How did Religions Come About? The “Cargo Cult” Case.

Could major religions have sprung as a result of contact with advanced technologies? This assumption, if ever proven right, would shake the foundations of the mankind. Interestingly, science has seen and studied patterns of how new beliefs are formed. The so called Cargo Cult is a brilliant example of how a belief in gods from the sky has taken shape among indigenous tribes living in remote areas of the planet.

Cargo Cult Plane

Cargo cult plane

What profound event(s) on a global scale took place circa 2000 years ago, resulting in the rise of major religions as we know them today? Buddhism was founded by Siddharta Gautama (the Buddha) in c. 520 BC, Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox) was founded by Jesus Christ in c. 30 AD, Confucianism – founded by Confucius (551–479 BC), Islam – founded by Muhammad in 622 AD, Judaism – the religion of the Hebrews (c. 1300 BC), especially after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, and the list goes on. And who, ACTUALLY, were Buddha, Jesus, Confucius, Muhammad and others? Were they flesh and bone human beings like you and me? Is it even possible they were the same being on a mission in different corners of the Earth? Or perhaps something akin emissaries from another, more advanced civilization who took faith in us, humans, for whatever reasons, and chose to tutor us in spiritual development rather than obliterate our species?

Shiva

Shiva

Not only did the religions spring in a relatively narrow window of time (in relation to the history of mankind), but they also share key concepts. If you look at them comparatively you will immediately notice one striking similarity – they are all based on the same concept which is the belief in a universal god or supreme divine authority that is omniscient and omnipotent. Interestingly, none of the Gods’ domains is subterranean or submarine. All the religions look up to the sky (heavens) where the God is believed to belong.

Through the magnifying glass

Then come the details. What were the ten commandments and where did they ACTUALLY came from? What ACTUALLY happened on the day of resurrection? We all know the dead cannot return to life… unless they are NOT dead or are NOT what we understand as a living, breathing organism – mortal and subject to decay. Why does Shiva have so many hands? Could Shiva have been some sort of a machine with grapples and cranes attached to its body, so to the contemporary it looked like a multi-handed being? What does the Black Stone of Mecca represent? Could it have been something awe-inspiring and extraterrestrial that everyone came to see? In a way religions are similar to legends in this respect. Take the legendary fire-breathing dragons so popular in China. Unless paleontologists have missed something, there are no such creatures known to science, so what sparked the legends? Who saw what and when?

All these lead to one final question: regardless the religion, should we treat the scriptures and other ancient texts as merely a collection of metaphors OR did the ancient people try to put into their language what was beyond their comprehension, something real, something technological perhaps? Take Saint Mary’s immaculate conception. Is there such a thing? No. Unless we are talking in vitro.

Black Stone in Mecca

Black Stone in Mecca

Thinking out of the box

Imagine you take a CD record and sling-shoot it through time to middle ages. A person finds it in, say 1410, picks it up and tries to grasp just what s/he is holding in the hand. There is nothing in the person’s world to relate it to, so as to be able to precisely describe the artifact. Words like “plastic” have not even come to existence yet, and even if they did would the person be able to grasp the concept of “audio recording” or laser technology to retrieve the encoded information? To be able to do that one would need to understand that a CD is merely a vehicle containing encoded content only to be accessed via a special device called a “CD player”. Pure magic! What the person would most likely do is try and describe it as “magical, feather-light, flat ring blinking in the rays of the sun”. Or something like that. And then, a few hundred years later, historians would probably say it was all about an unusually flat piece of amber or “figure speech” to describe some “spiritual concept”.

Resurrection of Jesus

Resurrection of Jesus

The Cargo Cult

Let’s leave the realm of academic discussion and look at what science has established about how beliefs (legends, religions?) may be formed. During WWII American troops in the Pacific “frog-leaped” from one tiny island to another, making their way to Japan in order to secure positions for the final blow to the Japanese Empire. As they progressed they landed among the indigenous tribes, whose way of living was no different from that of their ancestors from before centuries. The people had never seen a white man before, let alone had contact with modern technology. And then, one day, out of nowhere (yet from the sky!) came iron (careful – many of the tribes did not even know iron!) birds with pale-faced beings on their backs. Those beings swarmed and scrambled around making changes to the local environment so the birds could take off again (airstrips). With the beings came goods (soldiers would present locals with small gifts, canned food, etc. as token of good intentions). After some time, as the military operations moved farther away, US Army would wrap their camps up and transfer to another island, leaving behind dirt airstrips, empty cans, broken equipment and a myriad of other items that, for the years to come, would remind the locals of what they had witnessed. Surprisingly (?) after a while, local people would start assembling wooden “airplanes” and pray in hope to make them return with more cargo!

The vast amounts of military equipment and supplies that both sides (Japanese and Americans) airdropped (or airlifted to airstrips) to troops on these islands meant drastic changes to the lifestyle of the islanders, many of whom had never seen outsiders before. Manufactured clothing, medicine, canned food, tents, weapons and other goods arrived in vast quantities for the soldiers, who often shared some of it with the islanders who were their guides and hosts. This was true of the Japanese Army as well, at least initially before relations deteriorated in most regions.[1]

The term cargo cult was first used in print in 1945 by Norris Mervyn Bird, repeating a derogatory description used by planters and businessmen in the Australian protectorate of Papua. The term was later adopted by anthropologists, and applied retroactively to movements in a much earlier era.[2]

So how did religions come about? Is it possible that at least some of the dogmas and concepts harbored by the major religions are more than just end product of the contemplations of a few highly spiritual individuals in the distant past?

[1],[2] & more on Cargo Cult – Wiki

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