Primarily to answer the questions of children.
Confused? You shouldn’t be.
Do you remember when as a child you asked questions that seemed simple and straightforward to you but were existential queries of the cosmos most brilliant scientists and philosophers have not been able to answer?
Where did we come from?
Where are we going?
Is there life after death?
These questions and many others are beyond the understanding of even those who claim to have every piece of knowledge in this world let alone small children. Now, think of the primitive people living 5000 years ago pondering over these questions just like us. It’s logical that they naturally and quite necessarily came up with a foolproof plan to answer every one of these questions in the simplest way possible. They gave the credit of creating man, nature, and the universe to an all-powerful being who could be the answer to these recurring questions generated by human curiosity.
God can do anything, create anyone (including himself), and no one can understand what he does or how he does it. Even if someone questions the logic of an entity like God, he can be pacified by saying he merely doesn’t understand God’s reasoning making God a self-proving phenomena. I won’t say it’s convenient, but it’s certainly somethingto take note of. The most depressing and scary thought for a human being is when he can’t understand anything; what we call ‘Fear of the Unknown’. To take care of this fear unknown and give people’s minds peace over something they have no control over, the primitive men invested their faith and time in an entity who could be the answer to their every logical or illogical query.
Think about it. Whenever something bad happens to us, we become agitated (or sad) and try to find the reason behind the event. Our parents or friends console us saying it’s the will of God and we can’t do anything about it. It’s the perfect answer for a problem like this because it is an elementary concept that some things are beyond our control, and we should not fret on something we can’t control. That’s why the idea of God was invented; so that people can accept the hard truth that sometimes losing control is the best thing that can happen to a person.
Of course, with time the unexplainable and unfathomable phenomena had to be solidified and manifested into idols, pictures or symbols to serve a dual purpose. Firstly as a constant reminder that there is someone above us in front of whom we are powerless. Secondly, idols and pictures are a means of understanding God; a concept which is inherently incomprehensible.
Let’s return to the question of that child. After you explain all the properties of God, what if the child asks where does God reside? Idols and symbols of the almighty are an answer to this question arising from another weakness of human psyche which is that we don’t believe in something that we can’t see, hear, or feel. Humans in their initial years test or rather ‘taste’ everything around them by holding and putting it in their mouth. This base instinct follows us throughout life making it a gauge on which measure some thing’s ‘reality’.
Unless we can touch and comprehend something using our five senses, it is challenging to grasp it. To take care of this weakness of human psyche, we show a man an idol or picture or symbol he can consider equivalent to the concept of God. It is better to give people tangible symbols they can hold, talk to, cry in front of, or even reject so that they don’t go crazy over trying to answer riddles that are not meant to be solved. Not all people are capable of understanding the deep need of having God, and this is why God exists. For the simple ones and the complex ones.