Reality works for most people most of the time and they cope with their problems using their internalized, tested and proven habits. Sometimes, however, the situations are so new or so overwhelming that ordinary coping mechanisms appear to be inadequate. It is at these times that people turn to extra-sensory alternatives in the hope that this alternate-reality-consciousness will give them the edge they need to get through their personal difficulties.
If individuals have their own special deity, like a rabbit’s foot, it is thought of as a harmless superstition. If they hold some apparently unworkable set of beliefs in common with a moderate size group of other people, it is thought of by most outsiders as a foolish cult. If the alien group has been around for centuries, and is very large, and furthermore has acquired some national militarily powerful state supporting the belief system, it is thought of as an enemy religion placed into the minds of other people by Satan incarnate. However, if the ideas are from a large group of people with whom we associate routinely and this group is one among many other similar groups, then the ideas are known to be directly from God and we have been blessed with a direct entry into the eternal truths. The proof of our election into God’s chosen ones is self-evident, because all the good people we know believe this same basic truth and those don’t are distant hate-filled people who are obviously wrong because they have been converted to evil thoughts by the various devils.
Humans are trapped in all kinds of self-imposed mental jails, but this seemingly foolish belief in non-existent beings makes more good sense than most if used wisely. From hearsay about primitive peoples it is said they behaved quite rationally most of the time, and did all they could to control their lives and their environment using rational cause-and-effect reasoning. However, there are many times when these primitive people and we seemingly more sophisticated humans are at the mercy of the natural forces. So far as we can tell, Mother Nature has no mercy whatsoever. So to hedge our bets in desperate situations, over which we know we have no further control, we can pretend that she is loving and kind and we make various bargains with her in hope that she will deign to favor our cause.
A person on a life raft in the middle of the ocean is an example of someone who has probably exhausted all reasonable options and has little that he can do to save himself. It becomes rational, in an effort to maintain some emotional alertness, to make suppositions and bargains to unseen entities, because this keeps one alert to unseen and unexpected events that one should be vigilant to identify. I would suggest that even in the most desperate circumstances a person can improve his chances of surviving by postulating the right kinds of non-existent beings to watch for, because the watching for them will help maximize our survival potential. In this very rare circumstance magical thinking is beneficial.
If all rational and reasonable courses of action have not been explored in an effort to solve this life-threatening problem, this kind of magical thinking creates serious problems which fold back upon themselves. It generates an increased potential for failure because it interferes with proper analysis of the basic situation and clouds proper observation and reasoning. If magical thinking is routinely used in everyday affairs, the mind soon becomes so corrupted with false hopes and alternate realities that even the simplest activities become complicated and the person’s life becomes non-functional.
Begging a fictional deity to intercede on a daily basis in ordinary affairs of life will so distort a person’s relationship with the world and with other people that it will make one’s life even shorter, nastier and more brutish.
Only plea for God’s help in desperate situations.