The commonest of all objects of worship is some prominent aspect of nature, such as the sky, sun, moon, and stars, the earth, the sea, rivers, winds, the seasons, day, and night. Before the development of science man cannot control the operations of these phenomena. Whether they shall favor him with moderate rains, fertility, a calm passage and temperate weather, or torture and destroy him with drought, flood, storm, and the extremes of heat and cold, he can neither foretell nor predetermine. He can only wait and tremble, hope and pray. That he should hope and pray is inevitable. It is the instinct of any living thing toward that which is to decide its fate and which it is impotent otherwise to control. The sun thus regarded as able either to bless or to destroy, and therefore an object of importunity, already begins to be a god. But there is lacking a factor which if it be not absolutely indispensable to deity, is almost invariably present. I refer to what is commonly called “personification.” What is worshiped is the “spirit” in the sun, or the sun construed as spirit. But this factor, too, arises, I believe, directly from the practical situation and not from any metaphysics on the part of the worshiper. It is the sequel to the familiar fact that we impute interest or will to any agency that helps or hurts. I do not mean that there is any express judgment to that effect, but that our emotional and practical response is similar to that which we accord to other living individuals. The animal will exhibit rage toward the rod with which he is prodded, the child will chastise the blocks which “refuse” to stand up, as his father will revenge himself upon the perverse golf stick by breaking it across his knee. Similarly it is natural to love, eulogize, caress, or adorn any object to which one owes pleasure or any other benefit. These responses are equivalent to imputing an attitude to their objects, an attitude of malice or hostility when the effect is hurtful, and one of benevolence when the effect is helpful. This, I believe, is the root of religious personification. The sun, in so far as its effects are good, is an object of gratitude for favor shown; in so far as its effects are bad, it is an object of solicitous regard in the hope that its hostility may be averted and its favor won. The sun so regarded or worshiped is the sun god. The extent to which the will or intent, and the power over man, are divorced from the visible and bodily sun and regarded as a “spirit” is of secondary importance; as is also the extent to which such a god has a history of his own apart from his treatment of man. For the exuberant imagination of the Greeks the sun god becomes an individuality vividly realized in art, poetry, and legend. But for practical people like the Chinese, “it is enough,” as Professor Moore points out, “to know what the Gods do, and what their worshipers have to do to secure their favor, without trying to imagine what they are like.”〖G. F. Moore: “History of Religions,” p. 22.〗

A second type of deity is the ancestor; the actual human ancestor, as worshiped by the Chinese, the mystical animal ancestor of totemism, or any deity adopted as ancestor, as the Christian God is claimed as Father by his believers. The idea of kinship with the object of worship is very widespread, and its motive is clearly intelligible in the light of what has been said above. Kinship implies alliance, the existence of friendly support and the right to claim it. One’s departed ancestors belong to that world beyond from which emanate the dread forces that one cannot control. Their presence there means that there are friends at court. Man is not surrounded by indifferent strangers, but by beings bound to him by nature and inseparable ties, partisans who are favorably inclined.

A third type of deity is the tutelary god, conceived ad hoc to render some special service. He may be the personal, tribal, or national protector; or the good genius of some human or social activity, such as is the god who presides over husbandry, war, or navigation, or the homely household god of the hearth and the “cooking furnace.” Here the insistent need invents and objectifies its own fulfillment.

All three notions of deity may be united in a local tribal deity, “who on the one hand has fixed relations to a race of men, and on the other hand has fixed relations to a definite sphere of nature,” so that “the worshiper is brought into stated and permanent alliance with certain parts of his material environment which are not subject to his will and control.”〖W. Robertson Smith: “Religion of the Semites,” p. 124.〗

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