I am always amazed that so many people profess to know so much about things that are intrinsically unknowable. People have written whole libraries full of seriously-intentioned books about subjects that have been totally invented. They have analyzed and critiqued these fabrications in meticulous detail, adding layers upon layers upon layers of interpretation and confabulation.
I am referring, of course, to religion.
I was raised as a Christian. My father was a Baptist minister, after all. Family members on all sides were Christians. As good Christians, we were taught to ridicule foolish superstitions. We were taught that our God was the True God, so we were obligated to try to convert anyone who didn’t share that belief. And because our God was the True God, all other conceptualizations were relegated to the category of mythology.
The only problem was, that, over time, I realized that what Christians believe sounds altogether as ridiculous as Greek, or Roman, or Norse, or Celtic, or Native American, or any other religious myths.
Walking on water? Raising the dead? Turning water into wine? An immaculate conception and a virgin birth? Heaven and Hell? Angels and Demons?
Well, the Angels and Demons do make some sense. In the centuries before the advent of anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics, almost everyone most certainly experienced relatively frequent high fevers and the hallucinatory nightmares that accompany them. Anyone who has had a fever of 103° F or more knows first hand how convincingly demons and monsters can manifest themselves in those vivid dreams. When everyone around you has had the same visions, they become embedded in the belief systems of the culture.
I would bet that the rise of a systematized religion coincided with the discovery of fever reducing herbs. Anyone who could sometimes make the demons go away would become a very powerful shaman. Indeed, there is some evidence that the world’s oldest religion originated in Egypt around the 4000 BCE, and documentation of using willow bark (source of salicylic acid, from which aspirin is made) appear in Egyptian writings around the 2000 BCE. Yeah, two thousand years is a long time, but, if you were a shaman, wouldn’t you want to protect your secret formulas?
Devils require angels, and angels require gods. And the existence of gods can be used to explain the unexplainable and uncontrollable natural phenomena that buffet us so relentlessly.
Apparently, all it takes to be a messenger of god is a vivid imagination and followers who will believe the unbelievable.