Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Religion and sex – what is it about either subject that it drives some people absolutely bonkers? For every positive story one hears there is a negative. I reckon I’ve gone on enough about religion and superstition time and time again and make no apologies for it, so here are a couple more stories I think are of interest.

On one of the islands in the Philippines orthodox religion and witchcraft go hand in hand but the witches are now called traditional healers. The most famous of them is 86 years old Consing Achay. Consing is not quite what you would imagine a witch to be. She is devoutly Catholic and sees no contradiction between her religious faith and her traditional spells. In fact, she says she received her powers from the Christ child in a dream and she does a quick sign of the cross before starting each treatment. She does have a black cat and her consultations are held in a small room behind her son's karaoke bar. Francisco Aladad is even more of a contradiction than Consing, because he is essentially living the life of a modern Filipino. Francisco's most important possession is a large stick, which he claims can identify bad spirits. He believes these spirits are everywhere - on the side of the road, floating around in the air and even under the ground - just waiting to get into people to cause illness of body or mind. Francisco says they are the ghosts of the dead or fallen angels. When his services are called upon, he identifies what is wrong with the patient by seeing how the stick reacts to suggestions of different diseases. He prods the stick in the ground around his patient's house to try to identify the spirits causing the malaise, and tells them to go away. Through the power of the stick they do. Question – Where do they go to? To harass someone else?

Second story – Atheism and the American military. In a land of faith and flag, one serving man is challenging the US military to abandon its religious ties. He describes growing up in Texas as being in the “oversized, goofy buckle on the Bible belt” and he was a creationist Bible thumper to beat them all until at 13 he suffered a crisis of faith and he lost his religion, but he says he has found peace in atheism. As an active-duty sergeant in the US Army, he's leading the charge to get atheists more respect in the armed forces. In the process he is earning attention, both positive and negative, from around the world. His most ambitious project is Rock Beyond Belief, a day-long event on the military base Fort Bragg, North Carolina, complete with children's activities, rock concerts and a lecture by atheism's most visible proponent, author and scientist Richard Dawkins. Two years ago “Rock The fort” sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, Rock the Fort was billed as an "evangelical event" with Christian bands, family activities, and an emphasis on spreading the gospel to the entire community. He says military culture is full of symbolism and religious ideology and cites the traditional flag-folding ceremony which cites faith in God in multiple instances.

Which brigs us to the old conundrum: in a war which side is God on?

To be continued.

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