What would you say accounts for the fact that religions, evidence-free superstitions all, continue to attract and hold customers, despite the fact that we live in a scientific age?
In the Dark Ages, religions offered answers to life's persistant questions. Little was known about the natural world. The earth was flat and the sun revolved around us, the center of the universe and the reason for why everything exists and was put here by God 6000 years prior - or so everyone was told and had no evidence to the contrary. Thus, for 99.9 percent of the time of homo sapiens existence (and the homo strains before us), nearly all humans were cowed into submission by the high priests. Any god with the keys to a hellish dungeon was scary, all powerful and savagely vengeful.
However, for more than a century, mankind has had scientific knowledge about the real world. With the advent of the scientific method, the educated class has been encouraged to look for evidence, to demand objective confirmation of claims by independent third parties via controlled studies. Why would educated adults in the 21st century believe unsupported assertions alleging revealed wisdom and other myths of the elaborate crock on offer from religions? All of it comes free of any evidence whatsoever! Never in the history of gods ancient or modern has a single fact been discovered supportive of a claim for any god's existence. Ditto for claims attributed to said gods. No evidence, either, that prayers, anywhere, anytime were ever answered by any god prayed to nor of any favors granted for sacrifices offered.
Yet, billions of humans still to this day line up and bow down in acceptance of and obedience to iatollahs, priests, rabbis, ministers, preachers and others who claim to know the mind and wishes of some invisible Ruler of the Universe, Lord of Lords, Grand Wazoo, Infinite Goodness, etc.
According to Al Stefanelli, the answer in a word is fear. in a blog post entitled, "Religious Belief Is A Fear-Based Lie" (Freethoughtblogs.com, November 7, 2011),
"Fear. It‚Äôs what drives religion, gives it purpose, keeps a billion or so believers entrenched in willful ignorance, is responsible for the rampant denial of science and is the central emotion responsible for the bigotry, discrimination and hatred that is widespread amongst those who profess their undying love for their deity. It is the ally of the bully, the friend of the charlatan and a constant deterrent against self-esteem."
More than a century earlier, Robert Green Ingersoll said as much. Near the conclusion of what would be his last speech, an address to the American Free Religious Association in Boston on June 2, 1899, Colonel Ingersoll (1833-1899), America's greatest orator then widely known as "The Great Agnostic," said that fear was the foundation of all faiths.
"Religions assert that an infinite God created all things, governs all things and that the creature should be obedient and thankful to the creator; that the creator demands certain things, and that the person who complies with these demands is religious."
Fail to comply and God will send "pestilence, famine, flood and earthquake" - for starters. When you die, the real punishment kicks in, an eternity without surcease for even a moment."
Much has and continues to be made of the harm inflicted on children by predator priests of the Roman Catholic and other Christian religions. I believe that sexual child abuse, grotesque as this crime is that outrages our sensibilities, is less consequential than the mental abuse of religious dogmas, particularly that of hell-fires in waiting.
In a speech entitled, "The Gods," one of his most popular, Ingersoll remarked:
"What, after all, is religion? It is fear. Fear builds the altar and offers the sacrifice. Fear erects the cathedral and bows the head of man in worship. Fear bends the knees and utters the prayer."
The fear of eternal torture for insufficient obedience to religious doctrines and/or failure to believe or follow a leader's teachings, rules and the like amount to one hell of a negative sales pitch. Give religions credit of sort where due - as a way to keep the sheep in line and control the flock, this hellish idea has been a great success. Again, Ingersoll had words to express his indignation about the infamy of hell fear - -mongering:
"Heaven's golden gates are shut, and you, with an infinite curse ringing in your ears, with the brand of infamy upon your brow, commence your endless wanderings in the lurid gloom of hell -- an immortal vagrant -- an eternal outcast -- a deathless convict...Is it possible for man to conceive of anything more perfectly infamous? Can you believe that such directions were given by any being except an infinite fiend?" (Source: The Gods, 1872.)
Of course none of it was given by a fiend, or a friend of man, but by the control agencies called religions.
We should all consider offering what modest resistance we can manage this infamous idea of hell and the rest of the anti-science offal that religions invent and promote. Challenge efforts by theocrats to deface and lower the wall separating our state from their church. Remember, as Ingersoll noted, that "religions teach the slave virtues of obedience, humility, self-denial, forgiveness, non-resistance...the abyss of degradation. Religion does not teach self-reliance, independence, manliness, courage, self-defence. Religion makes God a master and man his serf...Religion can never reform mankind because religion is slavery. It is far better to be free, to leave the forts and barricades of fear, to stand erect and face the future with a smile."
All good wishes.