In Brief—A review of the origin and delusion of belief in a deity. This review demonstrates a delusion, a dangerous and deadly delusion.
Humans believe what they choose to believe—
Our ancestor, George, was walking along not being careful where he was putting his foot. A rock tripped him. Since humans are said to be pattern-seeking creatures, George believed that the rock deliberately tripped him and therefore the rock must be inhabited by a spirit. Patterns, remember? George believed that the rock’s spirit must be placated. Thus, prayer came into being.
Although this is a fictitious abbreviation of the process, it’s an illustration of the process that led humanity to the belief systems that surround us today. Many of these belief systems are what we call “religion.” The spirit in that rock has been transformed into the deities that plague humanity today.
I have written about how those early deities were the product of the humans who created them. Over the millennia, those deities have evolved as a result of power struggles, mistakes, promotion by the faithful believers—all men, by the way—designed to attract the ignorant humans in the area. Although many were gullible, some were forced at the point of a sword to adopt the belief system peddled by the guy in charge. The deities demanded obeisance or death. How’s that for a choice?
So what are the factors that drove belief—or the factors that drive belief today? My theory is that the motivators are Fear, Ignorance and Brainwashing, the FIB Theory.
Wait a second! For three years, I have been politely telling believing readers that they must use their brains and logic in determining the non-existence of a deity. The believers either let me do my dance or they ignore me altogether. They either believe I’ll be punished by that loving God for using the brain that he gave me—how’s that for illogic?—or they get back to other diversions without weighing the illogic.
By the way, this piece isn’t directed at those who already disbelieve. The seculars add up to roughly 16% of the people on the planet, the third largest and growing group in the world. (Whoopie!) It is directed at Christians and Jews who together make up only about 32% of the world’s believers. It’s also directed at the worshipers of Islam, about 23%. What must the non-Christians, non-Jews and non-Muslims of the world think of the God/Jehovah/Allah worshipers? Who’s wrong? Hm-m-m.
Let’s peer around at what we can see wherever we look. Humans of all ages suffer from cancer and a whole litany of painful diseases. Did the good, all-seeing and all-powerful deity create these people and diseases? Humans kill one another because “The Other” is different and has another view of the good life. Every group does it, and the worshipers of Islam are particularly good at killing their kin. Did the deity create these differences? Starvation abounds. Was the deity resting that day and didn’t want to be disturbed? Humans drown trying to escape privation and corruption. Does the deity care?
What do we fear? In earlier times humans primarily feared natural disasters, enemies, outbreaks of disease or other simple threats. Today, we fear ostracism, abandonment, change, being different.
How has ignorance limited us? In early times, humans were ignorant of physiology, disease, history, human nature and a host of other conditions that science and education have answered. Today, we are unfortunately ignorant of many of the same conditions, we accept the pronouncements of demagogues who prey on that ignorance, but most of all we are ignorant of how our brains work, of our psychological make-up.
How are we brainwashed? In earlier times, humans were led to believe nonsense taught to them by parents, teachers, holy men and society. Today, we are brainwashed by the same influences as in the past. We haven’t progressed. Brainwashing has humanity by the throat. Fear. Ignorance. Brainwashing. To a greater or lesser degree, these lie at the root of the human delusion that a deity exists and that deity looks over everything, even the fallen sparrow.
This by no means implies that non-believers are without fault. We are all humans with many of the same strengths and flaws. Many are good and many are less so, but some take to heart the belief that they want to leave the world better than when they arrived. The sooner the ones who believe in a deity give it up, they will at least be standing on their own two feet free of one more delusion.
As Bertrand Russell once said, “Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver … in the end, the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own.”