Introduction
Approaching religions’ history
in Creating God
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This book surveys the origins and first spread of several major religions. It does so from a definitively secular standpoint, using the debates of historical scholarship and the discoveries of scientific archaeology to ask: what do we really know, once we bypass the myths and later traditions that developed? It considers the landscape of each religion’s origins: the place, time and society where it emerged, the material culture of that community, the pattern of contemporary religion and the framework of political history. It addresses religions as the enterprise and activity of human agency, rather than their theology and teachings. The religions covered are those in the tradition of monotheism. Chapters discuss the three ‘Abrahamic’ religions of Judaism (as it became monotheistic), Christianity and Islam, and these are bracketed by chapters on ancient Zoroastrianism (Mazdaism) and modern Mormonism. A feature of the monotheistic tradition is the prophet, the individual who is said to receive direct messages from the divine with instructions or inspiration to spread these widely. The introduction asks three questions: What makes a secular approach different? How do history and archaeology relate in this account? And how do the archaeology of absence and the absence of archaeology influence our understanding?

Creating God

The birth and growth of major religions

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