Where did all the religions of the world come from? And when did they originate?
This is a huge question, and I prefer to give a short answer, then refer you to some books which can take you as far as you would like to go. The Bible teaches that man has turned away from God and created his own gods (Romans 1:18-32). In effect, man has created god in his own image--as the critics like to allege. Yet this does not mean there is no true God! The religions of the world, though they all contain some elements of truth, are manmade religions, and as such must be rejected (Acts 4:12; also chapters 14 and 17).
All world religions have something in common: their origin in man himself and the humanistic do-it-yourself approach to finding ultimate truth. And yet experts in are quick to point out that in actuality the differences among religions far outweigh any superficial similarities. (For more on this, please see chapter 11 of my book Compelling Evidence.)
False religion dates way back. Genesis teaches us that God called Abraham out of a world of idolatry (Genesis 12, Joshua 24) to the worship of one God. There were others around who served the one true God (Melchizedek, for example--see Genesis 14), but they were greatly outnumbered by the multitudes caught up in idolatry.
Mankind continued to wander from the path, creating new religions through the centuries. To illustrate, Hinduism is many thousands of years old, while a number of "new" religions popped up around the 6th century BC: Buddhism, Confucianism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, and Taoism, for example. (Interestingly, this was also the age of the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.) Islam came along much later (7th century AD). Even today, new religions are popping up all the time.
And yet Jesus insisted, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
Suggestions for further study:
* Eerdmans' Handbook to the World's Religions: this is a comprehensive volume, and in fact is required reading for AIM.
* Answering Islam, Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb (Baker).
The Islamic Invasion, Robert Morey (Harvest House).
* The Analects of Confucius, The Qur'an, and The Bhagavad Gita (original sources for Confucianism, Islam, Hinduism)
* Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods -- helpful, somewhat philosophical.
* Ravi Zacharias, The Lotus and the Cross -- "conversations" between Jesus and the Buddha.
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