Ch1 L46: Beliefs – part XX (On religions and confidence)

  1. In the last post [1], I stated that if you have low self-esteem, the problems will look more terrifying which will induce more stress hormones, and if it passes the panic threshold, the brain will shut down the rational part [2] and use the default reaction either (fight or flight). However, running away isn’t normally an option for settlers so it would be either fight or freeze [3].
  2. Let’s think about confidence as money. If your parents give you enough money to buy whatever you want, you will hardly learn to work to make money; besides, whenever the ends don’t meet, you might borrow some from them.
  3. The economical relationship with friends is reciprocal. You can borrow money but you must pay off and it’s expected of you to lend them money when they’re in need. The bottom line is you can always mutually count on each other.
  4. Not only your friends’ help but also the solutions that they (or the society) offer you can be useful. In the 16th post [4], we discussed that we’d rather go for those solutions than create them by ourselves, because first of all, more people have verified them; secondly, we won’t take much responsibility if it goes wrong.
  5. The third reason that I should add here is forming your solution if it’s different or challenges the prescribed one, will depend on your confidence or the amount of social love or support you receive.
  6. If you read the biography of the great minds, most of them were apart from their family or society (or getting hurt by the system). That’s why they needed to rely on their thoughts and beliefs and they didn’t mind losing social support because they received a little. That’s why they could challenge the system. On the other hand, if they’d benefited from the system, they wouldn’t have tried to change it.
  7. Friedrich Nietzsche [5], one of the greatest philosophers of all time, who famously said that “God is dead” [6], was born and raised in a very religious family. His dad who was a man of God died of very painful brain disease [7]. It’s reported that he was screaming before dying which dramatically affected young Friedrich. He started to ask how God could torture one of his own best men. Ruminating the question led him to the conclusion that God either didn’t care or never existed.
  8. Imagine if the story would be different, Nietzsche’s dad had lived long and prosperous and made a lot of money; Nietzsche would’ve most probably used his intelligence to advocate God and Christianity.
  9. Therefore, those who rely on their solutions either have been raised in this way, or they weren’t supported by the system [8].
  10. Now let’s add God into the system. The first factor that we need to study is who would believe in God the most. Those who have more problems, need God the most.
  1. David Voas, in the talk above, says why the religion is fading away in the West. He brings up the economical factor that apart from some exceptions, a countries’ wealth is inversely proportional to its religiosity which makes sense. If you live in a system that most of your problems have been solved, you won’t need to have God in the system. If you look at the history of religions, the poor were the first believers [9].
  2. However, all our problems aren’t economical. We need to be emotionally healthy and functioning well. So, those who fall behind in an advanced society might even need God (or alcohol, drugs, TV, gambling, excessive posts on social networks, …)
  3. And we know that those things won’t solve our problems. They temporarily reduce our stress; meanwhile, if we don’t develop the right skills, we’ll inevitably make the same mistake. The belief in God, alleviates the stress you need to think about the problem [10]. For instance, if you fail in a relationship and think that was God’s will, then you’ll instantly feel comfortable and you most likely won’t give your best shot to diagnose the problem and find a solution. Then you might even think there’s a flaw in your nature or personality and you’d feel less confident to approach the problem.
  4. Now you can see the vicious circle. Next time, you’d make the same or another mistake and your confidence will plummet even more. Since you didn’t learn how to solve your problem, you’d feel more miserable and eventually you’d be lying on the ground, knocked out.
  1. Alain De Botton quotes Nietzsche in a talk on pessimism that he disliked alcohol and Christianity because they both brought instant comfort to people. So people wouldn’t think about their problems. If we don’t accept the stress caused by problems as the drive to fight them, we will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes.


[1] Link to the previous post

[2] We discussed this reaction and its evolutionary roots in several posts. In a nutshell, if you have to run away from a lion, your brain will send all the energy to the legs, and it shuts down the other energy-consuming organs mainly the brain and digestive system. Link

[3] The concept of land or country or fighting for them is one of the outcomes of sedentism. Because leaving all your belongings and starting from scratch sounds more terrifying than losing your life.

[4] Link to the 16th post

[5] Link

[6] Link to Thus Spoke Zarathustra

[7] Link to the post about Nietzsche’s dad and his death

[8] We can see that most great minds were introverts and they had a few or no friends. So, they could easily give up the minimal social love and support to pursue what they believed to be the truth.

[9] The rich knew how to handle their problems. However, politicians in different corners of the world found out how they could use the power of religion to make the majority more submissive and a group of people more aggressive to be used as their soldiers. As I said religion could bring people down on their knees.

[10] We discussed it in the 17th post that we need to feel some stress so the brain reacts to a problem. Link

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