By Matthew Kneale

What first brought on prehistoric guy, sheltering within the shadows of deep caves, to name upon the area of the spirits? And why has trust thrived due to the fact that, shaping millions of generations of shamans, pharaohs, Aztec clergymen and Mayan rulers, Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Nazis, and Scientologists?

As our goals and nightmares have replaced over the millennia, so have our ideals. The gods we created have advanced and mutated with us via a story fraught with human sacrifice, political upheaval and bloody wars.

Belief used to be man's such a lot epic hard work of invention. it's been our closest spouse, and has mankind around the continents and during history.

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Extra info for An Atheist's History of Belief: Understanding Our Most Extraordinary Invention

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Worshipping living bodhisattvas became a good deed, which would help the worshippers towards their own salvation. For the convenience of all, living bodhisattvas set up their own temples, where they could be worshipped. It is not hard to see that such an arrangement would have appealed to India’s rich and powerful. By performing good works – and over time these became ever less demanding, until they required very little effort – rich Indians could become future Buddhas themselves. They could be worshipped at their own temples and enjoy the prospect of guaranteed nirvana salvation.

Around 725 the Assyrians, thoroughly fed up with Israelite disrespect, invaded the kingdom and, three years later, King Sargon II deported most of its population. Some ended up in the Assyrian army as chariot drivers, a role in which Israelites were famously skilful. Most ended up in southern Mesopotamia. Though the Israelites’ fate was abundantly clear, remembrance of it soon became hazy, and they became immortalised as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, whose whereabouts became, two thousand years later, the subject of endless curiosity: Spanish explorers identified them as the indigenous peoples of the Americas, and in the later nineteenth century an eccentric British cult, the British Israelites, insisted they were the British themselves.

So, in the space of five to six centuries, Mahayana Buddhism had become the very thing it had begun as a protest against: an entrenched, ritualised religion organised to satisfy the spiritual needs of a rich elite. It had also changed from being a philosophy of life to a full paradise religion, with a pantheon of colourful gods, and the promise that, if its adherents followed the rules, they would reach nirvana heaven. By the early centuries AD there was little to distinguish ornate Buddhist temples from those of Hinduism, which, to add to the confusion, had stolen some of Buddhism’s best ideas.

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