Jewish Journal

Watch religion take over the world

by Brad A. Greenberg

November 23, 2013 | 7:46 pm

Last week, after it was shared by BuzzFeed, a time-lapse of every nuclear detonation since 1945 made the social media rounds. It's an incredibly arresting seven-minute video in which almost nothing happens.

The above time-lapse video might be more startling, simply because it synthesizes 5,000 years of history in one "World Religions Conquest Map." Hinduism had a big headstart, followed by Judaism's growth with the Israelites' taking over Canaan. Judaism then disperses among the Diaspora before the emergence of Buddhism. After Christianity and Islam join the scene, there is a centuries-long expansion and contraction for many of the world religions' domains, with battles for land in what looks like a zero-sum game until the discovery of the Americas.

Sure, it's easy to watch this and think of all the wars that have been fought over religion. (I can hear Bill Maher.) And, obviously, none of this information is new to someone familiar with world history or religions. (Nor did I verify each temporal detail.) But it's fascinating to see religious history charted on an interactive map.

What I found most interesting was the formation of Christianity. Unlike every other world religion, which largely grow outwardly in concentric circles from a core, Christianity formed in pockets along the Mediterrenean and Black seas.

The downside to the map is that it appears to focus only on each religion as it became the dominant political power. For no group is this more stark than Jews, who lacked power from the destruction of the Temple -- the map uses the First Temple in 586 BC as the point of reference but I would use the Second in 70 AD -- until the founding of the state of Israel in 1948.

Rather, I'd also be interested to see the proliferation of different religious beliefs as each spread throughout the globe, not just as it became the state religion.

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