Robin Derricourt
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Prophets, religions and history
Some conclusions
in Creating God
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A number of discussion points, themes and ideas emerge from the history of the religious movements’ origins outlined in the previous chapters. These focussed on religions that were or that became part of the monotheistic tradition and the presence in the narratives of ‘prophets’, even if, as with Judaism and Zoroastrianism, some of those figures were seen as part of the deeper past. Individual religious reformers were important in the development of religions elsewhere, such as Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), but not in the same role of receiving and transmitting a direct divine message or text. The polytheisms of eastern religions also marked them out as distinct. Psychiatry distinguishes forms of delusion in which people consider themselves divine or in touch with the supernatural. Many individuals consider themselves prophets but only some achieve a following, although the study of New Religious Movements shows many which have developed in the present era. Initial support from a visionary’s family may be an important contributor to the initial impact of a revelation. Women prophets have been fewer in history, reflecting the patriarchal patterns of society. Linkage to an existing religious tradition helps to give a new movement authenticity. Religions may emerge in marginal social contexts, and can provide an alternative to political rebellion in times of economic and social stress. Studies of individual religions and their origins reveal similarities but also differences. There is much room for further debate from a secular viewpoint on these topics.

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Creating God

The birth and growth of major religions


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