As human babies grow and develop language skills their parents give them substitutes for the breast and security blanket in the form of verbal explanations.
“Don’t be afraid of the thunder and lightning. They’re outside the house and can’t hurt you.”
“I’ll turn on the light and we will look under the bed and in the closet and you’ll see there’s no bogeyman there.”
Parents now can do that because they know about thunder and lightning and bogymen. But they didn’t always.
When humans first appeared on the earth they didn’t know what caused lightning and thunder. The parents didn’t know any more about it than did the children. They didn’t know why sometimes they could find fruit on a specific tree and sometimes there would be none. They didn’t know why there would be no rain for a long period of time so the rivers and lakes would dry up and the animals would leave. There were lots of things they didn’t know.
Not understanding about things that affect you is frightening. They imagined reasons for these things to happen. Since these things could not be caused by other humans it was a natural step to begin inventing supernatural powers that could control these things. The original beliefs of man were what we would now call animism.
Animism is a belief system that attributes supernatural power to animals, plants, inanimate objects and natural phenomena. These beliefs were held by the earliest men and many of them persist to the present time. These imagined powers were named in the language of the various peoples who believed in them. Whether they were called spirits or juju’s or totems or whatever, I’m just going to refer to them as gods.
The beliefs of the adults were passed to the children. As the children matured their belief was reinforced because all the other children in their society were told the same thing by their parents. If everyone in their tribe believed that the river God had the power to grant them or deny them fish in their traps they had no reason to doubt that it was a good idea to keep the river God happy.
So it is at the present time. As infants develop their language skills their knowledge and beliefs come to them from their parents. Much of it is storytelling. They are told that Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Jack and Jill went up the hill, and Santa Claus will bring you presents if you’re good all year because he’s keeping a book, checking it twice and he’s going to know who’s naughty and nice. They’re told that the tooth fairy will replace the tooth they leave under their pillow with a small amount of money.
As the children mature the fairy tales are discontinued so the children never develop a strong belief in Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill but they continue to hear about Santa from their friends, parents, and the society around them. Gradually as they become preteens they begin to understand that seeing a Santa in each department store, mall, and Christmas event means that Santa probably belongs in the same category as Humpty Dumpty. This understanding is reinforced by their friends coming to the same conclusion and discussing the situation.
But that’s not what happens with the stories they hear in whatever religious school their parents have sent them or at their weekly religious services with their parents. If they are told in school that Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai they will continue to believe this because their parents believe it and all the people in their congregation believe it. As they grow into adults they will continue to believe it because that fact is reinforced over and over again by the fact that their parents and their friends and their relatives and their co-religionists believe it. Not only that, the Bible says it's true and the Bible is the word of God. Its right there in the the book of Exodus.
Explaining to a believer that the book of Deuteronomy in the same Bible says that Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Horeb won’t shake their conviction. Did God forget which on which mountain the meeting took place? Try to explain to a believer that there is no mention in the historical records of Egypt of the 600,000 Israelite men and their families ‘s being enslaved and freed by Moses. That many men with their families would be a total of about 2.5 million people. Point out to someone who holds that belief that some of the best archaeologists in the world have tried to find any evidence of that Exodus or of that many people spending 40 years traveling from Egypt to Israel through. Even though the story and their route are well described in the Bible not a single pottery shard or bone was found anywhere.
It's difficult to shake the belief of someone who lives in a society in which all of the people around them believe the same thing.