A “golden lie” is a false belief that induces co-operative behavior and fosters communities. “Golden lies” can also induce emotions, including fear, anger, empathy, and inspiration, when nothing in our physical environment is threatening or inspiring us. We choose to believe “golden lies” because we derive benefits from these false beliefs.
Religion is a “golden lie” that says that if you join a community, respect your elders, are not violent to other community members, respect other community members’ marriages and property, and (ironically) are honest to other community members, good things will happen to you. Conversely, if you don’t join the community, are violent or adulterous, steal property, and are dishonest, bad things will happen to you. Anyone can see the truth that some bad people are rewarded and bad things sometimes happen to good people. Religions create a “golden lie” that invisible beings punish and reward, usually in an imaginary afterlife.
Religions evolved. God evolved in the Old and New Testament, and is evolving today. Religions universally support marital fidelity. Men prefer to marry religious women, because they’re more likely to be sexually faithful. Women prefer to marry religious men, because they’re more likely to support their families. In many cultures men and women aren’t allowed to marry outside of religion. Some religions encourage large families, especially among the most religious members such as rabbis. Religious men and women have reproductive advantages over non-believers.
Religious leaders with new ideas, almost always, attract women as their most devoted followers. A recurring problem with new religions is that the founder’s polygyny (multiple wives) conflicts with the needs of his male followers. New religions typically fall apart or switch to monogamy in the second or third generation.
The definition of faith is, “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” The definition of lie is, “to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.” Faith is lying to one’s self and lying is lying to someone else. For example, when your children are hungry, believing that if you don’t steal your neighbor’s chicken an invisible being will feed your family is faith. Telling your hungry neighbor that invisible beings will punish him or her in an imaginary afterlife if he or she steals your chicken is a lie.