo sapiens were behind another mystery.
Who made us? How did nature come into being? Is there a higher power that is responsible for the creation of us and the world? Is the world made exclusively for us and all the resources in it are for us to enjoy? Or did we, or life, come to existence out of nowhere?
Throughout human history, we have been trying to find answers to these questions. From the nature worshippers to the monotheists, everyone gave an answer, which for them was complete.
For the Abrahamic religions, God was one and only one.
For Hinduism, God was everything you wish to be.
For Buddhism, there is no question of God.
Even in this modern era, where we have landed on the moon, sent robots to Mars, and are preparing to send humans too, religion and god are still the mainstream discussions. It forms the part of politics, love, and even some unfathomable areas like medicine. There are atheists, spiritualists, theists, agnostic people and so many other belief systems that we have never even heard of. All these have been evolved as a part of religions, sometimes advocating for it, and sometimes against it.
Another interesting reverberation of this quest to find the reason for our existence is the different rituals that have been a part of humanity for millennia. From burying the dead in urns to female genital mutilation to child marriage to comparatively innocent rituals including fasting have been a part of us due to reasons like getting to heaven after death and other such reasons.
“God: A human history of religion” is a book that explores the concept of religion in a way that will challenge your understanding of the concept of religion and the origin of belief. Whether you’re a staunch follower of a religion who believes in God, or a spiritual person, or an atheist, this book will give you insights into the inner making of religion and its conundrums.
It’s a very small book, and half of that is references and index. However, Reza Aslan has superbly fitted in the main focus of the book, to examine the evolution of religion. Starting with the Gods and religions of the pre-history and then going into the cave paintings and analyzing their ritualistic nature, Aslan establishes that the Gods of the prehistoric humans aren’t a mere manifestation of fear for nature, but also of deep respect for the nature they lived in. The chronological style of presentation, where he started from the prehistoric Gods to the historic Gods like Akenaten and Amun Ra to the current ones, that is those of the Abrahamic religion, makes it easy to understand the reason which made humans remove themselves from worshiping the nature to worshipping entities that are not unlike us, but in a higher dimension.
One thing that caught me off guard was that there was no mention of the eastern religions that is Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, or the further eastern ones like Taoism. When I picked the book up a couple of years ago from a second-hand book shop, I fully expected it to have them, especially when I read the index with a chapter titled “God is all”. Nevertheless, this book is an eye-opener for a common man who has not been exposed much to the world of rational evaluation and study of religion, rather than by an interest fostered by ‘bhakti’.
God: A Human History of Religion by Reza Aslan is published by Corgi and to get your copy click here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR-
Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is the author most recently of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.
He is the founder of AslanMedia.com, an online journal for news and entertainment about the Middle East and the world, and co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of BoomGen Studios, the premier entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Greater Middle East.
His books include No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (published 2005) and How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization and the End of the War on Terror (published 2009).
ABOUT THE WRITER
Vishnuprasad (He/Him/His) is a 26-year-old law graduate from Kerala who is a voracious reader. An introvert by nature, Vishnu is interested in non-fiction books, especially in history and International Relations. He is a fan of logic and reality but doesn't mind some fiction once in a while. For him, reading is like a conversation with his best buddy. After all, books are the best friends that anyone could ever get.
Reach him out here on Instagram.