Thursday, November 20, 2008

Be afraid

How does religion survive in these modern times? Some people have recently told me that the very persistence of religion is proof that it is a reasonable proposition. Maybe so. But then again, maybe we humans aren't as collectively smart as we like to think. Religion aside, we are (again, as a general society) incredibly superstitious, clinging to 'lucky' lottery numbers, reading horoscopes (with varying degrees of irony) and furiously avoiding numbers like 13 (just try to find an American hotel with a 13th floor!) and 666. People often avoid saying things because they are afraid they 'might jinx it.' I think most people are only half joking when they say this.

But unless there is a god and one of our religions is true, then there is a serious question to be asked about religion. Why? What about it is so compelling? Some might say that they enjoy the love of god, or that they like to think that they are special. But I think that it's all about fear. And not even the fire and brimstone, sinners in the hands of an angry god kind of fear - just the routine underlying fear that hell exists and is an option. Even those who focus on God's love and compassion (flawed as we know this thinking to be) live in the shadow of the fires of hell. Imagine if Christianity or Islam had no hell. I'm sure there would still be plenty of people on board for the promise of a joyous afterlife, but if the afterlife of the faithless were simply nonexistence, I would think that religion would have a significantly smaller market share.

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