Monday, March 20, 2006

Very Superstitious...

I was thinking today (something I try not to do at work since it can get you into trouble...) about the difference between what makes a superstition just a superstition, and when it becomes religion.

I mean, besides doctrine and a building with a steeple.

I was watching Grey's Anatomy last night (great show, highly recommended to all!) and it focused a lot on weird things people feel they have to do when they have no control: like the surgeon who always has a favorite skull-cap for surgery, the other surgeon who closes her eyes and sighs almost prayer-like to the heavens before making the first cut, the patient who sees a flat tire as a sign that she shouldn't have left her house that morning...

Our culture tends to make lite of known superstitions: walking under a ladder, black cat crossing your path, the breaking of a mirror... Hell, we even made semi-horror movies out of them, like Friday the Thirteenth (all thirteen of them!) and Saturday the Fourteenth.

But if you write a book about it, establish some clear rules for what can and cannot be held as belief (as opposed to superstition), suddenly you have either a religion or a cult.

Now we all know a cult is simply a religion with less followers...

A religion is simply a cult that is part of mainstream society...

And superstition is even less than that.

I just read a story about a group of villagers in India that beheaded an entire family of five because they were thought to have cursed some people that worked at a tea garden. People here in America read this story and think, "What were they thinking? There's no such thing as cursing people and witchcraft!" (Okay, not all Americans, cause there are the Wiccans and such that have strong beliefs in witchcraft and such, and this post is not meant as a slight against them...), but still, the ludicrousness of something like that happening in America seems highly unlikely (unless you live high up in the Appalachian Mountains... but I digress).

But things like this do happen in America all the time, under the guise of "religion." Take ex-gay camps. They think through prayer and fasting and "healing," God will perform a "miracle" and make you un-gay. Or when someone is in the hospital, and their church group comes in and prays over them with "healing hands" that God *(if it is His will) will heal you.

Slight digression: Top Ten Ways You Know You Are a Christian Fundamentalist:

  1. You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of other gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of your god.
  2. You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from lower life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
  3. You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in three gods- the trinity.
  4. Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" --including women, children, and trees!
  5. You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that some spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
  6. You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (4.55 billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a couple of generations old.
  7. You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs --though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
  8. While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
  9. You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
  10. You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.
    --Author unknown



I think my "digression" makes most of the point itself, so I'll simply end with this: Christianity is nothing more than superstitions held by Jewish tribesmen from back in the day wandering the desert written down and changed by Europeans to sound more civil, given a face in Jesus, and sold as "Snake Oil" (I can't think of the real term... Sorry!) to cure your woes and give you something to believe in...

Not that I don't have faith... but one must ask oneself, where do you put your faith and why? And more than that, what is the point of putting my faith in ________?

And if you think it wrong to ask yourself these questions, you will have seven years bad luck! :D


P.S.-- I like the blue... I'm keeping it!

6 comments:

Ergo Sum said...

As I was reading the "digression" part, I thought you had written it.. and was happily surprised that you thought exactly the same way I did... but then to the end of it, I noticed "author unknown".

Oh well...even though you didn't come up with it yourself, I assuem you agree with all of it... just like I do. So there. Good.

I love Grey's Anatomy too.. I try to watch it every week.

There's a German quote that I blogged on my site that goes something like: The biggest superstition of all is the belief that religion is not a superstition.

Jason Hughes said...

Alas! I wish I could take the credit! But I loved it so much I had to include it... I just wish I knew the true author as I have found this list in my e-mail at least three times and on countless other websites...

Love that quote, BTW! :D

Have a good one, and thanks for stopping by!

Bill said...

I like the "Top Ten Ways You Know You Are a Christian Fundamentalist"

And luckily I don't fit any of them. To a large degree I am a very liberal Christian and more often criticised by fundamentalists than most athiests.

The biggest problem with Fundamentalists is that they reduce Christianity to superstition, and revise history to meet their beliefs.

Much in the same way you did in your summation of Christianity as ;
"Christianity is nothing more than superstitions held by Jewish tribesmen from back in the day wandering the desert written down and changed by Europeans to sound more civil, given a face in Jesus, and sold as "Snake Oil" (I can't think of the real term... Sorry!) to cure your woes and give you something to believe in.."

From a Historians point of view you would have to do a lot of defending to make this senario work. While there may be some defendable points it is just as blind to fact as the beliefs of most fundamentalists.

Jason Hughes said...

I will agree that, historically, there is more to christianity than the whole "wandering around the desert" thing... but generally at its root, this is Christianity... You could explain the whole desert wandering in view of their faith, the actual "history" is mostly word-of-mouth that happened to be written down by them at some point, as in most cultures. Most of Christianity's tenants are based on faith as it is, nothing really historically comes into play except the whole crucifiction and raising from the dead thing that Jesus supposedly did... everything else is simply moral lessons, tales, "history," and life lessons of Jews in the OT, and paul's, peter's, and a few other's takes on Jesus and the church after his "death" n the NT...

I do hope you realize that when I do bust on Christians, I mean the fundies for the most part. I have wonderful friendships with a lot of "New Age" Christians, and if they are offended by anything I've posted here, they haven't said so... :) I hope you are not either...

Bill said...

No offense I deal with "Godless atheists" all the time (sarcasm intended). It is amazing how some theists see the term Godless as pejorative.

Like you I have many atheist friends and a number of atheists that frequent my blog, so a contrary position to mine does not offend me.

The difference I see between superstition and religion is superstition is often trivial in nature where as to the religious the practice is not trivial.

Jason Hughes said...

I will agree that, historically, there is more to christianity than the whole "wandering around the desert" thing... but generally at its root, this is Christianity... You could explain the whole desert wandering in view of their faith, the actual "history" is mostly word-of-mouth that happened to be written down by them at some point, as in most cultures. Most of Christianity's tenants are based on faith as it is, nothing really historically comes into play except the whole crucifiction and raising from the dead thing that Jesus supposedly did... everything else is simply moral lessons, tales, "history," and life lessons of Jews in the OT, and paul's, peter's, and a few other's takes on Jesus and the church after his "death" n the NT...

I do hope you realize that when I do bust on Christians, I mean the fundies for the most part. I have wonderful friendships with a lot of "New Age" Christians, and if they are offended by anything I've posted here, they haven't said so... :) I hope you are not either...