The Origin of Religion in Theory and Archaeology

S.G.F. Brandon describes how the earliest representatives of mankind were concerned with three fundamental problems— birth, death and the supply of food—which they attempted to solve by magico-religious means.

Writing in the Sixth Century BC, the Greek philosopher Xenophanes observed: ‘Mortals think that the gods are begotten, and wear clothes like their own, and have a voice and a form. If oxen or horses or lions had hands, and could draw with them and make works of art as men do, horses would draw the shapes of gods like horses, oxen like oxen; each kind would represent their bodies just like their own forms. The Ethiopians say their gods are black and flat-nosed; the Thracians, that theirs are blue-eyed and red-haired.’1 The observation is notable; it shows that already in ancient Greece there were minds acute to perceive the essential relativity of religious conceptions.

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