Fear is a great motivational tool. Many rulers past and present use fear to keep the masses in line. That, and strategic restrictions or methods of oppression. Some religions, historically speaking, have done the same. Christian institutions have changed their tunes over the last hundred years or so in favor of positivity, but we can thank the Devil and fear of Hell for some of Christianity’s early success.
Cultures with similar religious backgrounds can also thank their versions of hell/devil for their massive followings.
The reason: there is no greater way to convince someone to join your group than threatening their lives and their souls.
Why do you think so many people blindly bow to their leaders? Fear of their wrath and/or the belief that without their god-like figure they’d be lost. Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, etc. all use fear and false promises of protection to coerce obedience. Dissenters are punished.
God is like this. The Old Testament is all about god’s wrath (people feared God before they feared the Devil). Now, god promises to protect you, so long as you follow some rules. But what is he protecting you from? Evils and disasters and threats that he created himself.
Josef Stalin knew this very well and used it as a means to control:
‘During those final days of the collapsing Marxist experiment in the Soviet Union, Soviet novelist Chingiz Aitmatov retold the following story, which has been paraphrased here.
On one occasion, so it was narrated, Stalin called for a live chicken and proceeded to use it to make an unforgettable point before some of his henchmen. Forcefully clutching the chicken in one hand, with the other he began to systematically pluck out its feathers. As the chicken struggled in vain to escape, he continued with the painful denuding until the bird was completely stripped. “Now you watch,” Stalin said as he placed the chicken on the floor and walked away with some bread crumbs in his hand. Incredibly, the fear-crazed chicken hobbled toward him and clung to the legs of his trousers. Stalin threw a handful of grain to the bird, and it began to follow him around the room, he turned to his dumbfounded colleagues and said quietly, “This is the way to rule the people. Did you see how that chicken followed me for food, even though I had caused it such torture? People are like that chicken. If you inflict inordinate pain on them they will follow you for food the rest of their lives.” ‘
Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, (https://bible.org/illustration/lesson-plucked-chickenWord Publ., Dallas: 1994), pp. 26-27
In the early days, God too ruled by fear. This changed over time as concepts of forgiveness and hell and the devil were introduced, and the church adopted a more ‘liberal’ ideology (hell was symbolic and wasn’t literally mentioned in early copies of the Bible but was adapted by later English versions: See Source A & Source B).
I’ve mentioned this in previous articles, but fear of damnation is the only thing keeping me from embracing full-blown skepticism. The indoctrination of those fears and promises of seeing happy places when I die convinced me of their validity. The messages—fear of god, devil, and man—are imprinted upon countless Americans when they are mere children. They are partly the reason why so many continue practicing faith throughout adulthood and why some“lost” souls join later in life.
With uncertainty and death on the horizon, people find comfort in religion when the lack of answers and fear of the unknown grip them.
It takes lots of convincing to undo decades of brainwashing.
Why thank the devil?
Because it is scary. Everything we’re taught about him/her is horrifying: Demons? Exorcisms? Lake of fire? Excruciating torture for your mistakes? Gnashing of teeth?
Yeah, no thanks!
And how does one avoid these things? Why, seek out the warm and comforting embrace of god and Jesus, of course! Otherwise, your fate is sealed in turmoil, wailing, and suffering for all eternity.
—No wonder people sign up.
Obviously, there are countless reasons for people to choose faith, hope being a powerful one of them, but when you’re feeling uncertain about the afterlife, or have committed many sins, or have heard of god’s wrath and his willingness to condemn you for even the slightest transgression, what sane person would say no?
So Christianity should give thanks to the invention of the devil because without it, it’d be a lot harder to persuade people to join the cause (outside the guarantee of a happy afterlife).
Before You Go!
What do you think? Modern Christianity provides hope but fear was used to build the institutions we know today. What made you believe in Christianity?
Please be sure to voice your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section or contact me directly!
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Synopsis: God vs. Devil, Good vs. Evil—Who Will Win the Battle for the Souls of Mankind?