Why I am a Baha'i
Epilogue: On Neanderthals and their Religion
Near the end of the last ice age, huddled together for warmth in a cave somewhere in southern Europe, the last Neanderthals braved the harsh night. I believe they had a religious sense. We know they sometimes buried their dead. They were smart; the average cranial capacity of Neanderthals actually exceeded our own, and, in such a closely related species, this must mean that they were quite intelligent.
Long have I wondered about the lonely Neanderthals, eke-ing out a harsh existence, only to give up the stage of history so completely to their cousins, the species Homo Sapiens. They had brains larger than our own, on average. While some may speculate that they had somehow less intelligence, I sincerely doubt it, for I see no reason why it should be so. With larger brains, so recently in the evolutionary history of the genus Homo, one would think that their brains were of very similar structure to our own. I think they may have actually been *more* intelligent. Who knows?
Some speculate that they had no language. I sincerely doubt it. To what purpose would they have devoted their immense brains, if they were entirely mute?
Some speculate that they were somehow less organized. It is believed, based on certain archaeological evidence, that cannibalism was more common amongst them than amongst Homo Sapiens.
All we really think we know for sure is that they were displaced rather suddenly, between 100,000 and 30,000 years ago, by the "newer" model, Homo Sapiens, our own species.
We know they made tools, but their tool making technology did not seem to evolve as rapidly nor as elaborately as that of Homo Sapiens.
We know that they sometimes buried their dead, along with accouterments of the living, albeit crude ones. We also know that sometimes, they merely left their dead in piles and heaps of bones.
It makes one wonder. Their fate seems odd, sad, and haunting. Why did they die out? Why did they not become absorbed into the gene pool of Homo Sapiens, if they did not? Did we kill them? Did we exterminate them in a massive instance of genocide? Were we Cain to their Abel?
I posit a new theory. I hypothesize that, Neanderthal may have been as intelligent as we are today, or more so. They may also have had language. But they must have been missing something vital, something without which they were not quite human.
I believe they were without organized religion. I believe they may have actually had personalized religion, as attested to by their sometimes burials. But they missed out on organized religion.
Think about it. What is there, that is universal to the human species, across all known time and space? What is it , which helps to organize greater groups of people into more efficient social organisms, except religion?
Whether it really happened at this juncture in human evolution, or sometime much earlier, we may never know for sure. But I find it interesting to hypothesize that, noble as Neanderthal man was, intelligent and cunning as he was, with his innate religious sense; perhaps he lacked the instinct for organized religion.
Regardless, at some point in human history, the human brain evolved its innate sense of mystery, awe, and reverence into an innate drive to organize based on religious ideas. This new drive gave these humans the ability to organize on a more efficient scale, and with superior motivational tools, so that they could go on to evolve the complex human societies which make civilization possible.
So, I hypothesize, that the evolutionary mechanisms which cause us to organize on religious grounds, are what make us fully human. The first Eve and Adam strode bravely forth into the future of human religion.
We often think we can get along without it, because it often degenerates into toxic forms. But no human society can long exist without organized religion, much less create new and advancing forms of civilization.
Man invented religion, and religions molded man. With it, Homo Sapiens was simply better organized than Neanderthal, notwithstanding Neanderthal's possible superiority in mental and physical abilities.
So let us not think we can idly outgrow our need for religion. Even in this scientific, technological day and age, we must have organized religion in order to facilitate and prompt the unification of the world's peoples and in order to initiate the next phase in the evolution of civilization.
In simpler times past, smaller groups of people were able to get by with widely varying forms of organized religion. Today, nothing less than a world uniting form of organized religion can lead us on to the next level.
So, while any given individual in today's society may well think to herself "I can go on my own and create my own inner religion"; such a religion may be sufficient for an individual, but not for a whole new civilization. No, today we need a world -embracing religion, a unifying, organized religion which unites all the people of earth, and weaves the many strands of philosophy, motivation, and religion into one whole tapestry.
Smaller groups, even today, may be able to self motivate by uisng smaller religions. Any group of people must have a unifying force, even if it is not called a religion.
Call it a philosophy, a science, a technology, a vision, a goal, a common purpose, or whatever you may, each organized goal-seeking group of humans must be led by something which has evolved from that first religion forged by some primordial Adam and Eve. But no mere synergistic, new age, non-historical uber-religion can unite mankind and lead us on to the next level. That requires an organic, spiritual descendant of humanity's first true religion; the innovation which separated us from the Neanderthals and led us to where we are today.
Hallelujah! And we thought we were just being sentimental and