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The Axial Age(s):
times of rapid religious change

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The Axial Age:

The world has experienced many rapid changes in religious belief.

bulletCirca 1200 BCE, the religion of Zoroastrianism was born. Many religious historians trace the concept of Satan, the Final Judgment, Hell and other Jewish, Christian and Islamic belief to this source.
bulletCirca 30 CE, the Jewish Christian movement was established in Jerusalem. This was soon to be overshadowed by Pauline Christianity which evolved into the thousands of Christian denominations and sects we see today.
bulletIn 620 CE, Muslims believe that Muhammad was visited by the angel Gabriel who dictated the Qur'an on which Islam is based.

However, between 800 and 200 BCE, a concentration of new and different religious beliefs emerged in China, Greece India, Mesopotamia, and Palestine. This lead to the founding or major development of Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Jainism, Judaism, Taoism. In 1949 the German philosopher Karl Theodor Jaspers coined the phrase "Achsenzeit" ("Axial Age" or "Axis age" in English) to describe this relatively short interval of rapid religious and spiritual evolution. 1

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Note about this section:

It is sometimes difficult or impossible to talk about religion in a manner that does not alienate at least some visitors to this web site. Discussing religious change -- something that few religious embrace with enthusiasm -- is a particularly touchy topic. This section is all about change.

In the attached essays, the author has assumed that all religious development occurred as a result of human thought and in response to cultural changes. He also assumes that this process of change is continuing today and will persist into the future. Most visitors to this web site will probably agree with this concept, at least for religions other than their own faith tradition. Many will believe that their particular religion, whether Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or some other belief, was uniquely revealed to humanity by God and became "The faith which was once for all delivered to the saints". (Jude 3). For these visitors, we recommend that they interpret the essay as referring only to religions other than their own.

The author has assumed that God exists. This might alienate visitors who are Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, etc. Finally, he agrees with over 99% of the earth and biological scientists that evolution happened. This will probably alienate creation scientists.

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletThe Axial Age, previous eras, and consequences of the Axial Age
bulletIs another Axial Age beginning today?
bulletThe need for future Axial Ages

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Karl Jaspers, "The Origin and Goal of History," Greenwood Press, (1977).

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Home > Morality and ethicsEnvironment > Religion >  here

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Copyright © 2006 by Vladimir Tomek
Original publishing date: 2006-SEP-28
Latest update on: 2006-SEP-28
Author. Vladimir Tomek, supplemented by contributions by B.A. Robinson

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