I often wonder what’s the attraction of a worldview that excludes God. The only thing I can think of is that it enable the opposite worldview, one that is entirely anthrocentric. The need to take center-stage, to literally coronate oneself, can completely overcome anyone.
When this narcissistic self-image is challenged, and how much greater can the challenge be than the demonstration of a force infinitely higher and more powerful than man be than the Revelation at Sinai, it can either acknowledge reality or it becomes desperate to reassert itself. Just a few weeks after the culmination of the ten plagues which overturned normal reality in Egypt, after the miracle at the sea where the very physical nature of water was transformed, every Jewish soul, including all of us who will ever live, witnessed the infusion of the Infinite into the finite. Not only did the mountain shake, but our senses were so transformed as to hear visions and see sounds! An entire people experienced in historical time and physical space the “voice of God”. After even a brief glimpse, reality was unavoidable.
Nonetheless, some egos are just too insistent. Rather than feeling secure in reality, they long to prevail even if they have to invent their own alternate reality in which to reign.
Some, perhaps many, people wanted to challenge what they just experienced. It did, remember, just compel a complete transformation in our understanding. Perhaps these people needed to question in order to verify for themselves that the world wasn’t as they’d previously understood it, but was, rather, totally different, and much more profound and mysterious, than they’d ever imagined. But there’s a world of difference between questioning and trying to destroy.
There were others, so invested in themselves and their presumed supremacy, who would just never let themselves be convinced. In order to “prove” their centrality, even becoming “god-makers”, they were willing to totally impoverish themselves–these were the people willing to hand over to Aaron the Cohen Godol all of their gold in order to create golden calf, a lesser “god” that is created by, rather than Creating, man.
It’s not only in such dramatic circumstances will people, counterintuitively, put their all to work for their own detriment. I think that if you dig deeply enough you’ll find that here, too, the underlying motivation is often the same narcissism. Our tradition frequently warns of worshipping false gods, really meaning self-worship, an unbalanced ego out of control. If you’re willing to “pay any price”, for what you want, perhaps that’s evidence of judgement impaired by egotism.