Why do people still get sucked in by religion at least 150 years after they should know better? Because religious leaders have cleverly learned to exploit a few basic human needs by lying to people. The needs are the wish to believe that there is life after death, the desire that men have to dominate women, and the need to think that there is a meaningful pattern to life that the individual can control.
The third one is endlessly promoted by the mainstream media. There is an increasing trend to report events by referring to some person, ship, car, train, plane, as 'ill-fated' or 'doomed,' and on the other hand there is just as strong a tendency to report 'miraculous' escapes by individuals pulled from wreckage of various kinds. Politicians feed on the need when they call for prayers for those in danger, or thanksgiving services for survivors. After the recent category 5 cyclone in Australia in which no one was killed, the prime minister, John Howard, said that the lack of deaths was due to heavenly protection. And he was serious.
It leads to logical problems though as we saw in the West Virginia mine disaster -- one moment miraculous survival was the result of prayer, the next moment almost everyone had been lost. The media of course was directly complicit in this appalling sequence of events. As were the churches.
And this mish-mash of nonsense about the power of prayer and faith to alter physical events brings all kinds of logical conundrums. Fundamentalist religious families have sons or daughters killed in accidents? Evil liberals live to be 100? How could these contradictions happen?
People get nervous about the chaos of war, or storms, or terrorism, or industrial accidents. Politicians and religious leaders equally thrive on their ability to convince people that they are in control, missions can and will be accomplished, don't you worry we will take care of things for you as long as you vote for the right party or the right church. When things do go wrong in spite of the great leader in the sky or in the White House, then, hey, stuff happens, no one could have predicted that, or 'you didn't have enough faith'. It is a combination that has kept the gullible docile for hundreds of years. But you can break the spell with a simple sentence -- 'Life is random, get over it'.