Why Fictional Deities Once Reigned Supreme
Although belief in supernatural, mythical deities and spirits has been a dominant theme among humans for thousands of years, it has become somewhat obvious to keen observers that Earthlings are really on their own. All the kneeling, groveling, sacrificing, praying, and inventive religious rituals performed by these highly intelligent animals in countless societies since the dawn of history have reached no ears. They appear to have had zero impact. But religion has never lost its grip. The findings of Bruce Hood, professor of developmental psychology at Bristol University, suggest that magical and supernatural beliefs are hardwired into our brains from birth, and that religions are therefore tapping into a powerful psychological force. He claims that it is futile to try to get people to abandon their beliefs because these come from a very fundamental level.
Dorothy Rowe, psychologist (Why do people believe in God?), states, "So great is our fear of life and death that most of us allow hope to overcome our intellect". She says that researchers claim that humans are programmed to believe in God because it gives them a better chance of survival.
When the fuzzy brains of humans began to expand, and reason took over, they gazed in awe at the Milky Way. Instantly they knew that their world was a puzzling mystery. Somehow they had to reach out to the great beyond, to connect. Although feeling alone, scared, and vulnerable, they soon put two and two together and quickly surmised that their human home, the sky above them, and especially that life-giving sun ball could not have happened by chance! There must be one or more supernatural beings calling the shots!
Their imaginations took flight in a feeble attempt to make sense of it, by formalizing rituals, by worshiping, and by paying homage to the unseen deities whom they believed to be ruling their world. Better still, there was even a possibility of mysterious, elusive forces bestowing favours on them if they demonstrated deep respect, submissiveness, and prepared worthy sacrifices. In some instances they even resorted to brutally killing their own kind in ritualistic displays, to curry favour. Perhaps then, they too could enter the spirit world after death and live forever.
World-wide trial and error rituals abounded to gain the attention of the gods. And even though countless religious rites, ceremonies, and deities over time were discarded, upgraded, revised, formalized, or re-invented, many remain an integral part of every society the world over. However, in spite of elaborate, powerful, wealthy religious establishments constructed at enormous human cost to promote religion and awe their followers, not one shred of evidence of supernatural existence has surfaced. No heavenly largesse or eternal life was bestowed on humanity for all their efforts.
There is no proof that a soul exists outside the human brain, or within it. Even if it existed as an integral part of the brain, when the latter becomes dysfunctional and dies, it would be astounding if a dysfunctional or demented brain transformed itself back into a rational soul after death. Yet pious believers went to their graves believing this to be true. Sadly they turned to dust. It was all a flight of fancy, an intricately-woven, wondrous fairy tale.
Inadvertently, religious leaders over the centuries inspired countless talented humans to create magnificent works of music, art, astrology, astronomy, literature, architecture, and schools of learning. And so, one could say, human civilization has immeasurably benefited.
Examples of the imaginary religious beliefs come readily to mind. Evolving over many centuries of human existence, the incredibly complicated, fanciful religions of history’s greatest ancient societies- Egyptian, Aztec, Greek, and Roman- have all been totally discarded and debunked as pure hokum. Their deities were as real as Santa Claus. But for centuries they were worshiped as powerful beings who ruled over the masses. These mythical beings disappeared like an early morning mist. Their religious shrines now serve as curiosities to modern tourists. The countless millions who visit these ruins to-day are awed, but bewildered by the effort, time, and skill ancient societies expended to create these imaginary supernatural worlds, believing them to be real.