Origins of religions

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Substance theorists of Religion focus on the following –

  1. The essence or materials which Religion is made up of; i.e. (a realist or physical view of Religion) is the nature of Religion, Supernatural reality, meaning, relevance or importance of Religion are intended in substabce theories on Religion: (not necessarily the functions of religion as a social institution providing social services and basic needs of its practitioners, and other members of society) see Robinson and Davidson, (2008:1407).

  2. Substance theories on Religion also focuses on the Phenomenology of Religion; or tangible and truth realities in religious claims as to the possible existence of God, gods, and spirit beings as living realities, or that……

  3. ….Religion is mere myth which may not be real or true, yet functional or performs social functions such as providing Education, Orphanages, Rehabs, Asylums, Hospices, and Health Services beneficial to society,


The following are the importance of Religion to human societies:

  1. Religious moral laws helps to regulate community behavior.

  2. Religion as a social institution provides social services, i.e. Education, Health services, Psycho-structural and stress regulating counseling theologies.

  3. Religious institutions have created thousands of jobs for the jobless.

  4. Religion is a unifying social bond and cohesion for its practitioners.

  5. Religion enforces respect for God, and respect for human life: Ex.20:13.

  6. Religious bodies have set-up thousands of institutions an estates which serve as ralling or unifying points for people from different orientations and helpless backgrounds ( e.g providing jobs:sec’c’)


Comparative Religion and inter-faith dialogue search for areas of common interests between different Religions to promote peaceful co-existence.


  1. Functional Religion simply means applying Religious ideas and doctrines to practical provisions of humanitarian and social services or amenities capable of solving problems of its practitioners: or reducing stress in the lives of members of society (Robinson; 2008:539).

  2. In this case Religion become a problems-solver, rather than a social-problem. (Nnaji: 2014: Introduction to Socionomy and Psychonomy: Unizik: Philosophy).

  3. See No.3 under substance theory in Religion. (I.e. Religion as a social institution capable of providing social amenities such as Education, Health, Rehab Services and Moral Laws for ethically resolute societies).


  • Animism: Animism is the belief that spirits live in natural objects like mountains, trees, rivers, air, the troposphere (sky), rocks, lands, etc. this was the earliest form of religion.

  • Ritual- sacrifice: soon, early men moved beyond mere believe in spirits and started killing animals and fellow humans as sacrifices to their unknown gods’ and spirits.

  • Polytheism: later on, the idea of gods that are greater than spirits started emerging. Early men started offering crops, animal and human sacrifices to their many gods.

  • Ancestor worship: The worship of dead ancestors soon got added to polytheism. Dead ancestor and relations, kings and great men etc got elevated to the status of gods (e.g. the Greek Zeus, Olympian gods and the Yoruba lfa pantheon.)

  • Monotheism: According to Nwala (1997) the Egyptians (around 4,000 BC) started speculating the idea of just one Supreme Being who created the lesser gods and the universe. Those who believed in a one supreme God included Ptah Hotep, Pharaoh lkhnaton, the Jews, Anaximander, Aristotle, Christianity and Islam etc.

  • Mysticism and Asceticism: (see also oriental religions) mysticism is a kind of secretive (concealed) religious practices that use asceticism (i.e. self-denial of all pleasures) to attempt union with God. The Islamic ascetic Sufi Al Hallaj was executed for declaring that he has achieved union with God,

  • Oriental Religions: “Oriental” means “East’, hence Eastern (i.e. Asian) religions such as Buddhism, ancient Hinduism, Jainism with ( 7million worshippers worldwide as at December 2009) Shintoism, Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, etc, all found in the Indo-china and Japanese axis. Oriental Religions are often ascetic especially when Gautama Buddha (500BC) declared that “suffering purifies” the soul. (Ogundu .C.O, Ibadan PhD Thesis, 2000) – V

  • Mystery Religions: Mystery Religions lasted mainly within the 500 years before the birth of Christ. They were blood ritual-secret cults like Osiris and Isis of Egypt: Ishtar and Tammuz of Babylon: Persian cults of the Magos: then Hermaphrodite and Percephone of Greece. Also a much more moral Mithraism of the Romans etc. Trademarks of these mystery-ancient religious practices involved concealments, and in extreme cases, blood secrecy.



The Christian Religion is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the teachings of inspired apostles and evangelists as recorded in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles in the Holy Bible. After the Apostolic age, church fathers like Augustine and Athanasius helped to establish the Christian faith. Christians adhere to the New Testament Christology that guides their relationships with God. In their search for close relationships with God, Christians believe in the Trinity which means, God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit, i.e. three persons in one God head. Among other doctrines, Christians also believe in (a) the birth of Jesus through the Virgin Mary who was conceived by the Holy Ghost (b) Justification by faith and forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then (c) Ascension and the second coming of Christ called the rapture (parousia)

Christians all over the world call God Yahweh or Jehovah which means the supreme Almighty God. They call Him other covenant names like Shalom i.e the Lord our peace; El Shaddai our all sufficient mighty God); Elohim (God our eternal creator. Etc.

Through the above doctrines and names, Christians continue their search for relationship with God. (See the New Testament; NIV study Bible).


The Islamic Religion calls God Allah. Islam means submission to the will of Allah, being teachings of Prophet Mohammed as revealed and recorded in the holy Quran. The Quran contains the structure of Islam which includes (a) belief in Allah as the only God and Mohammed his prophet; accompanied by. God’s holy books and messengers; also the, angels (b) the observance of religious prayers (salat), (c) paying of the poor rate/almsgiving (zakat), (d) fasting during the month of Ramadan (saum), (e) pilgrimage to the holy land of Allah (Haj) at Mecca, at least once in a life time if one can afford it. Through these codes of observances, Muslims are guided to maintain close relationships with Allah. The search for greater relationships with God are still going on among Muslims through different commentary books, translations and interpretations from the original source of the Quran (Yusuf All; English Translation of the Holy Quran: reprinted 2008)


This is the indigenous Religion of various communities in Africa and Nigeria. It is the religion of our great grandfathers before European Missionaries brought Christianity to us. Traditional Religion has no particular founders. Worshippers believe in different spirits and gods that live in natural objects like trees, rivers, mountains, thunder etc, and in life after death. They also believe in the Supreme Being, but they feel they can approach God through the ancestors, minor divinities and spirits, all acting as intermediaries or agents that convey their prayers and sacrifices to the Supreme Being (God).

Pre - Colonial Africans believed that these deities have retributive powers to punish and kill offenders. This concept helps to instill fear and moral values in members and regulate their relationships with God and fellow men. (Nabofa M .Y; 1996)

In Traditional African Societies, the Supreme Being (God) has been given different names according to proven experiences and languages of the adherents. We are going to list .names of God and gods in some indigenous Nigerian languages which serve as name symbols or identities for those gods.





Chukwu or chi-ukwu

Ani or ala

Chineke or Onye-okike



Eze igwe


The great guardian spirit

God of the land

God who creates

He (God) who creates

He (God) who dwells in Heaven

The great sustainer of the world

The king of heaven

God of thunder or god of instant punishment





The supreme being with the highest authority

Almighty God

The owner of heaven

god of Thunder

the creator and maker of all things


Allah (Islamic)

Islam introduces Allah into the

Hausa pantheon and


The supreme being, the sower of all life
The only God (submission to his will)



The source of all and sustainer of the whole




The creator and owner of the world.




The maker of souls, the creator

The Almighty protector



The director of the universe from heaven



God, the sustainer






Almighty God

One to be feared

The grate one (God)

The creator / moulder

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