Psychology

Why Adults believe in God and Government



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There is a happy juxtaposition of human order and divine hopefulness in most people. For the highly motivated, God may rule over that which they themselves happily cast aside. Others believe that there is an order in the universe that is understood only by use of the divine as "unseen actor."

What most have discovered by the time they are out of training pants is that humanity tends toward the messy. We don't know-and don't particularly care-what happens to others, so long as our own needs and most intimate wants are supplied. If you consider this a harsh evaluation, consider what you remember of your life when you were eleven years of age.

Schoolyard Rulers

School days may be remembered fondly by those decades removed from the necessities of survival there. You may have been only dimly aware at a tender age that there were other children who took what they wanted, even when what they took belonged to others. Boys generally used taunts and ridicule to accomplish this, sometimes shading into brutal physicality if they were slightly larger or had others under their control. Girls would give other girls the cold shoulder, trapping them in their own lonely pre-adolescent hell to gain influence or to shut them out from the boys they desired.

The golden haze that surrounds our older memories can obscure the hurt and embarrassment of those experiences, but they demonstrated clearly the need for a more orderly system of governance than we had managed to understand and use. That was where the teachers and administrators had to step in and enforce rules that banished some and protected others of the children in that enclosed community.

This kind of behavior, with bullies and quiet bystanders, is not unique to the schoolyard. We find this type of probing for advantage in all human groupings, and it illustrates a natural deficit of the individual alone in society. The lone human will have trouble navigating the waters of groups unless or until a recognizable societal order is established. In that order, there must be a way for each person to find resources, to engage in social interaction, and to improve their situation with respect to the environment.

The World Is Not Enough

"God" is invoked by that large portion of the world's population that looks beyond the obvious physical and chemical properties of the world for meaning. The need for a supreme being that is stronger than one's enemies and is always looking out for us is older than history, if archaeological finds in Europe and elsewhere are reliable indicators.

People at all levels of society and from any professions you can name search past the things they can routinely touch, see, smell, feel, and taste. Why? Is there hope within humanity in general of a better "way" just outside our capacity to understand and encompass it personally? Whatever the reason, many of the world's poorest, joined by those most well-off, believe in supernatural powers-"God," karma, the spirit plane, etc.-and declare their dedication to those activities believed to give them access to the good things available to followers of those pathways.

It should be pointed out that, despite the old saw, "There are no atheists in foxholes," the truth of the matter may be quite different. We cannot prove beyond any shadow of doubt that ALL people believe in a higher power. The evidence at hand seems to demonstrate that most human beings do follow some path that they believe will lead them to a spiritual or psychological place not available to all.

God and Government

What a combination! Given that most of us eventually recognize the need for an orderly existence, government of some form is accepted as the vehicle to get us to that destination. We may complain bitterly about the things our representatives do or the ways in which they misbehave, but we really have no better way at present in which to ensure that we have a chance to live out our lives in expected and profitable ways.

Religion, on the other hand, is something that we seem to share only with great difficulty. Witness, if you will, the hundreds of different expressions of the inner hopes and dreams of people, some lived out through churches and mosques, others in seclusion, others in ways even less understandable to the casual observer.

We may believe in God or a spirit world, but the evidence of our fractured discipleship under that particular pathway would give extraterrestrial visitors a lot of talk about back home concerning the huge numbers of manufactured "societies" here.

There are many people who, seeing this disorder, believe we ought simply to declare that all religion be made private. They wish to make the public square completely secular, but they find that this is very difficult, given that so many persons venerate so many religious beliefs and wish them recognized by the wider society. It's impossible to do that, if you consider how many competing requirements these groups exhibit.

The Way We Are

One thing is certain: religious expression in all its many forms isn't going away anytime soon. Neither is government. Both will continue to consume time and resources and our attention. Why? Because we crave them, love them, hate and adore them-and we totally own them.

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