Recently, another bog body was found in Northern Ireland. There are hundreds of them in the UK, well preserved where they were thrown, by the low oxygen and high acidity of the bogs. This one is the oldest ever found, about 4,000 years. The skin had survived. There were four large ax wounds on the back, evidence of sacrifice, probably because the man had failed to please the gods in some way.
Pyramids in Central America were constantly drenched in the blood of people sacrificed to appease the gods. The earliest Spanish invaders reported the place stank of rotting flesh.
In the Andes, the frozen remains of ritual human sacrifices are discovered regularly. Human sacrifice was practiced in the ancient Near East, in ancient Greece, Rome… It was practiced in every human culture.
And why? Always in order to assure that things went well for the society by pleasing the deities.
All these killings had no effect whatsoever
on the weather, earthquakes, or anything else.
Are there such deities? Zeus? The Rain God? Saturn? God? Of course not, and all these killings, we now know, had no effect whatsoever on the weather, earthquakes, crops, or anything else. We understand that now, because we have centuries of scientific progress that has taught us how the universe functions, and science unequivocally denies the validity of superstition. No matter how much we may believe it, no single act has the power to transform nature, neither our minds, a collection of magic items, a ritual, an offering, nor a sacrifice of any kind.
So of course now that we know this without a doubt, we no longer have these horrible superstitious practices, right?
Ha! Certain African groups kill albino people to eat their flesh, believing that will give them special powers. Very rich Asian men eat things like tiger penis (meat from an endangered species) or rhinoceros horn (which is the same stuff as fingernails), believing it will make them more sexually potent. The Chinese have hundreds of superstitions. Even the very modern Germans won’t speak of a birthday before it happens, because it might cause the death of the birthday boy or girl. Many Nepalese believe in witchcraft. People all over the world—Americans included—believe in supernatural powers that can change the course of events, or bring bad luck. Ever stayed on the 13th floor of a hotel?
Very rich Asian men eat tiger penis
or rhinoceros horn (the same stuff as fingernails)
to make themselves more sexually potent.
The world is full of this stuff, beliefs that science has proven again and again are pure nonsense, unsupportable superstition. Every one of them is contradictory to the undeniable facts we have discovered about how the universe really works, and science is the only thing that tells us how the universe really works. Not religion, not superstition, not anything else. No matter how logical it seems that the sun and moon are the same size, and revolve around the earth, we know for certain that neither is true. We joke about washing the car so it will rain, but we know it has no such affect.
We know a good bit about how the universe works, and we know it unequivocally. We know, for example, that nobody can cause bad things to come to someone else by casting a spell, or giving the “evil eye”. People who know reality are never affected by such things. But we also know that some people are affected, not by the supposed “spell”, but by the power of suggestion. They believe in their superstitions, so they find the evidence they expect. They look for “signs”. Not surprisingly, they find them. Finding “signs” results from looking for them, not from nature being rearranged by a powerless witch. It’s no different with “signs” shown to a Christian seeking a kindly word from God.
Unfortunately, a large part of the world gets its wisdom from superstition and religion, which are poor guides to reality. In the US such ignorance seems to be increasing, rather than diminishing under the emancipating power of education.
In the US superstitious ignorance
seems to be increasing.
Christian fundamentalists believe that every word of the Bible is “true”—an obvious impossibility in a book written by dozens of people and containing hundreds of contradictions. They want to force “intelligent design” to be taught in public schools because the Bible says it’s “true”. That would cripple their own children in competition with students worldwide, resulting in graduates unfit to perform any work that relied on science, which covers a lot of ground. They purport to believe completely in all sorts of things that have no more credence than the Easter Bunny. They denounce the Big Bang theory as a product of the devil, but are unable to offer evidence against it other than quoting scripture. Such superstitious ignorance must have no power in a modern society.
The worst part of this trend is that there are far too many such ignoramuses elected to Congress, some of them in important positions. Such people put the entire country at risk of compelled belief in a non-reality that is disproven by everything we have learned from centuries of scientific progress. Our strange Mixmaster lawmaking, in which nothing about legislation is permanently fixed, even after being signed by the president, makes it possible that superstition could become the law of the land. It already has in several states.
When superstition and ignorance becomes the law, what becomes of reality?