The Oldest Religious Idea
If I had to speculate and guess the oldest religious idea it would probably be:
Everything happens for a reason
Hand in hand with this belief is the fact that we are all human (duh!), but what that means in reality is that we are all finite and we all lack a context of the whole of reality and experience. Therefore, lacking a context of the whole and believing at the same time that “everything happens for a reason” often leads to suggestion that “something, out there” is responsible for events happening that are not understood.
In ancient Egyptian observation the sun goes “down” over there and comes back “up” over there; there must be a purpose… I know: the sun has to travel through the underworld; we better have a ceremony to help it! Why did that earthquake destroy that city? Why did this person prosper? Why did that person die? Why did they win the war and we lose?
It must have happened for a reason…
Of course, some articulations of this belief can become so deterministic as to be almost cruel and evil with its heartlessness. Sure, believing that everything happens for a reason is nice when things are coming up roses; I’m sure that there is a nice amount of existential smugness that warms someone in their bed at night because God had to give them lots of blessings because “they deserved it.”
But I’m fairly certain that when the human experience goes very poorly there is no such solace. Why me? Why are you doing this to me God? Why would God allow this to happen?
Why did the earthquake happen in Haiti? They deserved it! Thank you Pat Robertson.
Probably another factor that feeds the desire for everything to happen “for a reason” is a fear of randomness and chaos. To live is to die, and sometimes to die under painful and unfair circumstances. I think we all carry this angst to some degree. In some instances it is easier to suggest that “Everything” happens for some cosmic design than to face more random suggestions.