The sources of religion

Reading more of Our Oriental Heritage today, I came across a section on the sources of religion, within a chapter on the moral elements of civilization. As with most of Durant’s writing, it was a thoroughly rational discussion, but I must say, I was amused by one of the tales of the origins of death, this one from the natives of New Britain.

The good god Kambinana told his foolish brother Korvouva, “Go down to men and tell them to cast their skins; so shall they avoid death. But tell the serpents that they must henceforth die.” Korvouva mixed the message; he delivered the secret of immortality to the snakes, and the doom of death to men.

While Genesis is a wonderfully written fantasy where a mistake on man’s part (eating from the Tree) causes him to be expelled from paradise, I like the irony of the tale from the natives of New Britain better. In that case, it is a god’s error, not man’s. And of course, once the error is made, there is no recourse. Perhaps this is also an example of the earliest form of bureaucracy.

About Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.