Here's a theory: people love a good story.  ...And here are some extensions of that, each their own little theory:
  • People are most convinced about one point or another by the most compelling* story.
  • If a story is compelling enough, people believe it.
  • Our cultural past is kept alive primarily (and until recently, exclusively) through stories.
  • Story-telling is prone to exaggeration, to make the story more compelling.
  • Most information is best conveyed using stories, particularly analogy.
  • People store a majority of their information in the form of stories.  These may be the story of how they learned something, the story that made it significant for them, or--perhaps most commonly--analogy.
  • People tell stories to explain the things they do not otherwise understand.  These stories are subject to revision, of course.
  • Stories form the framework of human cognition.
Complete conjecture, based on this train of thought:

How many religions of the world began as bed-time stories?  Imagine, if you will, parents telling their children something Santa-Claus-like, meant to still an overactive mind.  But those stories ended up believed, and told to the next generation as truths.  And over time, more was added to these stories, through analogy, misinterpretation, confirmation bias, mass hallucination, or deliberate abuse of power, until a critical mass was reached and the story graduated to a belief system?

And a bonus question:

If pictures are worth a thousand words, what is an experience worth?

* I'm using an ambiguous word precisely because the criteria for what is "compelling" depends entirely on the prior experiences and disposition of the subject.  That's why no one story will convince everybody, ever.  : )

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