This quote is attributed to Titus Lucretius Carus in 60 BCE.
I recall the first time I ever heard of a relationship between fear/uncertainty and religion. An economics professor explained religion has flourished more in rural areas than urban. This is because, he said, there is more uncertainty in farming than in the commerce of cities. This may have been the first time I had ever heard religion referred to in this abstract way.
The contemporary writer/theologian Bishop Shelby Spong wrote, “Religion is not about truth, it’s about security.” The relationship of uncertain and ritual/superstition/religion can be found in many places.
In baseball, pitchers deal with more uncertainty than outfielders. It’s more common for pitchers to have superstitious ritual, wearing the same socks, etc., than it is for outfielders. Ancient fishermen who had to fish in deep and unprotected water tended to be more religious than those who fished near the shore. Countries that are the poorest are more religious than those that are richer.
One always has to be careful at attributing causation to circumstances where things happen at the same time. The causation argument is attractive to me because no other explanation for the whole package of world religions has come forward. Since their “truths” are cancelled out by other religions, we are left with the big question for all of them, why are people attracted?
When there does not seem to be enough fear in the indigenous setting, religions have their ways of introducing fear: I forewarn you…Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell…Fear him. Luke 12:5
[My thanks to Prof. Charles Sawicki of the Red River Freethinkers for the topic of this blog.]
P. S. The conference, Zeteticon, will be held in Fargo, Sept 13-14. GreatPlainsAtheists.org