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Those Amazing Epiphanies

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I had formed my own theories about the things learned to be true about the Human condition back when I was too young to know what they were called. Things like the inherited desire for human companionship. How the human brain is wired in such a way that compels  us to function as  social animals.  How our brains are pre-programmed to be pattern seeking, to attempt at all cost to try to make order out of chaos. (That one can both be a blessing and a curse to us humans.)  I have learned through my studies that there are three things human beings are most fearful of: Death,  being alone and pain and suffering. Combine all of what I have said so far and you get very fertile ground for the beginnings of religion.

I don’t care how much of a hermit a particular human claims to be. If you took that human and put them say, on Mars and left them there with no way- no hope of ever rejoining society, they would slowly but surely fade away. They would die long before a natural death knowing they will never be able to touch another human, hear another human voice, smell the pheromones of someone other than themselves.  Certainly there have been successful clinical tests involving human beings in isolation, but these test subjects knew they would be rejoining humanity after the trails were concluded. There are folks who actually prefer to live their lives apart from society, but they are still aware of society all around them.  If they wanted to, they could rejoin the teaming masses at any time.  But put them in an impossibly distant place with not a chance of eventual repatriation and it’s a different story altogether. True isolation is not survivable.

Since the dawn of human history we have always gone out of our way to make sense of the unknown. It’s a process which has given us the constellations in the night sky. It is what allows us see a cloud in the shape of a volkswagen or a bust of President Lincoln as we lie in a grassy field looking up at the sky.   Rubik’s cube?  No problem.  Crossword puzzles? Good fun! Ask us what is different between several seemingly similar pictures? The longer we stare at them the more differences we can pick out. This brain function is what gave us math, chemistry, and physics… and religion.

And then there’s death. I’m sorry, there’s not much good anyone can say about death. We fear it most of all. We love life too much and we cannot stand the thought of having to give it up.  Today, science  still struggles with combating the aging process.  Whether they find the answers they  seek remains to be seen. In the meantime we will all have to face it eventually. All of us. And it scares us silly.

Thousands of years ago, as hunter-gatherers, we kept our families  together in a tight group as we roamed the savanna and when darkness fell we always kept a fire burning through the night. We carefully watched over each other as we had every good reason to. The world was out to eat us and we found strength and security in numbers. This eventually led to the formation villages, then cities, then city-states, provinces, kingdoms and finally whole countries.

I wonder who received the first epiphany. Who figured out what the big three human fears were and then devised a formula that took advantage of those fears to control mens minds. No one really knows the exact time in history when religion appeared, but slowly over time it became one of the most effective forms of crowd control known to man.  The shamans, the medicine men and the priests horded the science, they kept the knowledge to themselves. They turned our fears back on us and gave us a thing called religion. The plan was to indoctrinate the huddled masses by telling them that if they joined up, they would become part of a loving, extended family.  Safe,  protected from harm. They promised them  life  beyond the grave and reunification with loved ones who passed on before us.

Then, almost in the same breath we were told that if we refused allegiance we would burn in hell forever, to be consumed by fire and suffer unimaginable pain. Who wouldn’t buy that kind of sales pitch? If I were an ignorant cave man, I’d buy that line easy.

During the earliest days of our reign on Earth, whenever we witnessed a lightning strike or other stupefying natural phenomena, we would run frightened into our caves and wonder what it was we did to deserve such a display of unearthly violence. Whenever the fields turned dry and lifeless we had no idea that it was just a simple change in the normal weather patterns of the region. We thought it might be some invisible power we pissed off somehow and we did crazy things in order to appease it.  Well, how convenient that all we had to do was just join the cult, promise ten percent of our annual income and we would receive protection from these evil spirits from the skies and our fields would become fruitful once again. The shaman, medicine men and the priests knew very well the cycle would continue and the rains would eventually return. And when they did, well, it was all we needed. We were suckered  in for the long term. From then on we did what we were told.  Gods one, rational thought zero.

It is all a classic example of our brains struggling to make order out of chaos. The lightning strike was a natural event caused by the imbalance of positive and negative electrons in the atmosphere. It wasn’t the sky gods at all. Every time science advanced by explaining the unexplainable, the church would take one step backwards and re-draw the line in the sand. And still, the con continued. We discovered that the earth had weather patterns that caused dust bowls in one region and floods in another. As time marched on, we discovered the earth was round, not flat. The earth circled the sun, not the other way around. We discovered germs and bacteria caused illness not angry gods.  Still the con continued. The biggest blow to religion came on the day the theory of evolution became solid indisputable fact.  Still the con somehow managed to maintain it’s horrible stranglehold on humanity.

As we have begun to find out, biology comes into play here as well. The new theory is that after several thousand years of this clever ruse, our “religiousness” became ingrained into our DNA. We evolved pre-wired to accept this clever con, making us easy marks for future shamans,  medicine men and priests.  This explains why even when these seemingly  supernatural events were explained logically by the more rational of our human population, the con was able to survive. In fact, the rational thinkers of the day were usually imprisoned or put to death for speaking out. Today they are still subjected to isolation, ridicule and discrimination.

With man’s apparent laziness in his way of thinking, it is a good thing we have science. It is so much easier to blame things on a god rather than do the foot work and try to figure out why a certain event happens. It’s a good thing we have scientists who actually thrive on trying to figure things out or we’d still be believing  an angry god causes lightning strikes.  Could it be man’s inherent laziness is what continues to give religion it’s stranglehold on humanity? Why is it that after so many years,  science is still lagging behind religion on the scoreboard? Stay tuned.

Written by ldreynolds

October 15, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Posted in General

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