At some point after the series of floods that swept the Earth, religion came to be. Despite what some would have you believe, before the time of Noah (c.3000 BC) there were no formal religions. The first evidence of idolatry behaviour was centred around the miracle of childbirth. Early idols were predominantly the female form with exaggerated buttocks, breasts, and belly (symbolic of pregnancy?). Over the course of the next 1000 years this was to change significantly.
It is around 2000 BC things become a little more clear, just a little. This is the time of ancient Greek heroes, Olympians, and Titans. In much the same way as other myths and legends, solid evidence is hard to come by. Only indicators can be used to speculate so we have to look elsewhere for clues. Whilst the ancient Greeks and the Egyptians had their own pantheons, Mesopotamia pretty much stuck to idolatry worship and used human sacrifice to cure bad luck or bad weather.
Sumerian city states were constantly feuding and Mesopotamia was the birthplace of oppression, slavery, and slaughter. The Sumerians were constantly at war with the neighbouring Elamites but it wasn't all one way traffic. In 2004 BC the Elamites were to strike back with a vengeance and refugees fled from their homelands in what is now modern day Iraq and Syria. Nor was this refugee crisis a new thing. Nomadic tribes of the region had been rounded up for centuries and used as slaves. In times of drought those that weren't sacrificed were simply thrown out into the wilderness. Land was now being settled rather than traversed and each 'tribe' were keen to grab a stake.
Many perished due to famine and drought but others were lucky. If they found a bountiful area they claimed it was divine providence that led them there. Prior to 2000 BC it wasn't difficult, there was plenty of space as most people moved or were taken to the city states. The Sumerians weren't the only slave traders in the region, Egypt started building pyramids around 2600 BC and they needed manpower too. Historical events and ancient scriptures are contradictory, but in fairness it is foolish to put too much faith in either, both have their own agenda. History was written with local bias, scriptures state natural processes are the result of somewhat whimsical interference by an unseen supreme being.
This section is titled 'Deception' because it is clear to me deception is involved, whichever side of the fence you sit. Not everything is deception, there is a healthy mix of naive misinterpretation and misguided good intent as well. I have my suspicions which are which but as is the problem with this topic, almost nothing can be proved or disproved. I cannot categorically say there is no God, I wish I could, nor can I state there IS one. What I can say is that IF indeed there is a God, our definition of him/her/it is way off the mark.
So back to c.2000 BC. As far as I can make out this was the time of Abraham, although one other dating method I used places him some 300 years earlier. Since most other lines of research agree with my later dating (c.2030-1980BC), I will use that with slight reservations. The Hellenes/Atlanteans were colonising the coastal regions of the Aegean as sea-levels hungrily swallowed up arable land (see Redefining Atlantis). Never more needy were people of religion than at this time. The Egyptians had their own deities but they all had their origins with natural phenomena One thing becomes apparent when trying to make some sense of religion, the divisions. The irony is how these divisions were used to create unity, or more importantly, how to maintain control.
It was a dilemma for those in power. Human sacrifice was becoming a little unpopular but to abandon fundamentalism would cause anarchy. With no God to fear the people would rise up and revolt against injustice. The high priests fearing they would be rumbled and out of a lucrative salary for doing nothing more than instilling fear and chopping heads off, had to come up with something fast. They settled on the idea of one supreme deity, it was far more manageable..... in theory.
Who it was who first decided one God was enough is unknown. religious folk will say Noah or Adam but I'm leaning towards Moses. Abraham and his father Terah were pagans, the same as all Sumerians, yet biblical accounts suggest he was guided by God to the 'Promised Land'. The biblical accounts of Abraham come from Moses but there are gaping holes all over the story. Only when you take a holistic view can you start to build up a picture.
It was there that Abraham's father Terah died. In the meantime (2004 BC) the Elamites, allied with the people of Susa and led by king Kindattu, the sixth king of Simashki, sacked Ur and ended the third dynasty. Abraham's family were quite wealthy livestock holders who lived outside Ur to graze their cattle, it was this that allowed them to escape. I've seen accounts of how 'it must have been God sending Abraham to Canaan, why else would he give up his wealth?' and it sort of grates. People see what they want to see and ignore the obvious.
Footnote: It is perhaps worth mentioning that prior to 2000BC there were constant power struggles in Sumeria between the city states. It was common for the conquered being forced to adopt the language of the conquerors. There is much evidence of this in the region and could easily explain the Tower of Babel myth. In addition the Ziggurat above is an example of building tall structures (to be closer to the Gods or to simply have a good view of an enemy approach, whatever). This also gives a little credence to the story which appears to have received the expected embellishments.