The Evolution of Religion
December 6, 2008 3:26 PM   Subscribe

Is there an evolutionary family tree for religions?

(Posted conveniently on the internet, of course!)

Like linguistic family trees, or evolutionary charts for animals.

A chart showing how each religion and denomination is related to all the other ones, historically. When did each one branch off from the others. A cladogram of religions, so to speak. Example here, slides 16 and 17. Something like that, but with more breadth and depth.

Just curious. (No doubt the construction of one would entail various issues, but hey, just asking.)
posted by coffeefilter to Religion & Philosophy (9 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
No cladogram, because there is horizontal information transfer as well as purely vertical transfer from ancestor to descendant.
posted by orthogonality at 3:32 PM on December 6, 2008

It's also tricky to assemble because various groups may claim to be the "real" version of a given 'main branch' of a religion, while others call them an offshoot. For example, numerous Christian faiths each claim to operate the way the early church did, or the way Jesus intended, or some other variant of "the oldest." Do you branch Conservative Judaism off of Reform, which it was a response to? Off of Orthodox Judaism? Off of some central/hypothetical 'primal Judaism' branch that (some of) the Orthodox claim they're the sole practitioners of, while others claim they're all valid?

That's not to say that none of these questions have answers, and I'm sure such trees exist, but any one of them is going to be potentially very flawed, and prone to serious and legitimate disagreement.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:47 PM on December 6, 2008

Best answer: This should be doable at least for all the divisions within the Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition. You probably need to put together a bunch of them, including:

Chart of major branches of Christianity (scroll down)

Chart of branches of the Russian Orthodox Church.

posted by beagle at 4:00 PM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, there is (kind of.) Somewhere in a box, I have a timeline "map" about 1 meter wide by half a meter high, which starts with paganism and ends up with "today" (actually the 1940s, from when the timeline was made.) It does a decent job of showing how the various religions flow into one another (when they do, at least) . . . so obviously, Judaism begets Christianity, Zoroastrianism's influence of the good/evil duality of other religions is evident, and so on. I'd post it, but I don't know how it would be possible.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:20 PM on December 6, 2008

Dee Xtrovert, I'd be very interested to see your timeline. Where did you get it? Is there anything on it that would make it easy to find another one?
posted by Houstonian at 5:35 PM on December 6, 2008

Best answer: There is a really neat map that shows the development of the world's major religions animated against a historical timeline. The most significant events that led to the development or expansion of each major religion is inidcated. It's cool ...
posted by Susurration at 6:26 PM on December 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Here's another one incorporating both Western and Eastern religions in one chart.

Here's something similar on a timeline (click to enlarge).

A nice version with symbols rather than words. (float cursor over symbols to read notes)

And another.

An "organisational memetics" approach.
posted by beagle at 6:31 PM on December 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Wow, without these links, I would have never known there was a cult based on Stargate.

Wild stuff.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:18 AM on December 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, thanks, and thanks again.
posted by coffeefilter at 6:05 PM on December 11, 2008

« Older How do normal people socialize?   |   are we dead, or is this Ohio Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.