My sources are https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_civilization and the book, ‘Ancient Civilizations’, published 2006 by McGraw Hill and National Geographic.
The Mayan empire in Mexico (250 – 950 A.D.) was governed by military rulers who believed they were god-kings who were descended from the sun. The Mayan king Jasaw Chan K’awiil I built a great pyramid at Tikal to honor himself.
As god-kings, Mayan rulers taught their subjects how to please the gods, one way was human sacrifice. When the Mayans waged war, they wanted captives more than land. This is because most of the human sacrifices came from the ruling groups of conquered peoples. The lower class captives were kept as slaves.
During times of drought, Mayan priests sacrificed captives to Chac, the god of rain and sunlight. The Mayans believed that the gods controlled everything. The priests, who claimed to know what the gods wanted, set up a strict class system for the people.
My sources are http://www.ancient.eu/religion/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Mesopotamian_religion, and the book, ‘Ancient Civilizations’, published 2006 by McGraw Hill and National Geographic.
The earliest forms of religion were borne out of people’s need to explain natural phenomena and to bring some sense of order to their lives. For example, the Sumerians (beginning around 4500 B.C) believed in many gods, each was thought to have power over a natural force or a human activity. In ancient Egypt, the main god was Re, the sun god, who was worshiped for the hope of good harvests. Other gods were Hapi (ruler of the Nile river), Osiris (ruler of the dead) and the goddess Isis (representing the loyal wife and mother).
In China, during the Shang dynasty, (1750 B.C), people worshiped gods and spirits. Spirits were believed to live in the mountains, rivers and seas. The people believed they had to make the gods happy by making offerings of food and other goods. They believed that angry spirits might cause farmers to have a poor harvest or armies to lose a battle. Spirits of ancestors were honored, and offerings were made in the hope that the ancestors would help in times of need and bring good luck.