ANZAC cooperation: put Bougainville up on the agenda
Searching for a strategy to temper superstition

Religion and sorcery are happy bedfellows


Phil (crop)AS A WRITER OF FICTION I am a great fan of religion, sorcery and superstition.

Together they constitute a fascinating mix of possibilities for exploring the human mind and the whys and wherefores of how people behave.

The new secularism that is gaining increasing momentum in the civilised world could be a distinct threat to this wonderful pit of aberrations. If the secularists succeed the world could become a very dull and grey place indeed.

The only encouraging aspect from the writer’s point of view is their move to add another ‘o’ to the concept of a god.

Instead of worshipping a ‘god’ the secularists seem to be working up to worshipping something called ‘good’. In fact, this seems to be where the debate between them and the religionists is currently centred.

Religion and superstition are happy bedfellows. They coexist in even the most sophisticated societies.

A priestly friend of mine always tosses a pinch of salt over his shoulder if he spills it on the table. He probably watches out for little people at the bottom of the garden too. His years of theological study have made him a natural friend of the leprechauns.

Religion and superstition seldom succeed in replacing each other. Why should they while they are so comfortable together? People in deeply superstitious societies like Papua New Guinea are particularly vulnerable to the entreaties of religion because they intuitively know how it works and they just make room for it among their other mystical pantheons.

If you believe that it’s possible to kill someone using magic it’s a small step to believing that someone is capable of having a virgin for a mother and rising from the dead.

Indigenous people all over the world do this; Australian Aboriginal Christians happily explain how God created the Dreaming. That logic is very comforting and allies itself well with explaining the unexplainable through the medium of the supernatural.

And who’s to say that God didn’t create the Rainbow Serpent or the great snake Puya that, together with the sacred cane Gewa, hold the cosmology of the Huli together.

Religion and superstition in their more bizarre forms sit happiest together.  That’s why the fundamentalist Christian concept of ‘Rapture’, being peddled by American missionaries finds a ready foothold in the remoter parts of Papua New Guinea where superstition and sorcery are rife.  Rapture is very big on the upper Sepik and in the May and Green River areas for instance.

For the writer one of the most fascinating aspects of religion and superstition is the evil that both generate. Wherever you have a gullible community you will have carpetbaggers intent upon using it to their advantage.

The biggest nest of religious carpetbaggers is probably that silly old fart in the Vatican who has just resigned and all his mates in their golden robes and other drag.

They are sitting on an enormous pillaged fortune which could be used to alleviate a tremendous amount of suffering in the world.  It is an idea that they shy away from at a great rate of knots.

Perhaps if the secularists and their new religion of Good eventually invade the Vatican that might happen; but don’t hold your breath.

At the other extreme are the carpetbaggers in Papua New Guinea who use people’s beliefs in superstition and sorcery to divert attention away from their heinous crimes. To cover up the rape and murder of an eight year old girl by stirring up people to burn two old ladies to death is deeply disturbing and beggars belief.

But then again is sitting on a great heap of gold while people starve to death in Africa not a crime too?

Religion and superstition have a long history of such atrocities. Billions of people have died on the rack of both and I don’t hold much faith in the new religion of Atheism.

But as fodder for the writer; well, that’s a different matter altogether.


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David Wall

I like this quote:

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

― Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays

Terry Kelliher

God bless you, Phil, but gee you'd make a good sorcerer - what is writing but another form of magic?

David Kitchnoge

Thanks Phil - nicely said.

Spirits, religion and superstition are so intertwined in my area in the hinterlands of Finschhafen some people have lost all sense of recognition and can't tell which is which.

Enter money and goodies in the mix and people waste time sitting down and talking about cargo cult all day long.

There are some people in my village who are still waiting for their deliverance on a golden platter from some Christian God or his proxy of sorts from that mountain top yond there.

Mrs Barbara Short

I shall pray for all of you good men.

Tony Flynn

Has anyone else noticed that where there is more healthy balance between religion and bisnis, sorcery is less powerful?

Unequal or little business development enlivens sorcery; strong or well established religion will live alongside sorcery.

Where sorcery is powerful there are fewer sorcery related deaths.

A little off subject is that in a mafia controlled neighbourhood, the daily life of citizens was peaceful; all that was necessary was to give to the mafia what was needed.

So it is in a magic-dominated society; give the sorcerer his due and life will go on. Sorcerers will allow you your religion and will have you for the rest of the time.

Sorcerers in the Highlands are the ultimate losers and do not appear to be respected members of their society. Some coastal sorcerers are respected members of their society.

Michael Dom

Smooth. Bring it on!

Leonard Roka

Both have made society sick and it could be a benefit to the world if we eradicate them both.

Tingting tasol.

Peter Kranz

Good one Phil. Sharp, to the point and no punches pulled.

Religion and sorcery neatly come together in the story of Saul and his seance with the witch of Endor where she summons the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel to tell Saul his future (which is that he's going to die the next day).

I remember having fun asking my religion teacher to explain that.

Also funny is that the evangelicals ask you to believe in their magic (miracles, the Sun standing still, raising the dead etc) but any other kind is evil devil worship (hence such things as burning Haus Tambaran and destroying carvings and condemning ouija boards).

Always struck me as a bit hypocritical.

Expect some flak though.

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