Crucifixion by Diego Velázquez (17th century). Public Domain

I told you a few times I do not want to talk about religion though I have to contradict myself because I’ll ponder religion a bit today together with a few concepts dancing around it.

“Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear” argues Sir Bertrand Russell in Why I Am Not A Christian, a lecture delivered on March 1927 and published on that same year.

“It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing — fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death […].”

Bertrand Russel, from book cover “The Quotable Bertrand Russell”. Fair Use

“In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it”.

“The real reason why people accept religion has anything to do with argumentation. They accept religion on emotional grounds.”


Interesting what Russell says about fear, a crucial factor, probably, in the birth of religion.

There are other aspects though. If it is because of fear that we create and accept a great almighty father that protects us, an ally, as Russell says, fear is also fear of hell, fear of divine punishment.

This is why we obey to catechism and to the clergy. We are not focusing here so much on the reasons why religion was born. We are rather focusing on power.

Gutenberg Bible. GNU Free Documentation License

I don’t believe it is by chance that the fear of God is one of the fundamental concepts the Old Testament reshapes in thousands and thousands of different ways. The fear of God is the true guide of every virtuous man, argues the Bible tirelessly.

An idea that wouldn’t be conceivable today, if it weren’t for the suspicion, a strong suspicion, that fear is still used nowadays in exactly the same way as it was in the past: to make us weak and obedient.


An American friend meant something similar when talking not of religion but of mass media.

“You look at newspapers and almost every headline is scary. Here, there, scary, scary ….”.

A tragic example is the way George W. Bush and the neocons have implacably exploited the horror produced by the atrocious attack to the Twin Towers.

Twin Towers attack. Public Domain

Italian version

12 thoughts on “Religion, Fear, Power

  1. “….that fear is still used nowadays in exactly the same way in order to make us weak and obedient.”

    Yes, it’s true that it just makes people weak and obedient…to depend on something..

    I think most of the people believe in some religions due to healing their soul with sorrow or fear. People need faith, or something to make them feel better inside. Sometimes, i used to hear some of my friends who are Christian…they used to talk to the god before sleep..or when they got problem, and they don’t know what to do, they will ask for help …from the god lol..the god will give a sign to them…. mm…After I heard this, it seemed a tale lol…


  2. @AutumnSnow

    Yes, AutumnSnow, when people feel weak they ask for God’s help. Not that it’s bad in itself, but, as you said, it makes us even weaker and dependant.

    And yes, you guys, now your scary scary scary plan’s out ah ah ah.

    And, as an example, since I’m replying 10 months later (what a snail), our Italian right-wing coalition has won the elections also because our people here are SCARED.


  3. “our Italian right-wing coalition has won the elections also because our people here are SCARED.”

    Why are people scared in your country?


  4. @AutumnSnow

    Hi AutumnSnow! 🙂
    I just got back today from the USA. Well, here in Italy people are scared about their future, about too many immigrants arriving, about the economy etc. In China people are experiencing a boom and things seem to change fast. Here things stagnate, not only as regards the economy …


    1. There could be an anti-liberty tendency growing. In Europe mass-media and power often go together and tend to limit democracy. French Sarkozy and our Berlusconi are an example, the former trying to control mass-media, the latter actually owning it, something unique in the West. With such control, fear has been utilized extensively: people feel menaced despite crime is diminishing.


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