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Why Anyone Would Want to Believe

By Carl S ~
"All religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few." - Stendahl.

There's an old saying, "the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." Fear, in the real world, is a reactive proven means of survival. In that case, it's wise to listen to fears. Fear can be warning to prepare oneself for fight or flight; it can teach the lesson that some fears can be unfounded, but it's best not to take chances when survival is important. But fear of a god? First, you have to know someone who can confirm personally that the god exists. That person, and preferably others as well, will agree about why you should fear the god. These people, who claim to have access to the god can't even explain why they fear some situations. They can't remember the sources of their recent fears; they don't recall whether these were reported on Fox News, CNN, or stemmed from something they saw on the net. Nevertheless, they are absolutely certain they are right when they choose Israelite scriptures, to the exclusion of all other cultural scriptures of the gods of their day, in teaching you to fear their god whose personality and will was described thousands of years ago in their ancient writings. Those writers knew the Earth is flat, and they didn't know where the Sun goes at night, but the God they invented really exists today! That's bizarre.

Once those claiming access to the inner chambers of the god's nature, and the god's wishes and commands, established the gullibility of the masses to believe them, they came up with another trick: Why not add another fear to fearing the "Absolute good" god - fearing an "Absolute evil" god? Since people feared death already, and are inclined to believe they'll live on after death, why not have both gods waiting for them after they die, one to drag them to hell, the other to send them to hell? By accepting that belief, whether they fear either god, they're still Living In Fear. And that fear means manipulation. Bizarre.

For thousands of years, humans feared gods. They had "evidence" to "prove" gods must be feared: natural disasters. Funny how things changed. Both those who feared and didn't fear the gods met with the same outcomes. Not only the rain, but the volcanic lava, fell upon the fearers and non-fearers alike. Teaching kids that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom turns out to be a bad decision. Kids wise up. They stop fearing the unseeable and unknowable. Understandable.

When you were a child, someone would come up behind you and yell, "Boo!" They'd do it to scare you, either out of fun or nastiness. One thing is certain, it was personal, otherwise they wouldn't bother. They loved or disliked you. You learned how to handle that. There's the same psychological mechanism at work in the doctrine of fearing a god: you must mean something, as an individual, to that god, otherwise he wouldn't bother scaring you. Do you need that fear? Isn't that like asking if a battered wife needs to be abused to confirm her importance? Isn't that the lesson from the Book of Job?

Teaching kids that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom turns out to be a bad decision. Kids wise up. They stop fearing the unseeable and unknowable.Maybe you fear loneliness, and so you join a group of worshippers. This would explain why many people join cults, including the cult called Christianity. Here you are accepted as personally important, you count. But you are only important insofar as you are useful. If you become a dissenting individual with your own thoughts, the rejection you risk will confirm your fears. Don't many individuals remain in relationships which crucify their personalities while remaining committed to follow through on decisions to stick with faith in faith, and/or sexual partners, out of fear of being lonely? Just as an individual can be made to feel "special" by participating in "insider access" to a god through his agents, and be made to fear that god, even if that god doesn't exist, so can entire congregations be frightened by a shared belief. In a bizarre way, doesn't that make them "special," and the one who can frighten them, a "somebody?"

To an outsider looking in, religion is like drinking something that demands ever more gulping but never slakes thirst. Why would anyone want to believe bizarre things: dead men walking, talking, appearing and disappearing from out of nowhere, floating up into the stratosphere from standing on earth? What about a many-armed goddess, an elephant-headed god, and an "all-merciful" god who creates and sends humans to an eternal torture chamber?

The best answer I can arrive at is this: Humans believe bizarre things just because they are bizarre.