Fear, Familiarity, Religion

We tend to be scared of that with which we are unfamiliar. Things and people that and who appear different from those with which and whom we are familiar pose a threat for one simples reason – they are unpredictable. We may understand past events tend to dictate future ones. This may be why our justice system tends to come down so harshly on repeat offenders. One incident may be symptomatic of unusual circumstances in the perpetrator’s life. Once a trespass has been repeated, we may come to see this behavior as approaching normality. The individual’s pattern of illegal activity may prove as an indicator of potential to engage in future illegal activity. But the unfamiliar is trickier. The unfamiliar puts us in a place of uncertainty. We tend to lose control when we do not fully understand our surroundings. We become less likely to predict outcomes. According to psychologist John Mayer, Ph.D’s. Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, an estimated 11 percent of people living in the United States are afraid of the dark. Perhaps our tendency to fear foreigners and our tendency to fear the dark are closely related. It is the unknown that inspires fear. When we see the world as a callous place, we may view anyone who does not belong to our tribe as an enemy or at the very least a rival. But when we see past our continents of familial origin, the ways in which we speak, the colors of our skin, we may recognize we are all far more similar than we are different.
Here would be a good place to address a giant contradiction in many religious perspectives. Fear of the unknown may drive us to religion as most of us have never been dead and religion tends to offer an answer to the ultimate question – “Where do we go?”. As being enables us to hold our current perspectives, the absence of being may be difficult to understand. But a shared answer to this question helps to build a tribe. This tribe provides a sense of safety. If this many people agree with me, how can I be wrong? This tribalism is often promoted by a joint sense of fear. Ironically, many of these religions’ sacred text teach love over fear. But fear continues to motivate us to divide. We pick and choose parts of the sacred text that we prefer, while ignoring the parts that may inspire us to step out in faith and treat others as our brothers and sisters.
Letting love motivate our actions can be a scary experience as is requires us to make ourselves vulnerable. But fear will close us off to enjoying all life has to give us. This life is a gift. Please don’t squander it being afraid.

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