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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.
Women are attracted to male entertainers, especially men who are gifted with language, acting, or music. Acting is deception, e.g., a poor man pretends to be a king. Music, poetry, and storytelling (literature) induce emotional experiences in listeners, even if there’s no physical reason to feel an emotion. Theater, novels, and movies are “golden lies” in which we suspend our disbelief to experience emotions. E.g., seeing a rainbow after surviving a storm lifts our spirits. Talking about seeing a rainbow after a storm can invoke the same emotions. Emotions can be especially strong when we experience them in a group, which makes a community stronger.
For our ancestors, music, poetry, and feasting were experienced in religious contexts, along with rules for men and women about mating. Today men take women on dates where they pay talented men (chefs, actors, musicians) to entertain but not mate with the women, and increase the women’s interest in mating with their dates.
The “Arms Race” Between the Individual and the Community
If the “arms race” of our prehistoric ancestors was between men and women, in the religious era the “arms race” was between the individual and the community. Stealing bread was the most common crime of the pre-modern era, as readers of Les Misérables know. If your children are starving, should you steal bread and risk harsh punishment? Or should you trust that invisible beings will feed your children if you don’t steal? Should an individual consume alcohol or go fishing on the Sabbath? And which gods should you worship? These were life-or-death questions, but today seem like minor issues.