An effective way to discover the true tides underscoring the development of all modernly held religious belief is to read formative theistic works (and some precedent moral codes and philosophical works) in chronological order.

First, there are fragmentary ancient paeons and moral codes -- the Kesh temple hymn of 2600 BC, hinting at a first god and goddess sowing seeds of life; the Instructions of Shuruppak in the same era, offering tokens of advice from the simple to the profound; and the Code of Urukagina in the 24th Century BC, admonishing the powerful to see to the care of the powerless.

Centuries pass -- who knows what works were writ in that time, and then lost since that time -- and then we find the Epic of Gilgamesh, written around 2100 BC, including the first accounting of a great Flood, and testing notions of human descent from divine parentage; the Code of Hammurabi, dated to 1754 BC, establishing moral admonishments against things like killing, stealing, lying against one's neighbor; then the Rig Veda of Hinduism, coming as early as 1700 BC according to scholars (though traditionally claimed to be 6,000 years old or more); then the Great Hymn to the Aten, sometime before the 1336 BC death of their patron (and possibly author), Akhenaten, introducing the first Monotheism.... and then the Upanishads of Hinduism, begun as early as 800 BC; then the Theogony of Hesiod, codifying the ancient myths of the Greeks around 700 BC; the Tao Te Ching of the 6th century BC; and then the teachings of Heraclitus (535–475 BC), of the Buddha (c. 563 BCE–c. 483 BCE), of Confucius (551–479 BC), Socrates (469–399 BC), Plato (427–347 BC); and the Shan Hai Jing ("Classic of Mountains and Seas") formalizing Chinese myths existing before the 4th century BC.

It is only centuries after all of these have been put forth and carried about, revised and reformed thousands of time in myth and legend, that we come to the Abrahamic texts, the Hebrew Bible (begun perhaps as early as the 3rd century BC), then the Christian one coalescing around a century after the time of Jesus, the Quran beginning in 609 AD, then the Book of Mormon in the 1830s (unless one believes Joseph Smith's claim of it being the revelation of a text actually written around 600 BC). And there are more which even follow these as well, the works of Baha'i and Scientology and such.

A fascinating thing happens when reading these texts so. One begins, marvelously, to see ideas arise and form and evolve variations, both in terms of the outlines of mythic tales and in the broadest strokes of theological and moral instruction. The pieces of each of these are invented or announced, then redrawn and reassembled in myriad combinations. Variations of angry deities wreaking floods and choosing victors in battle, of resurrections and salvations across the globe, of accursed kings and blessed paupers, flow into one another, as do rewordings of the great moral commandments, The Golden Rule, the condemnations of murder and thievery, and of gluttony and arrogance (both directly worded, and through mythic examples illustrating their consequences). There is, indeed, no other way to understand the context of the later writings than to first read those which established the foundations for all later mythic and moral thought.

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