"Religion is the Opium of the People" - Karl Marx ascribed some of the ills of the bourgeoisie society to the underpinnings of religion. From the days of Crusade, religion had played an important role in the conflicts afflicting mankind.
The following is a guide on the history of religion, major world religions and information on the other not so conventional forms of religion.
History of Religion
Religion has a stippled history that spans for thousands of years. Prehistoric humans exhibited a belief in some form of ancient gods though their cave paintings. Ancient civilizations incorporated religious ceremonies as part of their cultures. Figurines formed on human images served as the embodiment of spiritual power - often worshipped in elaborate rituals. Grand Temples speak volumes about the central role religion played in many civilizations. Some of the grandeur of the past civilizations can only be visualized in their temple architectures. The monolithic Bamiyan Buddha carved thousands of years ago in Afghanistan survived the elements until the culturally and mentally challenged religious zealots defaced them a few years ago.
Much of the advances in the western world occurred arguably owing to their adoption of a common religion - Christianity. Guttenberg invented Printing press for a specific reason - to alleviate the monotony of creating numerous copies of the Bible. Middle ages saw church play a pivotal role in the administration of Europe.
The origins of religion can be traced to ancient times when the rudimentary forms idol worship, animal and human sacrifice came to existence. There is historical evidence to prove that idol worship existed even 2000 years ago. In fact the most prominent evidence of religious origins include the discovery of idols. However as major world religions came into existence, some of them continued with their idolatry ways while the others denounced it. Many religions these days worship idols that they believe to be a tangible form of this mystical power. These idols represent their gods whom they greatly revere and trace to the origins of their religion. The essence of why religions came into existence is for people to be given a medium to express their understanding and reverence of a force they consider to be omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. Another important aspect that contributed to the origin of religion and its history is the common faith shared by people in the beliefs of that particular religion.
The Mayan religion originated in South America where the ancient Mayan tribes used to live. The religion is quite archaic in nature and is practiced by only a very few of the tribals in the religion. A striking feature of this religion is the huge, artistic temples that the Mayans built for worship and sacrifice. People of the Mayan civilization predominantly followed this religion. The followers of this religion were either priests or peasants who worked on the field. The worshippers strongly believed in a relationship between the supernatural and human beings, which they nurtured and developed. The early Mayans believed in the religious sacrifice of humans, particularly practiced by the elder priests in the religious hierarchy. The human sacrifice was carried out in the following manner, one priest held down the victim and the other cut out his heart. The head of this hierarchy was called 'Ah Kin Mai', who was the chief of all the priests in the region. A key aspect of this religion was the importance it had given to agriculture and the timeliness of harvests. The Mayan religious calendar tzolkin comprised of only 260 days and two cycles each comprises of weeks spanning 30 days and 20 days. Another calendar called tun comprised of 360 days and five added unlucky days. There was another calendar that developed from it called katun- comprising of 20 tuns. The Mayans paid attention the cycles of rain and harvest and considered agricultural produce as the gift of God. They strongly believed that humans should be attuned to changes in the cycle of time so that they would be able to greatly benefit from them. They were also believers in animal sacrifice. They often engaged in competitions, dances and prayers to appease the gods. Their main motive for sacrifice was to nourish the Gods, as they believed that human beings, particularly their human, sustained them. Hence the blood that was collected from a human sacrifice was offered to the Gods in a bowl.