Why do people follow self-proclaimed god-men so blindly?
Life is unpredictable. People have lots of things to fear or worry about — Marks, Money, Family, Future of Kids, Good health etc. And people find it reassuring when they feel some higher power will look after them. They cling to that belief. Because that belief makes it seem predictable.
Life, which is random, brings about some chaos in life — Getting fired from job, diseases, low salary, kids not performing well in school etc. It’s hard to accept that these are random things that happens to you just because that’s how life is. But people want to know reasons, because mind will try to solve the problem, that’s how our brain is wired. To command control.
So, when someone who claims himself as an ‘expert’ tells them that these things are happening because of the unique position of the stars, or because god is testing you, or you are suffering it because of past life sins, and quote lines from religious books, people find it believable. For them, they have found the reason why these things are happening.
Insecurity. That’s the reason why people follow Babas or Sadhus or Godmen. That’s the same reason why people follow religion or pray to god. People can’t handle randomness and uncertainty in life. Especially when things are not going good.
And most people want to blame someone else or something for problems in their life. The stars/spirits/gods/demons. Punching bags. And they are given hope that once you do couple of pujas, or donate money, or do charity, these problems will get solved. They find solace in that. It is not rational. But that’s how human mind is.
Then there are people as they grow older they tend to not believe in things that haven’t been experienced or seen. But their mind will be at a conflict because they have been believing in God for so long. This is ego-dystonic. So find a believable alternative.
I can give you my perspective. When my uncle was young till his mid-30's he was a rationalist. He would not visit temples, nor participate in any festivals, forbid my family from any sort of religious ceremony or follow any Godmen. Mid life crisis hits him, struggles to sustain a family on a government teacher salary. He starts looking for anything which will help him attain peace and accept his position in life. He slowly started reading religious books to look for answers in his life. Since religious books are complex and not easy for a layman to figure the depth in it’s meaning, he looked up to people who can explain the books to him. He started attending Baba Ramdev lectures. He found peace in his lectures. After his retirement his only duty is following this rituals on a daily basis, lecturing young men and women about the beauty of a virtuous life.
People follow babas blindly because they want to believe in something or someone. Believing in something gives them happiness. People need purpose for their lives. People need someone authoritative to tell them that it’s going to be okay.
Also there is this bandwagon effect. Example: Your maid’s friend followed this baba and then coincidentally she started earning more. So your maid follows the easier route. Instead of working more she follows baba.
As an atheist, I guess it is okay if you follow a Guru. There are definitely people who are worth emulating and following. However, the issue here is not about a Guru, but fake gurus. And sadly many are fake.
I don’t think atheists ever say that people who believe in God are stupid. They themselves don’t believe that God exists.
However, to be frank, education makes a world of difference on whether you will fall prey to Godmen. In fact, it is the school education, the education you get up to 18 years of your life which will decide whether you’ll end up following any Godmen or not because a school is supposed to teach you these things. But then, education itself is a very fickle. Literacy rate in India stands at 74% today, however, a person who can read and write a sentence is said to be a literate. The higher skills — critical thinking, independence, morals are mostly gotten by virtue of family in most cases and hence such people end up gullible and having blind faith in Godmen eventually. We seriously need to start a culture encouraging of questioning our family & our elders.