Christianity Covers What Percentage of Human History?

It’s common to hear that the ancient world was the period of the Bible.  Reality is from the Bible until now is but a tiny snap shot of human history.

In the current National Geographic discusses that humans were in Africa at least 200,000 years ago.  This makes our 5000 some years of Biblical history insignificant and 2000 years of Christianity a mere one percent of the human experience.

Thinking of it in terms of ourselves, your ancestors and mine go back some 4,000 generations.  Since the “time of Christ” it’s only 40.

Thus, whatever preceded Judaism was, itself, preceded by perhaps hundreds of other spiritual beliefs.  They all passed by. So also, it seems inevitable, will today’s religions including Christianity.

The National Geographic article explored the human characteristics that make us want to find new places.  The people with the genes to explore found food and thus may have had more chances for survival and raised more children. The religious trait must have been connected to finding food as well.

I’ve heard religious people say we have only now found the real god and the real truth about sin and the after life.  But, the invisible gods seem exactly the same. The only thing that has changed is development of the written word. It presents the illusion of ultimate truth.

That Christianity has been here such a short time makes it seem unlikely it is any more important than the many religions that preceded it.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/01/restless-genes/dobbs-text

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About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years.
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26 Responses to Christianity Covers What Percentage of Human History?

  1. Stanta says:

    Jon, take a look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs

    History doesn’t really begin until at least the first level is reached. we went hundreds of thousands of years just struggling to survive. Only since the beginning of agriculture have we been able to be an active planning part of our own survival beyond hunting gathering. That is where many feel that the abstract mind started to find time to start asking the philosophical questions we associate with modern man. That gives us a shorter timeframe….possibly 10,000 years?

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Stan 1:56 “…that the abstract mind started…possibly 10,000 years?”

      The earliest known, so far, cave drawings are dated 35,000 years ago. Drawings are abtract, a form of writing. The figures of the 35,000 years ago are thought to be religious. Did a blog on this several months ago.

      So far as I know, all the aboriginal tribes studied by anthropolgists that were seemingly unchanged from ancient times had religious beliefs. I never heard of actual evidence there was a time when religion or superstition was not present at any prehistoric time.

    • Travis32 says:

      There’s some inconsistancies here.. If you’re open to them.. One is I’ll submit a supposition on Genesis. I had a professor that went through the beginning parts of Genesis very thoroughly and although we didn’t have the original text, there is almost a rhythm / beat to the words. He suggested the possibility that Genesis had kind of a archaic cave man oral presentation to it. That it was something ritually sung from generation to generation.

      That’s a lot to believe about cave people that barely understood the concept of fire or the wheel. However, I don’t see the bible as providing a complete history of the world or even of religion. It was meant to define God based events of history to help people keep their faith. My personal opinion is at most, it’s a guidebook. If there’s an instruction manual to living life… It’s the closest thing we have. The events documented were to show how people survived and dealt with those events. And to present God’s take on those events.

      There’s a lot of things open to interpretation and questions of ancient times…. There’s one verse in Genesis that caused my hair to stand up on end, I have heard no theologan, agnostic, or athiest really discuss it at all. Well, o.k. there’s two verses that are intriguing to me. The one describing that the garden of eden was marked by a floating flaming sword…. I’m confused what importance that has at all. And the second is that saraphim took on human partners of their own. saraphim are believed to be angelic beings.

      I believe Genesis could cover thousands if not tens of thousands of years.. It’s not meant to cover every day. It covers, the beginning, which could be millions if not billions of years ago, to a mass migration of advanced humans. And only a few things here and there. Whether its true or not is up to each person on how they believe, the main idea here is that the bible does not just cover 5,000 years of detailed history. It covers possibly millions of years, with at best spotty history demonstrating God’s influence over humanity. Who or what you believe to be God, is open to interpretation.

      Revelations is a prime example… It describes God’s temple descending upon the earth and a massive rapture of God’s people. To me.. This sounds like a mass alien abduction and relocation program of specific humans. Humans will continue to exist on earth, so it doesn’t describe the end of the earth. It describes a massive change in human existence. Then it jumps to people living in heaven for a thousand years, and Satan having one last attack on God’s people. Revelation alone covers events of a thousand years…

      Not detailed history, just a couple things that matter… It doesn’t say what people will be doing in heaven for a thousand years. Will it be slaves to some alien entity, mining some important energy source, or will it be doing whatever we want? Exploring the universe, or going around visiting people, and having coffee? People overlook these details, but, Revelations and Genesis, are some of the scariest books in the bible to me. And many people just blindly accept what is in them without looking at the reality?

      Why is John instructed to measure God’s temple? If I remember right my research yielded that it measures to be a little over 1 mile sized cube. 1 mile tall, wide, and deep. … Regardless of these details, the truth is the bible only covers parts of human history where God has intervened directly. It is not meant to be taken as a history book — In my very humble opinion.

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        Travis 32 Thanks for taking time to expand on your views of the Bible. We all have them and it’s fun to compare and critique.

        My own view of Genesis is the same as my view of the rest of the Bible: It was written for a specific audience of that time and had a specific objective the writer wished to accomplish with that audience. It was not written for us.

        So far as I know, every clan, social group, national group and religious group has some mythical story to represent where the group started. Genesis is that for Christians and Jews. The writer put in the talking snake and introduced sin to scare readers into conforming with whatever behavior was wanted by authority figures of that time. We talk about the story today, not because it is important per se, but because the written word had developed in that time period allowing the story to be passed down more easily than might have been the case when all such stuff was passed down orally.

  2. Henry says:

    Jon: “That Christianity has been here such a short time makes it seem unlikely it is any more important than the many religions that preceded it.”

    Christianity is Jon’s favorite target. I would think an atheist would equally hate all religion. That obviously isn’t the case.

  3. Stanta says:

    Modern medicine is only about one hundred years old, must mean it is pretty insignificant also.

  4. Wanna B Sure says:

    Jon would have us think the God of Genesis is not the God of the New Testament.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Wanna 1:30 “Jon would have us think the God of Genesus in not the God of the New Testiment.”

      I think you’ve committed blasphomy here. The Christian sites I’ve read say the literal Garden of Eden was in the Middle East. I’m sure the Old Testiment would have said “Africa” if it had anything to do with the OT god.

      Some Southern white people used to say black people were inferior and interacial marriage was a sin. They quoted scripture. I’m sure from their point of view, the god did not create inferieor black people first and then later establish other superiour races.

      The OT and NT gods could be the same, since no one has ever seen either there is no way to tell. It’s also possible neither ever existed but were figments of the imagination. It’s just that the Bible did not place the OT god in Africa, but in the Middle East.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Jon would have us think the God of Genisis is not the God of the New Testament. Nowhere does the Bible say where “Eden” was. Features are mentioned, but that is all. You have no idea what blasphemy is, or isn’t. The remainder of your comments are irrelevent. Gummy Fox.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Wanna 2:49 “Nowhere does the Bible say where ‘Eden’ was. Features are mentioned, but that is all.”

          So, we are to conclude this. Since we now know humans came out of Africa, those who wrote the Bible and told of the features of the Garden of Eden were talking of Africa. The features of the Garden of Eden had been passed down almost 4,000 generations.

          Or, could it be they were just describing some place in the Middle East they had seen–had to be only a few miles from where they were born because that’s all the farther they could walk. If it was the latter, they were for sure just making up a story because that’s not where humans came from. If the story was from Africa, 200,000 years before, probably made up as well.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Conclude what you desire. It’s your quest, not mine.

          • Margaret Walsh says:

            Groups of ancient people easily moved hundreds of miles as they strived to survive, hanging in one place for your entire life was a very late development in the travels of mankind.

          • Margaret Walsh says:

            Folk Tales and creation myths are cultural universals!

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            I’m watching “Back to the Beginning” on ABC with Christiane Amanpour. I think she treats the subject matter fairly–being careful to say what the Bible says and differentiating it from what is actually known. The only I don’t like sort of an overarching assumption that sometime soon all the Bible stories will be prove to have actually happened.

  5. Margaret Walsh says:

    I am a died in the wool evolutionist…..ever since I was a 4th grade nerd who checked out a book from the catholic school library on the evolution of humans/primates. Christianity is but a mere drop in history of man. I also love molecular genetics and this knowledge has greatly enhanced my understanding of evolution…….sorry creationists, there is no proof of your beliefs to me.

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      Martaret; You sound like you think God started with Christianity. Exactly what don’t you believe in? Evolution? God? Christianity? or all three?

    • Henry says:

      Margaret: “I am a [dyed] in the wool evolutionist”

      Theistic evolution or naturalistic? Do you embrace the naturalistic philosophical commitment required for macro evolution?

  6. Margaret Walsh says:

    Wanna: I believe in Evolution, I believe Jesus was a great prophet, I believe organized religion is a snow job and I have seen no proof there is a god and no proof there isn’t so I am suspending that decision. The concept of an afterlife/spirit began at least with Neanderthals and likely further back in our human lineage……doesn’t mean its true, they just tried to explain certain phenomena. Christianity has been in existence for less than 2000 years and early human prototypes arose over 2 million, modern man…..can’t remember without looking it up but its been tens of thousands or more in time. 2,000 years of Chrisianity?……a drop in the bucket. Other religious belief or activity? hundreds of thousands of years…..

    Hope that answers your question!!

  7. Stanta says:

    Modern medicine covers what percentage of human history?

    Written language covers what percentage of human history?

    Democracy covers what percentage of human history?

    Cooking food covers what percentage of human history?

    Hey, this is fun!!!!!!

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Stan 4:21 re: cooking, language, medicine, democracy

      Has anyone ever said any of the things you mention have been there since the beginning of time?

      • Stanta says:

        No Jon, but you can take almost any modern development and make a statement of it’s insignificance in the framework of of the history of man.

        What is important is not how long a history it has but what has it done. During that 2000 year history of Christianity, many of the things we take for granted were institutionalized, including hospitals and education by the Church. Do you think we would be living as we are if the church didn’t exist?

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Stan 7:25 I’d prefer we talk about one thing at a time. You compared medicine, etc. to religion. Modern medicine does not claim it created the universe. Religion does. Thus, my point that the Christian religion has been here only 1% of the human experience.

          The other topic you raise is whether there would be hospitals or other helpful insitutions here without the Christian faith. One cannot know, for certain, the answer to that. Other countries, Japan and Korea to take examples, have medicine and social services. China also. A lot of those, as I understand, were/are government. England has socialized medicine that has its roots in WWII.

  8. Stanta says:

    Wow, socialized medicine since WW2? Like .0000000001% of human history? And who started those hospitals originally? Intact history may show medicine in Japan but some of the first missions to Japan started hospitals and orphanages.

    I am not changing the subject, just questioning the validity of your argument. If a man lives to be 125 but his greatest claim to fame is never having left his house, and another lives to 30 but discovers the cure for a fatal disease, is the shorter life less significant then the longer?

    Why don’t you try looking at the significant contributions of the Christan Church and in such an incredible short period of human history.

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