This is part of the ERB series.
Imagine thousands of years ago, children sitting around campfires asking their parents difficult questions about the beginning of the world. That is probably a main source for religions’ many myths.
Kids start asking deep questions between 3 to 5 years-old. This is when “why” and “how” questions start. Studies show (and all parents know this) that a child will not be satisfied with a “we don’t know” answer, or an answer too hard to understand. And when kids aren’t satisfied, there is hell to pay. So parents are forced to make up stories. Thus, religious stories are born.
Take almost any religion and you will find all sorts of explanatory stories to the questions of these iron age “pre-schoolers”:
- How the world began
- How humans came to be
- How to avoid suffering
- How the world will end
- What happens when we die
We know that religion prospers in times of trouble, but in times of prosperity, religions wither. So let’s use Judaism as an example.
You can imagine campfire stories that answer kids’ questions above. The Jews have a rough history: they’ve been ruled by the Babylonians, the Persians, the Romans, the Muslims and more. So imagine an impoverished Jewish girl, during the exile to Babylon who was raised on the stories by her mother about all the former great kings of Israel and how Jews are God’s chosen people. The child asks the mom, why they are suffering now and the mom says, don’t worry, God promised us a new King will come and save us from our oppressors. Us Jews will live in a great world soon, once again. The child then has some hope and falls asleep and a new story is added to Judaism. This is how religions grow — it is all due to three-year olds.
See my next post on how Christianity uses the Messiah story.
- Children’s’ Questions: An article addressing kids ages for questions and their satisfaction with types of answers see this 2009 article in Child Development by Frazier and others.
- Insecurity and Religion: See this post in Epiphenom.
- Messiah: The word “messiah” comes from the Hebrew word “mashiach” which meant “an anointed one”. “To anoint” means to put oil on, which is what was done to kings in the sacred ceremony that starts their reign. The Greek word for anointing in oil is xríō (krio or chrio) and “the anointed” is Χριστός (Christos). So, for those of you who don’t know, “Jesus Christ” just means “Jesus the Anointed One” or “Jesus the King” — “Christ” is not his last name. Smile.