As many of you know, my model of the human mind and psyche is based on a rather negative view of human beings. There are those who consider my views to be excessively pessimistic, but the course of events usually vindicates my model. With this in mind, let me tackle something that is rarely talked about in ‘polite’ circles.
What does the mental image of ‘god/s’ say about the human mind- especially as to how humans really perceive, think and feel about the world around them.
While I am an atheist, of the agnostic variety, my knowledge about various religions and religious-type belief systems is almost always superior to those who claim to practice them. With this in mind, here are some of my observations about commonalities of all belief systems based in blind and unquestioning faith.
Religions and similar belief systems are disturbingly similar- irrespective of the era of their origin or ethnicity of the people who practice them. There is not much difference between believing in faiths based on a burning bush, Kolob, Gaia or the invisible hand of the market. In each case, the ‘faithful’ are believing in something that is based on hearsay rather than something which can be measured or quantified. Belief in “credentialed experts”, “upstanding members of society” or the integrity of any profession is also a religion unless the belief can be objectively measured and quantified. Even believing in something like the social contract becomes a religious belief- if you cannot see it in action. We can therefore say that uncritical and unquestioning belief in anything is a religion, especially if people are unwilling or unable to test its authenticity.
But what about the ‘god’ or ‘gods’ that form an important part of the base narrative of all religions? What does their image, as portrayed by those belief system, say about us?
Look at the creation myths of any religion. Most of them go something like this- ‘X’ decided to create the universe and he/she/they did it through some anthropomorphic process. Even those religious faiths which accept the possibility that the universe might have just come into being spend inordinate amounts of time explaining why or how ‘god/s’ shaped things after creation. Here is my question- If you were an all-powerful and immortal being, would you really create anything at all? But lets say you did- Why create one particular version if you can create all possible versions?
In my opinion, the involvement of ‘god/s’ in creation myths is driven by a human desire to justify the existence of the physical reality they inhabit. The rationality of any given explanation is largely irrelevant to its purpose. Which brings us to the next question- Why do humans require justification for the existence of something that can be measured and quantified? How many of you have seen ‘god/s’ and how many of you can see the sun and moon? Do you require faith to believe that fire is hot or ice is cold? So why are humans obsessed with having a firm set of beliefs about how the universe came into being, or who controls it? The lives of humans are rather mundane and pathetic compared to what exist beyond our immediate surroundings- even on earth. People are born, they ‘live’ and they die- just like every other living organism. So why make up outrageous tales about how the universe was created? What is the advantage in claiming that you know the creator/s or his/her/their will? Would you disbelief in any creation story destabilize the universe? Why defend your version of the tall tale against a competing tall tale?
It comes down to celebrity name dropping and elevating your status through such an association.
Believing in any creation myth is no different from saying that you are childhood friends with a famous or powerful person. The best part of this particular scam is that nobody can verify if your famous or powerful buddy actually exists- and you can keep on pulling the scam on gullible rubes until you start doubting your own story. Belief in invisible but powerful buddies is however just the beginning of an elaborate shakedown scam, as you will soon see.
One of the other hallmarks of religions is that those believe in them anoint themselves as the ‘chosen people’. Throughout history- everybody from Hawaiian Islanders, Arabs, Jews, Western Europeans to Indians and the Han Chinese have believed that they alone were the ‘chosen people’. But what is the whole point of believing that you are among the ‘chosen ones’ if you are not better off than ‘infidels’ who believe in another god who has apparently told them that they (not your group) are the chosen people. It seems very fundamentally irrational- doesn’t it? especially given that your all-powerful but suspiciously absent pal cannot beat up the other one’s all-powerful pal. Why would grown adults believe in such utter and obvious crap?
It comes down to creating a justification for scam, theft, treachery, rape and murder.
The easiest way to get more of any physical good is to take it from someone else. But doing that to other individuals in your group might cause a lot of problems. They might stop cooperating with you and even kill you in an unguarded moment. However doing that to people outside your group is relatively much easier to get away with. Plus other members will often join in and assist your ‘actions’. Who does not want a share of the loot- even if it is unfairly distributed? Belief in a different invisible all-powerful celebrity is just an excuse to do what you really want to do in the first place. It is therefore no coincidence that the ‘god/s’ in almost all mythological narratives are portrayed as doing thing that are arbitrary, obviously cruel, grossly unethical and sometimes just plain bizarre. Contradictions in religious texts or narratives should therefore be seen as the result of appending the older fairy tale to justify a new type of crime. Apparently rewriting old narratives to make all stories coherent and tie up the loose ends is really hard.
The image of ‘god/s’ in each religious belief systems is therefore really a projection of the deepest desires of those who profess faith in that particular system.
Will write more about this topic in a future post. What do you think? Comments?