If you lived with someone who had done EVERYTHING, say a superstar father or mother – a famous author or adventurer or actress or athlete – how would you gain a sense of your own worth and value? How hard would it be to chart your own life course? To find and develop your own talents?
Would you live your whole life feeling inferior and lesser? Knowing that you could never do or be anything unique, that you would always live in the giant shadow of their spectacular accomplishments, that by comparison you were nothing and nobody, and always would be, would you give up even trying to write or act or adventure or compete?
If your father were a world-famous philosopher and and thinker, and you were made to believe over and over that your thoughts were juvenile and empty, that nothing you could think of on your entire best day could equal what went on in your father’s mind in one second, that all the amazing and profound and true thoughts about how to think and live and understand had already been thought, that you would be inevitably wrong in every new and different thing you tried to think, would you bother to try to think on your own? If you knew you could never match the power or understanding of this huge mind in your life, would you place any value AT ALL on your own inner voice?
It occurs to me that this is one of the hidden prices of religion.
Belief in an all-powerful supernatural superbeing might not have a definable effect on any one particular person, but as a statistical force, a steady pressure upon hundreds of generations of children and then the billions of adults they become – squeezing them down into that mindset of hopeless subservience, of creative and inventive futility – I simply can’t imagine it not having a blanket effect upon the people within it.
It would, without question, diminish and retard the progress of the entire civilization in which it took place.