Leonardo may have been influenced by Socrates' remarks in 'Phaedo' that pleasure and pain "are like two bodies attached to the same head." Youthful Pleasure and elderly Pain are shown back to back. Pleasure holds a reed in his right hand and lets gold coins fall from his left. Pain drops caltrops (a device of iron spikes used to impede the progress of troops and horses) from his left hand and holds a branch with rose thorns in his right. The drawing is accompanied by a moralizing inscription: "If you choose pleasure, know that he has one behind him who will deal you tribulation and repentance." Obviously a warning to all those hedonists out there that misplaced pleasure is "evil."
I think human beings do gravitate to that which is pleasurable emotionally and psychologically as pleasure may enhance survival. So, we may be genetically predisposed to pleasure rather than pain. This does not mean that “pleasure and pain” are identified as the same thing in each individual, for obviously, there are human habits which I would not find pleasurable, but you may. Or as an oldish Australian rock chick once sang - "There's a fine line between pleasure and pain."
When discussing issues of such great importance such as "why do we believe what we believe?" - I do attempt a detached view, where my personal preferences, or desire for validation or gratification are kept at arm’s length in preference to trying to assess the "big picture." So, the big picture involves for me considering what are people’s needs? And do our needs predispose us to a willingness to believe all sorts of things without critical examination? (I come from the old school where critical analysis and examination was not considered a bad thing. Today, the word "critical" has taken on a negative meaning, as if it is "verboten" to question or scrutinize political, economic or religious beliefs.)
Obviously, I do think that our needs, both emotional and psychological influence our willingness to believe certain things in preference to others. What sort of “needs” would a sophisticated, intelligent, complex animal like a human being have? (Yes, I use that forbidden word, "animal," when describing human beings as well.) Our needs are essentially no different from the needs of other animals though our intelligence allows us a means to question not only our origins, but how those origins may impact upon our present needs. And perhaps how these needs, our emotional and psychological ones, are related to our origins.
If we consider, for a moment, that human beings ARE related to other animals through common descent, and that our most likely closest relatives involve the apes. (Apes are the members of the Hominoidea superfamily of primates, which includes humans.) - then we can investigate the social constructs of our ancestors in order to attempt to understand our own social constructs.
As I have mentioned previously, ape groups have a social construct which can involve the dynamic of an alpha-male. The head of the group and the one to whom the others defer. This type of hierarchy is common in many mammal groups, though it is not prescriptive. Social constructs in the form of hierarchies work in the animal kingdom at preserving the group and satisfying the needs of the group. And for the same reason they also work in social human constructs where the needs of the group will, under most circumstances, outweigh the needs of the individual.
So, the need for a leader is most proabably part of our genetic map and is expressed according to our individual geo-political and cultural influences. As many types of animals in the animal kingdom have a leader and a resultant hierarchy, so do humans. The difference may be in humans that we can be intellectually aware of this process, whereas it is proabably debatable as to whether other animals have consciousness of this process. So, humans as "pack animals" have probably a genetically expressed need for a leader and consequently an emotional and psychological one as well.
The "Ultimate Superhero" as a visual expression of human pleasure and pain.
The leader must exemplify the traits which human beings would find favourable. (What we may or may not find favourable is dependent upon many factors.) The creation of gods (or what I consider to be the human creation of gods), is part of this process to identify a supreme or absolute leader. The origins of the need for a leader can be examined in hero worship which remains a powerful part of our modern cultures. The hero, in legend, folklore and myth, embodies all those qualities, in which we, ourselves, may be lacking. He/she may also embody all those qualities and traits which we eventually proceed to idolize and iconize. The hero, whether of tale, or fable or reality, provides the focus for the continuation and preservation of the group. And is the model for further human behaviours.
So, there is a willingness to revere and create heros in the natural world. This has led to a willingness for the explanation of life, the universe and everything, to have a supernatural hero explanation. That is, the need for a supreme human-like leader who is responsible for everything and who can be trusted implicitly. (Regardless of whether such an anthropomorphic being exists or not.) Therefore, I consider that the origin of god concepts may lie in our intrinsic need to have an ultimate leader. This need for a hero attempts to satisfy our natural pleasure and pain responses. This need has led to the creation of thousands of gods throughout history which embody favourable human qualities. Hero worship - the need for a leader - thy name is god creation.
This social construct of the "ultimate leader" is so embedded in our cultural psychologies that for many of us, we need only think of the leader, and we illicit a pleasurable response. A very successful meme indeed. Even though I think it's basis is in our emotional and psychological needs and is entirely a human construct.