The religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians were the dominating influence in the development of their culture. The Egyptian faith was based on a collection of ancient myths, nature worship, and innumerable deities. Sumerian lives were spent serving the gods in the form of man-made statues. There was no organized set of gods; each city-state had its own patrons, temples, and priest-kings. The Sumerians were probably the first to write down their beliefs, which were the inspiration for much of later Mesopotamian mythology, religion, and astrology. Sumerians believed that the universe consisted of a flat disk enclosed by a tin dome. While the Mesopotamian’s didn’t have anything quit to scale with the pyramids, they did use and build ziggurats for religious purposes.
Both civilizations were centered on religion. Egypt believed in many gods. The gods Mesopotamia believed in tended to be absolute rulers to whom the people owed total devotion. In both civilizations religious leaders were given very high status and held in high regard. Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt are two religions that believed in monotheism. Both Egypt and Mesopotamia were polytheistic, that is, they believed their worlds were ruled by more than one god. Both civilizations believed that the gods created them. Both cultures also believed that they themselves were created for the purpose of serving their gods. Both worshipers took their names from the numerous gods and the cults that honored the deities, and priests in both religions were no special clothes, and made daily offering in the temples and held annual festivals open to public.
Mesopotamian religion saw humans as the servants of the gods, who had to be appeased for protection. Egyptians believed that the gods created all humans but were also controlled by the principle of maat, or order. Unlike followers of Mesopotamian religion, the Egyptians had a strong belief in the afterlife, which they expressed by building elaborate tombs such as the pyramids. The Sumerian afterlife involved a descent into a gloomy netherworld to spend eternity in a wretched existence as a Gidim (ghost). Egyptians believed that their gods had created Egypt as a sort of refuge of good and order in a world filled with chaos and disorder. The major god for much of Mesopotamia was the sky god Enlil; later th e worship of Enlil was replaced by the worship of the Babylonian god Marduk. For Egyptians, Amen-Ra was the most powerful deity, chief of the pantheon. Statues of winged bulls were a protective symbol related to the god Sin Mesopotamia, while the ankh, a kind of cross with a loop at the top, was a prominent representation of life in ancient Egypt. The Enuma Elish tells the Mesopotamian story of creation and explains how Marduk became the chief of the gods. The Egyptian Book of the Dead was a guide for the dead, setting out magic spells and charms to be used to pass judgment in the afterlife. Ancient Nippur was the site of the chief temple to Enlil, while Babylon was the location of Marduk’s sanctuary. Thebes and the temple complex of Karnak were home to the worship of Amen- Ra. In the modern world the remains of these early religions can be seen in Egypt’s pyramids, tombs for the pharaohs, and in Mesopotamia’s ziggurats, temples to the gods. The New Year’s Festival was a major event in Mesopotamian religion, while Egypt’s most important festival was Opet. Because Egypt was the “gift of the Nile” and generally prosperous and harmonious, Egyptian gods tended to reflect a positive religion with an emphasis on a positive afterlife. In contrast, Mesopotamian religion was bleak and gloomy. Ancient Mesopotamian prayers demonstrate the lack of relationships with gods and goddesses who viewed humans with suspicion and frequently sent calamities to remind everyone of their humanity. Such was the message found in the Gilgamesh Epic.
Although the religions of both civilizations shared many similarities, the differences were vast. The most notable ones are the importance and belief of afterlife and the relationship between Gods. Because of these differences, we believe, the civilizations were different because in early times, civilizations revolved around their beliefs and values but unfortunately, there was an end to these great civilizations.