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.