The root of faith and rage
Fellow commenter John Evo wrote:
How much is the idea of death important to belief? Both your own mortality and also the notion of losing loved ones, who will never be seen again? It seems to me that when I listen closely to people talking about their religion, it always comes back to that - after all the wonderful intellectualizing about other aspects of spirituality.
I’ve thought for a long time that this is actually the main reason why religion is so pervasive and why people throughout history have defended it so belligerently and even violently. Most humans enjoy what life has to offer and don’t want it to end. On a deeper level, we’re hard-wired by evolution to be afraid of death — if there had ever been any primates which had no fear of death, they wouldn’t have been as careful as others about avoiding being killed, and so they weren’t the ones who lived long enough to pass on their genes and evolve into our noble selves.
People react with consternation and rage when their religion is challenged because on some level they realize it’s facing them with the possibility that they might not have life after death after all. It’s terrifying. It’s a threat.
What we’re dealing with there is a visceral instinctive response to a perceived threatening situation. Reason and argument have very little to do with it.
As a corollary which has intrigued me for a long time, it will be fascinating to see whether the decline of religious fervor in the developed world accelerates once it becomes widely understood that, very soon, death will no longer be inevitable.