The Egyptians had a very influential religion that can be analyzed using the five elements of religion. The characteristics of the Ancient Egyptian religion can be divided into the five elements of religion: authority, faith, rituals, moral code, and concept of the deity. First, the authority of the Egyptian religion.

The main authority of the Egyptian religion was the Pharaoh, he had divine right over the people and was considered a god. Also, he could change the religion any way he wanted, for example in the 14th century BC Akhenaton, the Pharaoh outlawed all gods but Aton, who was the sun god, and this became the first monotheistic religion in history, but it was short-lived, for when he died the new Pharaoh overruled the law and restored the other gods.

The Egyptians Sacred literature was the “Book of the Dead” which consisted of 42 “negative confessions”, spells and prayers. Here is an excerpt from the “Book of the Dead”  1. I have not acted sinfully toward me 2.

I have not oppressed the members of my family 3. I have not done wrong instead of what is right 4. I have known no worthless folk (Encarta ‘96)  There were also what we would call “Priests” who sold the people “magical” items that they said would ensure the dead people away into heaven.

Therefore, the authority of the Egyptian religion was controlled heavily by the government.  Second, the Egyptians Faith was an important characteristic of their religion. First, they believed that the Pharaoh was a god, and what he spoke became law. The Egyptians worshipped almost every form of life, they worshipped trees, water, animals, and even vegetables.

The Egyptians also believed that a person had 2 souls, the ba and the ka, which left the body at death and then returned later to the body. The Egyptians believed that mummification makes sure the ba and the ka would find the body when they returned to the body to transport it to the underworld. The Egyptians also believed that they were the ‘ cattle of the gods’, and were controlled by them.

They also believed that the gods owned all the land, so they sold all their crops at the temples. Furthermore, their idea of heaven was that it was in the Milky Way, which stood for the fertile Nile and where good crops grew every year. Their belief in hell was that the soul was devoured by a savage animal called the ‘Devourer of Souls’ and then thrown into a pit of fire.

The Egyptians believed that what was placed in a person’s tomb was what they would have in the afterlife, so they stocked their tombs full of items, such as war chariots, tables, chairs, and for the king, his throne. There were even gods and goddesses for Ancient Egyptian cities.  Also, the Egyptians believed that no matter what the Pharaoh did, he was entitled to an afterlife.

The Egyptians spent most of their lives preparing for the afterlife and one Egyptologist put it:  The dead man is at one and the same time in heaven, in the god’s boat, under the earth, tilling the Elysian fields, and in his tomb enjoying his victuals (Casson 81).  They also believed that the dead had to be buried on the west side of the Nile, since the sun ‘died’ in the west.

When a person reached judgment day, they had to do a ‘negative confession’ to 42 sins, each with their own judge, and after that Anibus then proceeded to weigh the person’s heart against a feather, the heart had to be lighter than the feather for the person to be admitted to heaven.  

Also, Thoth was there watching over the weighing. The Egyptians believed that the setting of the sun was Nut, goddess of the sky, devouring it and in the morning would give birth to it again.

Furthermore, the Egyptian creation myth said that in the beginning there was only the ocean, then Ptah, the Lord of Truth who made an egg, that hatched and made the moon and sun, from the sun came Amon-Ra, the sun god from him came air, from the air, the earth, from the earth, the Nile and from the Nile Egypt, which is how Egypt got the nickname ‘the gift of the Nile”.

Therefore the characteristics of the Egyptian faith are very strict.  The Egyptians performed many rituals that characterize their religion. First, when a person died, their body was mummified, the ‘mumifier’ was performing a ritual. Second, the Egyptians would practice reading the Book of the Dead so that they would be ready to recite it during the Judgment of the Dead.

Also, the Egyptians also had hymns, here is an example of one to the sun god, Re:  How beautiful it is when thou arisest on the horizon and lightenest the Two Lands with thy rays (Casson 80).  In the morning the Pharaoh and would rise, praying to Ra. and in temples the people would sing also:  Hail to thee, Ra, Lord of Truth whose shrine is hidden, Lord of gods; the creator in his boat: at whose command the gods were made: Atum, maker of men: supporting their words, giving them life. 

Lord of wisdom whose precepts are wise: at whose pleasure the Nile overflows: Lord of mercy most loving: at whose coming men live: opener of every eye: proceeding from the firmament: causer of pleasure and light: at whose goodness the gods rejoice (Evans   ).  These are the Rituals that make up the Egyptian Religion. 

The Egyptian Moral code is made up of the Book of the Dead, a book that is a list of 42 ‘Negative confessions’, hymns, and also prayers. The Book of the Dead has forty-two negative sins, here are some of the major ones: 1. I have not acted sinfully toward men 13. I have not inflicted pain. . . . 16. I have not committed murder 27.

I have not added weights to the scale 46. I have not spoken treasonably about the king (  The Egyptian moral code also acted as their code of law since its religion/government was so intertwined, and almost one. In conclusion, the Egyptian moral code is very strict and is made up of ‘negative confessions’. 

The Egyptians were polytheistic, although for a short period of time were monotheistic. Some of their major gods were: Isis; wife of Osiris, Re; sun god of Heliopolis, Anibis, jackal god of mummification, Osiris; god of earth, and Thoth; god of wisdom.

Furthermore, the Pharaoh of the time decided what gods there were, and at one time Akhenaton banned all gods and created Aton: It originally represented the light and heat of the sun. His name appeared frequently in texts, and used in expressions, the most common was [ All that Aten encompasses ]

author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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