Came across this pearl of wisdom on a blog:
One of the ways dictators control populations is by first inventing a threat, and then offering a solution from the threat. This is exactly what religion does. It creates the threat of eternal damnation, then cleverly offers you a way out of it.
This is not the first time I’ve heard this sentiment.
The first few times I heard it, I dismissed it as random idiocy.
I’ve seen it repeated enough that I finally realize not everyone appreciates the grandeur of its stupidity.
Imagine looking over an inventor’s shoulder while he scribbles in his journal:
I’ve had a breakthrough today! I developed a technique to control people’s lives! I’m calling my invention, “religion”. It is a simple two-step process:
1) Threaten everyone with eternal damnation.
2) Tell them religion is how they avoid it.
I’m going to be rich!
It’s pure genius, isn’t it?
Let’s swap out “eternal damnation” with another threat:
- Threaten everyone with spontaneous combustion.
- Tell them religion is how they avoid it.
See the problem?
Threats must be credible.
That is to say, empty threats don’t work.
People don’t worry about suddenly bursting into flames.
(Most people anyway…)
So the “Sainthood of Spontaneous Combustion” won’t have many disciples.
At the same time, the possibility of eternal damnation DOES create some anxiety.
Why is that?
Because our sense of justice tells us that eternal damnation might be real.
And worse…we deserve to experience it.
It’s not difficult to identify people who need to be punished.
On our best, most honest days, we admit we are those people.
We don’t need religion to tell us we suck.
We already know it.
When we take a hard look at ourselves, eternal damnation seems like an appropriate destiny.
Guilt wasn’t invented by religion.
Religion is how we get rid of guilt.