Not Religion but Ethno-Religion
The most obvious example of this is the Jews. Are the Jews a biological race, an “ethnicity”, or a religion? Well, like the Hindi, they’re all of those things, and a language. Yes, there are beliefs about God, and those beliefs are somewhat separate from the group identity of Jewishness.
A universal trait about old polytheistic religions is that each self-identified group had their own patron diety. For example, the people of Eridu in Mesopotamia had the God of their people, Enki. The patron diety of Babylon was Marduk.
Athens and Syracuse’s patron diety was Athena, Elis and Olympia’s diety was Zeus. Thespiae’s was Eros, The patron diety of Larissa and Thebes was Dionysus, Corinth’s was Poseidon. The patron diety of Megara, Eretria, Miletus and Epidauros as Apollo. Argos and Samos worshipped Hera. Rhodes’ diety was Helios. The patron diety of Ephesus was Artemis, the patron diety of Cnidus was Aphrodite. Sparta had two patron dieties – Athena and Apollo.
Rome had three patron dieties, the “Capitoline Triad” of Minerva, Juno and Jupiter.
In Egypt, Amun was the patron diety of Thebes, Ba’alat Gebal the patron diety of Byblos, Banebdjedet the patron diety of Mendes, Bast teh patron diety of Bubastis, Khnum the patron diety of Elephantine, Neith the patron diety of Sais, Ptah the patron diety of Memphis, Ra the patron diety of Heliopolis, Wepwawet the patron diety of Asyut.
Some patron dieties in Mesopotamia are Marduk of Babylon, Enki of Eridu, Bau of Lagash, Lulal of Bad-tibira, Nu Mus Da of Kazallu, Entil for the cities of Nippur, and Ishtar with the city of Arbela. There was also Shakka, who wasn’t a diety of any particular city, but of herdsmen, and Shamash the patron diety of travellers.
Ashur was the patron diety of the city of Assur, but also of the Assyrians.
In China, they had Chenghuangshen, which translates to “god of the moat and the walls” or “god of the boundary”, but the generally accepted transliterated meaning is “city god”. Most large towns and villages had a city god.
In India, there are Kuladevata, which are derived from Kula – meaning clan, and Devata, meaning diety. They are “clan dieties”. The patron dieties all over India are described here. It appears that there are literally thousands of patron dieties in India.
There are also all sorts of little patron dieties among the Mayan, Aztec and Inca.
Sorry for belaboring the point, but this is very important; for most of human history by time and space, religion – and all of the beliefs that go into it – WAS the group.
It may be hard to imagine the two being conflated, and one may think that it’s inappropriate to conflate the two. Sure, group identity may influence religious beliefs, and you can recognize this as a brute fact, but believe that religion is ESSENTIALLY different from group identity.
But this is NOT how it was seen for most of history.
A bit of a tangent, but the thinking of the anarchists was a product of viewing private property and the state as one and the same. Now most people in “the west” today see them as distinct; sure, the state and private property can influence each other, be “in bed” with each other, but they are, to most modern people in “the west”, essentially separate things. In the 1850s in England, it was most certainly NOT seen this way. Private property was seen as much a function of the state as you see police and courts as being an essential state function….[ ]