Reading The Guardian today, I saw a review of Harari’s 2015 best-selling book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind“. The reviewer states that the center of the book’s contention is that “what made Homo sapiens the most successful human being, supplanting rivals such as Neanderthals, was our ability to believe in shared fictions. Religions, nations and money, Harari argues, are all human fictions that have enabled collaboration and organization on a massive scale.”
In 2013 I wrote a post about how we create reifications (the packaging of abstractions). Perhaps Harari would agree that these reifications are our “shared fictions”.
One of the greatest fictions our minds is always desperately creating is “Identity”, a sense of self. Identity is an inevitable cognitive illusion. We use various anchors to secure our identity in our tumultuous world (thus the waves in my above diagram). Our minds use these anchors as manipulative signals to both ourselves and others that we have good-status, are trustworthy, have power, are committed, know true meaning, have hope and more.
This takes me to a recent Peter Beinart article in The Atlantic: “Breaking Faith: The culture war over religious morality has faded; in its place is something much worse.”
Beinart states the fact that participation in organized religion has hugely declined in the USA. He contends that as people see through [my words] the fictions of religion, they need something else to serve the purposes of religion. They need some other anchor in reality – another method to signaling to themselves and others.
As the allure of religions fades, people experience an emptiness. To replace the “God” reification, other reifications such as jingoistic nationalism or materialistic secularism come to fill the gap. Is this a “God Gap”? — no, it is a mental gap — a craving for a new fiction — an attempt to anchor down one’s identity.
Note: Also see my post on “Your Modular God” to see how the spackle used to fill the God Gap really plays a minimal role in most modern religion due to the various functions of religion.