Sense of control and religion
I was reading David Ropeik‘s blog “The perception gap: An explanation for why people maintain irrational fears” and came across this paragraph:
“…When we are uncertain, as are parents with autistic kids, we grab on to anything that answers our questions, because that sense of knowing affords us a reassuring feeling of control. Control is vital to anyone who is afraid, worried, uncertain…”
A sense of knowing allows us to predict the future, and thereby giving us control (whether imaginary or real). Being a better predictor of future is definitely a great help in survival — an evolutionary advantage, so it’s not surprising that humans have a built-in need for control. The problem is that not everything is predictable, making us feel less in control and therefore unhappy. Religion fills in that gap beautifully. The basis for most (all?) religions is that there is a supernatural being (god) that controls all the things we can’t predict. We can increase our sense of control by appealing to this god (praying, sacrificing, etc.) who will on occasion grant our wishes. Which explains why religious people are happier than the unbelievers — they believe they have control over the unpredictable when the unbelievers have to accept that there is nothing they can do to affect the unpredictable. This could also explain why it is so hard to give up faith: you’re asking someone to give up some of their control.
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