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Faith & Belief

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Up to now, we have been dealing with the beginnings of nationhood. In each of the early nations and empires, we see development from a collection of tribes growing into a collection of city states. And from a collection of city states being merged into nation states, and full-fledge empires that eventually sow the seeds of their own collapse.

But history is incomplete if it only deals in the conquest and expansion of nation states. It needs to deal with the development of ideologies, both religious and philosophical.

Look deeply into any settled people and you will find religious belief. It informs people of their place and why things are so. It provides a coherent sense of place and identity that can be attached to where one lives. In Sumer, every city state had its god, and each God its priesthood. Rulers and conquerors who ignored the Gods, did so at their own risk. It was no different in Egypt. When the Pharaoh Akhenaton unilaterally decided to replace the existing Gods with a monotheistic one, he not only lost the loyalty of Egypt, his life had a premature end.

Still, as nations come and go, so do most religions. An ideology with no philosophical base beyond worship of the self-appointed leadership has no basis for self survival. When the nation state behind it dies, narrow ideology or blind faith dies as well.

And therein lies the genius of the first modern religions. The idea that faith should embody morality, ethics and transcend physical boundaries has influenced much of history. Few people know of Sargon of Akkadia. More have heard of King Solomon. And still more recognise the names of Moses, Aristotle and Buddha. By extending beyond the worship of leader gods, Early Israel, Greece, and India have created developments whose influences are still felt to this day.

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