Book Review: The Evolution of Gods
Did gods create mankind, or did mankind create gods?
The back cover screams this question at the reader with the preamble concluding that this book by Ajay Kansal deals with establishing the fact that anthropologies and histories lead to one conclusion – mankind created gods!
The writer starts off with a very arresting question in the preface – Why are there many religions but only one science on the earth and you would expect an atheist’s rant coming along in the next 200 odd pages. But he surprises with the balance and poise of his argument with never the book turning onto an anti-theist track. Ajay Kansal takes us along on the journey of the evolution of mankind from the nomadic human to the agriculturist to the social animal by tracing his religious evolution.
He tells us that the religious journey of man began right in his nomadic days with abundant mysteries of nature boggling him scared like night, animals, pregnancy, ghosts, etc. This fear of man gave birth to the concept of a superhuman somewhere with immense powers – the very concept of god. Nomadic man began worshipping the things that relived him from his fears – Fire, Sun and Sky and thus began nature worship. Later with him turning to agriculture the fear of food scarcity came in and with it developed the fertility cult – the worship of the goddess. Agriculture led to settlements that led to diseases, which proved another mystery for human minds, and up came the concept of a punishing god – The Yahweh of Judaism. The beliefs were prominent that diseases are punishments from the super power and ways to please the punishing god were sort out which led to the barbaric practice to sacrifices – human and animal. With the punishment culture settling in, came the problems of cruelty, injustice and exploitation which it required some relief. This requirement of mankind gets fulfilled in the form of a kind merciful god – Jesus of Christianity. While this was the story of the western side of the globe the eastern side too underwent similar change patterns with fire, sky and sun worships being followed in the name of yagnas leading to only affluent strata’s of the society understanding worships and gods. The need was simplification of religion and a prince-turned-ascetic is the answer – Buddha of Buddhism. With a major part of the population understanding and following Buddhism the priests of the earlier practiced religion of the land – Hinduism revamp the teachings to revolve around thousands of gods and millions of folklores about the gods, getting it back to be the favorite of the people.
Ajay Kansal has written an excellent book about the religious evolution of mankind filled with historical facts and scientific proofs. There is hardly any invalid talk that is not supported by hard facts concerning the discussion. Be it the proof of first human burials at Skhul caves in Israel or talk of a solar cult, with the Stonehenge in England and Konark in India as proofs of its existence, he talks in facts. While he talks about the temple snake healers in Greece, he also questions on why only domesticated animals like bull or goat were offered to the gods in sacrifice by priests; why not a tiger? He challenges the reader to question beliefs and rituals not for the faith but for their authenticity and need. He emphasizes that the creator for mankind is not god but ‘fear’ – fear creates gods and still keeps them alive, in spite of all facts and faults. Even while the biggest belief of humanity that diseases are the wrath of the gods, they are the demons possessing humans – something that led to the most gory and barbaric practices by mankind, the witch hunting episodes of the west and human sacrifices of the east – lays shattered owing to scientific advancements, modern fears still keeps the gods thriving.
A work that talks so well based on facts, is weakened some what in narration by the writer’s continuous projection of priests of every religion, in every era as clever self-centered beings who created gods, rituals, traditions etc. for more selfish reasons than social ones. Also the writer being a doctor and Hindu unwittingly emphasizes more on the chapters dealing with diseases and Hinduism, which form the two longest chapters in the book while an equal depth in other areas is missing.
Not one of the best books on the subject but a very decent one for overall understanding of Religious Evolution of Mankind which moved from new problems to new gods to new religions.
Title: The Evolution of Gods
Author: Ajay Kansal
Publisher/ Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers India
Genre/ Sub-Genre: Non-Fiction/ Anthropology
Rating: 3.00 of 5.00
Reviewed for: The Book Lovers
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