What is the Difference Between Religion and Superstition?

There are lots of references to the superstitions of others in the Bible. Independent or nonBiblical sources confirm that period of time in that part of the world was rampant with superstition.

All around the nation of Israel where peoples who had a plethora of gods and goddesses, priests, magicians, sorcerers, astrologers and diviners. The myths were defended passionately by believers.

There were travelers passing through Jewish areas and some travelers among Jews. It would seem logical to conclude that if superstitions were common in that region of the world, and Jews had contact with superstitions people, Jews might also have been superstitious.

We in the modern era do not believe that a black cat passing in front of us, breaking a mirror or Friday the 13th will bring bad luck. We do not believe that a horse shoe will bring us good luck.

In the Bible there was a belief that if they built a tower they would be closer to God. Then, the Bible tells us God did not like people invading his home so he saw to it the Tower of Babble was never built.

The Bible also contains many other rules like not wearing clothes of mixed fabrics and not eating certain foods that seem like healthy choices today. Yet, it is thought it was the pagans and all religions in that area had superstitions but the Jews/Christians were spared.

Which belief is a superstition and which is religion is a topic best left to individual people.

Religion and Our Supply of Food.

There is not an immediate threat of running short of food. The future is not as secure.

The population of the world will eventually reach nine billion people. This will require an increase in food production of over 50%. Such an increase is not impossible, but many fortuitous events need to fall the right way for it to happen.

Currently, we waste a lot of water that could help to grow crops. We also waste minerals. Some transportation systems that are needed to move food from areas of high production to areas of low production are inefficient. A change in diets could help with the challenge as well.

Skeptics of pending hunger often cite earlier predictions of food shortages that were solved by increases in productivity.  They scoff at dire predictions today.  Among the skeptics are religious people who frown on birth control and abortions.

While we should all be skeptical of information we read, there are rational aspects to the relationship between food and population size. One is that there is some level of population that is too large for the earth to feed. We don’t know precisely what that is, but that it exists is self evident. There are those who claim we have already passed this population level.

In this topic of religion and the supply of food, religions need to act responsibly. Religious leaders should add a disclaimer to their condemnation of abortion and birth control.

It would say, “This condemnation applies only if population growth does not itself cause deaths.”

[A link discussion our supply of food is found in comments.]

Social and Economic Failings, Latin American Indigenous Catholic Church.

Pope Francis will swing through Latin America on his coming trip. In spite of several visits by other Popes in recent decades, the Catholic Church has lost ground there, especially among indigenous people. The Church’s problems are partly sociological and partly due to its economic model.

The economics of any church are such that it needs to be an all volunteer organization that meets in cheap facilities. Paying for professional clergy and a little used building is often an unsustainable economic model.

In the poor areas of Latin America there are fewer and fewer priests. Paying for a priest and a large beautiful building by local folks is impossible. Paying for them from Rome must not be easy either. Pentecostals with volunteer or low paid preachers meeting in small venues in local villages has made inroads.

The priests themselves are seldom indigenous to the area. The first Catholics came from Spain and forced conversions.  Then the church staffed with foreign priests who often spoke the local languages as a second language if at all . Pentecostal preachers are usually indigenous people.

A priest in Latin America said Pentecostalism is not the actual faith of local indigenous people. It is, he said, something they are temporary infatuated with.

I can’t say know the minds of indigenous people in Latin America. Since the Christian faith was forced upon them at the point of a gun, it is not surprising they are drifting toward something that better fits their pocketbooks and culture.

[A link to an article discussing this further in in comments.]

A Most Interesting Twist in Today’s Politics and Religion.

We’ve all heard the world-wide coverage of the Pope’s Encyclical. He made the Church’s case against global warming and poverty.

U. S. Bishops are now conducting a press blitz promoting the Pope’s liberal views and drawing attention to the message he will bring during his visit. This is an intriguing new development.

It appears he is intending to be even more aggressive in pushing his views on poverty and the environment than he has been. Catholic politicians who were enamored with the previous Pope are up against not only this Pope but the small army of Bishops whom he has ordered into battle.

We had a guest visiting us this week who has read the entire 85 page encyclical. He thinks the Pope laid the ground work for a change in the Church’s position of birth control. Population control is almost the same topic as poverty and pollution.

It is easy to see how an on-the-ground-clergy like the Pope could see the link between birth control and reducing poverty. If he personally visited with say 100 poor mothers a week and observed a difference in hope between those with lots of children and those with few, it might affect his thinking.

The chairs are in place for some wonderful political theater. The Pope will no doubt toss the world press some unscripted remarks that will make waves of political change.

My prediction is Catholic politicians will try to side step dealing with poverty and the environment. Instead, they will stay with the old anti-gay-marriage buffoonery.

[A link discussing the press conference held by some Bishops is linked in discussion.]

 

 

The Worst Idea in Christianity.

This bad idea is part of Judaism as well. In fact, it a part of nearly all religions.

It’s an idea spread for self serving reasons by people who benefit. Religion would be well served to abandon it.

The bad idea is that there is an ancient book was written by or influenced by some god. Many millions of people believe this. Not one has a spec of evidence it is true.

Today we are experiencing why this idea is so harmful. There are several million people in the U. S. who believe the book written by their god condemn homosexual plus a long list of other things. Considerable dispute remains as to whether the Bible does condemn homosexuality. But, it would not be all that important one way or another if we could all just face the fact the Bible is unclear and was written by humans for humans at that ancient time.

The world would be a better place if we would set aside the bad idea that ancient religion tomes we written by any of the many gods. If this idea were abandoned, people would be separated into the same camps, those who believe one of the gods exists and those who believe none of the gods exist. Then representatives from both sides could compare real time evidence and see where the argument takes them.

We would all understand each other better if neither side used a book that has no evidence of any god.

How Religious Conservatives Can Start Winning Again.

Somewhere along the line, religious conservatives got off the track. They began doing business with what is called “main street” or “Wall Street”.  Being politically naïve, these religious operative fell under the charming wiles of business suitors.

As time went on, the business world began to see that being anti gay was not good for them. They wanted to sell products to gay people. They found talented gay employees they wanted to keep them. I would guess that more and more of them came to have gay friends and children in their personal lives and that complimented their business instincts.

The point is that while it served business interests for a while to pander to religious conservatives, anti gay politics was not indigenous to business like it was to the religious people. All the while there was another much friendlier  group nearby whose ends fit those of religious conservatives to a “T”.

These were, and remain, liberals who like more government. Religious conservatives want government laws that put in place religious beliefs. Without more government they cannot accomplish this goal. More government is indigenous to both religious conservatives and political liberals.

Years ago I first heard the term “religious liberty” and looked up literature about it.  Early on, it was political liberals who supported religious liberty because to them it meant tolerance of many religions. This is the group conservatives should start working with today instead of Wall Street anti government political operatives.

Children who get into trouble often start by hanging out with bad friends. That’s what happened to conservative Christians.

World War II’s “Greatest Generation” Gave Us Gay Marriage.

Every article by a conservative Christian makes the assumption gay marriage grew out of a trend toward self centeredness. In fact, gay marriage came from what Tom Brokaw called “The (selfless) Greatest Generation”.

Self centeredness cannot be measured across a society nor across time. The Bible preaches the virtues of self centeredness, harming neighbors you don’t like, having several wives and assuring for yourself the pleasures of heaven.

Today a Christian writer pitched a theory that self centeredness was the product of self sacrifice leading up to the end of World War II. The end of that war led to relief, pleasure seeking and, ultimately, to approval of gay marriage today. The implication is gay marriage is more self centered than straight marriage.

World War II played a big role in equality for gays, but it had nothing to do with self centeredness. It was instead simply the beginning of community among gays which led, like many communities with common interests, to political success.

Using a rough estimate of the male population being five percent gay, the ten million man military of WWII would have had 500,000 gay men living in close proximity to each other. After this mass outing of gay men, few wanted to return to their rural communities. Those from the Pacific got off ships in San Francisco and simply stayed there.

A gay society formed in San Francisco’s Castro Street and its growth into a political force led, almost 70 years later, to approval of gay marriage.

[An article expressing another view of this is linked in comments.]

Conservative Christians Could Learn From the Jews.

One theme of far right Christian writers before and since the Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage and federal health care is that they are now “outsiders” instead of “insiders”. The solution to this new uncomfortable status, writers say, is for conservatives do what they have always done on until public sees the light.

There is a U. S. experience of a religious minority living among a majority that disliked them. That is the Jews. So, if Christian conservatives want to learn how to thrive as outsiders, they should look at the Jews’ experience.

A common explanation of how Jews succeeded in the U. S. was that they learned to understand the alien culture in which they were living. Without changing their own beliefs they exploited their position inside this “foreign” culture. They found niches in the commercial world whereever they lived, started businesses and were mostly more successful than those of the cultural majority.

I think the older generation of conservative Christians does not understand the new “foreign” culture and has no interest in learning about it. The majority in this “foreign” culture is preoccupied with equal opportunity, not conservatives’ grievances.

If conservatives had embraced equal opportunity from day one, I believe they could have avoided court decisions requiring both acceptance of gay marriage and national health care. They could have aggressive found sources of equality before gay marriage gained momentum. They should have found private ways of providing insurance for the uninsured before Obama outmaneuvered them.

They should have learned from the Jews.

[A link discussing this is found in comments.]

Lessons From This Past Week’s Supreme Court.

It is easy to pass judgment in hindsight. Many things I’ve done in politics I’ve seen in retrospect differently than I did at the time.

The decisions passed down last week in the Affordable Healthcare Act and on gay marriage carry with them lessons on how far the right can push into the lives of private citizens. That is to say, there are principles people can follow with enthusiasm in their own private lives that they should not try to impose on the general public.

Both of these decisions, while framed in language about love and health for all, involved lots of money. Taking away money from some group, or preventing access to it, is a topic wisely avoided in politics.

In the case of gay marriage there are many other issues. Everyone interested knows, however, gay couples have been blocked from health insurance granted to spouses and inheritance rules easily accessible to straight couples. When the right insisted on keeping these barriers in place it was headed for the collision we saw this past week.

The Affordable Health Care Act made health care more widely available. The right did not embrace the principle of financing health care widely and paid in this decision.

The right is making the same mistake with late term abortion. The argument made in  politics is that stopping late term abortions is about stopping all abortions. That is a political ruse. They are an insignificant number.

Each of these abortion carries a story that ultimately will prevail in court.

[An article discussing this topic is linked in comments.]

The Next Big Thing is Coming.

With the tremendous hoopla over the Supreme Court’s approval of gay marriage, the conservative Christian press and statements by conservative Christian public figures is all about the coming Armageddon. Here are some of the predictions:

1.) Conservative churches and their preachers will continue to hammer on homosexuality, refuse homosexual weddings and close because government will take away their tax exempt status.

2.) Preachers will be put in prison for preaching against homosexuality.

3.) Free speech and freedom of religion will be taken away because businesses, churches and schools will prevented from teaching that homosexuality is sin.

These are just a few of the predictions–I left out that one guy said he would set himself on fire rather than renounce his view that homosexuality is a sin.

So what will happen to conservative churches and people as a result of the Supreme Court ruling requiring the official standing given homosexual marriage. In a word, nothing.

Commentary of gay marriage will dissipate soon. As we speak, Christian money grubbers are searching for a new villain. The gay marriage gravy train is gone.

This evident in an emailed announcement from sleaze bag Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. In the message, Perkins reviews all the “accomplishments” of the FRC.

He wrote FRC will continue the good fight on other fronts. Announcements of FRC’s new efforts will be forthcoming in the next few months.

Perkins is looking for the next cash cow. The naïve await, ready to pay Perkins’ outlandish salary and, as with the gay marriage issue, ultimately accomplish nothing.

[A link discussing this is found in comments.]