The Encyclopedia of Religion says that almost all known religions have certain beliefs that, while differing in detail, are surprisingly similar. For example, they believe that mankind fell from an original position of divine favor, that death is unnatural, and that sacrifice is necessary to regain divine favor. This is strong circumstantial evidence indicating that all of today’s religions had a common origin.
The Bible explains how this came about. It tells us that the first man and woman rejected God’s direction and turned to another source for guidance and counsel. Although evidently not aware of Satan and his rebellion against God, they took an independent course and followed the counsel of a creature, represented by the serpent, rather than the Creator. The Bible later revealed that Satan was the true voice behind the misleading serpent.—Genesis 2:16–3:24; Revelation 12:9.
Thus man moved out from under theocratic rule and established his own standards as to good and evil. By their independent actions, Adam and Eve set mankind on a course that would result in many different religions, all of them constituting false worship in contrast with the true worship practiced by Jehovah’s faithful witnesses down through history. Directly or indirectly, the beneficiary of that false worship has been the great Adversary, Satan. Thus, the apostle Paul was able to write: “The things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons.” He went on to show that there are only two forms of worship, saying: “You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of ‘the table of Jehovah’ and the table of demons.”—1 Corinthians 10:20, 21.
Therefore, Adam’s rebellion initiated a second form of worship, one that placed the creature ahead of the Creator. And the real sponsor of that new religion was the new self-appointed “god,” Satan the Devil.—2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19.
Adam and Eve’s first two sons, Cain and Abel, offered sacrifices to the Creator, indicating that both of them were religiously inclined. The subsequent course of events, however, showed that they were not religiously united. This became apparent less than 130 years into mankind’s history, when a sacrifice made by Abel was accepted by the Creator, whereas Cain’s was rejected. Obviously, God was not willing to accept just any personal religion. This fact angered Cain and motivated him to murder his brother.—Genesis 4:1-12; 1 John 3:12.
For the first time in human history, religious hatred stained the earth with innocent blood. It would not be the last time. “Probably half or more of the wars now being fought around the world are either openly religious conflicts or involved with religious disputes,” noted a modern-day newspaper columnist.
In the days of Enosh, a nephew of Cain and Abel, “a start was made of calling on the name of Jehovah.” (Genesis 4:26) Since Abel had previously made a start of calling on God’s name in faith, this later “calling on the name of Jehovah” is understood to mean that people began to use the name profanely or in a debased way. It was clearly a case of religious hypocrisy.
The Jewish Jerusalem Targum, or paraphrase, notes: “That was the generation in whose days they began to err, and to make themselves idols, and surnamed their idols by the name of the Word of the Lord.” Idolatry, coupled with a pretense of representing God, has characterized false religion ever since.