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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Urreligion ("primeval religion", "proto-religion" or "primitive religion") is a notion of an "original" or "oldest" form of religious tradition. The term contrasts with organized religion, such as the theocracies of the early urban cultures of the Ancient Near East or current world religions. The term originates in German Romanticism. The Oeconomische Encyclopädie of J. G. Krünitz (1773–1858) defines it as

"the oldest natural religion of mankind, in particular the religion of Adam and Eve, which according to the dogmatists is supposed to have been revealed"

The notion of a monotheistic primeval religion was forwarded by Friedrich Creuzer (1810) and taken up by other authors of the Romantic period, such as J. J. Bachofen, Goethe in a conversation with Eckermann on 11 March 1832 discussed the human Urreligion, which he characterized as "pure nature and [pure] reason, of divine origin". The final scene of his Faust Part Two has been taken as evoking "the 'Urreligion' of mankind".

Often used in the sense of "natural religion" or indigenous religion, the religious behaviour of pre-modern tribal societies such as shamanism, animism and ancestor worship (e.g. Australian aboriginal mythology), the term has also been used by adherents of various religions to back up the claim that their own religion is somehow "primeval" or "older" than competing traditions. In the context of a given religious faith, literal belief in a creation myth may be the base of claim of "primality" in the context of creationism (e.g. Biblical literalism, or literal belief in the Hindu Puranas).

In particular, Urmonotheismus is the historical claim that primeval religion was monotheistic. This hypothesis was forwarded in the early 20th century and is now discredited, although still defended in certain Christian apologetics circles.

In 19th century Germanic mysticism, there were claims that the Germanic runes bore testimony of a primeval religion.

Some more recent new religious movements that claim to restore primeval religion include Godianism and Umbanda.

In the context of organized religion, especially monotheism, claims of an "oldest religion" may also be attached to a positive dating claim of a founding figure rather than a notion of absolute "primality". Thus, Vyasa, the "splitter of the Vedas" is dated to the remote Dvapara Yuga in the Pauranic Hinduism. Rishabha is dated to similarly remote dates in Jainism. Zoroaster is dated as early as "6,000 years before Plato" in some classical sources, or Abraham is dated to ca. 1800 BCE in Jewish tradition following Maimonides.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Urreligion" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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