Thursday, January 5, 2012

Maturing Beyond The Bogeyman

I heard a relatively interesting remark from a coworker yesterday that's had me considering questions about why people believe in spirits, ghosts, poltergeists, demons, imps, or any other examples of non-corporeal manifestations for that matter.  Let's begin by looking at what my coworker said:
"My father was a mortician, and when I was a teenager I rode with him in a hearse for 2 hours with a dead body in the back.  I was creeped out the entire time.  I've never prayed that long in my life."
Maybe I could understand this a bit more if, for example, a person becomes painfully uncomfortable by sitting so close to a dead body.  Personally, I am not bothered by this at all; but from what I hear there are those that consider a corpse so repulsive that they simply can't stomach it.  I can relate to that, I suppose.  What I can't comprehend about the thought above is that you're, "creeped out" to the point where you feel you need to disassociate yourself into a two hour state of prayer in order to cope.

What are you so afraid of that you, as an adult, are still reduced to essentially an 8 year-old child praying for protection from an imagined bogeyman in the back of your car?  I would think a commitment to prayer of this length would be better spent begging your god for protection from the other assholes out on the road!

Then it occurred to me that if I lead a fledgling religious organization, this guy's view of the world would be exactly what I would strive for.  I would want to gather followers that are relatively young, perhaps early teens up until their early twenties.  I would also insist that they are exposed only to information that I provide.  I would then strive to maintain in my followers a constant sense of fear in otherworldly beings that they could never completely refute.  (I'd have to be clever since young people sometimes ask a lot of questions.)  This way, I could utilize the power of the human imagination to create fear - a fear of an evil and powerful creature (or creatures) born purely from my inventiveness - to control them.  Just as long as I am charismatic enough, I could even exploit human tragedy as an example of this evil.  This would simply require patience on my part.  And if some of my followers became skeptical, I could even go so far as to cause a few "mishaps"... so long as I diligently cover my tracks.

This fictional self-characterization assumes that I'm a sociopath, of course.  But it's not too far of a stretch to imagine how manageable it could be to get teens and young adults to believe the most outlandish of ideas, is it?

Thus, after thinking about my coworker's comment for a bit, I'm convinced more than ever that churches in the US, and most modern religions for that matter, are really nothing more than over-achieving psychic parlors gone berserk.  And we should be ashamed we've let it go on for this long.

It's high time our society abandons the embrace of childish notions of ethereal evils and matures to the point where other adults are not expected to casually relate to thoughts and statements of imaginary enemies.

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