Recently, I was talking with a Muslim, who was explaining to me that the fact that he does not drink alcohol is due to his religion. Then we had the obligatory discussion about god and it was made clear to me that people believe in god because they expect to be rewarded in the afterlife.
I find this attitude strange. The man did have a firm belief that all the religions of the world shared this common attribute of punishment and reward in the afterlife. It is also true that most religions nowadays impose absurd restrictions upon their subjects, such as what they should eat and how. Sometimes they even govern the nature of their sexual relationships and even their education! This had not been true for all religions all the time. (There is repository of articles in the University of Oslo, that provides a lot of details)
I mentioned to the man that people in ancient Greece, although they had many gods, they did not believe that they would be rewarded after death. Rather, that they would forever afterwards dwell in Hades and lead the dreary, awful existence of the dead. Only Heroes would be able to go to Mount Olympus with the gods, and the Heroes were but few - they were the exception. He refused to believe that men could believe in gods without hope of reward. What was a god for in that case?
My argument is that although at those times the gods did not offer anything for after death (as everyone knew that after death you are, well, dead or in Hades, which is worse than just being dead for you are alone) - they also did not require anything from men, apart from sacrifices and prayer. Some particular worships actually included great feasts and partying as praise for the god. Hardly a bad way to perform your ceremonial duties. Also, gods were meant to be continuously interfering with everyday life. You please a god, he might return the favour. But then again, as gods were like men, he might not.
Indeed, men were made in the image of gods - all having in common the well-known moral deficiencies of our race. There was treachery and deceipt, theft and murder among them as was there among men. So, although there was the element of worship and respect,faith and trust did not usually exist in the relations of men and gods.
It still does not exist today. People might say that they trust this or that god, but who may believe them?
Who may believe that someone that does not even trust his fellow man would trust an entity that one is not even sure exists?