I ran across a comment on Yahoo that asked the question, “Why would anyone subject themselves and their children to religious superstition?” This question came up during a heated discussion about human origins.
The easy answer to this question is, Hope. This is the answer for all religions across the board. Why would they subject themselves to all kinds of strange superstitions? Hope.
You may say, “Well I can hope money falls out of the sky into my lap but it’s a waste of time.” To this you would be right so the hope has to be possible or at least be possible to believe. You can’t find many people who, even trying, can bring themselves to believe money will fall from the sky, but you can find many people who believe they have a chance to win the lottery. Even when you dash them with the odds they will still cling to the hope because they hear about the few people who actually win. In regards to heaven, people hear about the Near Death Experiences where people experience bliss, see God and loved ones. Dashing them with the possibility that it’s all the results of a dying brain will do little in snuffing the hope.
Why not just give the hope up and keep your dollar? You’re probably not going to win the lottery anyway. The hope is worth the dollar to them. A dollar a day is well worth the hope to a lot of people, just like an hour a week at church and adhering to a couple strange dietary requirements is worth the hope to the religious. The moral code of conduct is already there and their conscience is already telling them they need to be better people so to a lot of decent people the moral code is not an issue. If you offered people heaven if they treated people with cruelty then for the vast majority this would be a deal breaker.
But hope doesn’t necessarily mean you absolutely know something will happen. Faith is an action based on possibility and hope…not knowledge. So the question is, “Can I believe it?” If the answer is yes that it’s possible then people will ask themselves this, “which one do I hope is true?” And if the requirements for the hope are not to taxing they will of course pay the dollar.
They will say to themselves, “I will try to be a good person anyway so which one do I
‘hope’ is true: that for being decent I will one day be rewarded for it or for being a decent person one day I won’t get anything?” To people who are going to be decent anyway the dollar is well worth the hope.