On religion, Voltaire famously said: "There is no God, but don't tell my servant lest he murder me in the night."
Voltaire's implication was that his servant — along with countless others — believed that his conduct was monitored by an omnipotent, omnipresent Overseer, and that he'd best behave.
To Voltaire, the concept of God was a self-created myth, and his servant a willing consumer of it.
Of course, Voltaire could well be wrong, as many believe — but that's not to say that, either way, there shouldn't be guidelines for behaving well.
However, it doesn't quite explain why hordes of co-believers in a benevolent God have, for centuries, gone to great lengths to slaughter multitudes of other co-believers of a slightly different hue in an effort to prove the primacy of their particular loving God.
Humanity at large spends much time myth-making. It's not necessarily a bad thing ... the world can be a pretty confusing place.
All cultures knock up little narratives that help make sense of the place, and to generally oil society's wheels. If the Christians say that their God fashioned woman out of a bit of spare rib, and that he says not to covet your neighbour's ass, who's to argue?
But while the collective consciousness crackles with hundreds of different creation myths, it's probable not too many would stand up in a court of law.
No matter — it's the thought that counts. Just ask any 4-year-old who's desperately counting on the Tooth Fairy to swell her disposable income to the tune of a whole 50 cents (or is it five bucks these days?)
There's a TV series at the moment showcasing munificent British stately homes — great sprawling edifices chock full of plush furniture and sumptuous accessories.
Many were paid for, though, from gross profits wrung from West Indian sugar plantations made possible by the slave trade and all the truly obscene abominations against fellow humans that went with it. Yet the plantation owners lost little sleep because they subscribed to a myth that said a particular God had specifically created some humans to be beasts of burden, and that this was their rightful destiny. Hindus have their own version with the caste system. So the myth-making is pretty pervasive.
Take money. The paper it's printed on is intrinsically worthless, but that's immaterial as most "money" these days exists only as bank-manipulated electronic impulses.
However, our collective will agrees to give these pulses "value", so we've devised systems to maintain the charade. Yet a government devaluation can instantly strip that "value" at a press of a computer button, as if it never existed — and perhaps it never did; a truer currency might be that of actual living standards.
Another recent myth is that of the "market"; that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" instinctively guides all economic transactions to their most efficient conclusion. But the market's invisible hand often turns out to be Con the Fruiterer's dodgy mitt, accidentally getting left on the scales along with the bananas he's weighing.
There's something rotten when someone is working a full week and still having to rely on charity food parcels to survive in modest but rack-rent accommodation. For Aucklanders, a city-wide rent strike would serve as a wonderful laxative for bloated property prices and profiteers.
Yet another market also says it's inadmissible for teachers, nurses, cleaners, caregivers and other key personnel who keep society operating to keep tumbling down the relativity scale while executariat remuneration goes stratospheric.
The market of the mind says that, just as previous generations have provided basic infrastructure that underpins modern business, so it's judicious to tweak the levers to facilitate an inclusive society — be the levers capital gains taxes, stiffer stamp duties, anti-land banking or empty-house measures, or truly liveable wages.
Slave labourers breaking their backs and minds to provide bowls of sugar for the top table is as offensive now as it ever was.