If a technologically advanced alien civilization were ever bored enough to add planet Earth to their list of tourist destinations, they would immediately notice one rather astonishing defining characteristic of the human race. No, not our eternally complacent ignorance, nor our general incapacity for coherent thought. Nor would our endless bickering and wars come as much of a surprise, because the fundamental laws of economics, which themselves derive from the basic laws of thermodynamics, apply everywhere throughout the cosmos. Everything is in permanent competition with everything else, and so it’s inevitable that violence is one consequence.
What would astonish our imaginary alien visitors is this: the overwhelming need our species has to invent gods.
Wherever the place and whatever the time, we humans have always invented gods and then fervently devoted ourselves to the febrile products of our limited imaginations. Whether we’re building ziggurats upon which to cut out the beating hearts of infants or promulgating a wide range of sexual neuroses supposedly favored by the stunted mashup god of Judeo-Christian-Islamic mythology, we humans never cease to yearn to abdicate all responsibility in favor of chanting whatever soundbites happen to be associated with whatever religion we desperately cling to.
Religions need not involve invisible magical pixies. As city-states agglomerated to form nations, the religion of nationalism swiftly took hold. Just as with every other religion, nationalism attracts those of an intellectually indolent disposition and gives them a crude dogma by means of which to imagine their lives have meaning and purpose. Various industrial-age religions have also emerged over the last couple of centuries, including Marxism/communism, free-marketism, and what we can term techno-optimism wherein true believers imagine that the solution to every problem is more and more technology. Thanks to populism, which is forever mindless and forever toxic, we are also seeing the unpleasant re-emergence of theo-fascism come to dominate political discourse in backward nations such as the USA, Poland, and of course Russia.
Whatever the religion happens to be, we humans rush to abdicate self-responsibility in favor of…