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 people who existed 5000 years ago and would have pondered over the same questions just like us. It’s logical that they naturally and quite possibly 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 had the capacity of being 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 the ultimate reasoning making God a self-proving phenomena. I won’t say it’s convenient, but it’s certainly something to take note of. The most depressing and scary thought for a human being is not being able to understand something; what we call ‘Fear of the Unknown’. To take care of this fear of unknown and give people’s minds peace about something they have no control over, the ancient civilizations invested their faith and time in an entity who was the answer to their every logical and 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 by saying that it’s the will of God and we can’t do anything about it. It’s the perfect answer for a problem like that for it is an elementary concept that some things are beyond human control, and hence it is useless to fret over them. 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, and symbols to serve a dual purpose. Firstly as a constant reminder that there is someone in front of whom we all 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 can’t believe in anything 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 we measure something’s ‘reality’.
Unless we can touch and comprehend something using our five senses, it is challenging for us to grasp it. To take care of this weakness of human psyche, we show a man an idol a picture, or a 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.