The book by historian and specialist in Byzantine studies Alexander Petrovich K. (1922—1997) was based on his lecture course made in 1955/56 at the Teachers-Training Institute in Velikie Luki.
The book was designed to show religion in its evolution, and to stress social prerequisites of religious beliefs. The author put the history of religion in parallel with the history of ancient atheism. In the first chapter, on religious ideas of the primordial society, he gives the historiography of the topic of the origin of religion (since E. Tylor); the author himself, naturally, chooses the Marxist interpretation — material and economical prerequisites of the shaping of religion in the most ancient societies. He shows practical tasks of religion, not some abstract theoretical considerations. The rock painting of the Late Paleolithic Age, for instance, he explains through hunting rituals, and the most ancient forms of religion he sees in the veneration of beasts, which were the aims of hunting, then — in Totemism and Animism. The author gives numerous examples and ethnographic data.
The following chapters are on religions of the ancient world, where the author finds elements typical for the primordial society, as well as some manifestation of skepticism to cult practices and religion, in general. He gives a detailed survey of religions of Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, ancient Judaism, religions of Ancient India, and Ancient China. He classifies religion of Ancient Greece into three stages: the most ancient one, the classic one — religion and atheism of Greek poleis, and religion and philosophy of Hellenism. Then, he comes to the early Roman period, and religion of the Roman Empire. The author finishes his survey (and the book) with the origin of Christianity.
For each region, he gives basic myths, cults, and some historical context; he also marks debatable issues at the moment of the publication. The index is of special interest; it was compiled by I.S. Chernova and makes thee book a kind of reference.