Distortion of the True Religion

In the 20th century important research has been done on the origin of religions, thanks to which it has become known that there is no scientific value in claims about religions' evolution, and that such claims are only imaginary scenarios. Research into world religions by such leading anthropologists as Andrew Lang and Wilhelm Schmidt has shown that religions did not evolve; on the contrary, sometimes underwent distortion over the course of time. The results of Schmidt's research were published in detail in the periodical, Anthropos.

Research done especially between 1900-1935 shows that claims about the evolution of religions are totally false, which led many anthropologists to abandon their evolutionary ideas. But despite all these scientific and historical facts, some radical atheists continued to defend this untenable scenario.


Archaeological Finds from Egypt and Mesopotamia

The picture to the side shows a "god of lightning," one of the Sumerians' false deities that emerged when the one true Divine belief became corrupted.

The Mesopotamian plain, not far from the civilization of ancient Egypt, is known as the "cradle of civilizations."

Among the most important information to emerge from archaeological research in these areas came from discoveries regarding these societies' religious beliefs. Inscriptions tell of the activities of countless false deities. As more information was discovered and researchers discovered better methods to interpret the data, some details about these civilizations' religious beliefs began to emerge. One of the most interesting things is that above all the false deities these people believed in, they also believed in one God. Historical evidence shows that true religion always existed. The following pages will examine the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Indian and European civilizations together with the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans to prove that they all believed in one God and were visited by messengers who communicated true religion to them. The first researcher to discover that polytheism had originally contained monotheism was Stephen Langdon of Oxford University. In 1931, he announced his findings to the scientific world, saying that they were quite unexpected and totally at odds with previous evolutionist interpretations. Langdon explained his findings as follows:

. . . the history of the oldest civilization of man is a rapid decline from monotheism to extreme polytheism and widespread belief in evil spirits. 73

Five years later, Langdon would state in The Scotsman as follows:

The evidence points unmistakably to an original monotheism, the inscriptions and literary remains of the oldest Semitic peoples also indicate . . . monotheism, and the totemistic origin of Hebrew and other Semitic religions is now entirely discredited. 74

Excavations at modern Tell Asmar, the site of a Sumerian city dating from 3,000 BCE, unearthed findings that completely corroborated Langdon's ideas. The excavation director, Henry Frankfort, gave this official report:

In addition to their more tangible results, our excavations have established a novel fact, which the student of Babylonian religions will have henceforth to take into account. We have obtained, to the best of our knowledge for the first time, religious material complete in its social setting.

We possess a coherent mass of evidence, derived in almost equal quantity from a temple and from the houses inhabited by those who worshiped in that temple. We are thus able to draw conclusions, which the finds studied by themselves would not have made possible.

For instance, we discover that the representations on cylinder seals, which are usually connected with various gods, can all be fitted into a consistent picture in which a single god worshiped in this temple forms the central figure. It seems, therefore, that at this early period his various aspects were not considered separate deities in the Sumero-Accadian pantheon. 75

When Sumerian tablets were translated, it emerged that the large number of false deities in the Babylonian pantheon emerged as a result of the gradual misinterpretation of the various names and titles of a single Deity.

Frankfort's discoveries reveal very important facts about how a superstitious, polytheist system comes into being. The theory of the evolution of religions claims that polytheism arose when people started to worship evil spirits representing the powers of nature. But it was not so. In the course of time, people developed different understandings of the various attributes of the one God, which eventually led to distortions in belief in one God. The various attributes of the one God turned into the belief in several.

Long before Langdon had made his translations of the Sumerian tablets, a researcher by the name of Friedrich Delitzsch made similar discoveries. He found that the numerous deities in the Babylonian pantheon all devolved from the various characteristics of Marduk, as they called the one Deity that time. Research has shown that belief in Marduk resulted from the deterioration, over time, of the belief in one true God.

The false deity Marduk, from the Babylonian pantheon

This one Deity, Marduk, had many names. He was called Ninib, or "the Possessor of Power," Nergal or "Lord of Battle," Bel or "Possessor of Lordship," Nebo or "the Lord of the Prophet," Sin or "Illuminator of the Night," Shamash or "Lord of all that is Just," and Addu or "God of Rain." Over the course of time, it seems that the attributes of Marduk became detached from him and assigned to different deities. In the same way, false deities such as the Sun-god and the Moon-god came into being as the products of peoples' imagination. Belief in Marduk, along with the other names of this false deity, shows that this belief system actually developed over time through distortion of belief in the One God.

We can also see traces of such perversion in ancient Egypt. Researchers have discovered that the ancient Egyptians were first of all monotheists, but that they later dismantled this system and turned it into Sabeism, or sun-worship. M. de Rouge writes:

It is incontestably true that the sublimer portions of the Egyptian religion are not the comparatively late result of a process of development or elimination from the grosser. The sublimer portions are demonstrably ancient; and the last stage of the Egyptian religion, that known to the Greek and Latin writers, heathen or Christian, was by far the grossest and the most corrupt. 76

The pharaoh Akhenaten believed in a single God and had all idols destroyed. He expressed his belief in these words in a hymn: How many are Your deeds, though hidden from sight, o Sole God beside whom there is none! You made the earth as You wished, You alone, All peoples, herds, and flocks; All upon earth that walk on legs, all on high that fly on wings...

Anthropological research has shown that polytheistic beliefs emerged along with the distortion of monotheistic faith. This is one proof that no such process as religious "evolution" ever took place, as some would have us believe.

The anthropologist Sir Flinders Petrie says that superstitious, polytheistic beliefs emerged through the gradual corruption of belief in a single deity. In addition, he says that this process of corruption can be seen in present-day society as well as in societies in the past:

There are in ancient religions and theologies very different classes of gods. Some races, as the modern Hindu, revel in a profusion of gods and godlings which continually increase. Others . . . do not attempt to worship great gods, but deal with a host of animistic spirits, devils. . . .

Were the conception of a god only an evolution from such spirit worship we should find the worship of many gods preceding the worship of one God . . . What we actually find is the contrary of this, monotheism is the first stage traceable in theology...

Wherever we can trace back polytheism to its earliest stages, we find that it results from combinations of monotheism. . . . 77 


The Origins of Superstitious Polytheism in India

The superstitious Hindu religion has many false deities. However, research has shown that in the early days of Indian culture people believed in a single God.

Even if Indian culture is not as old as Middle Eastern cultures, still it is one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world.

In Indian paganism, the number of so-called deities is virtually endless. After long study, Andrew Lang has determined that polytheistic religions appeared in India as a result of a process similar to that in the Middle East.

Edward McCrady, writing about Indian religious beliefs, observed that the Rig Veda shows that in the early days, the deities were regarded simply as diverse manifestations of a single Divine Being. 78 In the hymns in the Rig Veda, we can see traces of the destruction of the monotheistic idea of a single God. Another researcher in this area, Max Müller, agrees that at first, there was a belief in one God:

There is a monotheism that precedes the polytheism of the Veda; and even in the invocation of the innumerable gods the remembrance of a God one and infinite, breaks through the mist of idolatrous phraseology like the blue sky that is hidden by passing clouds. 79

From this, it is again obvious that there has been no evolution of religions, but that people added false elements to true religion, or neglected certain commands and prohibitions—which finally resulted in the perversion of religious belief.


Contamination of Religions in European History

In his book The Religion of Greece in Prehistoric Times, Axel W. Persson, a researcher into ancient Greek religious beliefs, says: ". . . there later developed a larger number of more or less significant figures which we meet with in Greek religious myths."

We can see traces of a similar contamination in the beliefs of historical European societies. In his book The Religion of Greece in Prehistoric Times, Axel W. Persson, a researcher in Ancient Greek paganism, writes:

. . . there later developed a larger number of more or less significant figures which we meet with in Greek religious myths. In my opinion, their multiplying variety depends to a very considerable degree on the different invocating names of originally one and the same deity. 80

The same traces of alteration can be seen in Italy. An archaeologist by the name of Irene Rosenzweig, after researching the Iguvine tables, which date from Etruscan times, concludes that "deities are distinguished by adjectives, which in their turn emerge as independent divine powers." 81

In short, all of the last century's anthropological and archaeological evidence indicates that throughout history, societies first believed in one God but altered this belief with the passage of time. At first, peoples believed in God Who created everything from nothing, Who sees and knows all things and Who is Lord of all the worlds. But in time, the titles of our Lord were wrongly considered as separate deities, and people began to worship these false deities. True religion is the worship of the one and only God. Polytheistic religions developed from the contamination of the true religion, which our Lord has revealed to humanity since the time of Adam (pbuh).


The True Religion Revealed by God

When we look at the culture and religious values of societies in the various areas of the world, we see that they have much in common. These societies could not have shared any cultural exchange, but they believe in beings such as angels, satan and jinni that do not live in the same dimension as human beings. They believe in life after death, in human beings created from the earth; and their worship contains many common elements. For example, Noah's ark is mentioned in Sumerian records, Welsh religion, and in Chinese inscriptions and in ancient Lithuanian religion.

This is just one proof that a single, all-powerful deity—that is God, Lord of the worlds—revealed the religious morality. Throughout the world, cultures have been taught religions that came from the same supreme place, revealing the existence of one incomparable deity. Our Lord has revealed Himself in every period of history through those servants He has chosen and exalted; and through them He has revealed the religion He has chosen for human beings. In the Qur'an, Almighty God's last revelation, He announces that "every people has a guide" (Qur'an, 13:7). It is revealed in other verses that He sends a messenger to all peoples to warn them:

We have never destroyed a city without giving it prior warning as a reminder. We were never unjust. (Qur'an, 26:208-209)

These blessed messengers always taught societies that they should believe in God as the only deity, serve only Him, and that they should practice good and avoid evil. Human beings will attain salvation through obedience to these messengers, chosen and blessed in God's sight, and to the holy books they have left behind as an inheritance. The last prophet sent by our Lord as a mercy to the worlds was Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace); and the Qur'an, the last Divine book which is under Almighty God's eternal protection, is the truest guide for humanity.

73. Stephen H. Langdon, Semitic Mythology, Mythology of All Races, Vol. V, Archaeol. Instit. Amer., 1931, p. xviii.
74. Stephen H. Langdon, The Scotsman, 18 November 1936.
75. H. Frankfort, Third Preliminary Report on Excavations at Tell Asmar (Eshnunna): quoted by P. J. Wiseman in New Discoveries in Babylonia about Genesis, London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1936, p. 24.
76. P. Le Page Renouf, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of Ancient Egypt, London: Williams and Norgate, 1897, p. 90.
77. Sir Flinders Petrie, The Religion of Ancient Egypt, London: Constable, 1908, pp. 3, 4.
78. Edward McCrady, "Genesis and Pagan Cosmogonies," Transactions of the Victoria Institute, Vol. 72, 1940, p. 55.
79. Max Müller, History of Sanskrit Literature: quoted by Samuel Zwemer, p. 87.
80. Axel W. Persson, The Religion of Greece in Prehistoric Times, University of California Press, 1942, p. 124.
81. Review of Irene Rosenzweig's Ritual and Cults of Pre-Roman Iguvium by George M. A. Hanfmann, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 43, No. 1, Jan.-Mar. 1939, pp. 170, 171.