Many experts agree that the oldest organized religion in the world is Hinduism, which dates back to 1,500 BCE. The sacred texts of Hinduism (the Vedas) were written at this time and serve as a historical marker for the religion. Interestingly, Hinduism is a religion that has no known creator. The basis of the belief system is comprised of various cultures and myths. There are many different texts associated with Hinduism, which allow adherents to study philosophy, mythology, theology, as well as learn how to follow the practice of dharma – also known as religious living. Today, Hinduism is the largest religion in the world.
Another religion that has roots dating back thousands of years ago is Judaism. Born around 1800 BCE, Abraham is recognized as the founder of Judaism. When tracing the origin and history of the religion, the Torah plays an important role. For many, the start of Judaism is often marked by the existence of the Torah.
The Torah (also known as the Five Books of Moses) represents the text surrounding the founding legal and ethical beliefs of Judaism. The Torah is the first of three parts of the Tanakh, which is the Hebrew Bible. The books are separated into five different sections with names written in English: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The first individual to put the Torah in writing was Moses, who did so about 1400 BCE.
Not all religions or forms of worship are organized. Many feel that Paganism is the oldest belief system in the world. It is from Paganism that Wicca and other extensions of earth-related worship get their start. The concept of Mother Earth as a goddess is one that was embraced as far back as 30,000 years ago during Paleolithic times. The modern version of paganism is linked to Celtic religious beliefs that date back to around 1000 BCE.
Across the world, Islam and Christianity currently have the most adherents, but they are actually among the newest forms of worship. Islam dates back to 610 CE with Abraham serving as the oldest prophet of the religion. Adherents of Islam believe that their religion is the complete and universal version of a prehistoric belief system that has been revealed many different times and at various places, involving religious figures, such as Moses, Abraham, and Jesus.
Christianity has roots that trace back to about 30 CE. The religion is based on the life and word of Jesus of Nazareth. Gospels and other writings, such as the Bible, play an important role in the religion. Those who follow and practice the faith are referred to as Christians. They typically belong to various churches, such as the three largest organizations in the world: the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and churches of Protestantism.
In 58 BCE the Roman Empire would march through the lands of Gaul removing Druidic chiefs and dismantling the tribal cultures and religions that had practiced there for thousands of years prior. The practice of Druidic Shamanism would fall into obscurity until recently when it would make a major revival. And now in 2010 the religion that has outlasted kings, empires, and entire civilizations has officially and for the first time been recognized nationally in its homeland as an official religion. The move is as historically significant to the rest of the world as it is to the druids themselves.
Druids will now be able to receive federal funding as well as tax exempt status as an official religion. Additionally they will be able to exercise their rights more effectively as a religion, no longer having to fear whether or not they are going to be recognized in a court of law for civil matters.
In the official documentation set up by the Charity commission, Druids worship nature and believe various aspects of it such as trees, rivers, and mountains have spirits. In recent years the number of Druids in the UK has swelled, and now boast more than 10,000 practicing members with even more private or hermetic practitioners. The popularity of the religion is said to be partially due to the increased interest in nature as well as an increased awareness in issues of the environment. Because they worship various representations in nature the environment is revered more in druidic practices than in almost any other officially recognized religion.
But the druidic religion, according to some members, has changed quite a bit since it was first practiced thousands of years ago. At its inception, druids would revere mountains, trees, and rivers partially because they truly were insurmountable forces of nature that the druids were bound to live among. Today's druidic tradition attempts to recapture these older ways while still living alongside a new society filled with roads, planes, solid houses, and cities. In fact, the druidic tradition of today is in many ways quite different. But when Austria hired several druids to remove curses on motorways to reduce traffic collisions, they actually had a great deal of success and noted a decrease in driver collisions suggesting the religion does still seem to wield some level of power. And if not magically, then certainly it has conjured up a great deal of political power.
So what lies in store for the future? With the increased interest in religious practices such as druidism, there will no doubt be a push for official status among other religions once considered alternative to be recognized within the mainstream officially.
And the wait has certainly been long enough. With about one in 6,000 UK citizens a practicing druid, the organization is expecting to find more members in the coming year thanks to the official status. And who's to say what may come next after that?