Does God exist? Is there an afterlife? If a god does exist, which god? What if there's more than one? These are important questions, but although almost everyone thinks they know the answer, almost everyone disagrees, and there's no way to prove who's right.
36 Arguments for the Existence of God
Who is this god person anyway? Some Christians and Moslems believe God has a personal interest in your life, and will answer your prayers. (But what does God do when two Christians pray to win the lottery?) Others believe God created the universe and everything in it, then worked a few miracles, but now He's letting the world run by itself, and doesn't interfere. Whether we pollute the planet, or kill ourselves, He or She isn't going to stop us.
ReligiousTolerance.org examines topics such as how to find the true religion and where religion came from. It's a huge website, you can spend hours there.
How do I find God? Be careful, I wasted a lot of time searching for answers and not finding them. I was raised a Methodist, so I believed in God, and I prayed to Him every night, but there were so many religions; I wanted to know which one was the TRUE religion. So, I first studied with the Mormons, and then with Jehovah's Witnesses, because they knocked on my door. and offered to show me that they had the true religion. However, I wasn't convinced by either one. I also read the Bible from cover to cover, went to a Buddhist temple, a Jewish synagogue, and read a little bit of the Koran. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I couldn't find the true religion and after 20 years, I finally realized I was wasting my time. One of the reasons it took so long was because the people who don't believe in gods, don't have a church.
So, who doesn't believe in God? Humanists don't usually believe in God, but some might believe in a higher power. Athiests don't believe in any god. Hindus, on the other hand, worship more than one god. (Note: "God" with a capital "G" refers to the Jewish, Christian, or Moslem God, but "god" with a little "g" refers to any other god). When the Taoist and Buddhist religions were first formed, they didn't believe in a god or gods. They were more a philosophy of life and created a system of ethical behavior, but over time, both changed. The Taoists became a more mystical and magical group, and the Buddhists began to worship the founder, Buddha, as a god who could answer their prayers.
Humanist LinksA Moral Education
Raising Humanist Children
Frequently Ask Questions
Atheist LinksAbout Atheist Websites
Taoist LinksTaoist History
Buddhist LinksBuddhist Resources
Hindu LinksHinduism for Kids
Suppose God doesn't exist - What would that mean?First, it means the reason preachers tell stories on Sunday mornings is so you'll give them money so they don't have to get a real job. It means that your money is being used by TV preachers to buy private jets, expensive cars, and large mansions. If God doesn't exist, the money going to preachers could instead be given to help the poor, homeless families, or people in other countries who don't have clean water, enough food to eat, or doctors to care for them when they are sick. That money could also be used to protect the environment and help endangered animals survive. Instead it is being to build huge churches that are only used one day a week. The time everyone spends at church could instead be used to volunteer at an animal rescue center, or a hospital for children. If people devoted that time to worthwhile causes, imagine how much better the world could be.
Second, if God doesn't exist, that would mean that humans have a strong need to believe in something supernatural, something they can't prove, but have to take on faith. In evolutionary terms, believing in gods must have a strong survival value -- that's why all groups have a religion. The Egyptians worshiped the Pharohs; the Greeks built massive temples to the Greek gods; the Hindus have countless Hindu gods; 4,000 years ago the Jews wrote a book about one all powerful God; the Christians worship Jesus, the Muslims worship Allah. Before Columbus, the Aztecs sacrificed prisoners of war to the Aztec gods and the Incas sacrificed little childen to the Inca gods. The Jews were better, they only killed and grilled animals, which gave a "pleasing smell" to the Lord (see Genesis 7-9).
Third, if God doesn't exist, then there must be some powerful physical and mental process that makes people claim to have felt "the Spirit of the Lord" in them. The Mormons claim that if you pray, you'll know the truth. The Muslim terrorists are just as certain that they know another 'truth.' When they blow themselves up, they know that they will go to a heaven with beautiful women there waiting to serve them wine (which they are told they can't drink in this life). Therefore, there must be a feeling that humans get at certain times, often during stress (some Native American Indians had a stressful 'vision quest' to find their gods). Christians call these feelings the Holy Spirit. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Hindus, and Incas must also have felt that powerful feeling within them, too. And that feeling must be what makes people believe so strongly in their religion. A feeling so strong they are willing to kill others, and themselves, for it.
Fourth, if God doesn't exist, that means that all the books, claimed by the religious leaders as God's holy words, are nothing but fairy tales written by old men who wanted to prove they should rule over others. What better way to do that than say, "That's the way God said it should be, and I've written His words down in this book. See for yourself. Now, bring me your best bull, so I can cook it and offer it to the Lord." It worked for the Jewish priests, who got great roast beef, without having to work for it. And who are the leaders of the fundamentalist churches today? Men who gain power and wealth by claiming that they alone can interpret God's word correctly.
Religious NutsSome people claim they know the answers with certainty, and will try and convince you. Stay away from these nuts. They're probably a bit crazy and some are dangerous - think of the Muslim terrorists! Talking to them is like teaching a pig to sing - it wastes your time and annoys the pig. They don't use reason and logic. They have already made up their minds, and nothing you say will change it. Listening to them can be both fun and scary. What they say is ridiculous, but it's also scary because they really believe it. For example, how would you feel if a friend of yours told you she talked to rabbits and they talked back? You'd enjoy listening to her stories, but you'd know she was crazy.
They might be dangerous too, since they believe anything they do is part of God's plan, that means they will not obey human laws, because they are following a higher law - God's Law. Suicide bombers are like this. Killing unbelievers is part of God's plan, and they are doing the will of God. I wish I could put all the people in the world who believe they are following THE TRUTH together in one country - they'd probably end up killing each other.
Be Careful of Religious Cults. Here are some warning signs
If you believe what they say, you'll start giving them money. But they'll always want more. But here's an interesting fact: TV preachers make several $100,000 a year and don't have to pay any of it to the federal, state or local governments. How do I know this? Because these preachers have to file a 990 Form with the IRS (all charities exempt from taxes must do that), so you can see for yourself how much money they make and how they spend it. (See www.guidestar.org and www.charitynavigator.org)
Are We Better Off with God?People have believed in gods and an afterlife for a long time. These beliefs are older than modern humans (Homo Sapiens). The Neanderthals buried their dead and sprinkled flowers on their graves. So there must be some survival value of religion. (see Darwin's Cathedral in my bookcase).
But the world, and the humans in it, are worse off if there are different religious groups fighting each other. But suppose everyone believed in the same god. Would we be better off. The answer might be no. Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'"...there is never enough religion in the world to make people love one another -- just enough to make them hate one another."
Following the Reformation in the sixteenth century, Europe was the stage for many religious wars, most of them between Catholics and Protestants. But there's nothing special about Christianity. In fact, most of the major religions of the present and past(except Buddhism) have a history of enslaving, jailing, torturing or murdering non-believers. I've got a book on this Holy Horrors: An Illustrated History of Religious Murder and Madness but I don't remember what it says about the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans. However, humans haven't changed much, so I expect they behaved similarly.
You may have a revelation and feel deep down in your very soul that you know god exists and the Bible contains His words. The problem is that you are not alone. Other people feel the same about the Koran. Other people feel the same about their leaders - David Koresh, Pol Pot, Marx, Stalin, Mao, Hitler.
People believe so strongly that they will blow themselves up. Where is the survival value of such strong beliefs.
But what happens when two people know with 100% certainty that they are right and the other person is wrong? They'll kill each other, they'll even kill themselves think of suicide bombers.
And a belief in the afterlife, comforts people when loved ones die; it also helps people who are scared of dying, as most of us are.
What I believeWhat I believe
Rejection of Pascal's Wager
Your BeliefsHopefully, you will be comfortable with your belief (or unbelief) and not waste as much time searching for something that satisfies you.
First, you have to decide which belief is the correct one:
See this Wikipedia article for more information
- theism - the opinion that gods or deities exist
- polytheism - a belief in multiple gods or deities
- monotheism - a belief in only one god
- atheism - an absence of belief in any gods or deities
- deism - the belief that a god or gods exist, but do not interact with events at the scale of human beings
- agnosticism - the opinion that it is not possible to know whether gods or deities exist, or the opinion that one does not know.
UnitarianThe Unitarian Universalist Church affirm and promote Seven Principles:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Web Links about ReligionAncient and Medieval Religion
Chinese photo gallery
If after searching and reading, you feel that you have found answers or a set of beliefs that give you comfort, that's good. If your beliefs are different from mine, that's okay too. But if you ever feel that God is talking to you or you are 100% certain you are right, that's not good. In fact, that's dangerous. You have become the kind of person I warned you about earlier.
If you know you are right, then you will stop listening to reason and logic. Evidence against your views won't make any difference. You have closed your mind. People with closed minds are dangerous and have taken a step back into a primitive and more violent time
Here are a few books in my bookcase:
- The End of Faith by Sam Harris
- The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
- Holy Horrors
- When Religion Becomes Evil
- Buddhism Plain and Simple
Also, you can choose not to believe and become an atheist (if you are sure there is no god) or agnostic (if you aren't sure what to believe). Neither of those groups have a church.
If you want to search for the true religion, as I did, it's a search that could last you the rest of your life, because there are so many religions to choose from. Here are the major ones in order of their development:
The Afterlife - Heaven and HellThe Jewish, Christian, Muslim faiths believe in a place where a person's soul goes after they die - either heaven or hell - but the jewish belief in the afterlife is much less defined than Christian and Muslim. Hindus and Buddhists believe that the soul is reincarnated into another person or into an animal.
I don't have any evidence for an afterlife, and I don't believe anybody else has evidence for it either. Remember, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and this is one extra-ordinary claim. (In fact, it's a super-natural claim).
But why should a belief in an afterlife (some call it Karma) affect your behavior in this one? People who believe in an afterlife or reincarnation say that if you behave badly in this life, you'll be punished in the next. But will behaving badly in this life, make you happier than behaving good and treating people nicely? Isn't the most important thing about this life how you treat yourself and how you treat other people? Won't that get you further than stealing? Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others.
Now, I had a friend who once asked, "suppose you could cheat on your wife or steal and not get caught, wouldn't you be more likely to do it if you didn't believe in an afterlife?" I suppose, but lots of people believe in an afterlife and that doesn't stop them. They still do bad things because they feel that God will forgive them, or there are good reasons that will excuse their actions.
My Thoughts on the Afterlife
The Mainline Religions
Hindu - Baghavad Gita, Upanishads, and many others Taoist- Tao Te Ching (But first read The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet Buddhist- Pali Cannon and many others Jewish- The Torah (first 5 books of the Old Testament) and the Talmud Christian - The Bible (Old and New Testament) Muslim - The Koran Mormons - The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants
The Christian and Muslim faiths evolved (pun intended) from the Jewish faith and believe there is only one god. The Eastern religions have different sources and don't share a common belief. Hindu's believe there are many gods. Taoists and Buddists original beliefs correspond to a moral and ethical system with perhaps a belief in some type of higher power. But both have changed from their original writings. The Taoists are all but extinct. And one branch of Buddists worship Budda as a god.
Speaking of extinct religion.
Wikipedia's guide to different greek religions
- Roman Gods
- Greek Gods
- Egyptian - Book of the Dead
- Mayan - Popol Vul
- More Mayan
- Aztec Mythology
- Greek Religion
Evolving ReligionsThe earliest religions were animists, who personalized nature, trees, animals, sky, water. When civilizations grew, leaders became the gods. Egyptian Pharohs, but this idea lasted into the 1940s in Japan. Personalized human gods were common in Greece and Rome. In these beliefs gods and humans had children. Polytheism was largely replaced by Monotheism in Jewish culture a few thousand years before Christ. One supreme God has predominated since, but it has become more personalized. However, this is not true for Christianity but it happened in Buddism.
"The Buddha himself was made into a supernatural god, and ther were innumerable other Buddhas called bodhisattvas,saints who out of compassion delayed their entrance into nirvana in order to help those still on earth....The Mahayana school also developed details of a bodily heaven to which the faithful would go...while to match it, there was a gruesome hell." (Civilizations of the World, p. 152) The similarity to Christianity is obvious. Buddha became like Jesus, a personal god to help one into heaven. Bodhisattvas as saints to help particular groups of people. And a heaven and hell where the good and bad would go.
The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes by Dean H. Hamer Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society by David Sloan Wilson Don't forget to check out "Jonathon Livingston's Seagull."
Each religion has several branches. For example, under Christian, you can choose from: Catholic or Protestant. Under the Protrstant heading are: Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentacostal, Lutheran, EpiscopalianMormons, Jehovahs' Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist, Christian Science, Amish, Mennonite and many more! And each of these branches has subrabches. A dozen different Mormon offshoots. Under Buddhism there are two main branches, Under Jewish there are a half dozen, There are two main branches of buddhism.
CultsEven smaller than the branches are the cults, which are often created by one person, usually the one who leads the cult. Cults have few members and expect you to pledge loyalty to the leader, give your possessions to the church, cut off ties to non-believers, including your family, tell you that the end of the world is near, and ask you to dedicate your life to the cult.
Interestingly, all the major religions and many of the branches were started by one person or inspired by one person. In other words, they started off as cults. Jewish started by Abraham, Christian by Jesus (Each of the Christian branches had a leader that started thier own church), Islam by Muhamad, Taoist by Lao Tzu, Buddhist by Buddah, Hindu - this is the only religion of many gods and did not have a leader.
The most recent US cult to become a major branch is the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) in the 1800's. The Jehovah's Witessess in early 1900s still shares some cult like characteristics, even though their leader has died. Moon's unification church is becoming less cult-like. In fact, they publish the Washington Times newspaper here in D.C. I remember when the Moonies (disciples of the Unification church) stood in airports wearing white robes seeking donations and converts. The Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons still go door to door, seeking to teach others about their church and gain converts.
Scientology Hare Krishna Jim Jones
Comet Cult Heaven's Gate
Usually, probably 99% of the time, when the leader dies, the cult dies too. And often, even if the leader doesn't die, the cult self-destructs. One cult, whose name I forget, commited mass suicide whenthe Hale-Bopp comet appeared. In the 1970's a cult lead by Jim Jones moved to South America and ended with the mass suicide and murder of 981 members. In the 1990s, the Branch Davidians were burned to death when the building they were in collapsed as they tried to hold off a group of police and US marshalls in Waco, Texas. In Japan, the Aum Shinrikyo cult used poision gas in the Tokyo Subway, to bring about the end of the world, killing 14 and injuring dozens.
The BibleIt's a great work of historical fiction, but it's difficult to separate the history from the fiction. The two main books of the Bible are the Old Testament and the New Testament. And they couldn't be more different from each other, but even so, passages from either can be used to justify just about ANY action or behavior. In the U.S., slave owners used it to justify slavery.
But the real problem of the Bible isn't all the killing. The problem is people believing it's the word of God. When someone thinks it's the word of God, and also believes they have an eternal soul which God could condemn to Hell forever, they
It took me 39 years to realize that the story of God is more like the story of Santa Claus. Although a lot of people believe in Him, that doesn't mean He exists.
Summary of the Bible by an Atheist (very funny)
Biblical Contradictions 10 More Bible Contradictions and Factual Errors 101 Bible Contradictions Bizarre Bible Stories
However, the two biggest contradictions:
Thou Shalt Not Kill - that's pretty clear isn't it? Yet the Bible is full of Jews killing other groups because God told them to. Then the Jews take their land and make slaves of the orphaned children. Again, they claim God told them to. It's in the Bible. I guess it must be okay to kill someone if God orders you to, right? But how do you know someone is talking to God? What if someone pretends to talk to God so that he can kill who he wants and convince you to help him kill?
Also, isn't it strange that so many Christians believe in the death penalty.
7/8 of the people living in the world today are going to go to hell and burn forever. But if a mass murderer, who killed children, repents on his death bed and accepts Jesus, then he will go to heaven. However, a Jewish doctor who saved childrens' lives goes to Hell and suffers for eternity? Does that sound merciful? Does that sound fair?
God's love in action More tough questions for Christians God: an Abusive Parent God as Abuser: Similarities Between the Christian God and Abusive Spouses
The Skeptic's Annotated Bible EvilBible.com The Dark Bible
Who Wrote the Bible>
Creationism and Intelligent DesignThe Bible was not written to be a science book. In fact, science didn't exist when the Bible was written. All knowledge was contained in the bible and nothing could be added to it, and it was unchanging.
Why doesn't the bible talk about fossils, different types of humans, DNA. No mention is made of different humans Homoe erectus, neanderthals, the ice age. The creationists only argue about things in the bible. and don't ask why other recent discoveries of science, like antibiotics, Big Bang, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. Arent mentioned.
Responses to Jonathan Wells's Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher
If the story of Noah was true, why are almost all the marsupials in Australia, the lemurs in Madigascar, and the penguins at the South Pole?
All animals supposedly left the ark on Mt. Ararat after The Flood. But why did almost all the marsupials decide to walk on down to Australia? (Only the Opossum walked to North America). Why didn't they choose to stop anywhere else, like India, along the way there, or journey up into Europe?
Why did ALL the penguins decide to take the long waddle south instead of going north? Why did ALL the lemurs walk to Madigascar?
Also, if all the animals left from the ark, you'd expect to find the most animal diversity in one location (the location where the ark landed), like an epicenter of animal diversity. Obviously, this isn't what we see in nature.
See The Trials of the Monkey by Mathew Chapman and
Why Evolution is Proof for a God. Arguments against Creationism
The Silly Flood Story
Problems with Noah's Ark
History of the Collapse of Flood Geology
And for the other side: Creation Science Defense
Questions for Christians1. If God is omniscient, and therefore knew what Satan was going to do, why did God create Satan?
2. Did God make a mistake in creating Satan? If not, then didn't Satan do exactly what God created Satan to do?
3. (More general than #1 but also more damning): If God is omniscient, and therefore knew everything that would happen to anything he created, then isn't the way the world is right now exactly what God must have intended it to be?
4. If God doesn't want people to suffer, then why did he come up with the idea of eternal damnation?
5. If you go to Heaven and somebody you love goes to Hell, will you be happy?
More questions for Fundamentalists
What about the flood?
If God knows all and sees all, why did he destroy all the people living on the earth in the Flood, except for Noah and his family? Didn't he know what was going to happen? Why didn't he just start with Noah and his wife, instead of Adam and Eve? That way, he wouldn't have had to kill so many people.
At the end of the story, He made a rainbow and sounded regretful about what he'd done and promised never to do it again, even though he said humans hearts incline toward evil starting in childhood. (Genesis 8:21) Who's to blame for that? Why didn't God do a better job in designing humans?
I once asked, Darin Wolgemuth, a graduate student in economics with me at Iowa State, and a born-again Christian, about all the killing in the bible that was sanctioned by God. Specifically, I asked why should God be allowed to kill all the people in the flood? His answer? Because they were his creation, it was his right. But you don't have that right with your own children! - God made his own law.
How many did God Kill vs. Satan?
God made gravity. If you fall off a latter is it his fault? Terrible disease and deformity. God made the laws governing biology and DNA, but is he responsible for the consequences?
Why did you let your own son be killed?" Source: Absurd Doctrines, 3.
"How can sacrificing Jesus on behalf of the sinner atone for another's sin? This would be like killing my child to reconcile for the misbehavior of my neighbor's child. I have the capacity simply to forgive and forget without demanding compensation for small offenses. Why can't God do this? Does he simply want blood?"
What is the Moral Lesson to be learned here? Source: Tough Questions For Christians
Numbers 31:17-18 - Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
Psalms 137:9 - Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
Why Won't God Heal Amputees? Link
142 Questions for Christians Link
10 Questions to ask your pastor
Letter to Dr. Laura
The ABC's of the Bible Link
Cruelty and Violence in the Bible Link
Evolution and religion, good and evil, Extremism
If any religion, or any person, tells you they have the true religion and that they are the only way to get to heaven, run away as fast as you can. All religious violence results from extreme beliefs. If there is only one truth, and a group claims to have it, then they can also claim that when they kill others they are doing God's work.
Fundamentalists vs. ModeratesThe problem with religious fundamentalists, in all religions, is that they believe something written by men thousands of years ago, for a culture in another part of the world, now applies applies to everyone, in all cultures, all over the world. Documents that were seen then as advanced, forward-looking, and revolutionary are now regarded as backward, cruel, and intolerant.
Moderates believe that the 'revealed truth' in the Bible or Koran was for the people who lived at the time it was written, and not for people living in a different culture, thousands of years later. Therefore, they have to interpret the writings and decide which statements are 'eternal truths' and which only apply to that culture at that time.
Most Christian and Jewish sects are moderate. They don't interpret everything in the Bible as eternal truth. We no longer think it is appropriate for parent's to kill their children if they disobey them (lucky for you :-) See Exodus 21:17 and Deut. 21:18-21. Even fundamentalist Christians who believe Noah had a place in his ark for all the dinosaurs, don't kill their children.
But that's not true of fundamentalist Muslims. If their daughter is abused by another man, she is killed. In Saudi Arabia, women and men are killed with stones for sleeping together if they aren't married. Women aren't allowed to drive cars, and if a father is caught stealing food, his hand will be cut off.
In Europe, hundreds of years ago, different groups of Christians would kill each other if one group didn't agree with the beliefs of the more powerful group. The king was the leader of the church, disagree with the church or the king and you would be killed. What the Christian religion was like 600 years ago, is the way the Muslim religion is today in the many parts of the world. The fundamentalist Muslims believe it is wrong to distinguish between human law and God's law. A Muslim ruler must enforce God's law as it was written 1,400 years ago.
What are some of the laws from 1,400 years ago that are still applied today (December 2007)? If a Muslim decides to become a Christian or stop believing in God, he is to be killed. If you are a school teacher and your students give a teddy bear the name Muhammed, Islamic justice demands you be whipped 40 times. If you sit in a car with another man, you are to be whipped 200 times - which can kill you. And the fundamentalists interpret parts of the Koran to mean that suicide bombers are doing what Allah commanded.
www.rebuff.org 10 signs of a fundamentalist
Terrorists vs LeadersWhy do young men want to blow themselves up and kill other people? Notice that it's not the leaders of a fundamentalist religion that blow themselves up, although those old men will tell the young men that their sacrifice will earn them a place in Heaven. Why don't the old men want to go to Heaven, too?
Most young men have a drive, a need, that causes them to do things older, and wiser, men don't do - they want to feel powerful. They want to know that there lives are important. Some crave adventure; some want to be famous. Hence, the attraction of being a movie star or rock star. High school sports stars get a lot of attention, and the jocks get the girls. But if you're not smart, not athletic, not attractive and have no musical talent, what can you do? In rich countries, kids join clubs. In poor countries some join religious groups that make them feel important. In democratic countries, anyone can join a political group, or start a new one. In countries ruled by dictators, groups that want change are against the law, and members of those groups can be arrested, tortured and killed.
Group Survival & the Evolutionary Value of ReligionHave you ever wondered...
- Why the Mid-East is full of Muslims?
- Why India is full of Hindus?
- Why the U.S. is full of Christians?
- Why the Greeks worshiped Zeus?
The answer is that the beliefs you grow up with stongly determine what you believe. No religion is better than any another. What makes a religion (or a culture) good or bad is how it treats people who have different beliefs. Do they want to impose their beliefs on others? Do they want to rule over others? What will they do if they don't get what they want?
Maybe there's an evolutionary value to religion. Perhaps a group of people that believes in the same things, is more likely to survive than a group that doesn't share similar beliefs. Belonging to group can supply many with a feeling of importance. That's why people are attracted to sports stars, celebrities, sports team, high school and college athletics. That's why newspapers and TVs spend so much time discussing people rather than issues.
Is religion a way to control people, so you can rule over them? Until the Middle ages, all rulers were the highest ranking members of the church. In most civilizations, rulers were considered gods - egypt, and into 20th century Japan.
Maybe religion is a method smart lazy people use to get others to feed them. The Jewish prophets didn't do any work, but made all the laws and required offerings to God be cooked. Who do you think ate the offerings after they were cooked? Cain killed Abel because he was upset that Cain's grain offerings weren't as acceptable to God (hungry priests) as were offerings of meat. Cooked meat tastes better than baked bread.
Mostly it's used to justify killing people -- either the death penalty or killing the enemy during wars. In fact, the history in the Old Testament consists mostly of stories about Jewish kingdoms fighting other kingdoms, taking over their territory, killing all the men (and sometimes the women and children), and saying that God told them to.
You may have a revelation and feel deep down in your very soul that you know god exists and these are his words. The problem is that you are not alone. Other people feel the same about the Koran. Other people feel the same about their leaders - David Koresh, Pol Pot, Marx, Stalin, Mao, Hitler. People believe so strongly that they will blow themselves up. Where is the survival value of such strong beliefs?
So, why do people believe in Therefore, it seems such beliefs had survival value (see "Darwin's Cathedral" by David S. Wilson - it's in my bookcase) People sometimes get a super natural feeling, a message from god. just about everyone can get this feeling. Think of the "vision quest" used by native americans.
ComfortWhen I was in the hospital, I talked to about 6 patients who were being treated in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber with me. All of them thought that God had a plan for them. And them getting cancer was all part of God's plan. They didn't understand why, but they knew their suffering had a purpose. That must have been a comforting thought for them. Whatever happens, it's part of God's plan.
However, I think sometimes things happen for no reason. Children get cancer and die, some children are autistic, some have Downs Syndrome, sometimes people are killed in floods, hurricanes, or tornadoes, some are hit by lightening. They are accidents, tragedies, natural disasters, unfortunate incidents, and theirs no purpose for them.
My Reply to a Minister's Questions
God is Imaginary; 50 Proofs
Beliefnet Does the Bible contain contradictions or errors? Biblical inerrancy examined.