20 years ago this week 39 members of a religious cult committed mass suicide in order to transcend to the alien spaceship following the tail of the Comet Hale-Bopp. I remember hearing about this tragedy and wondering what kind of madness could take over a large group of people and convince them that this was not insane.
People need something to believe in. As humans we are blessed/cursed with the need to know why. The questions of why and how are the engines that keep humanity moving forward. If humans don’t indulge their natural curiosity, they die. Some people believe retirees die shortly after they retire because they believe they don’t have purpose once they stop working. People need a reason to believe.
Atheists may not believe in a God, but they have beliefs that keep their engines moving forward. For a person deeply rooted in their religion and sacred rites, they may not understand the more secular beliefs rooted in science and reason. The extremes of religious beliefs may not agree with each other, but they have a lot in common in regards of having something to believe.
In my opinion, I believe people steep themselves deeply into their belief system because of a personal trauma or tragedy. Christians call it a come-to-Jesus moment. I think once someone had hit rock bottom they need to find something to believe in so they don’t drift further away from life. Maybe that is why many recovery programs have a religious component. As a good shepherd, churches and religious leaders are poised to welcome all lost sheep into the fold. The welcoming sheep are there to say how Jesus (church) was there to save them. For this salvation, the saved members press their roots deeper into the soil of this manmade concept and curse anyone who does not believe like they believe.
Unfortunately, there are many predatory religious factions who lead the sheep to slaughter. It may not be as final as the Heavens Gate tragedy, but in many cases the collective brainwashing of a group of people looking for something to believe in could be just a different shade of the same color.
Keep your engine running with questions of why and how, but keep your eyes and ears open. Not everyone is a shepherd, but most are sheep. It’s normal to be a part of a flock, but it’s not normal to turn off your brain and let the shepherd lead you away from your natural instinct to learn, move forward, and survive. Be wise and always question the narrative whether your belief system is religion, science, and/or politics. If you stop asking questions, you may find yourself wearing the metaphorical uniform of madness that seduces you to drink the poisonous Kool-aid.