Anyone who takes the time to study comparative religion will immediately notice a pattern amongst religions that rely on the belief in a deity outside of oneself. In my view there are two primary things that have driven and continue to drive the progress of religion; the fear of the unknown and ancient superstitions. Most rational atheists will readily acknowledge that you can't conclusively prove or disprove the existence of gods. But based on probabilities it is my opinion that the lack of objective evidence for the existence of God tips the scales towards a higher degree of probability that he/it does not exist.
For the purpose of this post I would like to put the three most popular religions of the world in perspective. But this assessment is relevant to all religious beliefs that require one to submit and worship a deity outside of oneself. It is my belief that the two words that best describe these religions are tradition and superstition.Before we go any further let's take a moment or two to define these two very important words.
a : a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation
b : an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition
2: a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary
This definition is taken from the Merriam Webster dictionary online and it points out several important aspects about religious beliefs that are relative to this post. The first one is ignorance which is basically defined as not having enough knowledge about a subject to comprehend it. It is my belief that it is this lack of comprehension about nature and the world we live in that led men to invent tales and even gods to explain those things they could not understand. Natural disasters were interpreted as the wrath of the gods and rituals of appeasement followed in order to placate the invented deities of our choice. It is because of this ignorance that fear was common; and finally, not knowing what caused certain phenomena led us to accept a "false conception of causation." The last part of this definition is evidenced even today by believers who insist on believing things for which they have no evidence despite the fact that the evidence itself is contradictory to what they have been led to believe.
Religious beliefs are perfect examples of superstitions.
The next word we need to look at is tradition. Let's take a look at what the dictionary definition of this most important word is.
a : an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)
b : a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable
The first word that requires our attention in this definition of tradition is established. This means that in the context of beliefs it has been accepted as true by a group or society. By being established it has been cemented in the mindset of the society that adheres to it. The word inherited means that it is passed on from person to person or generation to generation. The last part of the definition also makes and interesting point. These beliefs are "accepted as historical though not verifiable."
This is a perfect example of a tradition.
Based on the definitions we have looked at Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all fall under the categories of superstitions perpetuated by tradition. For the most part there is no evidence to support the existence of Yahweh, Allah, or even Christ. The biblical historical narrative has been mostly contradicted by archaeological research. One great book to read on this matter is 'The Bible Unearthed' by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman. Their approach to archaeology unlike "Christian archaeologists" is different in that they let the evidence speak for itself. Most books on biblical archaeology start with the conclusion that the bible is historically true and try to make the evidence conform to their presuppositions.
It seems to me that since most people here in the United States and some of the rest of the worlds inhabitants think that the bible is the word of God that it is the exception to the rule. But in all reality it is not. Something is not considered truth just because people choose to believe it to be true. The evidence in my view points to the biblical narrative being based entirely on oral "traditions" and a particular peoples superstitions about the world we live in and their lack of understanding of it. Even some of the early traditions have been borrowed from other cultures and peoples that the ancient Hebrews were exposed to.The bottom line is that there is no truth in superstitions.
Note: All word definitions are from the Merriam Webster dictionary online. As usual I have provided links to all references used here within the texts themselves.