In all cultures throughout history we can spot two basic reasons why people believe in religion: the fear of hell and the desire for heaven.
According to most religions, God has ordered people to take appropriate action in order to attain to heaven after they die, or else they will be condemned to hell. The earth is only seen as a place where the sinners live, in order to learn the lessons necessary for allowing them to achieve a better place in the afterlife. If however they fail to do so, they will fall into the worst imaginable place, in hellfire.
Naturally, people being afraid of the possibility of their being placed in hell, desire for heaven, and for this very reason they follow the “word of God” claimed to be found in the dogmas of religion.
Fear of Hell
The main reason why people believe in religion is fear. Man is the most fearful animal. He fears many things – old age, disease, natural disasters, poverty – but most importantly, death. Indeed, man is a unique animal in that he can be aware of his own death. No animal can foresee its death, except man. The very fact that man knows he will eventually die to this life, causes tremendous amount of fear in him – fear of the unknown.
Priests became aware of this very early and tried to exploit it. How? Firstly, by propounding the idea of hell in the afterlife. By making people afraid of hell, priests were able to control people emotionally. That is the reason why priests continuously insist that we are born sinners: their purpose is to instil a deep fear of hell into us.
Secondly, priests offered a solution to the problem of hell. They created the idea of God, a judge who will either send you to heaven, or condemn you to hell, according to how you have lived your life. They asked that if you did certain things you need not be fearful of hell. In this way people were made to follow religious dogmas, afraid that if they don’t they might end up in experiencing eternal suffering.
Desire for Heaven
The earth is the only place where you have to prove to God that you are worthy of going to heaven. And who does not want happiness and eternal life? Noone. Once you are convinced that happiness cannot be found in this earthly, filled-with-sin life, you desire for happiness in the afterlife. Once you see death approaching nearer moment by moment, you desire eternal life. Hence, heaven is just the projection of human greed.
The desire for heaven then is the second reason why people believe in religion. The desire for heaven is what motivates people to think and act according to religious dogmas. It is what makes the so-called religious people ready to sacrifice this life – to live in pain, suffering and misery – in order to attain to a higher plane of existence in the afterlife, where they will be rewarded for all the sacrifices they have made. By sacrificing their life on earth, they are trying to prove to God that they are worthy of life in heaven. Not that they are doing so out of love for God or because they are humble. They are doing so only out of their desire for heaven.