Manuscript Essay

Scope and Content

Untitled manuscript essay which appears to be an introduction to book. Smith argues for a naturalistic interpretation of the origins of religious belief. He discusses the emergence of a religious' doctrine in ancient Egypt based on Osiris as the sun-god, arguing that key features of this religion have influenced other religions. Smith traces the emergence of settled social and economic life as early societies developed agriculture, and the emergence of religious beliefs from dependence on irrigation from river systems. The political leader of such communities, the king, evolved from the irrigation engineer. Smith traces the interactions between material development and religious belief, particularly including the sense of dependence on the natural world. Religious symbolism was originally associated with the female as life-giver, but becomes transformed into the deification of the king as symbol of life. The female symbol of the divine cow became the male figure of the bull. The religious symbolism of the life-giving female had been associated with the moon, but when it was discovered that the sun was a more accurate means of time-keeping and hence useful for controlling the natural world, the sun replaced it as a religious symbol and it became associated with the figure of the king. The belief developed that on death of king he ascended to sky to unite with the sun as the sun-god; discusses different ways the king was meant to ascend to the sky; this was important for origin of idea of heaven and an omnipotent deity dwelling there. This primitive religion not concerned with behaviour or morals but 'the protection of life'. This religion was 'nothing more than a system of life -insurance'. Argues that '(r)eligious ceremonial in all ages and in all faiths is based essentially on the practices devised to reanimate the corpse of Osiris which had been saved from destruction by the act of the embalmer.'