An Evolutionary View of Religion

Considering that most of the opposition to evolution is based on religious bias, it is ironic that evolutionary concepts are most useful for explaining the history of religion. It is common knowledge, for example, that Christianity evolved from Judaism, Buddhism evolved from Hinduism, the Baha’i Faith evolved from Islam, and that Christianity has diversified into hundreds of sects including Roman Catholicism, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Thus religions themselves illustrate the concepts of common ancestry, mutation, and adaptive radiation as well as mass extinctions (many pagan religions died out as Christianity and Islam expanded, leaving behind “fossils” in the form of published records that are today dismissed as “myths”).

And now I wish to dispel one of the most common misconceptions about evolution: That because humans evolved from ape-like animals, that humans are by nature superior to their ape cousins. And that evolution is a ladder of progress in which all decendants are by nature superior to their ancestors. It is ludicrious to suggest that fish are inferior to mammals. Both fish and mammals are animals well adapted to their environments. If they were not, they’d become extinct. Most fish cannot breath air and thus cannot survive out of water, but the reverse is true of most mammals, which would die if they could not breath air. So from a fish’s point of view, a mammal must seem inferior, even the whales, which must also rely on their lungs to breath, not gills. Evolution is all about change, not progress. A fish is merely different from a mammal, period.

Likewise, Judaism is different from Christianity. There is no reason for Christians to think themselves or their faith superior to the Jewish faith, except by their own arrogance. Judaism has been in existence longer than Christianity, but it has also evolved just as Christianity has. For a Christian to convert to Judaism is not to take a “backward step”, merely to adopt a different set of teachings.

Thus, I totally reject the Baha’i concept of “Progressive Revelation” that implies that the Baha’i Faith is the supreme religion because it came after all the others, and that other religions are valid but destined to be replaced by the Baha’i Faith. Must we assume that because mammals came later than fish, they are destined to replace all fish? NO, that is nonsense! In my view all religions must be seen as equal because all of them have evolved and adapted to their environment. Until this is understood by nearly everyone, wars and discrimination based on religious bigotry will remain a serious threat.