What is the very first religion of mankind? How did the concepts of god, sacrifice, salvation, deliverance, prayer, clergy come about? Why did we move from the cult of female deities to that of male deities? From belief in several gods to faith in one God? Why is violence often linked to the sacred? Why are there several religions? Who are the founders of the great traditions and what is their message? What are the basic similarities and differences between religions?
From the first funeral rituals of prehistoric men to the major current religions, Frédéric Lenoir explores the teeming universe of the sacred. A question runs through this book: what are religions used for and why have they been part of the human adventure since the dawn of time?
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What the press says
Le Magazine Littéraire
– December 2008 “Yesterday, at dinners in town, we talked seriously about politics and we made fun of religion. Today it is the reverse. For twenty years, with universality, in the press, in publishing, Frédéric Lenoir has played a role of scout, tirelessly explaining to the French the importance of this religious fact for which their schools have perfectly unprepared them. He delivers there his lessons without lesson on God, the sacred, the rite, the salvation, the deliverance, in a treatise, small in size, great in pedagogical talent, which stirs up the centuries, the mysteries, the revelations and the wisdoms to better answer a single set of questions, anthropological: why, from the origins to the present day, such permanence of the religious fact? How is it consubstantial with humanity? From prehistoric tombs to the diffuse spiritualities of the new age , the director of Le Monde des religions avoids no difficulty, not hesitating to explore the ambivalence of this fact, which must be considered between transcendence and immanence, verticality and horizontality, communion and showdown. In doing so, he shows how the cult rests at the bottom of the culture and deciphers in depth the metamorphoses of an always equal and always changing phenomenon. This is why we follow him in this great symbolic decryption which knows how to make accessible, between the abysses of belief and the sums of faith, the very vertigo of the inaccessible. Jean-Francois Colosimo
– November 26, 2008 “The philosopher and nevertheless journalist and novelist Frédéric Lenoir is a formidable smuggler. As proof, this ambitious work which reads like a fascinating story, where the most difficult concepts become crystal clear. The author brews the history of humanity and civilizations around the world, from prehistory to today, to track down the imprint of religious feeling. It appears (among other things) that the birth and evolution of the gods are modeled on the birth and evolution of our societies, that if the first men possessing nothing were the equals of natural spirits, their successors farmers and sedentary neolithic quickly begin to believe in a goddess of Fertility, purveyor of wealth... Founding funeral rituals, precedence of female deities over male ones, appearance of sacrifices of all kinds... everything is clarified under the pen of the one who reads our human adventure as a progressive tearing away from nature, even if it paradoxically evokes the astonishing return of its cult via the reappearance of shamanism and its omnipresent spirits in our contemporary societies... After all, it is life, above all, which remains an enigma, concludes Frédéric Lenoir.” Fabienne Pascal
– October 25, 2008 “ No human society of which we have any trace is exempt from religious beliefs and rituals”. It is from this observation that Frédéric Lenoir, philosopher and director of the World of Religions , has built this book which intends to retrace the religious history of humanity. An ambitious but successful bet, as the book is so easy to read. In a fascinating first part, the author sets out at length to describe the religious phenomenon and its development up to the first millennium BC. This gaze, which plunges into the depths of history and prehistory, will allow, in conclusion of the book, to analyze with great finesse the religious reality of the 21st century and to question the "archaization" of religion that he guesses in the contemporary rejection of rationalization and religious organization . Between the two, a second part, more classic but not lacking in interest, sets out to precisely describe the great religious traditions of humanity. What Frédéric Lenoir knows how to do simply, but without falling into simplism or abusive shortcuts. The work, which aims to be resolutely descriptive, never seeks to prove the superiority of one religion over another, nor even to pass judgment on religious feeling itself. Nicolas Seneze