When people criticize religion (in the different shapes of church, superstition, priests, traditions or dogmas), they accentuate what goes on in the minds of religious people. Their assumption is that faith is a mental process, something that has to do with thinking. As children most people already ask questions about the logic of faith. How is it possible that God is good and rules over everything, and yet allows so much suffering? Who has created God? Why is God a man? And so on.
The defenders of faith equally make a link between faith and human reason and conscience. God, they say, has created man in such a way that he is able to know God, which animals can’t. Man, they say, knows the difference between good and bad, has been given a free will, and is able to make moral choices, set up standards and values for behaviour. Humans, they say, have all kinds of sinful tendencies, just like animals, but can suppress or redirect them. They may do so with the help of God, a priest, family and friends, but in the end they are responsible for their own choices.
Especially the sex drive, which can cause a lot of harm, they say, has to be kept under control, by purposefully directing sexual energy to higher goals such as work and caring for family, social activity, sports, music, etcetera.
However, religion is not really a product of reason or conscious will. It is mainly based on fears that go back hundreds of thousands of years. At the individual level, an important emotion that lies at the heart of religion is attachment. The universal shortage of love during childhood is compensated for by an attachment figure created in fantasy. God is the father or mother who supplies unlimited attention. The believer loves God as a child does an ideal parental figure, who is always available, comforting, forgiving, uplifting.
Very importantly, religion is founded in sexual desire (lust). Particularly in the practices of faith, in rituals, church services, holy days with song and dance, music and art, in the scents, colours and images of religion, there is both expression and gratification of lust. Priests and nuns are continuously surrounded by an environment where the battle against lust creates its own peculiar stimuli. Cool, quiet spaces, decorations and sculptures, singing choir boys, female clothing, the perfume of incense, are all stimuli for sweet sinful thoughts and deeds of love. Pop singers, swinging their hips on MTV, may well have begun their careers during church service. The spiritual has its source in sexual desire. And that is perhaps one of the main underlying reasons why religion continues to appeal.