In a new book, Alpha God: The Psychology of Religious Violence and Oppression, Hector A. Garcia explores the similarities between the ideas of God in the Abrahamic religions, and the mechanisms primate communities in general use to establish a social dominance hierarchy.


It should come as no surprise that these parallels are enough to fill a book.  One telling excerpt:

Foot kissing, a behavior observed widely in primatology, is another way submissive monkeys and apes demonstrate acquiescence to dominant members of their societies. This behavior carries forward to human societies that are highly rank structured, such as monarchies. For instance, kissing the king’s foot has always been synonymous with supplicant behavior — e.g., showing him extreme deference, begging for his mercy, or even recognizing that he represents God.

Christ — who is sometimes referred to as Christ the King — is also greeted with foot-kissing, as are his proxies. At the Basilica in Rome stands a large bronze statue of St. Paul, built in the fifth century. Though the statue has stood stalwart now for fifteen centuries its feet have been worn thin by the lips of pilgrims. There was even a custom in the Catholic Church of kissing the feet of the pope. The custom was actually made into law by Pope Gregory VII in his Dictatus Papae (Dictates of the Pope).

Many have observed what a stunning coincidence it is that the god people worship always seems to share their prejudices.  Well, it seems the similarities are more fundamental than that.  By declaring a conveniently invisible being the real apex of the hierarchy, the alphas of the pack can enjoy more of the benefits of being the alphas and at the same time, diffuse some of the responsibility for any unpopular rules.  Hey, it wasn’t my idea, {Elohim|Yahweh|Allah} said to do it.

Voltaire famously said, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”  Consider this as a conditional statement in Boolean logic,  A→B (read, “If A then B” or “A implies B”).  A statement like this can be true in one of two ways: if A is true and B is also true, then the whole statement is true.  Or if A is false, it does not matter what B is; the statement is still considered true.

The second case, where A is false, makes sense from a pure logic point of view but is unsatisfying from the point of view that it simply does not add much to our knowledge of the world.  Certainly not in comparison to the first case.

So the nonexistence of gods required the invention of same.  And the inspiration for the attributes of a god, one that was in any way useful to its inventors, came from the exact attributes that could make one ape higher in the pecking order than another.  Or as it has been put most succinctly, Man created God in his image.

via Friendly Atheist