Differences are found among scholars regarding how the religion originated. Scholars have discussed it in their own way and presented the theory related to it, which can be discussed separately as follows.
Different Theories of origin of tribal religion
1. Theory of Subjectivism
- This principle has been given by Tyler. According to him, the basic source of tribal religion is the belief in the spirits of the ancestors.
- The tribes believe that the soul continues to exist even after death. It continues to conduct human actions by entering a particular place or substance or determines the success or failure of a person in the form of spirits.
- The religion originated as a way to keep these souls happy and to express mixed reverence for them.
- According to Tyler, if a man found himself wandering freely in a dream, saw many ancestors, heard the echo of his own voice in the jungle and mountains, found the shadow moving like itself, and saw the person dying, then he started believing that in addition to that there is some such conscious power that despite being bodiless, it is powerful. This is what he called the soul.
- They believe that as long as there is a soul in the body, the person remains active. They become lifeless after it is released. But a secret was that in sleep a man would be like a dead and dream, but he does not die. Therefore he imagined two souls called the liberated soul and the body-soul.
- The liberated soul can leave the body and meet the ancestors and re-enter the body. Whereas body-soul dies after death.
- He associated the liberated soul with breath and shadow, and the body-soul with blood and head.
- Adi Manav considered the body-soul to be immortal because it was seen in a dream.
- Due to this uncertainty, whether the soul has left the body or not, later gave birth to the remaining two types of acts, called Green funeral and Dry funeral.
- The Green funeral takes place immediately after death and the Dry funeral takes place a few days after the death when there is no possibility of the deceased returning. In Ho, Toda, and Kota tribes, both these are the practice of remaining Funeral.
- According to Tyler, fear and reverence for these shapeless powers gave birth to primitive religion. Human beings do not have powers under their control. Therefore they have to be worshiped to keep them happy. This is a multi-theistic notion. According to Tyler, monotheistic belief in religion developed gradually due to development.
Criticism of Tyler’s theory Subjectivism
- Tyler has made the primitive man so philosophical and rational as he neither was nor ever was.
- Tyler’s evolutionary order polytheism cannot even confirm monotheism.
- Religion is a social fact. Therefore, social factors have also played a role in its origin. To accept the origin of religion only by faith in the soul is disregard of social facts.
2. Authoritarianism or Humanism Theory
The fundamental source of religion among tribals was the belief that there are life and consciousness in everything. On this basis, Prius clarified tribal religion from the point of view of living authoritarianism.
According to Prius, the tribals experienced a living entity or consciousness in every substance. Due to this belief, tribals started worshiping this conscious power. On the basis of this belief, later religion developed.
This is a concept similar to that given by Marrett, which he calls Manavism. According to him, religion arises from such supernatural power that is impersonal, non-physical and intangible and is found in all living and non-living things of the world. It is beyond the reach of the senses. However, human thoughts, actions and the substance around them are expressed in the form of physical or natural power. This belief has been called by Marrett Authoritarianism or Humanism. The nomenclature naming Manavism derives from the word ‘mana’ used by the inhabitants of Mulencia.
According to Majumdar, there is a similar belief about people in this tribe. In North America, it is also called Orenda and sometimes it is called Arren or Okua.
Criticism of Authoritarianism or Humanism theory
This theory is also criticized on the same basis on which Tyler has been criticized. That is, even in this theory, the primitive human has not been considered as much as a thinker and a rationalist.
3. Theory of Naturalism
- This principle is given by Max Muller. According to him, primitive religion originated from the worship of natural facts. Every natural thing was a mystery to him due to the entire life of the primordial human being among the natural powers.
- A sense of fear and reverence arose for the natural facts in his mind.
- He also began to see nature as a conscious or living entity.
- According to some thinkers, fear, reverence, and love for natural facts were the result of his underdeveloped brain and faulty language. For example, as the sunrise or sunset, rain is coming, the wind is coming, trees produce fruits and flowers, etc., as primitives express their faith. This makes it clear that the primitives imagined a living entity in natural facts.
- To keep it happy and to make it useful for themselves, the primitive people started worshiping them. Later on this basis, religion emerged and developed.
- In his confirmation of this statement, Max Muller also gives an example of the remains found from excavations done in Egypt and some other places according to which the name of the largest deity in these places was ‘Ra’ i.e. the Sun.
Criticism of the theory of naturalism by Scholars
- According to Majumdar and Madan, worship of the forces of nature is very common, but to say that religion originated from them cannot be proved
- There is no evidence to prove that natural substances are considered alive using faulty language.
- Max Muller has made tribes more logical and philosophical which is not appropriate.
4. Functionalist theory
Radicaliff Brown and Bronisław Malinowski presented the functionalist theory of the origin of religion.
- According to Malinowski, religion is related to the emotional states of human beings, which are stress states. It is used by the fishing tribes in their economic activity.
- Because there is uncertainty, fear, and worry. If emotions last for a long period then all actions fail. A human being is an active person. It is not possible for him to perform normal actions in emotional turmoil. In such a situation, religion removes these tensions and creates mental stability in a person’s life.
- Radcliffe Brown’s opinion is different. According to him, the work of religion is not to remove the tension of fear, but to create dependence on religion in the human mind. A group is more important than a person. The feeling of being bound to the group in the human mind fills the supernaturalism associated with religion. Also generates genuineness in the human mind towards the rules of the group. Therefore, the work of religion is to inculcate a proper spirit in individuals to uphold the existence of society.
Both Malinowski and Radcliffe Brown’s views reflect the doctrine of Durkheim. Durkheim has called the worship of totems present in the Arunta tribe as the initial form of religion. According to them, it was started to maintain the group and society.
Criticism of the Functionalist school of theory by Scholars
Functionalist theories, like other theories, have also been criticized on various grounds.
- Malinowski’s conclusion was based on the lives of the inhabitants of the island of Trovianda. Applying the findings based on the study of a tribe in the context of all societies is not scientifically appropriate.
- Radcliffe Brown and Malinowski have looked at only the functional aspect of religion while there are other aspects of religion.