Origins of belief
by: Allan W. Janssen
Allan's God 101 page
To open a discussion on this article, please use the contact page to provide your comments.
There is a feeling of purpose that seems to pervade all of creation. It is a feeling of connection that is felt by everyone who has ever lived. It is a feeling that will continue to carry us down through the ages and is a need that is inherent in all humanity.
It is the basis of all our religious beliefs and superstitions. After all, humanity has always had a sense of wonder and awe about the many dangers, and the occasional joys, of the daily struggle to survive.
Since our ancestors first huddled together around a fire so many hundreds of thousands of years ago, we collectively tried to protect ourselves against the dangers and terrors of the world. Then, with the advent of a rudimentary language, blind acceptance of our lot in life gradually gave way to a questioning of the meaning to all of the suffering that fell upon us.
With the gift of awareness however, also came the curse of knowledge. The knowledge of our own fate! It helped to relieve the pain of daily existence by assuming the evils and misfortunes that befell us were caused by some deed, action or thought that was not "right or good."
By taking the responsibility for life's hardships from our own shoulders and putting it onto some Higher Power, humanity's misfortunes became easier to accept.
"It's not our fault." became the haunting cry of humanity that echoed down through the millennia!
The concept of a Supreme Being, whose pleasure / displeasure could influence how life treated us, was a thought that gradually evolved over time.
When we had a feeling that we were being punished for some presumed misdeed, like a small child that was being admonished, we could make it right again with the proper thought or attitude!
If this great God, or many gods for that matter, could be appeased, then it put us into a position where we finally had some measure of control over the worst that life could throw at us.
Sure life was tough. Our fate hinged on the whim of a Deity we could never really know or understand. If we followed some simple rules and kept our nose clean, then we would at least have some hope that the human condition would eventually improve.
If not in this life, then certainly in the next.
Naturally, our lot in life usually stayed the same, or if anything, got even worse.
In the natural order of things events usually seemed to go from bad to worse. If, despite the constant homage and sacrifices made to the great spirits, things in general did not improve then a crisis in confidence would develop. This meant some other means of comfort was required.
This is where early man developed one of the most remarkable and insightful theories about how the world works. If things did not get any better in the here and now, then it was obviously a "test." A test meant to prepare us for a reward at some time after this "vale of tears" was lifted.
It was by this time understood that our lot in life was suffering. By showing how well we could suffer and still carry on we showed the Gods our courage, tenacity, --- and above all, our Faith!
As everyone soon realized this bravado did not do us much good in the present life. However, our willingness to suffer for a higher cause was all that was required of us to gain the promise of reward at some time in the future.
"Voila," the afterlife was born.