One of the topics I keep coming back to (in my mind at least) is the question of religion itself. Why is it so appealing to so many people? Religionists would like to tell us that we have some kind of “God-shaped hole” in our heads, er hearts, but if that were the case you’d think that only God would really fill it. People, however, seem to have a powerful hunger for religion regardless of what the religion is, which would be odd if our “hole” were specifically shaped like any particular god or gods.
Two thoughts occurred to me the other day. One was alcoholism, and how it seems to affect people physically, creating an ongoing craving for a substance that only impairs their perceptions and judgment. The other thought was how computers break down: some failures are hardware, and some are software. I’m not sure why I had these two thoughts together, but it does suggest an interesting possibility: faith may be literally intoxicating, or at least it might bear the same relationship to physical intoxication as a software bug has to a flaky keyboard.
Think about what religious faith does for (and to) the believer: it creates an artificial state of euphoria not connected to actual real-world circumstances, it suppresses sensations/perceptions of discomfort (worry, fear, aimlessness, etc), it impairs their judgment and reason, and it creates a desire for more of itself. In many respects it has the same functional attractions and disadvantages of a physical intoxication, but it happens entirely “in software.” When believers indulge in faith as a social activity, the effect is amplified, and the addiction likewise intensified. And like all addictions, it comes complete with a whole toolbox of denials and rationalizations to prevent the addict from acknowledging that he/she has a problem and needs to break the addiction.
What do you think? Is this a fair and/or useful metaphor for understanding the influence and appeal of religion?