in the modern era
So, why do people still choose to believe?
What is the attraction of a mystical view of existence that succeeds in blinding the believer to all the scientific facts which fail at every turn to support that belief. Why doesn't religion, in general, just die ... period? I think I now know the answer ...
It is this ...
Ok ... and just what does that mean? Well, considering scientifically generated philosophy as a bicycle ... one can then interpret the persistence of religion in the light of the general mechanisms of "mind". Because we are creatures of "forced induction" (my term), we require ... absolutely ... some sort of map of existence (a philosophy) in order to keep our minds from drowning in a sea of unrelated data. For, unless we make some sense of the data we collect, it is useless. We cannot use what we learn from observation unless it can be integrated into a plan for continued life as a thinking, self-directed being. It's what we do to survive. Therefore, without at least some primitive philosophy, we are as good as dead ... a state even primitive beings try heartily to avoid.
To be lost, even momentarily, is perhaps the mind's greatest horror. If we have some sort of comprehensive plan, which can stretch to accommodate any new data, we can proceed with confidence if not with efficacy. And, if you get some things right and some things wrong ... well ... that's much better than complete failure ... which is what you get with random actions based on no plan at all. The very next greatest horror is a mounting, external indication that one's comprehensive plan is ... incorrect. It is an indication that we are about to become "lost" (or, even dead).
Religion persists because ...
Just like with AOL ... for some people ... the training wheels never come off. Having accepted a primitive religion ... full of stolen, secular moral principles buried within a conglomeration of mystical events and fictitious characters ... some people (maybe most people) opt for a life without thought ... a life of obedience to artificial, meaningless rules wherein there is the safety found in never opening one's eyes.
Where others (the few) learn to ride (reason) and gain sufficient expertise to go it alone (a life of independence) ... the many just stay with what they were born into ... without any internal reflection whatsoever ... except ... a general angst against those who, by their independence, threaten that false security.
Religion should make a child "feel" temporarily secure ... while learning to navigate the dangerous waters of self-awareness. We lose religion and replace it with science, in small increments. Till, at long last, we are free to formulate our own personal philosophy of existence ... based upon what truths we ourselves discover during the course of our development. Whenever an independent mind accepts the word of another, uncritically, it suffers a sense of personal betrayal of the most basic principle ... that of autonomy. Personal autonomy is the greatest value of the adult individual. It is the embodiment of self. Without it, we are slaves ... or, just children suspended in trust of others. No adult wishes to go back to the unformed status of child.
This is why religion persists. If you get rid of one another will pop up to fulfill that basic need of security while still developing. In this limited sense, religion is actually OK philosophically ... though it would be best not to stress too much the mystical elements. The elements to convey are that "Someone is always watching over you and will protect you as long as you are a good boy ... say your prayers and go to bed" (recite from memory a catechism of moral propriety, i.e. practice from rote memory what you cannot presently understand). This satisfies the less complex mind ... a less detailed or integrated "map" for a lesser mind with less data to deal with. It can never satisfy the mind of a fully developed adult.
It can never satisfy the mind of man.