Gods of the temple
If we do not attempt the perilous journey into the infinite, fraught as it is with unknown dangers of which nightmares are made, we could well end up with a civilization devoted to the worship of the unknowable. And that would be of the utmost danger to each and every one of us, for it could spell the end of our culture as we know it, and even of the human race itself.
We can appreciate this better if we look at past civilizations which flourished on earth for a limited period and then decayed away. For example, the Sumerian, Egyptian and Aztec cultures all persisted for many centuries. They reached great heights in the arts and practical sciences, yet in none of them did the understanding of the world around them advance very far. For over two millennia the Sumerian civilization, for example, was the cradle of culture in the Middle East, and developed advanced legal and agricultural systems. Yet the complete dependence of the Sumerians on the Gods of the temple and of nature caused blinkers to be put over men's eyes. Their whole lives were guided by the signs and omens of the Gods. The security and tranquillity afforded by the advanced society of Sumeria was not sufficient to allow its inhabitants to develop sufficient control over the forces of nature to withstand the onslaughts of neighbouring, less developed, societies. While the Sumerians, worried if the omens of the Gods were propitious the uncaring barbarians, raped and pillaged their cities and destroyed their civilization.
A similar situation arose for the Aztecs. They had developed a correct calendar, a system of counting which included zero and high architectural and artistic skill. Theirs was an urbanized society, with the city of Tenochtillan containing over three hundred thousand people at the time of the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century. Yet their lives were also dominated by ritual and worship of their Gods. This undoubtedly had a highly debilitating effect on the culture. Despite a strongly militaristic society the Aztecs were finally dominated by a band of about five hundred armoured Spaniards led by Hernan Cortes. The Aztecs were to a certain extent destroyed by their own religion, since they initially accepted Cortes with open arms as their white God, Quetzalcoatl, making a prophesized return.