Believing the unbelievable

Excerpted from the essay/ebook:

“Believing the Unbelievable”

by Barbara G. Walker

Why are human beings so frequently prone to believing the unbelievable, trusting the improbable, being convinced by the very eccentricity of the impossible? As a species, we seem to want marvels and miracles more than facts. This might account for the almost assured success of nearly every would-be cult leader, no matter how bizarre his or her program may be. In fact, the wilder the better. The likes of Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Mary Baker Eddy, L. Ron Hubbard, and even the notorious Jim Jones readily attracted believers—as shown by such notable successes as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, and Scientology. Jones’s cult may have had a similar burgeoning if it had not unfortunately turned suicidal.

Religious assertions that would seem improbable even in the context of Grimm’s fairy tales are confidently put forth as believable, and routinely labeled miraculous. The Catholic Church actually has a set agenda for identifying what it calls “genuine” miracles, which all Catholics are called upon to believe without doubting.

Doubt, in fact, is often described as an evil, whereas unquestioning credulity is the virtue known as “faith.” Millions of literal Bible believers allow themselves to be convinced that a man can live for three days in the stomach of a whale, or that city walls can be knocked down by blowing a ram’s horn, or that all humanity incestuously descended from a single pair, or that representatives of every animal species were once crammed into a boat built by a single man, either by twos or by sevens, depending on which chapter of Genesis you read. Oddly enough, when the same or similar stories are found in writings older than the bible, they are simply regarded as myths, and not believable.

But those who insist on obedience to bible literalism must be consistent enough to insist on some rather drastic behaviors. For instance, they must kill all homosexuals, witches, adulterers, non-virginal brides, all people who work on Sunday, and any family member who doesn’t worship Yahweh. Jesus tells them that they may keep slaves, and even beat them (Luke 12). Jesus also tells them that a man wishing to be sure of getting into heaven must be not just circumcised but castrated; he must be made a eunuch “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” (Matthew 19).

Perhaps this particular promise comforted the thousands of castrati who sang the soprano parts in church choirs through the centuries, when the church ruled that female voices were too “impure” to be heard at mass.

However, by the fifth century the church had found Jesus’s view of castration to be something less than popular, and so quietly ignored it. The third-century church father Origen, who had also advocated it, was posthumously excommunicated and his writings consigned to obscurity. It has been a consistent church policy to ignore any of Jesus’s teachings that will not advance church welfare, such as the statement that it is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into heaven. Of course the church has flourished throughout the centuries precisely by promising blessed immortality to the rich.

Churches tell people what to believe. Saint Ignatius Loyola wrote: “We should always be disposed to believe that which appears white is really black, if the hierarchy of the Church so decides.” If the belief happens to conflict with scripture, it’s usually the text that gets sidelined, erased, or reinterpreted. Dubious attitudes toward church edicts are almost always regarded as wicked, due to devilish influence. To grant the doubters any credence at all is so devoutly feared by the devout that, throughout history, defenders of any faith have been notoriously prone to attack nonbelievers with wars, crusades, pogroms, rape, murder, pillage, torture and the stake.

The violence inspired by religion has exceeded all other forms of human violence. Indeed, every nation wishing to institute aggression against another nation has depended on religion to label the enemy an evil to be eradicated. Faith can always be trusted to inspire some humans to destroy large numbers of other humans.

The above essay is an excerpt of a longer article you can obtain by going to Barbara G. Walker’s Man Made God page at, as a free bonus!

Further Reading

Man Made God Review
The Jesus Myth


  1. Jabone III
    Totally an insightful brief on the crisis of belief without doubt or evidence. Just how hoodwinked humankind has been and will be unfortunately.

  2. Herd Instinct is Why We Are So Gullible
    For a study of techniques of cult brainwashing which is very easy to read yet very thorough, see, “Cults in Our Midst” by Margaret Thaler Singer. For a theory of how mash religious brainwashing develops historically, and is systematically exploited by the ruling powers, based on Singer plus Marx, see . It really boils down to herd instinct induced by the semi-trance techniques described by Singer.

  3. FREE Internet download on history of Christianity and religious beliefs: “Man’s Search For Spirituality” by E Christopher Reyes.
    A chronological presentation.

  4. Would one of you wise biblical scholars please enlighten me as to how the cannibalistic ritual of drinking the blood and eating the flesh of Jesus came about. I understand and read the scripture of the last supper, but somehow the choice of the ritual to honor the presence of the Christ being part of man seems a very strange,bizarre practice indeed. thank you

    1. The quick answer is that it’s an old ritual practiced for thousands of years. In the time closer to Jesus’s alleged era, the ritual had been practiced in particular concerning the Greek god Dionysus, who represented the grapevine and its fruits. The grapes were the flesh of the vine, while the blood is the grape juice and wine. Hence, Jesus is a remake of Bacchus, whose “blood” and “body” were passed around as wine and grapes, as well as bread and so on. The bread element of the Eucharist – a word meaning “good thanks” – is part of the same sort of sacred meal, representing the “fruits” of the nature and earth goddess Demeter, for example.

      It is only when these mythical deities are mistaken for “real people” that this ritual becomes grotesque. When these elements are understood as allegory giving thanks for our nutritious food and fine drink – wine being perceived as a superior medicine, among other things – the tradition is innocent enough and conveys a better aspect and more appreciative aspect of humanity.

  5. The foolishness contained in your writings show an almost adolescent understanding of the scriptures… embarrassing.

    1. To whom are you speaking? The author of this piece is a woman in her ’80s. All your PUERILE insults prove is that Christian fanatics will say anything to shore up their flimsy faith at all costs. Few things could be more foolish, adolescent and embarrassing than the blind belief in archaic and culturally bigoted fairytales that have caused tremendous grief on this planet.

  6. I’ve just chanced upon this site! and as I read I couldn’t help but wonder at the comments of “John” above who as I presume a fellow human, states Acharya S ( whom I know to be a most proficient human with extensive studies of all ancient and modern myths and religions) to have made foolish and almost adolescent understanding of the “scriptures” what is being said is “The Scriptures” are MAN made creations now THAT is what “John” must understand, there was never a supernatural god as any clear thinking human knows!

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