A little back story: while my wife and I are atheists, our respective families, well, they are not atheists to put it mildly. I don’t actually know the full extent of the religiosity of my entire extended family but suffice to say, most of them go to church most Sundays and they pray before they eat. Typical white, middle class, suburban Christian people you could say. We live in South Africa where, due to too many reasons to explain or debate, unskilled labour is performed mainly by black African’s who have their own culture and (from my perspective) their own peculiar set of beliefs.
To get on with the story: my wife and I attended a family gathering several months back where a cousin of mine was telling a story about some events that occurred where he works. He told of how a watch was stolen from the locker of one of the supervisors. The supervisor and my cousin came up with a cunning plan to convince the thief to return the stolen goods. They loudly proclaimed, well within earshot of a number of the workers that they were going to bring an African witch doctor (a sangoma) to the office the following day, to perform black magic and curse the thief who had stolen from the supervisor. Presumably this would end in a very unpleasant way for the would be thief. Obviously hearing of this plan and fearful for what was to come next, the thief returned the watch to the locker where it was found the next day, negating the need for the witch doctor.
The story was told to the gathered family with much mirth and laughter aimed at the simple thief who would fall for such a ridiculous ploy. A witch doctor and black magic indeed; some people will believe just any old thing.
Now, there are two things about this story that I found interesting. The first is that clearly there are still many simple people who are willing to believe basically anything, magic and witchcraft included, in this day and age which is a little disturbing but not altogether surprising.
As interesting and disturbing as the belief in witchcraft is, the story in general is a great illustration for how the minds of the pious religious work. I would venture to replace ‘religious’ with ‘humanity in general’, since everybody is prone to this, but I’ll leave it for the sake of illustration.
My family, cousins, aunts, parents, had absolutely no problem with laughing at the simple believers in ‘witchcraft’. Believing in ‘witchcraft’ is ridiculous, only primitive people believe in it, obviously? Right?
They had absolutely no problem following that conversation with one about the local minister at the church involved in something or other. They could not see that were laughing at people for believing in something with no evidence while at the same time believing the exact same thing in a different package.
Clearly, Christianity is not as ridiculous as believing in magic? Surely not! Christianity has… well, IT HAS A BOOK! Yes, those primitives who believe in the dark arts, well, all they have is an oral history stretching ten thousand years further back than Moses, no cold, hard, indisputable evidence like ‘the good book’.
I would now like to take this opportunity to quote a passage from ‘the good book’, Matthew 7:3-5:
7:3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
7:4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
7:5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Truer words were never spoken. Possibly, these words were never spoken in the first place either, but you get my point.
Let me recap this for you: Christians (or Muslims, or Hindus, or Jehovah’s witnesses) who laugh at people of other belief systems are hypocrites. Christians believe in magic and so they don’t get to laugh at other people who also believe in magic, albeit in a slightly different kind.
“A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it. The truth is the truth even if nobody believes it.”
- David Stevens
In South America llamas are still used as beasts of burden, as well as for the production of fiber and meat.