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Explore how religious beliefs have arisen and been sustained in every culture throughout history and across the world.

Faith in entities and worlds beyond our own has been so fundamental a part of the human experience, this exhibition asks if we would not be more accurately named Homo religiosus than Homo sapiens. Rather than concentrating on the enormous variety of what is believed, the focus is on the similarities of practice and expression which recur across millennia. As such, the neurological and psychological aspects are considered, as well as the external manifestations of the mystical within different societies.

It’s a story that begins as early as the last ice age with pieces suggesting supernatural beings, and continues through to the most recent interest in ‘modern’ practices such as mindfulness. Objects are displayed from world faiths and indigenous traditions, and include an 18th-century replica of a Hindu chariot which was used during festivals to reveal deities.

The phenomenon of personality cults is also explored. On show is a Chinese badge celebrating Mao’s mangoes from a period when the fruits, being a gift from the leader, became holy relics in themselves. Propaganda posters from the Soviet Union illustrate the dogma of state atheism.

The exhibition aims to impart more than just the objects and ideas of religious beliefs. In an experimental approach, it also offers something of the experience of different faiths, making use of lighting, and the sounds, music, and silence associated with them.

British Museum

Great Russell Street, London, Greater London, WC1B 3DG

020 7323 8181


Opening times

Daily, 10am – 5.30pm (Fri until 8.30pm) Closed 24 – 26 Dec and 1 Jan

Free to all

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