The influence of money, empires, and religion

The cognitive revolution brought on more sophisticated ways of communicating. Humans created shared abstract concepts called imagined order. From the creation of imagined orders came out three of the most important elements of modern societies; money, empires, and religions. These powerful forces came to organize humans in groups and control their actions and beliefs. The development of money, empires, and religions allowed cooperation across the globe to be more and more widespread, resulting in the unification of humankind. As human societies grew bigger, the imagined orders needed to be stronger and stronger so they could be shared by the vast majority of the population. Likewise, the growth of population also brought on stronger imagined orders. As societies became more complex, the need for a more organized way of exchanging and trading goods emerged. As a result, a powerful tool that would soon take over the world was created; money. All of a sudden, societies with the most gold or established and widely accepted form of currency became more powerful than others. With time, money became the world-wide object, tangible or not, that would be used in trades and exchanges. All humans, no matter where they were, would come to share an understanding of its value. Empires were also great unifiers. Under a common supreme form of authority, hundreds, even thousands of people could live together in a society where laws, norms, and values would be shared. Someone would assume a certain authority, often based on a belief that it was given by gods or deities, and rule a community. The third biggest element that contributed to the widespread cooperation across the globe is at the center of many cultures and sets of beliefs across human history; religion. It provided a sense of order that could be shared by people withing a community. With religion, laws were created and figures of authority were elected. All based on the belief that these were orders given by religious authorities. Although there have always been multiple religions existing at the same time, religion does bring people together. People from different parts of the world and backgrounds can share common beliefs through religion, connecting them to one another. As a religion spreads, cooperation spreads too. Overall, money, empires, and religion allowed strangers to cooperate with each other by following beliefs and laws that would be widely shared. 

After discussing several complex aspects of culture, Harari wrote about our situation being “neither natural nor inevitable”. Multiple time in his book we can read about the continuous fight between biology and what is instinctual in humans, and cultures and imagined orders. A lot of what we do as humans does not have to do with survival or instincts. We do things that are not essential to our survival because we think we feel like it, which is far from what basic biology would have us do. Our situation is not natural, and happened as a result of a series of choices humanity made. Our present situation in one of an infinity of different possible situations because of the possibilities our mind offers us as it has evolved. According to Harari, studying history allows us to consider the possible different scenarios history could have followed, and what we can do to manipulate what our future will look like. Similarly, studying the history of science and technology allows us to see what the path humanity has been on looks like. 

One thought on “The influence of money, empires, and religion

  1. I think its impressive how far we’ve come in just a short amount of time. I mean the good and the bad. Its impressive how we respond to new threats as well do we respond to new advancements. Take the Iphone for example. Since the invention of the world first touch screen device we have become semi reliant on various machines and technologies that do whatever at the tap of a finger or by the words from our mouth. And because of this new age of easy actions we have adopted it as part of our base religion as humans. Its a part of our life now.

    Same goes for the weapons department. The presence of world ending weapons now sits below our feet and because of those creations, I can argue that the world is at the edge of its own knife, and if we arnt careful, then we can get cut. So ultimately I’m impressed at what we’ve done with the past 10 thousand years.

    Your understanding makes this clear, explaining the cooperative [power religion, money , and their result, powerful empires. All these orders create a power that can be unmatched if everyone believes in it. Now they have shaped our world into an impressive place filled with technology and destructive capability.


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