Hunter-Gatherer tribal religions share common characteristics. As with uniformity of graphic designs (“Our” tribal arrows can be clearly identifiable from the “enemy’s” arrows), every member is taught the same religious beliefs. Every member “worships” the same deity or set of deities. Worship activities are public so that other tribal members can see that each person worships the same. Because uniformity regarding nearly every aspect of cultural life is taught and learned from early childhood, it is extremely rare for an individual to question a tribe’s religious beliefs and practices. But a person that does so is considered a “blasphemer” and is killed.
Ensuring group survival provides the motivation for hunter-gatherers to worship the same deity or set of deities in the same public ways. Although hunter-gatherers know a great deal about some aspects of the natural world, many earthly forces are a mystery. Why does it rain some years but doesn’t other years? Why do violent thunder storms ravage “our” land and not the “enemy’s” land? Why do some migratory animals that we depend on for food and clothing come to us some years but not other years? What causes an eclipse? What causes volcanos to erupt? What forces might cause our enemy to be stronger than us?
Hunter-gatherers believe that earthly mysteries are controlled by the gods. If the gods are not worshiped by every tribal member in the same public ways the gods will not find favor with “us” and might find favor with enemies. Hunter-gatherers believe that if gods do not find favor with their tribe, they will all die from mysteries forces controlled by the gods. They also believe that they will live safer, better lives if they worship properly resulting in the gods finding favor with them.
© Joseph L. Bass, EdD, June 2020