One either loves reality for what it is and embraces it, or hates reality and embraces some religion.
A Secret Loathing
Reality is ruthless. Defy reality, and it will destroy you. Refuse to work, and you will starve. Refuse to learn, and the mistakes you make in your ignorance will kill you.
Reality is demanding. You must conform to the nature of reality all the time, because the moment you let up, it will strike you down. Stop paying attention, just for a few moments, while driving on the highway at 70 miles per hour. Don't bother paying your bills for a month. Forget your insulin injections for a day. Just forget where little Sarah is for a while at the Mall.
Reality seems cruel. Disease, death, disaster strike without regard to anyone's position or opinions. The world is full of destruction and misery, though most of it is created by other men. But all of nature seems cruel and the entire chain of life is one of death, killing, and being killed.
Reality is unforgiving. You've made a mistake, but the law forgives you, your parents and friends forgive you, you even manage to forgive yourself, but reality never forgives. It may be a forgivable mistake, but the dead animal cannot be made alive again, the pregnant girl cannot be made "unpregnant", you cannot cancel what you have done, ever! Have you been unfaithful once, then you will always have been unfaithful once. Did you steal something once, then you can never claim always to have been honest. You do something stupid and loose an arm, a leg, or put out your own or someone else's eye. You may never do another thing so foolish, and you may be forgiven by others, but you will never have the arm, leg, or eye, yours or another's, restored.
While it is true that reality is ruthless, demanding, and unforgiving, cruelty cannot really be attributed to reality, even though all the things listed as cruel are true in nature, the evaluation of them as cruel is a subjective judgment. This characterization of reality is only a partial view, the view of one whose knowledge is primarily irrational and superstitious.
It is this view, however, though seldom made explicit, that is the motivation for our mysterious factor, the cause of universal superstition. Mankind, generally, hates reality, just because mankind does view reality as ruthless, demanding, cruel, and unforgiving. What mankind wishes for is a reality that is pliable, easy-going, kind, and forgiving. At bottom, mankind hates reality, hates the necessity of having to work hard all the time, hates the necessity of having to learn so much, hates never being able to act on whim, or passion, or impulse without consequences, hates knowing they cannot do wrong and get away with it, hates knowing one cannot get something for nothing.
What mankind wants is exemption from consequences and a shortcut to success, wealth, happiness, or whatever else their current whims and fancies convince them they want. Reason does not show them how to have or achieve what they want the way they want it. Reason only enables them to understand the truth that describes reality as it is. They don't want truth, either. The truth just condemns them for their hatred of reality. They hate the truth, too.
Here, finally, is the secret, that unrevealed factor, the mystery of why almost all men prefer their superstitions to the truth.
At the heart of all superstitious beliefs, sometimes explicit, but always implicit, is the promise that there is something more than reality, something above reality, something which cancels the requirements of reality, a secret that enables those who know it to rise above mere reality, to defy it and get away with it. Superstition, which is never called superstition, is a magic wand that makes exist what in reality cannot exist, a metaphysical wild card that makes one automatically a winner, the universal "get-out-of-jail-free" card that allows one to escape the consequences of their choices and actions, the flying carpet that defies all of reality to give its owner a free ride to success and happiness.
Since reason is limited to discovering the truth of reality, the means to that, "knowledge," which the superstitious desire must be something other than reason, something like that "knowledge" itself, something "above" reason. The superstitious generally, readily admit their superstitious beliefs are not based on "mere" reason. They have knowledge which is, "above," that. Unless you are prepared to deal with someone very angry, it is never a good idea to press the superstitious to explain exactly how they came to their "knowledge which is above the truth."
Some people are skeptical about the extent to which humanity is infected with the deadly disease of superstition. If you are one of those who is skeptical, ask anyone you know, ask yourself, the following questions: Is there any other route to knowledge other then reason? Is it possible to have knowledge of anything without the use of reason? Is there any knowledge derived without the use of reason that is higher or superior in any way to knowledge derived exclusively by the process of reason?
"Yes," to any of the questions means they, or you, are at least partially superstitious. "Yes," to all three means one is a thoroughgoing mystic.