Our need to personify beliefs

All realism, in the medieval sense, leads to anthropomorphism. Having attributed a real existence to an idea, the mind wants to see this idea alive, and can only effect this by personifying it. In this way allegory is born. It is not the same thing as symbolism. Symbolism expresses a mysterious connection between two ideas, allegory gives a visible form to the conception of such a connection. Symbolism is a very profound function of the mind, allegory is a superficial one. It aids symbolic thought to express itself, but endangers it at the same time by substituting a figure for a living idea. The force of the symbol is easily list in the allegory.

The Church, it is true, has always explicitly taught that sin is not a thing or an entity. But how could it have prevented the error, when everything concurred to insinuate it into men’s minds? The primitive instinct which sees sin as stuff which soils or corrupts, which one should, therefore, wash away, or destroy, was strengthened by the extreme systematizing of sins, by their figurative representation, and even by the penitentiary technique of the Church itself. In vain did Denis the Carthusian remind the people that it was but for the sake of comparison that he calls sin a fever, a cold and corrupted humour – popular thought undoubtedly lost sight of the restrictions of dogmatists.

-Erik Erikson quoting Huizinga, p.187, The Waning of the Middle Ages

I’d love to explore this stuff further at some point. I think Girard could be bought it in to assist with some mimetic theory. The benefit would be a combing through theology to make sure we aren’t falling into this psychological trap. Or, perhaps, from the other end, a combing through theology so as to make it more incarnation. As far as our need for anthropomorphism goes, God was definitely throwing us a bone when he sent Jesus Christ. Cool.