Yes, i do believe the social aspect of religion has a huge influence on its popularity.
Re "The common man acquires his faith...":
I'm not sure any of us are in a good position to say what is "common" in acquiring a god. I certainly see many counter examples to the fear theory in my own (bias sample) experience, and i recognize that might not reflect typical modern life. I also recognize typical modern life is hardly revealing of the whole spectrum of the human condition, and we do indeed live in interesting (and perhaps acutely fearful) times.
This is why i made my half-humorous remark up above. I think we really would need a "comprehensive theory of the attraction of religion" as Stewart above phrases it to come up with a worthy answer to this question.
Anything less is just me pitting my community's "common man" against your community's "common man"
Because they like fairy tales.
> Because they like fairy tales.
I covered that - shared fantasy. Thanks for agreeing :)
Just a couple of weeks ago, it hit me that there is very little difference between the way my kids behave when they play imagination games and the way people act around church. IMO, both come from the same human impulse - shared imagination play. Only problem is, most church folks have forgotten that they're playing.
I think this is very much the case. It only works if one can suspend disbelief indefinitely. Santa Clause is a great example. My six year old no longer believes in Santa Clause, but she continues to play along as if she did because it is fun. There is a sense of reward for doing so.
Church is very similar, the rewards are just different. The rewards for having faith are the sense of community and belonging, avoiding having to grapple with one's mortality, something to fall back one in order persevere over hardships and so on. These things are achievable without faith, but when one can't see a way forward without it, they are less likely to give it up.
It is very much a security blanket and a pacifier. I know many people that are now general theists because they had to dismiss all of the doctrinal crap in the face of evidence, but still hold onto that belief in a higher power. They even acknowledge that this isn't reasonable, but can't let go. They are simply in denial driven by an emotional desire to hold onto it.
Jason, I like your observation a lot. That last paragraph described me years ago. The only difference is that I had to take things to the logical conclusion. (I had already come to regard churches and religion as inherently destructive because of original sin and demonizing sex.)
Church is distinct from if not separate from religion. Both can, as you suggested give a feeling of community. This is obviously more so with a church, temple, mosque & etc. However, the individual being part of something bigger than oneself is important.
In my case I had a moment of epiphany when I realized that I was holding on to the idea of a nebulous god notion because I did not want to be alone. The answer of course had to be "holy s**t, believing makes absolutely zero difference as to whether or not I am alone". Literally in the next step I took I never felt so liberated in my life. So I went and had a beer with some friends.
When they leave their house they want to come back and find it the way they left it.
Here is an answer to your question coming from no less a person that the Lord Krishna himself!!
In his enormously popular scripture, the Bhagvad Geeta, he says that there are four types of devotees that come to me. One: A knowledgeble person who knows about god; two: a seeker who wants to understand god. three:a person desiring wealth and four: a deprived and neeedy person.