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Fear, the Origin of Religion – Part One

David Meakes May 16, 2018

Quote:  1651-   Thomas Hobbs in The Story of Philosophy.  ” Fear of things invisible is the natural seed of that which everyone in himself calleth religion.”

Sept 23rd, 1963. The Los Angeles Times-The Week Magazine– From the book: The Art of Imagination from the ‘The Art of Living’ authored by William A. Peterson: “Imagination,” said Albert Einstein, “is more powerful than knowledge. Imagination enlarges your vision, stretches the mind, challenges the impossible.  Without imagination, thought comes to a halt.”    But was it able to originate the lofty concept of ‘GOD’? Of course!  Anything can be imagined.

If ‘FEAR’ is added to the imagination, one is more likely to produce an idea with a ‘security’ component. There is an old saying, possibly anonymous: ” Necessity is the mother of invention.” Think of fear, and try a modification. “The perceived necessity of security is also the mother of invention.”

Imagine the early, almost prehistoric, days.  A choice of frightening scenarios looms.  It could be a frightening saber-toothed tiger out there somewhere: or a vindictive tribal enemy lurking nearby; or a spreading epidemic of the ‘Creeping Crud’ while the witch doctor is on vacation. Someone ‘mouths’ a prayer to an imagined entity/deity, and a random success ensues. This begets a new perceived, helpful god, and with later embellishment, a trend to a new religion. Thus, developed the panoply of multiple Roman gods. Fear had been the spark. The one thing that is certain, is that the idea of a new protective deity, or god, or religion, originated from the human mind– undoubtedly when under fearful duress.

Quote: Albert Einstein, N.Y. Magazine, Nov 9th, 1930 (also in The Great Quotations), “With primitive man it is above all, fear that evokes religious notions—fear of hunger, of wild beasts, sickness, death—. In this sense I am speaking of a religion of fear. This, though not created, is in an important degree, stabilized by the portion of a special priestly caste which sets itself up as a mediator between the people and the beings they fear, and—” thus produces political control.  This then becomes both priestly POLITICAL control. AND priestly SPIRITUAL control of the people, the beginning of “church AND state,’ — people control.

The most concerned citizens of those early times were automatically the ‘priest-leaders.’  It followed naturally that one of those leaders became the religious spokesman and thus also became the spokesman for ‘God on Earth.’  This applies all the way from the Pope down to your local priest or pastor. They are usually deemed omnipotent. And are deemed leaders.

Euripides and Plato, circa 400 years BC (maybe the first recorded atheists), both commented in The Great Quotations” that, “He was a wise man who invented God.”  Napoleon Bonaparte, also in The Great Quotations, observed that “all religions have been made by man,” and that “religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.”  Think!  What other reason could all three have when they thought the inventor was wise — than that the inventor had learned a better method of controlling those people they led.    It may have occurred to the apprehensive, insecure potentate, that his lonely, unstable position as the leader-at-the-top, would be much strengthened if he could transfer his fear of his own subjects to THEM so that they would fear him.  He could show much more effective results when divine supreme decisions reinforced his own. He needed non-competitive, authoritative, religious, mystical, (therefore indisputable), input.   Eureka — GOD or gods.   

The added mystical authority of the priest could not be realistically questioned, and executive actions originated by the priests and the rulers would dominate others because they came from one supreme ENTITY. This concept emerged automatically when it was realized that political control could be enhanced through religious authority and command. (God wills it). It was the only way a recalcitrant populace could be controlled, short of summoning the ‘palace police.’ (The National Guard). No ruler wanted rebellion. His ideal was an acquiescent, peaceful kingdom, or tribe.

“There was no religion without politics and no politics without religion”, is a quote by W. E. Chase in Life and Language in the Old Testament. It was clear that the emerging protective entity could be used as a tool for control of unruly subjects. Think of the rebellious subjects of the Biblical Moses.

Part Two next week.

For more stories of the follies of war, grab a copy of my book, Perspective: The Golden Rule. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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    David Meakes

    David Meakes

    David Meakes is a Canadian-born World War II veteran. He is ninety-five years old and a retired podiatris... read more

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