What is religion? It is the belief that we have in a faith, which leads us to worship gods, or is a set of rituals and observations that explain the reason for the existence of the universe. It involves devotional rituals and observances that followers need to live by, and prescribes a moral code that should conduct the affairs of the believer.
As long as there have been human beings, there has been some religion. Voltaire once reflected on this as, "If there were no God, we would have to invent him." There are different creation stories for different religions, but it is difficult to say with certainty which is the oldest religion, as there are no written records that support any claims.
Technically, Animism should be considered as the oldest among the different types of religions. It is the belief that every natural object and the universe has a soul that should be worshiped. But it is hardly practiced anymore, as it is very primitive and has been replaced by more formal religions.
Animal worship is also a faith that has survived for many years now. In fact, in 2006, a carved statue of a python was excavated in Botswana that has been dated at around 70,000 years old. Another unorganized form of religion that has been around for several centuries is Paganism, which is the belief in the worship of Mother Earth.
Oldest Religion in the World
Most experts believe that the most ancient religion in the world that is still practiced is Hinduism. This belief stems from the fact that the oldest written records of any form of organized religion are in Sanskrit, which is the oldest written language. It is difficult to define how old it is though.
There are records of rituals and the Vedas, which are religious texts, that can be traced back to 2000 BCE. While there is no definite proof that names Hinduism as the oldest faith in the world, the history is more than 50,000 years old. There are other religions that are considered to be almost as old as Hinduism.
Judaism, which can be traced back to Abraham, is said to have begun sometime around 1400 BCE, which was when Moses recorded the Torah. Zoroastrianism, which is the oldest religion to have a prophetic origin credited to one person, was founded by Zarathustra, who, according to different records, lived either in the 6th century BCE or in the 13th century BCE.
Hinduism: An Overview
Considered the most ancient religion in the world, the origin of it is not credited to a single founder, but the Aryans as a whole who were migrants to North India. They created records of their religious observances and rituals. They created the Vedas, which have been one of the biggest influences on Indian culture.
Hinduism is world's third largest religion, with more than a billion followers. The most number of Hindus live in India, which is also the birth place of the religion. Nepal is the only Hindu nation in the world with a population of almost 23 million. Other countries that have a large Hindu population include Bangladesh and Indonesia.
The religious texts that the Hindus subscribe to include the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, and the Bhagavad Gita. The epics Mahabharata, of which Bhagvad Gita is a part, and Ramayana are also of great importance to the Hindus. Practitioners of the religion believe that it is Sanatana Dharma, which translates literally to 'the Eternal Law'.
Karma is an important belief of the religion which puts forward the notion that the beneficial or harmful situations in the present life of a person are a result of his/her good or bad deeds in the past life. Life functions as a cycle of actions and reactions according to the Hindus.
The four most important objectives of life according to Hinduism are artha (livelihood), dharma (righteousness), kama (sensuality), and moksha (liberation).These are just some of the facts about Hinduism. It is a complex religion with different sects and several different sets of beliefs, which have emerged from the long and rich history that it has.
Hinduism, according to many experts, remains the oldest religion in the world. While there is no definite record or proof of the same, history point us in this direction.