Four items appear below:

1 The Superstition Trap (#124)
2 Fact Not Superstition (#125)
3 Supernatural Spin on Scientific Content (#126)
4 Science, Quotes and Conduct (#127)



THE SUPERSTITION TRAP

Tony Lee

(Investigator 124, January)


I have sometimes facetiously remarked, if I can discover the true faith, I'll join ‘em. My non-believing friends just grin and see the absurdity of it. My ‘churchy' friends shake their heads and also see the absurdity of it but for different reasons.

They know their one and only faith is incontestable and absolute. Their indoctrination began as soon as they were able to comprehend the fanciful and carefully selected biblical stories read to them in storybook language as a child. Their conditioning was complete by the time they were seven or eight years old, the most impressionable years, we are told, that set the pattern of thinking for life.

In adulthood, they are ensnared in the superstition of religion from which few escape. We even hear of some academics in this twenty-first century who fly in the face of reason when they attempt to equate their faith with the immutable laws of the universe, for example, the Intelligent Design hypothesis. How can the nonsensical biblical miracles still be given credibility? They were the invention of man to give prominence to supernatural beliefs in the subjugation of primitive, superstitious peoples. Strange to say, miracles haven't occurred since biblical times and no-one has since succeeded in walking on water!

Not long ago, I received a leaflet in my letterbox that asked: Where are you going to spend Eternity? Its message inside was intended to literally ‘put the fear of God' in you. It went on to ask: If you were to die right now, do you know whether you would go to heaven or to hell for all Eternity? My friend, I am asking you the most important question of your entire life. Your answer will determine where you will spend Eternity ... unquote.

The concept of heaven and hell has been the most repugnant deception to emanate from the bible; its intention was, and still is, to ‘frighten the living daylights out of you' and get you back into their church under their dominance. What is their hidden agenda? Why should perfect strangers wish to save my soul?

But there is another aspect to consider. If you stop to really think about it and allow your imagination free rein, the very idea of Eternity in heaven from which there is no escape, is abhorrent. You would go insane! The way most believers envisage heaven is epitomised in Noel Coward's brilliant poem, Do I believe in God?
I look at the changing sea and sky,
And try to picture eternity.
I gaze at immensities of blue
And say to myself it can't be true
That somewhere up in that abstract sphere
Are all the people who once were here,
Attired in white and shapeless gowns,
Sitting on clouds like eiderdowns,
Plucking harps and twanging lutes
With cherubim in their birthday suits ...
Etc.

Prayer is merely superstition. The faithful place their trust in an invisible being to change an inevitable course of events while conveniently ignoring their day-to-day experience which tells them that life's occurrences are purely indiscriminate and circumstantial. Regardless of who we are, what we believe, young or old, compassionate or uncaring, law-abiding or lawless, the fortunes and misfortunes of life are completely arbitrary. Consider for a moment the recent tsunami in which over 200,000 men, women and children lost their lives! Couldn't their god, at least, have forewarned them?

The fear of questioning one's belief is superstition at its worst and the major stumbling block to freedom of thought. Friends have often admitted that although they lean toward agnosticism, they draw the line at atheism ‘just in case there is something up there. ‘Faith (read superstition) is a destructive force; it makes a mockery of logic and obstructs our ability to reason intelligently.

I learned this while studying industrial psychology as an adjunct to my engineering profession. The textbook defined the meaning of inductive/deductive thinking and subjective/objective thinking using the following example:

During the medieval period in England when superstition was at its height and the burning of those condemned as witches was commonplace, the sages of the time asked: How many fairies can dance on the point of a needle? They did not first question if fairies existed. They then concluded that since fairies do not take up any room, an infinite number can be accommodated. That settled the matter. It is so easy to conjure up an imaginary ‘something' and defy anyone to disprove it. And that's why there will always be agnostics.

I fell into the superstition trap when I was about eight years old. I was walking home with my sister and aunt, and the usual route was through a quiet back lane rather than the busy main road. I chose to take the main road against my aunt's wishes and she warned me that God would punish me if I disobeyed her. Sure enough, half way along I fell over and badly grazed my knee. I looked down at the pavement and saw nothing to cause my fall. It was God's punishment!

It is interesting to note what several eminent free thinkers had to say on the subject:
Rupert Owen - ‘Finding that no religion is based on fact and cannot therefore be true, I began to reflect on what must be the condition of mankind trained from infancy to believe in error.'
Mark Twain - ‘It's best to read the weather forecast before praying for rain. ‘
Ambrose Bierce - Faith, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
Albert Einstein - ‘I do not believe in the immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusive human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.'
Thomas Jefferson - ‘Question with boldness even the existence of God, because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than of blindfolded Fear.'
And this brings up the question, why is the subject of religion never raised at the innumerable spiritual meetings that are conducted by mediums in countless venues, who supposedly contact the dearly departed residing in heaven (but, note, never in that other place)? Who better to ask than those who have passed over whether Jesus is sitting on the right hand of God or, for that matter, if he is there at all. And was St. Peter there to meet them at the pearly gates?

More to the point for the people living on Earth, to which religion does God award full accreditation? - Christianity? Judaism? Islam? Hinduism? Buddhism? In our modest Adelaide street directory are listed fifty or more branches of the Christian church alone. In New York, there are literally hundreds, not to mention all the oddball sects and cults that are offshoots of the mainstream churches.

Alas, will I ever discover the true faith upon which to pin my superstitions?





FACT NOT SUPERSTITION

Anonymous

(Investigator 125, 2009 March)


RELIGION and SUPERSTITION SEPARATE


Dictionaries of superstitions exclude cults and religions, and dictionaries of religions exclude superstitions. Tony Lee (Investigator 124), however, wants to lump the two concepts together. This is an error similar to the error of racists who lump a lot of people under one label and pick out crimes of individuals and attribute the misdeeds to the entire group.

We need to keep religion and superstition separate, and only combine them in instances where a sect teaches what is generally known as a superstition.


MIRACLES AND SCIENCE

I investigate what Mr Lee calls "non sensical biblical miracles" the same way that I investigate other claims in the Bible — which is by examining whatever details are still testable today.

To investigate the "fire and brimstone" from the sky that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah — and the New Testament teaching that this foreshadowed the future destruction of today's world — I went to the science of astronomy. (#62) Starting about 1980, astronomy has shown that asteroids and comets are a threat to Earth. Governments now spend $billions to study the threat and ways of counteracting it.

Allan Brunt, meteorologist, gave a largely natural explanation of how Pharoah's army was drowned at the Red Sea during the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. (#14)

In #26 I examined the miracle of Jesus healing a blind man. (Mark 8:22-26) The testable detail here is that the man did not at first recognize what he was seeing and couldn't distinguish trees from men. To recognize what he was seeing required a second miracle. Until the 1930s physiologists believed people have an innate ability to recognize simple shapes — that recognition of what we see is an innate ability, not learned, and therefore doesn't take practice. Since the 1930s, however, surgery has restored sight to some people who were blind for decades. For them to recognize what their new eyesight was seeing usually required months of practice.  

In #58 and #59 I examined a further seven "miracles" and found explanations or details that are now scientifically confirmed.

If ten miracles correspond fully or partly to 20th century science, then we can infer inductively, or have faith, that:
1.    The as yet unconfirmed details occurred also;
2.    Corroboration of more miracles is only a matter of time.


OTHER BIBLICAL CONTENT


Aside from alleged "miracles" hundreds of other biblical claims have in the past century been corroborated. Often the Bible seemed wrong because science had not caught up — that is newer science had to refute previous science for the Bible to be found correct.

For example in 1923 science, by studying rattlesnakes, proved that snakes do not hear airborne sounds. L M Klauber in Rattlesnakes (1982) says, "…no rattler ever heard another's rattle." (p. 31) I first learned that snakes are deaf, in Year I in school — I still remember feeling astonished and sad for the snakes! The Bible, however, implies that snakes charmed by a snake-charmer hear the music. And so for sixty years, until improved research came, the Bible seemed wrong and then turned out correct. In the 1990s I got the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on "Cobra" revised. (# 94)


HEAVEN, HELL and SALVATION


That heaven and hell are, as Lee claims, "repugnant deceptions", is a baseless opinion. In these times when scientists speak of extra dimensions, parallel universes, electronic recording of human minds, and "beaming" matter to new locations almost nothing can be ruled out. Physicist Michio Kaku writes, "Never say never." (New Scientist, 5 April, 2008, p. 36)

As regards going "insane" in heaven, presumably from boredom, consider this:

If our three-dimensional Universe is so complex, rich and exciting that the work of millions of scientists over centuries barely explains it, then what's possible in higher dimensions? The Bible says: "Nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them." (Genesis 11:6) We cannot imagine the incredible future that began with Jesus. (I Corinthians 2:9) If we take Jude 25 literally we'll even praise God in past eternity "before all time" — time travel to the infinite past!


As regards "hell" being repugnant, I may write on "The Justification of Eternal Torment" another time. For now, note that the Bible emphasizes the mercy of God — (e.g. Psalm 103:8-14; 145:8; Matthew 5:7; Ephesians 2:4)

The sure way to salvation, according to the New Testament, is to accept Jesus and live accordingly. People ignorant of Jesus or who fail to make a direct decision will still "inherit the kingdom" if they:
1. Did a charitable act toward one of Christ's "brothers" (Mathew 25:31-46); or
2. Lived basic biblical ethics although not knowing the Bible. (Romans   2:14-16)
This does not mean that they earn their salvation since doctrine also states, "Jesus died that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:17) Without Jesus' mission on Earth people's good works would be inadequate, with Jesus their good works count.

With these merciful safety nets no one need go to where it's "repugnant" unless so deciding.

Regarding tsunamis and Lee's question "Couldn't their God have forewarned them?" the answer is, "Yes, God could have." For more detail on "theodicy" — reasons why God, if he exists, allows evil — see God, Tsunamis and Evil in #104.


WHICH RELIGION?

Finally Lee asks, "To which religion does God award full accreditation?" and says, "If I can discover the true faith, I'll join ‘em." Here it is:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27)





SUPERNATURAL SPIN ON SCIENTIFIC CONTENT

(Investigator 126, 2009 May)


Normally I don't respond to writers who haven't the intestinal fortitude to use their own name but will in this instance. I refer to Fact Not Superstition by Anonymous (#125).

Of course, some events in the Bible can be substantiated scientifically but to put a supernatural spin on it is sheer lunacy. Many of these biblical legends were taken from ancient allegorical Pagan myths such as the Babylonian flood and the god-men of old who preceded the illusory Jesus — all born of a virgin mother on the date of the winter solstice. As for Anonymous' advice on which is the correct religion, as Prof. Richard Dawkins might say — barking insane!

Anonymous would do well to read Brian de Kretser's article A brief history of Religion, in the same issue. He couldn't have summed it up better. Remove religion from its man-made heaven and hell concept and you eliminate superstition and its attendant misery.

Tony Lee

 



SCIENCE, QUOTES and CONDUCT

(Investigator 127, July 2009)


In accepting so quickly that the Bible in part has scientific substantiation Lee (#126, p. 4) shows more reasonableness than any atheist I've met.


Lee's claim that "biblical legends were taken from Pagan myths" I've answered before. We cannot rationally conclude that one film-producer, for example, has rehashed another movie from the observation that both films showed saloons, sheriffs and wagons. Even if both used names like Geronimo or Custer it would not prove copying. Lee needs to demonstrate straight out quotes from Pagan writings. It is by quotes, and direct reference to, that we know the New Testament is based on the Old, and that the Koran is largely derived from the Bible.

As regards the "supernatural" being "lunacy" — I've made a scientific case for the supernatural in #125 & #126. My past articles, furthermore, revealed hundreds of biblical points to be correct including some in which virtually the entire world, the whole human race was wrong.

With eternity at stake, and with every human deceived, and with even the biblical end of the world" scientifically probable — what or who should people trust?


Jesus did not settle every doctrinal dispute but emphasized caring actions as more important. Anyone can rationalize and declare himself right but to be a living example of New Testament ethics is different entirely. That's why I cited James 1:27 to answer which religion is right. (#125 p. 56) This is not "barking mad", but is just how things are. Peace with God and conduct reflecting this, are primary, choice of denomination secondary.

Anonymous

Atheists and skeptics versus Bible defenders on this website:

http://users.adam.com.au/bstett/

http://ed5015.tripod.com/