The world of humanity is sick!
It has been sick for millennia!
It has a virus of the mind called religion!
Ever since man became a sentient, thinking being terrified of the vagaries of nature and his own vulnerability in a dangerous world. Life was short and brutal back then. It became a little less so as bigger communities evolved and tools and shelters became better making us fragile creatures a bit more secure. But, the developments came slowly and sporadically.
Not only were there dangers in nature, but competing humans often proved more dangerous and lethal than less mentally devoloped creatures. The "gang" in the next valley or on the next mountain could prove positively lethal and certainly something to be suspicious of and cautious about.
The present world is also a very unsafe place in which to dwell. We have all kinds of problems right here on the earth, but we've also come to realize how vulnerable we are to dangers from above -- from space itself. Nearly any educated human has to now realize we could easily join the dinosaurs in a cosmic extinction event.
Early on, especially thoughtful and often crafty individuals tried to come up with simplistic answers to it all. It isn't easy to answer a frightened child, or adult, as to the whys of the world as it exists. That gave rise to supernatural explanations which involved gods, ogres, nymphs, fairies, etc. That all led to theologies that grew more involved with the evolution of myths and bombastic assertions of protection for believers who toed the line.
Inevitably, that all led to elaborate theologies and hierarchical priesthoods. Today, we have the spectacle of competing and warring religions, themselves split into innumerable sects and splinters that militantly strive for control of as many people as they possibly can gain sway over.
Dr. Darrel W. Ray has published a book on the subject that I just finished reading today.
The God Virus points out how much like an infectious virus religion has become in manifesting itself throughout the world. Everyone infected gets taken over to greater or lesser degree by whatever virus they happen to succumb to, either through the accident of their geographical birth or their infection by an effective vector (like my encountering Herbert Armstrong at the age of 18 and being instanteously infected to the point that I was absolutely sure I had a truth few others had been blessed with -- and certainly no one outside my specially called little group).
I wasn't unique then, nor would I be now. Except for the Muslim world, America is probsably the most thoroughly religiously infected nation around. Just in my lifetime, religion has gone from being pretty much an incidental in politics to a litmus test for eligibility into the political dynamic of the country. Neither Jefferson nor Lincoln, among many others, could ever get elected to office in this country today once their honest statements about religion came to light.
One of Dr. Ray's closing statements makes the present situation abundantly clear: "Religions will be with us as long as humans seek easy answers, as long as skilled vectors sedate people to avoid life's difficult questions, as long as the infected let their preachers, popes and imams do their thinking for them, we will have religion."
I would add, as long as people are cocksure that they are so special that they are specially chosen by some deity as recipients of "the truth" through accident of birth, geography or mystical calling, we are going to be a tragically, and possibly fatally, fractured species on the face of this earth. I can only wonder, in an age of the potential for worldwide mass destruction, how long this insane plethora of infections can continue on without the ultimate in madness taking over.
I will close with this final sobering statement from his book: "All of the prophetic religions -- from Christianity to Islam, Mormonism to the Ghost Dance religion of 19th-century Native Americans -- proclaim an end time and return of a savior god. Utter terror of a return and judgment keeps people working within the confines of the religion. Non-believers have figured out that there is no second coming, but there may be an apocalypse of viral stupidity. I am more worried that fundamentalism in all its forms will cause a holocaust than that any 12th Imam, Jesus or Messiah will reappear. In world history, there have been many crucified saviors. Many were born of virgins; many were of humble birth with a royal lineage. All of them claimed they will return some day. Some were resurrected; some even flew up to heaven." (At least, that's the bombastic story!)
I highly recommend this book and plan to read it again.