Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Birth of Religion

There is an article in the June issue of National Geographic magazine about the excavation of a temple complex in southern Turkey. Known as Gobekli Tepe is has a Stonehenge feel to it, except that it is thousands of years older than the British standing stones site and is probably the oldest temple site in the world. Built 11,600 years ago, it is elaborately carved with creatures and strangely the oldest rings are more sophisticated than the more recent. This link includes a video http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/06/gobekli-tepe/mann-text

This temple was built when there were no beasts of burden and the nomadic people of the area lived in huts. There was no form of writing, no metalwork, no pottery. Yet they moved 16-ton stones, some 18 feet tall, to a place where no one lived for the purpose of worship. The writer of the article offers "discovering that hunter-gatherers had constructed Goblekli Tepe was like finding that someone had built a 747 in a basement with an X-acto knife.

I find stuff like this fascinating. From the most ancient times humans have felt compelled to create holy places and sacred structures. Even though survival and subsistance were much more demanding than today, the desire for sacred gathering places was powerful. A more modest but still impressive parallel is the choice of our forebearers to build churches in the communities all around us. Look at St. Paul's and consider the commitment and vision on the part of a much smaller community and relatively poorer folk.

What are your thoughts about this? Are we "hard-wired" for the holy, and for sacred places?


IanD said...

As I understand it, the theory that we are "hard wired for religion" is gaining steam in the sphere of social psychology. The story you've related would certainly add to that body of evidence. What a fascinating story!

Your point on St. Paul's is also well made. I read The Light On The Corner (1984) about three years ago, and I was struck by how much work went into erecting St. Paul's and its predecessor.

Lastly, sorry for the absence, David. My idiotic PC finally died, thus enabling me to buy an iMac. I am hoping this new guy will help me stay connected much better than the other dud!

lionlamb said...

Good to see you back Ian. I thought maybe you were on vacation, or in a state run facility with padded walls as a result of teaching too much summer school.

I would love to visit this site.

The Light on the Corner is a good history of this congregation. A sequel perhaps. The LED Light Continues?