Step aside, Maslow.
Crispian Jago created a hierarchy of religious beliefs, from the most harmless at the bottom to the most harmful at the top. He argues you can’t make your way up the pyramid without hitting all the levels below first:
Before you can believe in something utterly ridiculous and hateful, you need to first believe in something seemingly slightly less ridiculous and hateful. The best way to believe in something slightly less ridiculous is firstly to make it a cultural norm, so we stop questioning it, and secondly to make sure you start believing in it before you are capable of fully comprehending the ridiculousness of the belief.
Is it even useful to analyze religious superstition this way? Absolutely:
While much thought and effort is directed at tackling those at the top of the pyramid, society seems equally keen to continue fuel the system from the bottom, ensuring that we have a constant fresh supply of enough receptive minds to climb to the top of the pyramid.
By the time people get to the top of the pyramid, they’re lost causes. Not everyone will get there, obviously, but the highest level wouldn’t exist without the others to support it. Which is why those of us who stopped climbing a long time ago have an obligation to help others walk away from it.
It’s easiest to convince those on the bottom levels. It becomes much harder, though, the longer they stay there and make their way up.