WHAT are you really afraid of?
The Roman philosopher Petronius concluded 2000 years ago that “fear created the gods”.
Petronius said fear of unknown powers, mysterious events, hunger and especially eventual death were natural horrors to man.
God was created, he said, to overcome the environmental and psychological obstacles over which man felt he had no control.
Science has managed to some extent to narrow the circle of unexplained phenomena. But fear still governs many lives.
There is much fear of random violence, nuclear war and road rage. And psychologists have coined a new word – AtmosFear – to describe the widely held belief the world’s supply of good food, water and air is about to run out.
Collectively, we are afraid of almost everything. Instead of natural harmony, we see disorder, chaos and extinction.
Social researcher Faith Popcorn, according to the Los Angeles Times, that companies should take advantage of social fears.
She advised airlines, for instance, to list the training and experience of their flight crews in transit lounges. Reassurance would lead to
greater sales, she said.
Religion has often not been the antidote to fear. Indeed, too many churches have consciously and unconsciously, verbally and non-verbally, taught fear of damnation, fear of nature (particularly our own), fear of our bodies, fear of others and fear of the world.
Religions built on fear must keep preaching their fears to survive. They do injustice to the mystery of faith.
Because of this many people believe that traditional Western religions are inadequate to adult spiritual needs.
It has driven many to seek solace in ridiculous pseudo-sciences. Nervously clutching crystals and consulting horoscopes, they slide back into superstition and, sadly, greater fear.
It is hard to learn wisdom when you lack a basic trust in a loving creator.
It should not be this way.
We learn to trust as children. But bad parenting, or bad experiences, can destroy the concept.
Then it is a matter of being healed to regain faith. This reconciliation ought to be a function of religion. It probably once was.
Pisteuin, the original Greek word most often used by Jesus in the New Testament to convey “faith”, also means “trust”.
He said faith, or trust, had the power to heal the sick; even to move mountains.
Augustine later understood faith as “intellectual assent”. Trust in one’s own existence, he said, was the basic meaning of faith.
The early Hebrews had a passion and reverence for the process of change. They believed the natural changes that embrace us all – including the birth to death process – should be embraced, not feared.
Death was seen, not as the natural consequence of Original Sin, but as the final expansive explosion of our being on the planet.
“We are of God and that is enough to know for us to live in peace,” is an old Jewish saying that sums up the philosophy.
Release from the fears is seen by most psychologists as the key to better relationships.
The great German writer Goethe saw the value of self-trust and other-trust.
He wrote: “If you treat a person as she appears to be, you make her worse than she is. But if you treat a person as if she already were what she potentially could be, you make her what she should be.”
The message is that trust, or faith, in the miracle of existence and the goodness of change can eradicate fears that have bound us.
As Albert Einstein wrote: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.
“He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.”