Religion – all in the imagination?

In his bestselling book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Harari argues that almost everything we believe in is a fiction, and that humans alone among the animals have developed the capacity to believe in things that only exist in our imagination.  He includes in this all religions, political and legal institutions, and economic systems.  They only exist because sufficiently large numbers of us are happy to share the same beliefs at the same time.

 

When asked what advice he would give to people, Harari said he would encourage us to distinguish between fiction and reality, and that the best way to do this was through suffering.  Systems of belief and institutions can’t suffer, but people can.

 

If he’s right then surely Jesus was better placed than most to distinguish fiction from reality as he hung on the cross in unbearable pain.  Interesting then that with His last words Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit1.”  According to Harari Jesus’ suffering should have given him the clarity of thought to know that His life was about to end and that hopes of survival were just fiction.  But it didn’t and within days dozens were declaring belief in a risen Jesus – not because they imagined it was so, but because they had met Him.

 

1Luke 23:46

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