Immediate or strictly contemporaneous religions (Scientology, say) seem absurd to us, even though the miracles they declare are no more intrinsically risible than those of Christianity, Islam or Hinduism. But this must be so, because religious belief works as memory, not as to-hand experience … or at least not as this latter for most people (ecstatics and schizophrenics excepted, I mean). As is the case with our memory, many details are omitted, and many contradictions and infelicities reworked into more-than-truly-contiguous narratives. Like memory, religion doesn’t always or even particularly intrude on everyday living—it requires a will-to-contemplation to evoke it, actually, although a properly functioning religion is bound to provide copious aides-memoires (liturgy, ceremony and so on) to help in this respect. Consulting family photographs, after all, has a liturgical aspect to it.
The memory-gravity of religion means that those portions of religious practice or thought that have a significant future component end up doing that strange thing of construing future apocalypse as memory … the odd past-oriented backwardness of St John’s revealed future, for instance.
The more I think about it, the more it strikes me that this is one of the things that science fiction has in common with religion.