That was in 1976. It’s probably more like 80,000 now.
Death is the greatest equalizer ever. It’s the thing that Bill Gates and a starving child in
We all “fear the Reaper”. Some of us have made an uneasy peace with the sure and certain knowledge of our finite existence. Others, most people, have not and they only have one answer, albeit a piss-poor one. They escape dealing with it through the use of the supernatural. Some think Jesus, Allah or Yahweh will take them to live eternally in heaven. Others think their soul will experience reincarnation. Still others have various other gods or spirits that they plan on living with as soon as this life is over. Unfortunately, in almost every case, there is a minimizing of this life in favor of the mystical next.
It’s my strong, yet unconfirmed hypothesis that fear of death is the single strongest impetus for association with a religious group or philosophy. In an attempt to get some small, unscientific indication that I am right, I contacted 30 Christian bloggers and asked them the following:
The question is this: thinking about your religious belief and its importance to you, what is the SINGLE greatest thing that you think your faith gives you now or will give you in the future? When thinking about it, please consider that you are trying to convince another human being that your faith is the one they should choose and you can only make one single argument for accepting it.
Unsurprisingly, no one answered by saying something along the lines of “I was scared of my family dying and never seeing them again and now I am relieved in knowing we get to live together in eternity”. Frankly, I’ve known a lot of religious people and have never had one express it quite like that. Very few people like to admit to their fears. And what greater fear could there be than the ultimate boogeyman – The Grim Reaper? Also, Christians and other believers tend to be very upbeat about their beliefs. So when asking such a question, it would be unusual to receive a negative as an answer to “what is the greatest thing about your beliefs”?
So we have to read between the lines a bit, and here I think the answers are probably extremely revealing. Before we get to the responses I received, let’s go on a bit of a digressive tangent.
As stated, 30 bloggers were contacted. I asked them to email their answers to me. Since I didn’t want to have to deal with a shitload of follow-up "Jesus talk" I gave them one of my back-up email addresses that I use for just such an occasion. I received a total of 8 responses and those were all within 10 hours of placing the requests. So more might be on the way and if they are enlightening, I’ll add the information in the form of an update at the end of this post. I figured as long as I was going to post at 30 Christian blogs I might as well use the opportunity to see how many of them employed the famous “moderation” option. Many of us have noted how frequently Christian blogs choose to censor the comments. It is very unusual to go to any atheist or free-thinking blog and find the moderation turned on. What the fuck; we aren’t afraid of anything that can be said in disagreement. To the contrary, we usually relish the opportunity to fine-tune our own thought processes on various issues. There is no better way to do so than by dealing with a contrarian viewpoint. 17 of 30 Christian blogs had moderation. There were many other blogs that I was unable to post at because they either required registration or because they didn’t permit anonymous comments. (Note: I used the name John Hoopman without linking to a URL. I did this simply to achieve higher compliance and serious answers on what I was looking for. Had I used my online identity and URL they would have realized they were dealing with a committed atheist).
Here are the key parts of each of the 8 answers. I think, if you are reading between the lines like I am, you’ll agree that fear of the Grim Reaper plays a big part in the beliefs of most of those who replied.
Knowledge of a God that is worthy to be God… Because He Lives… Everything that I believe is founded in the hope of a better life, future, and a world that will someday no longer be subjected to evil… we will have eternal life with Him… Faith will carry me through the storm when there is no light… Being a Christian gives me hope for the future and acceptance when situations or circumstances happen that I do not like, because I realize it is beyond my control… by trusting in Him we may know that we have (present tense) eternal life… The answer of your question is this: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
I’m neither suggesting that there are no other reasons that people follow their superstitions or that this small, anecdotal group verifies my point. I’ll leave that to the experts. I’d love to see some controlled study that looks into peoples deepest motivations for believing in mystical answers. I firmly think that the fear of death will rate right up at the top of the list.