The evolution of religion cannot be precisely determined owing to the lack of clearly distinguishable stages, but anthropological and historical studies of isolated cultures in various periods of development have suggested a typology but not a chronology. One type is found among some Australian aborigines who practice magic and fetishism (see fetish) but consider the powers therein to be not supernatural but an aspect of the natural world. Inability or refusal to divide real from preternatural and acceptance of the idea that inanimate objects may work human good or evil are sometimes said to mark a prereligious phase of thought. This is sometimes labeled naturism or animatism. It is characterized by a belief in a life force that itself has no definite characterization (see animism).
A second type of religion, represented by many Oceanic and African tribal beliefs, includes momentary deities (a tree suddenly falling on or in front of a person is malignant, although it was not considered "possessed" before or after the incident) and special deities (a particular tree is inhabited by a malignant spirit, or the spirits of dead villagers inhabit a certain grove or particular animals). In this category one must distinguish between natural and supernatural forces. This development is related to the emergence of objects of devotion, to rituals of propitiation, to priests and shamans, and to an individual sense of group participation in which the individual or the group is protected by, or against, supernatural beings and is expected to act singly or collectively in specific ways when in the presence of these forces (see ancestor worship; totem; spiritism).
In a third class of religion—usually heavily interlaced with fetishism—magic, momentary and special deities, nature gods, and deities personifying natural functions (such as the Egyptian solar god Ra, the Babylonian goddess of fertility Ishtar, the Greek sea-god Poseidon, and the Hindu goddess of death and destruction Kali) emerge and are incorporated into a system of mythology and ritual. Sometimes they take on distinctively human characteristics (see anthropomorphism).
Beyond these more elementary forms of religious expression there are what are commonly called the "higher religions." Theologians and philosophers of religion agree that these religions embody a principle of transcendence, i.e., a concept, sometimes a godhead, that involves humans in an experience beyond their immediate personal and social needs, an experience known as "the sacred" or "the holy."
In the comparative study of these religions certain classifications are used. The most frequent are polytheism (as in popular Hinduism and ancient Greek religion), in which there are many gods; dualism (as in Zoroastrianism and certain Gnostic sects), which conceives of equally powerful deities of good and of evil; monotheism (as in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), in which there is a single god; supratheism (as in Hindu Vedanta and certain Buddhist sects), in which the devotee participates in the religion through a mystical union with the godhead; and pantheism, in which the universe is identified with God.
Another frequently used classification is based on the origins of the body of knowledge held by a certain religion: some religions are revealed, as in Judaism (where God revealed the Commandments to Moses), Christianity (where Christ, the Son of God, revealed the Word of the Father), and Islam (where the angel Gabriel revealed God's will to Muhammad). Some religions are nonrevealed, or "natural," the result of human inquiry alone. Included among these and sometimes called philosophies of eternity are Buddhist sects (where Buddha is recognized not as a god but as an enlightened leader), Brahmanism, and Taoism and other Chinese metaphysical doctrines.
See J. Wach, Comparative Study of Religions (1951, repr. 1958); J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough (3d ed., 13 vol., 1955; repr. 1966); V. T. A. Ferm, Encyclopedia of Religion (1959); J. Hick, The Philosophy of Religion (1963); J. de Vries, The Study of Religion (tr. 1967); G. Parrinder, ed., Man and His Gods (1971); M. Eliade, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion (16 vol., 1986); E. L. Queen 2d et al., ed., The Encyclopedia of American Religious History (1996).
The immediate issue was the French Protestants' struggle for freedom of worship and the right of establishment (see Huguenots). Of equal importance, however, was the struggle for power between the crown and the great nobles and the rivalry among the great nobles themselves for the control of the king. The foremost Protestant leaders were, successively, Louis I de Condé, Gaspard de Coligny, and Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV); the Catholic party was dominated by the house of Guise. A third party, called the Politiques and composed of moderate Catholics, sided with the Protestants, while Catherine de' Medici and her sons, Charles IX, Henry III, and Francis, duke of Alençon, vainly sought to maintain a balance of power by siding now with the Catholics, now with the Huguenots.
The Conspiracy of Amboise (1560), by which the Huguenots attempted to end the persecutions suffered at the hands of Francis II, was a prelude to the first three civil wars (1562-63, 1567-68, 1568-70). The Treaty of Saint-Germain (1570), ending the wars, gave the Protestants new liberties and the wardenship of four cities, including La Rochelle. The fourth civil war (1572-73) began with the massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Day, a general slaughter of Protestants throughout France. The fifth civil war (1574-76) ended with the Peace of Monsieur (named for Francis of Alençon, who then sided with the Huguenots), which, ratified by the Edict of Beaulieu, granted freedom of worship throughout France except Paris.
When the Catholics retorted by forming the League (1576) and persuaded Henry III to repeal the edict of toleration (1577), the Huguenots revolted once more and sought the aid of foreign Protestant states. This sixth civil war ended with the Peace of Bergerac (1577), which renewed most of the terms of the Peace of Monsieur; this Henry III never carried out. A seventh war (1580) was inconsequential, but in 1584 the recognition by Henry III of the Protestant Henry of Navarre as his heir presumptive led to the renewal of the League by Henri de Guise and to the War of the Three Henrys (1585-89).
After the assassination of Henri de Guise (1588) and of Henry III (1589), the League, now headed by the duc de Mayenne, invoked the aid of Spain against Henry's successor, Henry IV. Henry, after his victories at Arques (1589) and Ivry (1590) and his conversion to Catholicism (1593), entered Paris in 1594.
With the Edict of Nantes (see Nantes, Edict of), which granted freedom of worship throughout France and established Protestantism in 200 towns, and with the Treaty of Vervins with Spain (both in 1598), Henry IV brought the Wars of Religion to as successful a conclusion as the Protestants could desire. This result, however, was completely reversed in the 17th cent. by Cardinal Richelieu, who broke the political power of the Protestants, and by Louis XIV, who destroyed their religious privileges by his revocation (1685) of the Edict of Nantes.
See study by J. W. Thompson (1958).
Branch of philosophy that studies key metaphysical and epistemological concepts, principles, and problems of religion. Topics considered include the existence and nature of God, the possibility of knowledge of God, human freedom (the free will problem), immortality, and the problems of moral and natural evil and suffering. Natural theology is the attempt to establish knowledge of God without dependence on revelation. Traditional arguments for the existence of God include the ontological argument, the cosmological argument, and the argument from design.
Learn more about religion, philosophy of with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Religious practices and beliefs of prehistoric peoples, as inferred from archaeological findings. The oldest burials that attest to a belief in life after death date from 50,000–30,000 BC. Corpses were buried with goods such as stone tools and parts of animals, suggesting an attempt to placate the dead or equip them for the next world. The Middle Paleolithic Period provides the first evidence of animal sacrifices, which may have been offerings to the dead, to a higher power, or to the fertility of the animal species. Prehistoric human sacrifices have also been found, usually of women and children. From the Bronze Age on, weapons and jewelry were often thrown into springs, wells, and other bodies of water as sacrifices (probably of war booty). Animals such as bears were important in prehistoric religion from the Upper Paleolithic Period on, probably seen as guardian spirits and associated with magical powers. Fertility rites were also practiced, as evidenced by small, corpulent female figures, known as Venus statuettes, with highly emphasized breasts and buttocks.
Learn more about prehistoric religion with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Any of various secret cults of the Greco-Roman world. Derived from primitive tribal ceremonies, mystery religions reached their peak of popularity in Greece in the first three centuries AD. Their members met secretly to share meals and take part in dances and ceremonies, especially initiation rites. The cult of Demeter produced the most famous of the mystery religions, the Eleusinian Mysteries, as well as the Andania mysteries. Dionysus was worshiped in festivals that included wine, choral singing, sexual activity, and mime. The Orphic cult, by contrast, based on sacred writings attributed to Orpheus, required chastity and abstinence from meat and wine. Mystery cults also attached to Attis, Isis, and Jupiter Dolichenus, among others.
Learn more about mystery religion with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Beliefs and religious practices of the ancient Slavic peoples of East Europe, including the Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Most Slavic mythologies hold that God ordered the devil to bring up a handful of sand from the bottom of the sea and created the land from it. Slavic religion was often characterized by dualism, with a Black God named in curses and a White God invoked to obtain protection or mercy. Lightning and fire gods were also common. The ancient Russians appear to have erected their idols outdoors, but the Baltic Slavs built temples and enclosed sacred places, where festivals were held and animal and human sacrifices occurred. Such festivals also often included communal banquets at which the flesh of sacrificial animals was consumed.
Learn more about Slavic religion with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Religious beliefs of the Romans from ancient times until official acceptance of Christianity in the 4th century AD. The Romans believed that everything was subordinate to the rule of the gods, and the object of their religion was to secure divine cooperation and benevolence. Prayer and sacrifice were used to propitiate the gods and were often carried out at temples dedicated to particular divinities and presided over by priests (see flamen). The chief Roman priest, head of the state religion, was known as the pontifex maximus; notable among the other groups of priests were the augurs, who practiced divination to determine whether the gods approved of an action. The earliest Roman gods were the sky god Jupiter, the war god Mars, and Quirinus; other important early gods were Janus and Vesta. Many other deities were borrowed from Greek religion or associated with Greek gods, and the stories woven into Roman mythology were often taken directly from Greek mythology. Domestic shrines were devoted to divine ancestors or protectors, the Lares and Penates. Dead Roman emperors were also raised to the status of divinities and were regarded with veneration and gratitude.
Learn more about Roman religion with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Beliefs, rituals, and mythology of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples, in a geographic area extending from the Black Sea across central Europe and Scandinavia to Iceland and Greenland. The religion died out in central Europe with the conversion to Christianity (4th century) but continued in Scandinavia until the 10th century. The Old Norse literature of medieval Iceland, notably the Poetic Edda (circa 1200) and the Prose Edda (circa 1222), recounts the lore of the Germanic gods. The earth was held to have been created out of a cosmic void called Ginnungagap; in another account the first gods formed it from the body of a primeval giant, Aurgelmir. There were two sets of gods in the Germanic pantheon, the warlike Aesir and the agricultural Vanir. Germanic religion also encompassed belief in female guardian spirits, elves, and dwarfs. Rites were conducted in the open or in groves and forests; animal and human sacrifice was practiced. Ragnarok is the Germanic doomsday.
Learn more about Germanic religion with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Beliefs, rituals, and mythology of the ancient Greeks. Though the worship of the sky god Zeus began as early as the 2nd millennium BC, Greek religion in the established sense began circa 750 BC and lasted for over a thousand years, extending its influence throughout the Mediterranean world and beyond. The Greeks had numerous gods who controlled various natural or social forces (e.g., Poseidon the sea, Demeter the harvest, Hera marriage). Different deities were worshiped in different localities, but Homer's epics helped create a unified religion, in which the major gods were believed to live on Mount Olympus under the rule of Zeus. The Greeks also worshiped various gods of the countryside: Pan, nymphs, naiads, dryads, Nereids, and satyrs (see satyr and silenus), along with the Furies and the Fates. Heroes from the past, such as Heracles and Asclepius, were also venerated. Animal sacrifices were of great importance, usually made at a temple on the altar of the god. Other cultic activities included prayers, libations, processions, athletic contests, and divination, particularly through oracles and birds. Great religious festivals included the City Dionysia at Athens and the festival of Zeus in the western Peloponnese that included the Olympic Games. Death was seen as a hateful state; the dead lived in the realm of Hades, and only heroes enjoyed Elysium. Great wrongdoers suffered in Tartarus. Mystery religions emerged to satisfy the desire for personal guidance, salvation, and immortality. Greek religion faded with the rise of Christianity and lost its last great advocate with the death of Julian in AD 363. Seealso Greek mythology.
Learn more about Greek religion with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Polytheistic belief system of ancient Egypt from the 4th millennium BCE to the first centuries CE, including both folk traditions and the court religion. Local deities that sprang up along the Nile Valley had both human and animal form and were synthesized into national deities and cults after political unification circa 2925 BCE. The gods were not all-powerful or all-knowing, but were immeasurably greater than humans. Their characters were not neatly defined, and there was much overlap, especially among the leading deities. One important deity was Horus, the god-king who ruled the universe, who represented the earthly Egyptian king. Other major divinities included Re, the sun god; Ptah and Aton, creator gods; and Isis and Osiris. The concept of maat (“order”) was fundamental: the king maintained maat both on a societal and cosmic level. Belief in and preoccupation with the afterlife permeated Egyptian religion, as the surviving tombs and pyramids attest. Burial near the king helped others gain passage to the netherworld, as did spells and passwords from the Book of the Dead.
Learn more about Egyptian religion with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Beliefs and practices of the ancient Celts of Gaul and the British Isles. Celtic worship centred on the interplay of the divine element with the natural world. Springs, rivers, and hills were thought to be inhabited by guardian spirits, usually female. Some gods were widely worshiped; lesser deities were associated with particular tribes or places. The most honoured god was Lugus, who was skilled in all the arts. Cernunnos was lord of the animals; the goddess of mares and fertility was called Epona (Gaul), Macha (Ireland), or Rhiannon (Britain). Goddesses often came in groups of three. The priests of Celtic religion were the Druids; they maintained an oral tradition and left no writings. Seasonal festivals included Samhain (November 1), which marked summer's end and served as a feast of the dead, and Beltane (May 1). Oak trees, holly, and mistletoe were considered sacred. The Celts believed in life after death as well as transmigration of souls. Seealso Brân; Brigit.
Learn more about Celtic religion with a free trial on Britannica.com.
In the Western Church, a Primate is an archbishop—or rarely a suffragan or exempt bishop—of a specific episcopal see (called a primas) which confers precedence over the bishops of one or more neighboring ecclesiastical provinces, such as a 'national' church in historical, political, and cultural terms. Historically, primates were granted privileges including the authority to call and preside at national synods, the jurisdiction to hear appeals from metropolitan tribunals, the right to crown the sovereign of the nation, and presiding at the investiture (installation) of bishops in their sees.
The office is generally found in the older Catholic countries, and is now purely honorific, enjoying no single real right under canon law. The title, if it exists, may be vested in one of the oldest archdioceses in a country. The see city may no longer have the prominence it had when the diocese was created, or its circumscription may no longer exist as a state, nation or country — for example, the Archbishop of Toledo originated as the "Primate of the Visigothic Kingdom", while the Archbishop of Lyon is the "Primate of the Gauls".
Some of the leadership functions once exercised by primates, specifically presiding at meetings of the bishops of a nation or region, are now vested in the president of the national conference of bishops. With the exception of the President of the Conferenza Episcopale Italiana, these presidents are elected by the other bishops of the conference for a fixed term in office. Other functions of primates, such as hearing appeals from metropolitan tribunals, are now reserved to the Holy See.
The equivalent position in the Eastern Catholic Churches is an exarch. In the order of precedence of the Catholic Church, primates and exarchs rank immediately below major archbishops, and precede metropolitan archbishops. Primates who have been made cardinals follow the precedence established for cardinals, unlike the higher ranks enjoying no precedence, not even the right to join a high order of the sacred college.
At the First Vatican Council (Coll. Lacens., VII, pp. 34, 488, 726) the only (arch)bishops figuring as primates, in virtue of then recent concessions, were these (by country) :
A selection of primatial pretences in other countries (here grouped by modern states, but sometimes the claimed 'primas' had a smaller or overlapping territory) and their Roman Catholic primates (some historical claims are dormant or have been void for centuries; new titles can only be awarded by the Holy See):
When England and Wales was split into three ecclesiastical provinces in 1911, the pre-existent Archbishop of Westminster was given certain privileges of pre-eminence constituting him 'chief metropolitan', but without the title of primate. Similarly the Archbishop of Seoul is often considered to be the primate of Korea, but such title has never been granted by the Vatican. Such 'analogous' use of the title is confusing and technically incorrect.
In the Orthodox churches, Primate is often used in the general sense of the head of an autocephalous or autonomy church, but not as a specific title. Thus, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, the Archbishop of Mtskheta and Tbilisi, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy See of St. Mark, the Greek Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, the Archbishop of Athens, the Archbishop of Washington and New York, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, and the Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland are all primates of their respective churches, regardless of their individual titles.
In stand-alone ecclesiastical provinces, the Primate is the metropolitan archbishop of the province. In national churches composed of several ecclesiastical provinces, the Primate will be senior to the metropolitan archbishops of the various provinces, and may also be a metropolitan archbishop. In those churches which do not have a tradition of archiepiscopacy, the Primate is a bishop styled "Primus" (in the case of the Scottish Episcopal Church, "Presiding Bishop", "President-Bishop", "Prime Bishop" or simply "Primate". In the case of the Episcopal Church in the United States, which is composed of several ecclesiastical provinces, there is a Presiding Bishop who is its Primate, but the individual provinces are not led by metropolitans.
The Moderators of the United Churches of North and South India, which are united with other originally non-Anglican churches, and which are part of the Anglican Communion, while not primates, participate in the Primates' Meetings.
Anglican primates may be attached to a fixed See (e.g., the Archbishop of Canterbury is invariably the Primate of All England), he or she may be chosen from among sitting metropolitans or diocesan bishops and retain their See (as with, for example, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia), or he or she may have no See (as in the Anglican Church of Canada). Primates are generally chosen by election (either by a Synod consisting of laity, clergy and bishops, or by a House of Bishops). In some instances, the primacy is awarded on the basis of seniority among the episcopal college. In the Church of England, the Primate, like all bishops, is appointed by the British Sovereign, in his or her capacity as Supreme Governor of the established church, on the advice of the Crown Appointments Commission.
It should be noted that in the Church of England and in the Church of Ireland, the metropolitan of the second province has since medieval times also been accorded the title of Primate. In England, the Archbishop of Canterbury is known as the "Primate of All England" while the Archbishop of York is "Primate of England" (see also Primacy of Canterbury). In Ireland both the Anglican and Catholic Archbishops of Armagh are titled "Primate of All Ireland"; while both the Anglican and Catholic Archbishops of Dublin are titled "Primate of Ireland". As both of these positions pre-date the 1921 partition, they relate to the whole island of Ireland. The junior primates of these churches do not normally participate in the Primates' Meeting.