A term to describe an organized belief system which revolves around supernatural elements and entities.

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Which came first: polytheism or monotheism?

It seems a common position that monotheism tends to evolve out of polytheism. Wikipedia offers a few historical examples of this. However, many polytheistic religions seem to have monotheistic ...
29
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9answers
5k views

How come Indians were not mass converted to Islam/Christianity?

India was ruled by Muslims from around 12 century to 1857 and then by British till 1947 but India still have a large number of Hindus. Countries like Indonesia, Afghanistan, Malaysia now have Islam as ...
24
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4answers
2k views

What was the religion of the Arabic people before conversion to Islam?

What was the dominant religion of the Arabic people when Prophet Muhammed started the Islamic religion?
23
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3answers
563 views

Why were there no religious wars in Poland?

During the 16th and 17th centuries, there were many religious wars in Europe. In countries, were it was very close to Rome (like Spain, Portugal, Austria, Italian states), they did not occur. In ...
17
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2answers
420 views

What was the structure of religious beliefs among the Arabic peoples before conversion to Islam?

Other questions on this topic has addressed the pre-Islamic religious beliefs in broad detail, including the conversion of near-Arab cultures. What was the specific nature of the pre-Islamic ...
16
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6answers
534 views

What factors permitted Buddhism to be successful in Japan but Christianity less so?

From reading The Samurai and the Sacred, it looks like Buddhism achieved acceptance into Japanese culture due to its willingness to assimilate with the (already present) Shinto religion. Conversely, ...
16
votes
2answers
264 views

How does Göbekli Tepe fit into the current picture of society development?

Göbekli Tepe is a huge archaeological site in Eastern Turkey, currently under excavation (make sure you click on "Pictures"). It is one of the oldest architectural complexes in the world, possibly the ...
15
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9answers
2k views

What cultures did, or do, perform human sacrifice on a regular basis?

Looking at the Area 51 commitment page, I realized that some of the questions that were originally suggested there never got asked here, so I thought I'd add some of them. Something else I would like ...
15
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1answer
388 views

Was there any theological opposition to the lightning rod?

Apparently, there was some opposition to the lightning rod at the time of its invention because lightning was seen as "the wrath of God" and should not be controlled. I'd like to find some citations ...
15
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2answers
440 views

How did Islam and Hinduism thrive together in Medieval India?

In countries in the Middle East, Indonesia and many North African countries, the onset of Islamic rulers spread Islam in a rapid manner, eventually wiping off the local religion. However in spite of ...
14
votes
4answers
1k views

What were Hitler's religious beliefs?

Hitler is often cited as an example of an evil atheist (along with Stalin and Mao). But there are several quotes from him that seem to indicate he believed in the Christian God - and even used this to ...
14
votes
4answers
252 views

Were there any well known royal dynasties that did not in some way cite religious mandate for their rule?

Most of the royal rulers in the last 2000 years seemed to be strongly relying - as one of the sources of their power - on the notion that they hold "divine rule"/"sanction of god"/"mandate of heaven" ...
13
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1answer
1k views

Why did the Moors invade the Iberian peninsula?

Almost all of the information that I can find with regards to the Moorish invasion of the Iberian Peninsula simply states when the Moors invaded. There seems to be very little on what the motivation ...
12
votes
5answers
770 views

Is there any evidence that the catholic church reduced innovation during the middle ages?

I often hear that the rate of innovation was very high during ancient times in Greece and the Roman empire. I've also heard that the rate of innovation was reduced once the Catholic Church gained ...
12
votes
5answers
490 views

Was there ever any organization of thieves or pickpockets?

Can anyone suggest any historical examples of an established group specifically dedicated to organized thievery (any combination of property based crimes such as pick-pocketing, lock-picking, fencing, ...
11
votes
1answer
137 views

Completeness of Old Parish Registers in the 1700s

In England, local churches were required to keep registers of all baptisms, marriages and burials. Are there any studies that show how complete these records generally were, in particular in relation ...
10
votes
2answers
3k views

Is there a symbol associated with Loki from the Norse pantheon?

I've been looking around for any kind of sign, symbol, sigil, or such that can be said to have anything to do with the deity Loki, of the Norse pantheon. There doesn't seem to be anything as obvious ...
9
votes
4answers
1k views

Is there a civilization that never believed in God in the ancient times?

I'm not obviously talking about small groups or individuals but about an actual civilization that never believed about the existence of a supreme essence. Is atheism just a modern concept?
9
votes
3answers
371 views

Why is such big density of churches in medieval towns?

If we look at Old Towns of European cities, we can see that there are many churches in them. Of course, it is reasonable as religion was very important in lives of the medieval people. However, ...
9
votes
2answers
270 views

Why were Albanians the only nation in the Balkans who converted to Islam during the Ottoman occupation?

The Ottoman Empire conquered the Balkans and occupied it for half a millennium. They managed to convert most of the Albanians to Islam, however, all the other nations in the area remained Christian. ...
8
votes
1answer
112 views

What are other obvious samples in history where political/religious leaders try to shape religion to their need

This question is inspired by What were Hitler's religious beliefs? So they have well documented records on how Hitler actually tried to change/replace christianity. What other similar records ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Was there human sacrifice in ancient Crete?

Excavations on the hill of Kydonia, near Chania in Crete, where the third largest palace of the Minoan civilization was, revealed a small area fenced by rocks in the yard, with many animal bones and ...
8
votes
1answer
130 views

Did the Mayans view the gods as antagonistic to humanity?

How did the precolonial Maya view their gods' relationship to mankind, specifically: were they considered benevolent, neutral, or antagonistic? I've seen a number of hints that they may have ...
8
votes
2answers
200 views

What was Muhammad's religion before becoming a Muslim prophet?

According to this question, the predominant religion in Arabia before Islam was some kind of polytheism. While according to Muhammad's Wikipedia page, According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad ...
7
votes
2answers
175 views

Was residual animism partially responsible for Hitler's rise?

Although Miller had never bothered to think about it, it was once out of these and other oceans of pine and beech that the old Germanic tribes had swarmed to be checked by Caesar at the Rhine. ...
7
votes
2answers
449 views

What sort of Cardinals were Richelieu and Mazarin?

Cardinals can belong to one of three orders: Cardinal-deacon Cardinal-bishop Cardinal-priest. What were the ranks of Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin?
7
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2answers
2k views

When did the first riots between Hindus and Muslims happen in India?

I have studied in school that the British used the Divide and Rule strategy to rule in India. But, for them to think of applying Divide and Rule, I think some sort of communal tension between Hindus ...
7
votes
2answers
522 views

When was “diablo” first used to refer to the Devil?

I'd curious to know how and when the word diablo came to mean the Devil. In Luc Ferry's A Brief History of Thought, he states: The devil is rather one who, spiritually speaking, does everything ...
7
votes
1answer
347 views

What are the origins of the Shinto religion?

Shinto's recorded history is typically dated to the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, but most sources suggest that oral traditions go back much further than this. What evidence is there to support this - ...
7
votes
2answers
224 views

What are the historical reasons for religious and political negative attitudes towards homosexuality?

First of all, let me say that I know this is a very delicate issue. In no way should my question be seen as an attempt to endorse negative attitudes towards the LGTB community. I am seeking objective, ...
7
votes
2answers
302 views

The decline of Buddhism in India around the 12th century

How can we explain the fall of Buddhism in India, which is the geographic origin of Buddhism? Were there ever any direct conflicts between Hinduism and Buddhism? From what I understand, the rise ...
7
votes
2answers
161 views

Which days in the Mayan calendar were most auspicious for performing sacrifices?

In Classic Mayan civilization, human sacrifices were performed. I've read that there were days that were more and less auspicious for sacrifices, but I haven't been able to find out which days those ...
7
votes
1answer
151 views

Was Ashoka motivated more by economics rather than religion in giving up war?

Is there any evidence to support the idea that Ashoka's aversion to war might have been due to inflationary economics rather than religion or remorse? Such as say the degradation in the value of coins ...
7
votes
1answer
332 views

How far into the past was significance ascribed to the Golden Ratio?

I think everyone knows about the golden ratio or the divine proportion (I got to know more about it after reading the wikipedia article on it). It's present everywhere in nature and also in the human ...
6
votes
6answers
264 views

Has scholarship shown that persecuted religious minorities have tended to be financially successful?

In this interview with Neal Stephenson, talking about the historical basis for his Baroque Cycle series of novels, he makes the remark that ... persecuted religious minorities, if they’re not ...
6
votes
2answers
188 views

What is known about early history of Judaism?

What do we know about early history of Judaism? Do we know the timeline when these modern traits of modern Judaism developed: 1 Lifestyle restriction that we now find in Torah, such as the ...
6
votes
1answer
176 views

What is “Mary's Part”?

The poem on this gravestone in RI refers to "Mary's part." What does this phrase mean?
6
votes
2answers
238 views

When were the different stories of Hindu gods written?

I'm a Hindu by religion. And I really respect my religion like I respect others. But from my childhood, I'm listening a lot of stories about Hindu Gods and Goddess which are interrelated to each ...
6
votes
2answers
145 views

What kind of incense was used by the Sumerians?

Today, there are many different kinds of aromatic substances used for incense. What kind of incense was used by the ancient Sumerians?
6
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3answers
479 views

How “religious” was the average person in the Middle Ages?

During Europe in the Middle Ages, how religious was the "average Joe"? Looking at the large scale politics of the time it seems religion was a major part of the elites' lives, with treaties with the ...
6
votes
1answer
198 views

Orphism's alleged influence on Christianity

I've read in Nils Johan Ringdal's delightful but ill-footnoted Love For Sale: A World History of Prostitution that the apostle Paul was influenced by Orphism when he set out to weaken women's roles in ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the first known organized religion in the world?

Which were the first religions to be created with well known scriptures, ceremonies and traditions? Was it that of the ancient Egyptians or the old kingdoms of the Middle East? What about Africa or ...
5
votes
4answers
178 views

Treatment of Jewish WWI Veterans

I was just wondering if during WWII or any time during Hitler's tenure (1933-1945), did the Germans give any special consideration to Jewish veterans of the First World War? By special consideration I ...
5
votes
2answers
465 views

Where does the tradition of Christmas gifts comes from?

Where does the modern tradition of exchanging gifts from Christmas comes from? I've heard that it's inspired by a similar tradition the Ancient Romans had on one of their festivals, is that true?
5
votes
1answer
180 views

Were there punishments in the Roman Empire for not believing in the official religion?

In popular culture Christians were being killed in the Colosseum because they did not want to accept the Emperor as a god. An example can be Quo vadis novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz, who won the Nobel ...
5
votes
1answer
450 views

Does a Baal human sacrifice statue from Carthage exist?

While I was reading a Roman history book, it said that people from Carthage used to sacrifice children by placing them on the arms of Baal's statue and letting them roll to the fire. What would be ...
5
votes
1answer
264 views

When were the heresy laws abolished in England?

We know that during the English Reformation several "heretics" were burnt at the stake. We also know that during the reign of Henry VIII both protestants and catholics were burnt or beheaded while ...
5
votes
1answer
214 views

Why were Arians outnumbered on the First Council of Nicaea?

Constantine was baptized by an Arian bishop a few years after the Council of Nicaea. His sons were Arians. At least the leadership of the Visigoths that sacked Rome where Arians. That was in 410, only ...
4
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3answers
125 views

Who were the Catholic popes before Francis I who used names not of Latin, Greek or Jewish origin?

Who were the Catholic popes before the current Francis I who used names not of Latin, Greek or Jewish origin? Particularly, names of Germanic origin, like Francis.
4
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5answers
406 views

How did ancient mystery religions impact Christianity?

I recently learned about the existence of mystery religions while listening to lectures by Robert Garland about Daily Life in the Ancient World. Wikipedia seems to imply that the mystery religions ...