Spirits, deities and gods were conceived to explain what early humans feared or could not understand. As societies grew more organized, those who claimed to know or contact these entities exercised power over others and developed priesthoods and religious doctrines to control human behaviour, often most despotically. Inculcating fear of hell and desire for peace in heaven were the stick and the carrot. These fantasy realms to which dead souls were said to go – based on a volcanic hell below and an unreachable blue sky – dominated the life of many societies, and still does!
People were taught they were responsible for their own actions but were nonetheless powerless in the face of fate and God’s implacable will, indoctrination beginning in early childhood (as still done these days). Those who succumbed to these ideologies and arbitrary morality were offered prayer, submission to priesthoods (representing deities or God) as a palliative, a crutch of hope, and were thus readily manipulated by the powerful – whether similarly deluded or cynically uncaring. Especially the latter committed most despicable crimes against humanity in the name of their ‘faith’ throughout the ages. The same religious mania of having the only right faith still dominates much of mainstream religion, especially Christianity and Islam but also many sects and cults in all religions.
Truly moral humanitarian behaviour should arise naturally from personal and collective experience in a sane (i.e. non-ideologised) society, as prefigured in the case of certain peaceful tribes of ‘noble savages’. When humanistic education arises and is not interfered with by religionists and ideologists, immoral people tend to lose power and their freedom of indiscriminate selfish action is reduced. If people break the laws of a just society, physical restraint and educative punishment must and in the main will follow. No ‘invisible’ or unknown entity can achieve this, as human experience shows, and theories of ‘divine retribution’ like karma are mere speculation, however much embroidered. Religion would and should – and actually does – decline and fade along with the development of humanistic and caring societies.
That any conscious designer, any intelligent energy source, created everything is an extremely unlikely hypothesis. Nothing intelligent or purposeful can be found to be behind the origin of the universe. A pre-existing creator of creation is a total logical conflict and a non-starter for explaining the Big Bang. No answer to say that it was itself uncreated. Nor can the claim that God was uncreated hold water, it is sheer self-contradiction. That the universe is the result of a perfect, good, omnipotent intelligence is contradicted by the ills of the world… by the ever-present accidental nature of events in individual lives and human affairs altogether, which are fraught with the most terrible and mostly undeserved sufferings.