Going back a ways, as in 6,000+ years or so ... the original "religion" (i.e., view of God), was that God is a Spirit-force ... the Source of Life ... which permeated all things. All in All (sound vaguely familiar?).
Here's how DH Lawrence described the spirituality of the Native Americans of New Mexico:
It was a vast and pure religion, without idols and images, even mental ones. It is the oldest religion, a cosmic religion the same for all peoples, not broken up into specific gods or saviors or systems. It is the religion which precedes the god-concept, and is therefore greater and deeper than any god-religion."
That struck me: "beyond metal idols/images." Wondering, how have my own mental images of God prevented me from knowing/experiencing God...? And, do I thus worship a concept of my own creation (or received from others), which has become an idol, replacing the True God in my own mind, and therefore, life...?
Prior to the concept of a male God "in the sky" ... there was a more feminine aspect to the Divine ... now, to be fair, this "goddess" concept wasn't anthropomorphic ... a feminine Deity wasn't worshipped, so much as life was seen as feminine ... life was observed as coming forth *out* of females. Seeing the Spirit in terms of a Womb just made sense. Steve Taylor quotes here from "The Myth of the Goddess":
The Mother Goddess, wherever she is found, is an image that inspires and focuses a perception of the universe as an organic, alive and sacred whole ... Everything is woven together in one cosmic web, where all orders of manifest and unmanifest life are related, because all share in the sanctity of the original source."
Thus, Divine as feminine is more of a concept, than an image.
Relating this to the Fall ... in 4,000 BC, when humans became warlike, socially-distinctive, and patriarchal, the fallen humans also developed theistic religions. At first, the religions were polytheistic (many gods) ... including in ancient Sumer, in Greece, in Rome, and in Egypt (among others). The gods were a mixture of male and female images. But by 2,000 BC, all the prominent gods were male ... the females having become either subservient, or non-existent. So too, the former sense of participating with nature, had been replaced with a sense of needing to conquer/dominate nature. Rather than the sense of the Divine being in all, God became a powerful being *over* all.
Monotheism was birthed in Egypt (I found this fascinating!) ... The Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton, in 1400 BC, proclaimed that there was only one God (Aton), the Sun God ... and that all other gods were now obsolete. Interestingly, there's evidence that Moses lived in Egypt at this time (Moses being the assumed author of the first five books of the old testament), where he was in a noble family. It's likely that Moses took this concept of one God with him.
Also interestingly, the three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) were the predominant religions among the Saharasian people ... by 1000 AD, only the Hindus of India and the Taoist/Buddhist people of the Far East, remained untouched by this "fallen" perspective of religion. The spread of both Christianity and Islam is not due to "how true it is" (as adherents of each religion declare) ... but because they were (both!) spread by political and military force (i.e., "convert or be punished/die").
Steve Taylor sums up this chapter quite provocatively:
The notion that there is only one God - an omnipotent father figure who keeps a constant watch over us, controlling everything which happens, rewarding us for doing good, and demanding complete subservience and devotion - obviously satisfied (& continues to satisfy) a deep-rotted psychological need of fallen human beings.
Wowzers...! As I wrote in the margin: "I feel another shift coming!"
(Next: Our Need for Gods)