The seeds of superstition
A child enduring sadness or fear will hope that if no cracks in the paving are trodden on, everything will be well. The child does not believe or expect that all will be well, but, being helpless, invents this controlled action to fill a small void.
A child will count every tile on a wall, in the hope that if the sum is an even number, all will be well. It knows, as a sentient creature, that there is no logic in this penance, yet it has a calming effect, and is soon set aside.
Inculcation of superstition
Later in life, the older child may be indoctrinated with the ambient superstitions of family life, which, deriving from adults, it not only does not question, but believes.
The gradual development of independent thought
As puberty sets in, with its multiple distractions and derangements, a peculiar fervour may take place in the child which leads it to search out manifestations of its indoctrination.
With the consolidation of puberty, as rational thought sometimes returns, in a few cases, the young adult experiences a lifting of the cloud of superstition and the clearing of the claustrophobia of religious conditioning. In the light of knowledge-gathering from from new reading of the world outside the family and customs of the local community, there is a sudden realisation that perhaps none of the hitherto held beliefs are valid.
Within days of this thought, and with deep consideration of it and a pervading sense of relief, the new rational mind becomes unencumbered of religion and superstition. Freedom of thought, and hence action, open up to an exhilaration of spirit; the world is a place where the mind can direct the body with a freedom that can only be restricted physically.
Enlightenment from conditioning for a minority
This revelation, coming with the end of puberty in both sexes, as the mind becomes aware, is not general; although it is a definite phenomenon, it affects a minority.
Revelation of the irrelevance and falsity of instilled superstitious beliefs can occur at any age, however. A friend who in our youth I discovered with surprise to be a devoted catholic, never missing mass, at the age of thirty-five suddenly perceived how bizarre was his long-held conditioning. Within a week his ‘faith’ turned to revulsion of the industry of catholicism, its pederast priests, global wealth, and indoctrinating schools and colleges: teaching institutions diluting true knowledge with superstition.
Strongly-held irrational beliefs can be suddenly abandoned at any time; it is as if a window opens in the brain, allowing its natural analytical processes to examine an internal hindrance hitherto ignored or accepted as given. When I tentatively queried my friend on his change of outlook, what had led to its occurrence, and how he felt regarding his previous life, he had no explanation. A new dawning, a realisation, simply happened, as a scientist may have a serendipitous enlightenment regarding her research.
It seems that no child can avoid absorbing superstitions prevalent in home and family life. If the child is brought up in an environment free from religion or superstition, it will likewise be free, perhaps taking up some random belief in young adulthood.
Superstition an aberration of the large human brain. and deliberate indoctrination
Religious belief is not, as one would expect, a phenomenon of poor education and low IQ. It is a mind-set occurring in all societies world-wide, though the ‘belief’ is usually instilled from the local community. I was once shocked on meeting two friends in the street at night with their young daughter, seven or eight years old. The parents wealthy, well-educated, intelligent, good company and the opposite of wowserish. They had come from some esoteric ceremony and their little daughter was dressed as a ‘bride of christ’ or some such terminology. The meeting was bewildering for me, as if meeting my friends naked in the street, or covered in paint, without them giving any explanation of their condition. Though loving them dearly, I felt that they had inflicted on their child an action which she had no opportunity to question, an action deeply and darkly symbolic, with meaning that would be abstruse or impossible for even an adult to understand. Would you give a child a tattoo that it may hate, and hate you for, in later life?
The two encounters I have mentioned happen to involve the catholic sect, being the most common in my environment, but there are hundreds of religions extant, all, of course, invented by humans, usually men, and adopted by other humans without derision or question. Why? We could all invent a religion and form a sect. But why would anyone join? Have no doubt, some would join, and be fervent. And some would die professing and protecting their belief. It is a madness, a madness affecting men specifically.
Most women are less concerned with the ‘faith’ industry, having, perhaps more wisdom and experience of the real world of work and family. The ranting crowds of rabid ‘believers’ are nearly all men, and although the remnant congregations of derelict churches are women, they are old and few, and have outlived their husbands
Wisdom through wide experience
The percentage of the population who hold no irrational beliefs is small in most countries and negligible in others. A thorough, broad education tends dissipate residual superstitions, but not necessarily. A specific education directed to one aim can leave a student quite ignorant throughout life, though equipped for and successful in a narrow field. This is the function of modern universities. The reading of books other than novels is declining throughout humanity, with a corresponding reduction in knowledge on a wide scale. Cleverness has little to do with wisdom.
I do not write in the hope of rescuing folk from their belief in the non-existent supernatural. It can’t be done. Indoctrination, however, is easy, which is why the evangelists and missionaries rake in so much cash for themselves or their institutions. The dirty slate is impossible to clean. There is an overweening pride in a belief held with conviction; nothing so delicate as logic could possibly budge it, not even a brisk branding of the buttocks. It is also very demeaning to admit to being indoctrinated. Non-religious belief in the form of knowledge, however, as with Galileo, can be shrugged off…..’.I would prefer not to be tortured, so I’ll shut up (but it’s true anyway)’.
The over-large human brain, its consequent malfunctions, and the genetic source of optimism
This fallibility in humans is no doubt one of the drawbacks of a brain which has tripled in volume over the millennia. Our mind is too big for our boots, with the consequent and not unexpected set of derangements. This relatively huge brain inevitably reached the position of considering its own workings, and that of its attached body: a disastrous situation. Under the circumstances it is truly amazing that in general we get along so well, though, sometimes, waking in the night, the terror of existence shakes us in fear; this is the human burden. We must live our entire, considered and worrysome lives with the looming knowledge that we will one day grind to a permanent stop, and then put that very nasty big fact out of our thoughts and swept under the carpet. It’s not surprising that so many of us have mad ideas and actions. Eat, drink, and be merry; too right.
As a child, I read of the robot which was built with a wonderful brain. All was well until the robot discovered that it was not human, that it was a machine. The discovery was so distressing that the robot ‘killed’ itself. I was at first made tearfully sad at the robot’s condition, poor thing, it thought it was a man. Then in later years my feelings were reversed, for we are the machines who have endings, who die, whereas the robot can continue, and renew, and replace. We are all made aware of this. How we cope is a mystery. How we remain, for the most part good-humoured and optimistic, I really don’t know, except that without that certainly genetic origin to our optimism, our huge brain would be the death of us.
‘Atheism’: a non-descriptive abstract
This little essay has deliberately avoided the word ‘atheism’ until now, because the term defines normal sentience as a corollary of ‘theism’ or perhaps ‘deism’, both terms referring to something other. There is no such phenomenon as ‘atheism’, which is a description defining ‘no circumstance’ in terms of ‘not-something’, and is even less meaningful than describing ‘water’ as ‘not-rock’. I had fun writing that.
Of the many design-faults our big brains have revealed, the tendency to harbour irrational ideas, the holding of religion as certainty is the most devastating for humanity. (closely followed by overpopulation and the power of global investment organisations, but not in this brief)
There are so many other brain-problems which come to light that were we cars, we would have been recalled dozens of times to the manufacturers for rectification. Religious belief is just one manifestation. For example, all animals crave food, we crave food. Animals eat what they can find, no problem, they stay healthy, in due course they die. We turn the craving for food into an obsessive drug-desire, consuming ever more delicious concoctions to excess, with inevitable and manifold horrendous results. Billions of dollars are made feeding this craving. Billions of dollars are made selling religions. The malfunctions of a super-hyped brain is the source of drug-similar cravings exploited by entrepeneurs in many fields, and the subject of further discussion.
So, think for yourself
Think for yourself. Consider that which you believe, and doubt. Certainties may become obsolete with new discoveries. Examine that which you are told; is it genuine? Is this page worthy of serious thought, or is it rubbish? Belief is the result of conditioning, an open mind can test belief; it can be depressing and hard work but you’ll feel so much better afterwards.
Go ahead, believe what you like. But don’t blame me.