Simon E. Davies at the Human Odyssey Facebook group, which posts content on mythology, created this incredible image of the Evolutionary Tree of Myth and Religion, which depicts the development of religions throughout history, from 100,000 BCE to 2000 CE, and covering several different geographic regions—European, African, Semitic, Iranian, Indian, East Asian, Arctic, North American, South American, New Guinean/Australian and Oceanic.
If it all looks a bit like a tech tree from Civilization V, that’s OK—religions develop over time as groups react to their changing environment and circumstances, as well as develop more scientific understanding of the world and their place in it. Religions are ways that large groups of people mythologize and give meaning to their life experience, and maintain a group narrative that can be incredibly powerful, particularly in times of adversity where blind faith can sometimes be the best possible reaction to difficult circumstances.
Some theorists—particularly the Integral school that stems from Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser and Ken Wilber—have posited that religions (and all human knowledge) advance in an upward spiral of development. While elegant, the theory has the downside of offending everybody whose religion is not at the top of the pile