In Brief—From unseen spirits that were either friendly or unfriendly, our distant ancestors created the spirits that slowly evolved into the gods that are worshiped in the modern world. Imaginary then; imaginary now, but humankind’s creation has come to poison our world and cause the misery that we see around us today.
The Evolution of a Delusion—
The Judeo-Christian Bible includes both the Old Testament, the Torah of Judaism, as well as the New Testament. It presents a deity who can be good and forgiving but, all too often, is murderous, vindictive, jealous, capricious and inconsistent. Though some Christians assert that the Bible is the exact word of God, the deity presented displays the same characteristics as the men who wrote it. Ipso facto, the Bible is the product of men, not of God. Humans created God.
When humans evolved from their simian roots and came down out of the trees, their pattern-seeking brains endowed the environment surrounding them with unseen spirits. Threats and mysteries abounded. The rock over which our ancestor tripped housed a malevolent spirit that was intent on making life more difficult. It had to be asked for forbearance. The breeze in the grass might be just the wind or it might be a lion stalking them. The lion’s spirit had to be placated by an offering. The untimely death of a child was an indication that the spirit was angry with its parents. The spirit had to be begged for forgiveness.
By contrast, the bush with edible berries or a successful hunt, were the spirit’s gifts and required thanks. Victory over an enemy was a sign that the spirit felt the victor’s cause was just. A sacrifice was in order. Some spirits were malign, others were friendly. They came to be formalized and given names. From the unseen spirits were born deities and religions grew.
The Human Factor—
We are all different. Aside from age, size and gender, some are intelligent, some dull; some are assertive, others are passive; some are adventurous and others restrained. Leaders led, followers followed. The glib stood out while the quiet ones remained unobtrusive. It’s true today and it was true in past.
All of us were children once. Children believe what their parents, elders and teachers tell them. If told the invisible spirits are real, children believe it. The beliefs of the clan are deemed true and the children grow up to teach their children about the spirits. Generation after generation adopts the beliefs of ancestors. It’s safe and traditional to follow in the well-worn footprints of the elders.
Then some intelligent and creative individual comes to doubt the many spirits and decides he will tell his children and neighbors his idea about the one ruling spirit he calls “God.” He decides that his “God” wants him to travel around the area and share his vision. He is persuasive and it isn’t long before more militant believers determine that the neighboring clan must be forced at sword’s point to honor the one “God.”
Centuries pass and the political leaders and appointed prelates determine that only their approved version must be accepted. Non-accepted versions that profess different views are abandoned or suppressed and the holy books are dutifully rewritten by followers. Mistakes are made. Versions of the same chapter differ on happenings or omit important elements with the passage of time. Translations are misinterpreted.
More centuries pass. Divisions in the religion take place. One nation conquers another. The “Others” are killed or converted to the accepted belief. One group of powerful prelates and political forces substitute a newer accepted version for the old and disapproved version. A second group insists that the old version is the true one and must be retained. Believers in the same deity kill one another over the order of succession of their leaders. Religion has been created and corrupted by humans.
Though much simplified for the sake of brevity, this is what has happened within just the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Other religions are much the same. The deities created by humans would have to be delighted by the turmoil.
The Abrahamic religions taken together—and that includes the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church administered by the Patriarch—comprise about 31.5% of the planet’s humans. The other 68.5% are non-Christian and non-Abrahamic believers who, of course, think all other religions are in error. Christians believe that the 68.5% who are non-Christians are in error. Which group is right?
Could all religions be in error? From imagined spirits came God. Goodness, how the delusion has prospered, how the resultant strife has created rivers of blood, how divisiveness has grown. Human inventiveness has created the whirlwind.
Disagree? Tell me how or why. The Comments are your vehicle.