In many of my pieces, I have gone to great lengths to investigate the arguments of religion, and to debunk their claims. Often times, there will be the argument that Reason is somehow incapable of understanding supernatural things, and therefore we ought to rely upon Faith for belief -- or accepting something as true in spite of the lack of evidence. Other times, there will simply be the redundant arguments, which the Universe has heard thousands of times; arguments such as "how did the Universe get here without a god?" or "how did life come here?" I have answered such arguments with clarity and logic just as many times as they have been raised. While my attack on religion was in full force, I noticed that it wasn't religion alone, the well-established sects or churches or organizations that were among the irrational institutions of man, but I noticed there was a great deal of superstition among commoners. These superstitions, much like a plague were widely believed, no matter how ridiculous or outlandish they were. I was almost skeptical that people could so widely believe something like superstitions -- but then again, it is quite true that people widely believe religion, and defend it mercilessly.
This paper serves as a compliment to my papers which make an attack on orthodox and organized religion. Whereas before I specifically attack religion and supernaturalism as being scientifically unsound, I now make attacks on superstitions. The foundation is similar, though: I disbelieve in superstition for the same reasons that I disbelieve in religion -- they are both founded on illogical premises or the idea of Faith. Since this paper will be an attack on superstition and the supernatural realm, there ought to be a defense of the idea of a natural realm. This shall be the next section of the paper...
On the Natural Order
When we watch natural phenomena occur in our world -- ourselves little more than the bright-eyed children of the Universe -- we have always wondered why it happens. Where did the spark come from that lit the fire? From what region did the winds come to blow the clouds? This brown dirt below me -- where did the earth come from? Questions and questions, the curiosity of the human mind never ceasing. As science progressed, experiments were conducted, hypotheses formed, and theories created. For every question that was answered, there were five new questions arising They desired to know more about the answer, about where whatever it was came from, how it can be used, if it can be harnessed. Technology walked hand in hand with science, as it brought to the species many labor-saving mechanisms. This would bring about an Industrial Society, with an unfortunate rise of Capitalism. The curiosity of mankind would not remain under restraint. We wanted to know. We had to know.
As our scientists drew conclusions with the comparison of different sets of data, a child would sit on their front lawn and marvel at the night sky, wondering what causes the stars to twinkle. As the experiments went on with control and test groups, an adolescent would wonder why certain pills made him feel so good on the inside, if there was a chemical makeup to the soul. And as NASA launched another space shuttle into the black abyss, so that it may collect information, there was a man in the city who wanted to know what caused the sex urge.
Why do things happen the way that they do? What are the rules and laws governing the mechanics of matter's actions? No matter what the rules are, or what theories exist to postulate further among them, I will say this: there are rules and laws that govern our Universe. There is no evidence to show that there are occasions where these rules are bent, or suspended, by writ of any means. What we know of these laws of Physics is based on what we have observed, our evidence, our ability to demonstrate these laws in fixed environments. The Natural Order is one that remains unabridged. When something happens, we must understand that it happens for a reason. And by this, I do not mean a reason of the divines or some reason with depth in meaning. Rather, when I speak of everything happening for a reason, I am implying the idea of Cause And Effect -- that the reason why something happened, was due to a cause. That no effect is ever rendered without a cause, and every cause has its own cause, just as every effect often renders an effect -- a long chain of events, one causing the other. If we were to see them in an organized pattern, it would not look unlike a set of dominoes, one event causing the other. The first to the last. No domino ever falls without force being put upon it. If the force does not exist, then the domino will not fall. If the domino falls without touching it, perhaps it was the wind or someone shaking the floor -- but if something happens, it occurs because of a reason. This is the idea of the Natural Order: everything occurs because there was something there to make it occur. Nothing happens without cause.
There are numerous superstitions in our modern world. It is an unfortunate plight, too. In a very realistic sense, they can be referred to in their own regard as "mini-religions." Few buildings have been dedicated to them, but they still make up a part of the infection in a person's mental faculties. When I was in New Orleans for a period of several months, I came into contact with many superstitions and myths. I was surprised that many of the people believed all of them. In my search for a Rationalist, I found few -- none that I can remember at present time. In the hundreds of people I met, there was no respect for the aged thinkers of Paine, Ingersoll, and McCabe. There was no knowledge of such beings. Here, I expand upon and dispel the superstitions of our society.
It is believed by a great deal of society that paper cards are capable of reading the future -- that the order and type of cards that are drawn will accurately predict the future. The drawings on these cards, the swords and pentacles, they are nothing but an organization of ink on paper. The paper itself is nothing more than processed tree pulp. The physical parts of the card are nothing more than what they appear to be. They are a part of this physical Universe and are equally subject to its laws. If you randomly pick a card from a deck, it is because of how you saw the deck, the way your eyes read the light that entered, the condition of the chemicals and hormones in your brain, and the eventually conclusion of the reactions of those chemicals and electricity to the decision. Thus, the randomly picked card is not a reflection of an unseen, potent, spiritual beings -- rather, it is a simple process of the brain's functions.
Interested in this, I asked my friend to give me a reading. One of the cards he drew was The Moon, which was a bad omen of things to come. He was all ready to put his deck away and await another interested truth seeker, when I asked him to give me another reading. Somewhat baffled by this request, I explained that I was just curious to see the consistency of the readings. He gave me another reading, as I desired, and one of the cards drawn was The Sun, which was a good omen of things to come. The cards The Moon and The Sun are opposites. I asked if he could explain it, and he could not. For Tarot Card readings to be accurate, I would have expected that the second reading to be identical to the first, when in fact it was the opposite. The reason for the readings being what they are has nothing to do with mystical powers, but rather with the physical actions which are applied to the cards.
What I have seen in the business of Tarot Card readings was amazing as much as it was appalling. A reading may go from $20 to $100 and will often times last under 10 minutes. The readings are so vague, so horribly inaccurate, that they could almost be referring to anything. There are vague references to, "The significant occurrence that happened two months ago," or "The lover's spat that happened one year ago," or "The thought you had 3 weeks ago." And then the actual relation of this object of consideration to the physical world is also vague, "It has conflict with," or "It has ties with." The prediction on the future is not dissimilar to the ideology of blood letting. In Christendom, where medicine was banned (and parts still remained banned today), blood letting was the only believed way of curing a sickness. When the patient died regardless, it was believed that the blood letting was not done forcefully enough, whereas if the patient survived, it was believed that blood letting was the reason for this. In Tarot Readings, you will be told that you need to "keep your eyes open" for a particular something, or that you need to "follow your instincts" or "not rely on friends" or "stand by your principles," -- something so incurably vague, and if nothing happens, it is blamed on the principle that you did not do what you were told enough. Tarot Card readers are an anchor to the ship of progress: they make no food and feed the poison of superstition -- they are the cause of no smiles, but when there is happiness, they feel need to infect it with myths, and when there is sadness, they feel the need to burden it with karma guilt.
Palm and Face Readings...
Much like Tarot readings, there is the idea that you can read a person's history through the lines and indentations on their hands. My response to this claim is not dissimilar to my response to Tarot Card readings: a person's hand is made of flesh and blood -- it contains no spiritual entity, it acts not as a haven for divinity. The markings and lines upon a person's hand are not the cause of the gods using stencils upon flesh, but rather rather the use of the hand is the cause of its condition. Every guitar player will confess to have callouses on their fingers. Carpenters will have more scars upon their hands, as the years of labor have eroded away at the once pristine skin of a child. Any worker whose life has been dedicated to manual labor will be able to confess that the markings upon their hands have not been from the gods or spirits, but rather from years of using tools and the rare mistakes that do occur. To any man who believes in the Natural Order, a papercut is nothing more than an abrasion of the skin. Yet to those who postulate on the thoughts of the gods, it is a sign of conflict, a sign of relationships, a sign of good fortune, a sign of bad fortune -- whatever the mind of the reader will choose to believe about it. I cannot condone Palm or Face Readers in any contemplatible manner -- they will take things that are wholly natural and give to them the rights of divinity, without the authority of evidence -- without the reason of proof.
Magic, Prayer, Voodoo, and Spells...
Among the obvious of superstitions, there is the idea that one can alter the physical Universe at the whim of supernatural activity. With the exception of Deism, every religion has this component to their ideology. Christianity, for example, has the idea of prayer, that by whispering words to the darkness of the Universe, a wish might be granted. Intrinsically, it is no different than a ritual sacrifice of Voodoo, or a Paganist spell, or heretical magic. The only difference is in the process of how it is done. A spell may require focus upon a candle, whereas a prayer requires focus upon clasped hands. The idea of both is essentially the same: humble pleas to the god, gods, or spirits, that they will grant some desire. The church was notorious for its burning of Harry Potter books, but it didn't feel the need to expand upon the fact that their prayer is no different than a spell, except in process. Since I have not found any "pile of mounting evidence" for the accuracy of spells, I have not found a single reason to believe in it. Much like the other myths of culture, it lacks one primary foundation: evidence. Due to this, it will never find respect from Rationalists. Unlike all other fields of science -- which may offer their accuracy through demonstration, observance, tests, experiments -- prayer, magic, and spells are different in that the basis evidence for them is personal testimony. On this account, the personal testimony of primitive humans on spirits, goblins, dragons, ghosts, and other absurdities is equally proving of the existence of such beings.
I once believed that every person, no matter what faith and no matter what religion they believe, held some sort of degree of rationality or logic or respect for evidence. Through debate, I have managed to at least throw doubts on to everyone's creed, no matter which creed it was. At most, I have convinced a few people that religion in general is unable to demonstrate itself as reasonable, logical, or believable. To a great deal of those I debated, they left the debate with their religion, but with a more logical, rational view of the mechanics of the Universe. I always believed that people had some respect for evidence as a reason to believe. To what degree this respect was, I was uncertain. But then, I came to the city of New Orleans, and I found out something particularly disturbing: almost everyone I came into acquaintance with believed in the existence of small fairies that lived within the air ducts of apartments and -- allegedly, though the fairies may deny it -- stole shiny objects. Upon hearing this, I thought it was a fine, neat novelty, but little more than that. As I met more and more people from the city, all of them seemed to hold a firm belief in the idea of fairies, one person even claiming to me that they managed to train their fairies not to steal their shiny things, while another one told me how they left chocolate and wine out for the fairies which was consumed by the next day (with no notice of this person's four roommates, needless to say). I have heard testimonies to the witness of these fairies, but when these people told me they were under the influence of psychedelic drugs at the witnessing, they felt that it was just a coincidence. The utter disrespect for Reason and Logic was appalling. I could not find one logical soul among the mass of superstition and myth. Instead, the belief in fairies was but a currency in their superstition. Everyone believed it, but there was no evidence to support it -- and I could not believe it.
There has been a great deal of investment in the methods of "alternative medicine." It is unfortunate that people will spend large sums of money for a method that is not supported by evidence or data. I once read a Faith Healer's book, who described the world as "in the madness of modern medicine." I do not need to expand upon the marvels of modern medicine. The "madness" of modern medicine has doubled the age that people live to, provided cures to thousands of diseases, saved millions of lives -- what modern medicine has done can be found in the documents and scientific journals of centuries, whereas what Faith Healing has done can only be discovered from the mouth of the Faith Healer you're talking to. When Faith Healing is capable of completing a sex change operation, then I'll be surprised. Until that moment, it is nothing more than ignorance strewn into a commercial industry. Much like Tarot readers, Faith Healers can make a lot of money, and it is at the cost of a person who worked for what they had. Perhaps, though, the old adage is best quoted here: "A fool and his money are soon separated." When a person spends hundreds of dollars for a Faith Healing, for a service which has no evidence or science behind it -- other than abstract theories about an unseen Universe -- then society is being robbed, and the robber is none other than superstition.
Among the many ethical theories of philosophy, there is one heavily based on mysticism and unseen powers: Karma. According to this idea of Karma, all things that happen within the Universe are the cause of an ethical reaction. Bad people will have bad things happen to them and good people will have good things happen to them. The reasons why this system is idiotic are endless. Stalin, for example, gained control of an entire nation, and remained as one of the most powerful and wealthy leaders of the world. Stalin was not a good person. In fact, the reason why he maintained control of the nation was for a very opposite reason: he was a bad person -- torturing and murdering families, burning down homes. He was not good yet he had good fortune. If someone wins the lottery, or finds good fortune in some manner, would it be reasonable to conclude, "They must be an ethical, moral person, because only good things happen to such people"? Certainly not. Fortune is blind. If a doctor is operating on a person, should the doctor say, "Well, if this person is bad, they will die anyway, and if this person is good, they will survive. Whatever I do is irrelevant, because this person's ethics will determine their fate."? If Karma is real, then whatever the doctor does -- be it operate or simple stand idle -- has no effect on it. Of course, Karma isn't real, because there is a very controversial statistic, that taking proper medication and having necessary surgery actually can save your life, whereas the absence of such medication and surgery would lead to a person's eventual demise. To all the Third World Countries, where people are born into poverty, living a hand to mouth existence, should we turn our heads away, and say, "They are bad people, and they deserve what they have, because that is the way of Karma."? Certainly not. The reason why anything happens to anyone is due to the natural laws governing the physical Universe.
When the first creature with developed eyes looked towards the sky at night, he saw for himself a marvelous thing. For time to come, it would be an evidence used by theologians for god, a canvas for every psychonaut, a source of inspiration for every free soul, something to worship for every astronomer. In no way, do I find man's love affair with the deep space anything to be hated, detested, or vulgarized. But, when a person finds space and astronomy to be so magnificent, that they must expand upon it with supernatural concepts, then it becomes something revolting, undeserving of our curiosity's affection and obsession. Astrology has taken something so beautiful, and it has vilified, filled it with abstract and unseen concepts, made it something almost unbearable. And today, a man can only admire the stars if he is free from the insanity of astrologers -- if he is beyond the vile grasp of their lynching hand. Astrology is more than just an infection of star-study, though. It claims that a person's fate will be determined by the day they are born on. Not unlike any other superstition, Astrology comes accompanied by no evidence -- it walks hand in hand with Faith, it requires only that person believe in spite of lacking evidence. It can be hard, then, to approach the reasons for disbelief of Astrology any differently than one would approach the reasons for disbelief of other superstitions: I do not believe in Astrology, because there is no reason to, no evidence supports it.
If I were to write an essay detailing and debunking every superstition to come across the face of this planet, I would soon exhaust the planet of its paper supply. The reason why I disbelieve in any superstition is simple: it violates the theory of the Natural Order -- one theory which is responsible for all of our observations, our science, our demonstrations. The idea that matter must follow absolute laws of physics and cannot stray from them. There is one myth, that if you open a blade, hand it to someone else, and they close it, you are both doomed to misfortune. Another myth claims that if you itch on your left palm, then you are going to get money soon. Breaking a mirror is an old but still prominent superstition -- that doing so will grant you bad luck for years to come. I cannot spend time analyzing each superstition, but I have did examine the more prominent of the myths of our time. The reason why I do not believe any myth is simple: it violates the theory of the Natural Order.
It seemed almost that the diseased mental faculties of superstitious people was something that kept them apart from each other. These people didn't hold respect for each other -- but when it came to loving and devotion to the unseen, they were all humble and willing. One friend told me that because of a Tarot Card reading, they decided to end a relationship, whereas another told me that "witnessing a ghost" caused them to refuse to be with other friends. One person's testimony was that their lover was a gift from the gods -- not a real, living human being, with thoughts and desires of their own, capable of affection and love, but just a gift from the gods. In the well established field of philosophy, there is the idea that we may exploit and extort from others (i.e. "Capitalism") because it is the way of god. At the most extreme, I have heard people claim to me that they are immortal, and will not allow themselves to become attached to those who are "but pitiful mortals." In all these experiences, religion instigated feelings of unhappiness, inadequacy, and aggression. There are those rare cases where religion acts as a socially binding concept, where the followers treat every man as their brother, but this is due to the social aspects of the society and morality -- not its proclamations on matters of religion. In almost every instance, I find that religion is a cause of strife and lack of brotherhood among creatures -- I find that it tears lovers apart, gives friends a reason to fight, offers nothing of interest to the angels of mercy -- it is the reminiscent gravestone of civility.