The Urantia Book

The History of Urantia

Brilliant Evening Star

86. Early Evolution of Religion

6. The Ghost-Spirit Environment

86.6.1 Man inherited a natural environment, acquired a social environment, and imagined a ghost environment. The state is man's reaction to his natural environment, the home to his social environment, the church to his illusory ghost environment.

86.6.2 Very early in the history of mankind the realities of the imaginary world of ghosts and spirits became universally believed, and this newly imagined spirit world became a power in primitive society. The mental and moral life of all mankind was modified for all time by the appearance of this new factor in human thinking and acting.

86.6.3 Into this major premise of illusion and ignorance, mortal fear has packed all of the subsequent superstition and religion of primitive peoples. This was man's only religion up to the times of revelation, and today many of the world's races have only this crude religion of evolution.

86.6.4 As evolution progressed, good luck became associated with good spirits and bad luck with bad spirits. The discomfort of enforced adaptation to a changing environment was regarded as ill luck, the displeasure of the spirit ghosts. Primitive man slowly evolved religion out of his innate worship urge and his misconception of chance. Civilized man provides schemes of insurance to overcome these chance occurrences; modern science puts an actuary with mathematical reckoning in the place of fictitious spirits and whimsical gods.

86.6.5 Each passing generation smiles at the foolish superstitions of its ancestors while it goes on entertaining those fallacies of thought and worship which will give cause for further smiling on the part of enlightened posterity.

86.6.6 But at last the mind of primitive man was occupied with thoughts which transcended all of his inherent biologic urges; at last man was about to evolve an art of living based on something more than response to material stimuli. The beginnings of a primitive philosophic life policy were emerging. A supernatural standard of living was about to appear, for, if the spirit ghost in anger visits ill luck and in pleasure good fortune, then must human conduct be regulated accordingly. The concept of right and wrong had at last evolved; and all of this long before the times of any revelation on earth.

86.6.7 With the emergence of these concepts, there was initiated the long and wasteful struggle to appease the ever-displeased spirits, the slavish bondage to evolutionary religious fear, that long waste of human effort upon tombs, temples, sacrifices, and priesthoods. It was a terrible and frightful price to pay, but it was worth all it cost, for man therein achieved a natural consciousness of relative right and wrong; human ethics was born!

7. The Function of Primitive Religion

86.7.1 The savage felt the need of insurance, and he therefore willingly paid his burdensome premiums of fear, superstition, dread, and priest gifts toward his policy of magic insurance against ill luck. Primitive religion was simply the payment of premiums on insurance against the perils of the forests; civilized man pays material premiums against the accidents of industry and the exigencies of modern modes of living.

86.7.2 Modern society is removing the business of insurance from the realm of priests and religion, placing it in the domain of economics. Religion is concerning itself increasingly with the insurance of life beyond the grave. Modern men, at least those who think, no longer pay wasteful premiums to control luck. Religion is slowly ascending to higher philosophic levels in contrast with its former function as a scheme of insurance against bad luck.

86.7.3 But these ancient ideas of religion prevented men from becoming fatalistic and hopelessly pessimistic; they believed they could at least do something to influence fate. The religion of ghost fear impressed upon men that they must regulate their conduct, that there was a supermaterial world which was in control of human destiny.

86.7.4 Modern civilized races are just emerging from ghost fear as an explanation of luck and the commonplace inequalities of existence. Mankind is achieving emancipation from the bondage of the ghost-spirit explanation of ill luck. But while men are giving up the erroneous doctrine of a spirit cause of the vicissitudes of life, they exhibit a surprising willingness to accept an almost equally fallacious teaching which bids them attribute all human inequalities to political misadaptation, social injustice, and industrial competition. But new legislation, increasing philanthropy, and more industrial reorganization, however good in and of themselves, will not remedy the facts of birth and the accidents of living. Only comprehension of facts and wise manipulation within the laws of nature will enable man to get what he wants and to avoid what he does not want. Scientific knowledge, leading to scientific action, is the only antidote for so-called accidental ills.

86.7.5 Industry, war, slavery, and civil government arose in response to the social evolution of man in his natural environment; religion similarly arose as his response to the illusory environment of the imaginary ghost world. Religion was an evolutionary development of self-maintenance, and it has worked, notwithstanding that it was originally erroneous in concept and utterly illogical.

86.7.6 Primitive religion prepared the soil of the human mind, by the powerful and awesome force of false fear, for the bestowal of a bona fide spiritual force of supernatural origin, the Thought Adjuster. And the divine Adjusters have ever since labored to transmute God-fear into God-love. Evolution may be slow, but it is unerringly effective.

86.7.7 [Presented by an Evening Star of Nebadon.]