An evolutionary advantage for monotheistic religions

Coincidentally or not, one of the main areas of the genome where Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon ancestry was reduced over time is the one related to language abilities and communication. This may indicate that they were more limited in expressing themselves and communicating in complex ways than humans.

This should have huge implications on how much cultural, and religious knowledge and cumulative intellectual skills could be transmitted among them.

Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons also seem to have been less social, and less adventurous explorers, with more restrictive social networks than humans, who already had increasing long distance trade one to two hundred thousands years ago. Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons also may have had fewer different religions, which slows down the creation of new spiritual insights, moral developments, and knowledge of the possibilities of the stimulation and coordination of many different minds for many different purposes.

The Qur’an may be referring to this when it states: “If your Lord had so willed, He would have made mankind one community, but they continue to remain divided.” (Qur’an 11:118)

The Torah provides important details about Allah’s ancient dispersion and diversification of human beings, and mankind’s linguistic dissemination. One understanding of the Tower of Babel (Torah Genesis 11:1-9) is that humanity arrogantly challenged God ‘s space by building a “tower; with its head reaching up to the heavens”.

This is the sin of Pharaoh. that the Qur’an refers to when Pharaoh mockingly and arrogantly asks his associate Haman to build a lofty tower. Pharaoh said: “O Haman! Fire up (a kiln to bake bricks) of clay, and build me a lofty tower, that I may mount up to the God of Moses: but as far as I am concerned, I think (Prophet Moses) is a liar!” (28:38)

However, a close reading of the Torah text also shows that what the people actually built was a whole city with a tower, not only to challenge God, but also to “make a name for themselves, lest they be dispersed over the whole earth.”

In the aftermath of Noah’s flood, generations of humans were fearful and anxiety ridden. They felt very weak and vulnerable; and they only wanted to huddle together in one place. Humanity did not want curiosity to lead people to explore other locations and thus promote change and development (going against God”s blessing to “fill up the earth” (Torah Genesis 1:28)

And they especially did not want to expand their knowledge and vocabulary because that promotes non-conformity and diversity. Humans were proud that every single human being spoke the same language, and that their one language had only “a few words” (Torah Genesis 11:1 literal translation from Hebrew).

When the post flood humans said “to one another; come let us make bricks and burn them throughly.” (Torah Genesis 11:3) they were doing much more than discussing building methods. Bricks are one of the first building materials created by human beings. Ancient brick makers learned to “burn” bricks by baking them in a very hot oven called a kiln. Manufacturing hundreds of thousands of bricks for very large building projects produced the first mass production factories.

The post flood humans wanted to build their city with uniform manufactured bricks, instead of natural un-hewn stones; where each stone is a different shape and color from all the other stones.

Allah had other plans.

This is why when Prophet Abraham and Prophet Ishmael rebuilt the ruins of the Kabah, they used stones, especially the Kabah’s black cornerstone, and this is why immediately after the giving of the ten commandments the Torah says, “An alter of earth you shall make for me…(Torah Exodus 20:21) and “If you make me an alter of stone, do not build it of hewn stone, for if you use a tool on it, you pollute it. (20:25).

Thus, an alter of natural unshaped building materials is preferred by both the Islamic and the Jewish traditions to massed produced manufactured materials. The generations following the flood lacked both a self-confident individual identity and an established positive group identity.

Their polytheistic account of the flood, found in the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh, relates that the gods decided to destroy humanity because humans made too much noise, and kept the gods from sleeping. These early humans believed that violence was natural, normal and thus inevitable.

Wide spread human and animal violence would not be punished by polytheistic gods because, in polytheistic myths, the gods themselves spend a lot of time fighting and killing each other.

The people of Babel believed that one language would guarantee co-operation, so they would not have to learn to respect social or personal differences because there would be no differences at all between individuals or groups of people.

But Allah planed otherwise: “Let there be no compulsion in Religion: truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah (one God) has grasped the most trustworthy unbreakable hand hold: Allah hears, and knows all things.” (Qur’an:2:256)

They wanted only one group of people, with one and the same language for all humanity. This seemed to them to be an ideal way for humans to create harmony; and avoid strife and violence.

Their plan for the city might have been modeled on their observation of bee hives or termite mounds: lots of close contact, with a high degree of conformity and common purpose. Thank God for religious monotheistic pluralism.

So does faith in God affect your ability to trust other people? And can religion help build trust in your own community and with other people? A new study explores the connection between religion and trust, especially at a time when trust in political leaders and institutions in general, at least in the United States, is on the decline.

Using data from the General Social Survey, Rubia Valente, at Baruch College, and Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn at Rutgers University isolated two aspects of religion: individual religiosity, with a focus on prayer and belief in God, versus community religiosity, measured by attendance at services or membership in a religious group.

They found higher levels of belief predicted less trust, while higher levels of belonging predicted more trust. They also found that those who belong to religious groups or attend services have a lower level of misanthropy, or dislike of other people.

“People that are socially religious — what we classify as belonging — they’re more likely to like people and have a lower misanthropy level,” said Valente.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 450 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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