Religion takes this habit to another level, however, and teaches people to "believe" that the personifications we rely on to describe our hopes and fears are actual "beings;" beings from whom all of the characteristics we tend to associate with ideas of life and death, good and evil, necessarily emanate. This, then, is like thinking that winter actually comes from an "old man" or that "time" actually comes from a "father."
Or to put it in simpler terms, religion teaches us to believe that the most powerful being imaginable spends all of his time pining away over us, while his arch nemesis spends all of his time and energy hating us for it, and rather than spending his time frolicking around dimensions of time and space that we are barred from even understanding, he whiles away his time obsessively plotting our doom. And even though that arch nemesis knows he is destined to end up in a lake of fire for all eternity at the end of it all, he can no more bring himself to ask for forgiveness than the most merciful God imaginable can allow himself to forgive.
For previous generations, most of whom were raised to depend on both the legitimacy and the mutual exclusivity of these personifications we call "God" and "the devil," reducing the abstractions of "good" and "evil" to such personalities was a much simpler way of understanding the world. After all, religion was the only "continual learning program' that most people ever attended on any regular basis after high school. Sunday services universally used God and the devil, along with their eternal abodes of heaven and hell, as the exclusive paradigm for teaching generation after generation to understand everything and anything.
And as this binary paradigm, along with these personifications of good and evil, is continually used to describe a world where everything could necessarily be divided into simple categories of right and wrong, with good guys and bad guys, so we came to accept that our reason for always thinking in these terms was not because we had been classically conditioned since birth to do so, but because God vested us with an instinct for his universal natural law.
But there are at least FOUR problems with Christianity's claims about "natural law."
1. One is, how would we ever know the difference between whether there is such a thing as "universal natural law" or if we have just been conditioned since birth to believe in it?
2. An idea of universal natural law does not itself prove there is a natural law maker, any more than our sense of balance or sanity proves there is a God of balance or a Father Freud in the sky.
3. A morality based on "natural law" is a paradox, because it has inevitably always led humanity to defend that "universal natural law" by always aspiring to break it on grander and grander scales. And
4. Such an idea has often only ever blinded us from seeing how the belief that we are always the "good guys" prevents us from ever realizing or being able to admit when "we" are actually the "bad guys" as well.
Even today, we see the residue of this habit in the number of people who believe it is absolutely necessary to anchor our ideas about good and evil in "beliefs" about God and the devil, in part because religion convinces us that they are not only real, but that we must acknowledge them as such if we wish to have any hope that the former will save us from the latter.
Anyone who dared to think of such as ideas without the need to externalize them from humanity or the material world, or who dared to doubt the authenticity of claims about actual "cosmic powers (of) darkness" and "spiritual forces of evil," was feared to be in league with those very "forces of evil" by all those who did. And as a result, the mere act of thinking "outside" of such personifications could get a person killed by all those who were too afraid to do so.
Today, these personifications are the underlying cause of the growing conflict between our "beliefs" about the world, which has allowed us to interface with reality through the simple reassuring and easily understandable black and white dichotomies or good and evil, and our ability to understand complexity and abstraction in ways that are reflective of not just how complicated the world has become, but how there is no real mutual exclusivity between our ideas of "good" and "evil."
Put another way, technological advancement and connectivity, along with an explosion in information and scientific understanding, have allowed the human mind to evolve to a point where it no longer finds difficulty in understanding the abstractions that had always seemed to bedevil previous generations. In fact, human intelligence has evolved to the point that it requires a hyper-complexity of thought in order to interact and understand the hyper complex world we inhabit.
But while our notions of chaos math, quantum physics, and multiverses, have dramatically changed how we understand reality itself, increasing volatility in economics and politics have made us ever more insecure about our survival. And as a result of this rise in complexity and insecurity, more and more people rush to religion for the nostalgia of the oversimplified personifications of good and evil it offers. But as we see if we just look at our entertainment, simple good guy-bad guy dichotomies is no longer makes sense in even the characters portrayed in our movies, shows, and video games.
From New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano to wise cracking bad-guy superhero Deadpool, even kids today see the world as being a hybrid of villain heroes and heroic villains.
Religion, however, has built it's entire temple of ideas on the basis of people continuing to accept the mutually exclusive and oversimplified personifications of good and evil that it continues to rely on to describe the world. It wants everyone to accept that these ideas as actual "beings" that use all of us as their pawns in a cosmic battle to see who can win the most souls. Humanity, in this respect, is the sole object of concern to these spiritual forces, even if humanity itself is growing only ever more curious about things that have nothing to do with either one.
The result is that Religion is becoming a Shepard who's flock has increasingly embraced its curiosity in a hyper complex world. As people have become more interested in following "truth" over clinging to simple antiquated superstitious "beliefs,"in other words, religion is becoming increasing fanatical in it's delusions about the nature of good and evil. And as it insists it alone can determine God's definition of right from wrong, we are increasingly reminded of that line from Richard III"
"And thus I clothe my naked villainy. With old odd ends, stol'n forth of holy writ; And seem a saint, when most I play the devil."