Now we can forgive people in the 13th century for believing in Gods, miracles, hobgoblins and all manner of absurdities. They were lucky if they took two baths in a year. Most didn’t know even what year they lived in and only a tiny fraction of the populace could read or write.
It’s clear how religion got going. Even today powerful storms cause awe or even fear, despite us knowing what causes them. One can almost believe that the powers unleashed in a storm have a malevolent intent, and draw from this that storms are a punishment for wrongdoing. This was certainly the attitude of our distant ancestors cowering in caves. How else could these ominous phenomena arise unless some power, somewhere, was angry?
Let us turn for a moment to the Christian doctrine. Here, an all-powerful being, ‘God,’ has created a race of ‘thinking’ beings that are prone to sin.
The punishment for sinning is eternal damnation. So a kind of trap is set for humans by their God. For ‘He’ must have known that countless numbers of them would sin and therefore be damned.
But this banishment to hell, this punishment comes at the end of life! After all is said and done, when the world is over. So the sanction of Hell, this punishment, cannot have for its purpose either to improve people or deter them and thus amounts to pure vengeance. So this God has created a weak race of beings with an eye to turning them over to hellfire save for those very few who are rescued by election of grace, or because they are ‘blessed.’ And the reason some people are ‘blessed?’
No one knows!
Worse yet this God is a hypocrite. He prescribes for men forbearance and forgiveness yet does the opposite himself.
‘The Earth is my footstool,‘ God says to Isaiah.
‘I will sweep away everything in all your land,’ says the LORD. ‘I will sweep away both people and animals alike. Even the birds of the air and the fish in the sea will die. I will reduce the wicked to heaps of rubble, along with the rest of humanity,’ says the LORD.
We’ve spoken about the medieval peasants. How one can look back and understand their beliefs. One third of humanity was wiped out by the Black Death. Demons were everywhere.
But how are we to understand why countless billions ‘believe’ in the modern era?
Surely the first reason must be indoctrination in childhood. The mind of a child is a blank slate ready to be filled with whatever the parents believe. If we take a kid and tell him over and over that Jews are terrible people then we are likely to have a prime candidate for guarding a Nazi death camp. Lace the child with racist ideas and we’ll have racist. A child has little defence against such an onslaught. At a young age ideas seat themselves in the brain and are difficult if not impossible to remove.
Then there’s that ultimate fear–death. The void? Forever? The heart rebels against the idea, something must fill the gap. So there’s an afterlife, where all women wear aerobic tights and turkeys fly around ready-roasted.
But the strange this is that observation teaches me that religious people, as a rule, shout and scream, fight off dying just like the atheists. Why would that be? What fear could a true believer have of death?
You’re going to a better world!
‘Those who want nothing of a God but eternity.’