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Fred's Views


Superstitious or Religious

Being a modern, liberated male, I'd like to think that I'm free from any superstitious beliefs. I've been known to walk under ladders and even step on a few cracks. Admittedly, I pause briefly when a black cat crosses my path, but old traditions die hard. While I may not be superstitious in the normal sense, I am not free from making decisions based on a total lack of knowledge - or even despite an overwhelming body of evidence urging me to make a different decision.

This month Ontarians will be going to the polls to elect a new provincial government. (Oops, we don't actually 'elect a government'. We vote for a candidate that happens to be a member of a political party. The candidate with the most votes wins; the party with the most elected candidates is 'asked' to form the government. Sometimes, the party with the most candidates is not asked to form the new government, but that has rarely if ever happened in modern times.) At any moment, a federal election could be called. For whom you vote depends on many factors, and some of them clearly border on the superstitious. There are people who vote for a candidate because they have always voted for that party's candidate, or because their father voted for that party or their spouse, etc. There are people who vote for a candidate because he or she is good looking. There are people who vote because the candidate is white/not white; male/female; protestant/Catholic/other; human or inhuman. Needles to say, these are not logical decisions. They border on the superstitious.

I confess that I'm a bit of a political gadfly. Sometimes I vote for a candidate I like, sometimes I vote for a party I like, often I vote for the party or candidate I dislike least. If I were honest with myself, I would probably admit that the Liberal party probably comes closest to my personal set of beliefs and political policies. But I won't vote for them, at least not federally. I haven't voted for a Liberal candidate since the days of Lester B. Pearson, the last Liberal leader I can bring myself to admire. I like to believe that the Liberal party is consumed with only one thing: getting itself re-elected. They will do anything to achieve that goal, or so I believe. That is, of course, an exaggeration. It's also an exaggeration to say that the Progressive Conservatives, Conservatives or whatever they call themselves this week are only good at one thing: putting their feet in their mouths. An exaggeration, if only a slight one. (I'm kind of surprised that the old name for conservatives, Tory, has not resurfaced much in this provincial election, since Tory is the name of their leader.) It is also an exaggeration - actually a down-right lie - to say that the NDP is communist. And it's a small leap from a belief based on exaggeration to a belief based on superstition.

An atheist would say that all religious belief is likewise superstition - and there are some beliefs that I. too, would consider superstitious. There are certainly beliefs that I do not think should still be practised or followed in this 'modern age'. Currently there has been some controversy over whether or not a Moslem woman can vote in this election without unveiling her face before an election official. The bigger question is why is such a belief still practised, and practised here in Canada. I do not wish to offend any religion (and I plan or being ecumenical in my sentiments), but it offends me to see women (to my mind) degraded and subjugated by an outdated belief. There has been an on-going controversy about Sikhs. Should they be allowed to wear their ceremonial daggers when others are relieved of their pen knives or other potential weapons? Should they be allowed to wear only their turbans in a 'hard-hat area'. The bigger question again - why do they cling to these outmoded (again, in my mind) superstitious traditions? (And, if they are allowed to wear only a turban, they should have to sign a waiver so that I won't be responsible for shouldering their medical expenses should they be so unlucky to suffer a head injury that a hard hat would have prevented. Of course, I also think that smokers (or the tobacco companies) should be held responsible for any medical expenses related to their use of tobacco. And now that I've lost about fifty pounds, I tend to believe that obese people should sign a similar waiver - although I also think that people trying to lose weight should get a tax break, too.)

I question the sanity of outfitting your barn and farm with all the latest technology, but allow none of it inside your home. I question the value of retaining traditional attire as East Indians, some Moslems and Jews do in this modern world. I'm not saying they shouldn't be allowed to - this is a free country, but I'm asking 'why?' What is the logical basis for wearing such attire. If the reasons are religious, I confess I believe in a God that would consider such 'traditions' to be more superstitious than religious.

In the spirit of ecumenism, I now turn my attention to the Christians. Another current controversy is whether or not a Catholic girl should receive vaccinations in (Catholic) schools against the human papilloma virus that can only be transmitted through sexual contact. 'Good Catholic girls' should only engage in sexual relations after marriage (and only with their husbands, of course) is the justification for opposing the vaccination. No one can argue that it is probably preferable (on religious, moral and medical grounds) to remain a virgin (both male and female) until your wedding night, but that's about as likely as the Pope being secretly a Baptist! The theme of the 'good Catholic girl' turning out to be quite sexually promiscuous is another superstition with more than a speck of truth in it. Another superstition with some bite to it, is that this and other Catholic beliefs such as no female priests, no birth control other than the 'natural method', etc. are part of the Catholic conspiracy to keep women down, a conspiracy that can be traced all the way back to the early church's defamation of Mary Magdalene. And why must priests be celibate?

Anglicans and Catholics celebrate the Holy Eucharist - or Communion - every week. Do they also believe that the wafer and wine are actually transformed into the flesh and blood of Christ? I think at least some do. But why? Is it any less important to think of it as symbolic? I'm sure some theologians would argue against me, but I see no reason to believe that the bread and wine are anything but symbols representing Christ's body and blood and that this is how Christ intended them to be taken during the first communion at the last supper. Many protestant churches hold communion about four times a year (and they use individual tiny glasses for the wine[grape juice] which, to my mind, is much more sanitary - and convenient). For me, holding this ceremony only a few times a year heightens its significance and importance. Doing the ceremony every week degrades its importance. And getting out of Church service a half hour sooner is just a fringe benefit.

There is a substantial number of protestants who believe in the literal truth of the Bible. I still don't know how they explain away the two different creation myths in Genesis. And don't get me started on the evolution vs. creationism crap - or the myth that Science is somehow at odds with religion. Science is at odds with superstition, I'll agree to, but my religion is at odds with superstition too.

And, finally, how can anyone really believe in a God that would forbid them to avail themselves of the best medical help for themselves or their loved ones? Modern medicine, to be sure, does not have all the answers, and sometimes it can even cause more harm than good. But overall, our medical knowledge has saved countless thousands of lives. I do not believe in a God that would condone even a single life being lost in his/her name. I believe he/she designed human beings to resist death to the bitter end - which is not to say that I don't believe that sometimes, under very carefully supervised conditions, permitting or even helping a suffering human being to die with dignity isn't a good thing. But allowing anyone to die needlessly is a crime - against man and God.

Now that I have managed to offend practically everyone, let me try to make some amends. I'm certainly not trying to offend. You may have sincere, valid reasons for believing what you do - and you have every right here in Canada to believe as you wish. But, on the off chance that you are as unaware of why you follow certain traditions as I am, maybe it's time to reassess some of your values and cast aside stupid superstitions for something more meaningful.

I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of religion. But both of those freedoms are limited when and if they interfere with someone else's rights. If I have offended you, I am sorry. That is not my intention. But, if I have caused you to think twice about some of your beliefs, whether you reject them ultimately or not, then I am glad. I have succeeded and you will be a better person for having taken the time to reflect.


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