"You scare me, Peter. Don't you scare yourself sometimes?"
Fear—a force that confines. The individual who fears the water is spared the risk of crocodilian ingestion, but she also forgoes access to the life partner on the far bank.
Fear is sourced through both acquired learning and instinct. A mother knows what risks lurk beneath the sands and amongst the intertwined roots of the mangroves during high tide. She has learned to fear the hide tide through experience—having barely escaped a crocodilian assault in her youth. The mother instructs her child not to enter the mangrove during high tide, and the child instinctively feels fear at the thought of insubordination toward his mother's instruction. He heeds her words, does not linger in the groves for high tide, and is afforded growth to maturity through avoiding the threat of tetrapod attack. He does not learn to fear high tide through a narrow escape as his mother had, he instinctively fears disobeying his mother—an evolved trait of primate and hominid social strictures.
According to developmental researchers, fear is the most elementary motivator in human moral development.
The four-year-old wants to color with a permanent marker on his sibling's arm. He scopes for adult attention, and, having observed an absence of adult awareness, he proceeds to mark up the exposed skin. Had an adult been watching, he would not have colored. Why? Adult presence translates into immediate punishment. His moral world is guided by fear—the fear of punishment.
Maturity of moral development is characterized by altruism. The altruistic does not allow fear of punishment to preclude right conduct. That is, even in the event that established norms of right and wrong, be they perceived divine or human, prohibit a specific behavior, the altruistic realizes that a higher good can be served through transgressing a norm when necessary.
The altruistic Jesus broke the Sabbath commandment, according to Matthew 12, when he permitted harvesting on the Sabbath. The altruistic driver runs a red light, despite fear of an accident or law enforcement personnel, because she knows the sick child in the back seat needs to get the emergency room.
Fear is a force that confines, albeit, for largely selfish reasons. It asks the question, "What can I do while yet shunning punishment (divine or human)?"
It prevents the fearful from partaking of the perceived forbidden.
I used to fear doubt. I used to fear the logical contradictions of my belief system. It scared me to realize that the Bible was refuted by basic science. I was afraid of accepting this conclusion for fear that it would propel me off of the precipice of impiety and punishment. Later I feared transgressing accepted norms. First, I feared eating unkosher chicken. Later, I feared eating unkosher beef. Still later, I feared eating pig. Yet, I have passed these thresholds.
I am not bound by fear. I do not fear wrath. I do not fear God. I do not fear demons or a nefarious numen behind every mishap. I am not afraid of reading the Quran. I am not afraid of questioning the existence of God. I am not afraid of myself. I am not afraid of the pig. I am not afraid of logic, science, the Bible, and any information available for my perusal.