Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Kennon-Green & Co. Fiduciary Financial Advisor, Wealth Management, Global Value Investing

Ruby and I were having a conversation about religion in the United States today and I find it incredibly interesting that there is a small, cultish group of “Christians” (for lack of a better term) that are really nothing more than the modern day resurrection of the ancient Babylonian pagan cults.  They are so ignorant they have no idea that they are literally taking some of the beliefs of these ancient cultures they condemn, slapping the symbol of a cross on them, and insisting that they are somehow different; enlightened.  Most Christians throughout history would have had these “Christian” beliefs labeled witchcraft and the practitioners burned at the stake.  Given that I could have been happy just studying socioeconomic trends, this fascinates me; that there could be such a disconnect historically, theologically, and intellectually between what they are actually doing and what they believe they are doing.  I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The ancient Babylonian cults would often ascribe different things to different deities. I’ve noticed more and more Churches in the United States talk about a “spirit of (insert trait here).  This is a form of paganism that was widespread a few thousand years ago.  I find it incredibly interesting that these people often are completely ignorant of the fact they are adopting the very practices that caused God to wipe out entire civilizations according to the Old Testament in the Judeo-Christian religion.

Let’s back up for a moment, though.  I maintain that mankind is exceptional because we have the ability to make choices.  The very definition of a soul is “mind, will, and emotions”.  It is our soul – our ability to make choices – that makes us different from animals.  We can choose to act righteously or choose to act wickedly.  There is not always agreement on what those terms mean – after all, the people of Hiroshima, Japan had every reason to believe that the United States was acting wickedly when it dropped a nuclear weapon on them given that their lives, families, health and infrastructure were destroyed, whereas the United States believed it was acting righteously to end the war and save as many net lives as possible.

Most of the good and evil in the world (which is different from “joy” and “suffering” – a distinction that is sometimes lost) is the result of individual choices by men and women.  With the exception of mental illness, if a man picks up a gun, walks into a supermarket, shoots and murders people, it was his choices that did it.  He had to choose to get the gun, choose to load it, choose which building to target, choose to get out of the car and walk into the store, choose to point the gun, and choose to pull the trigger.

Neo-Paganism Seems to Be Particularly Popular in Christian Cults

You can tell who these modern-day neo-pagans are by their insistence upon a “spirit” being responsible for everything.  That is, they might say someone has a “spirit of alcoholism” or a “spirit of depression”; a “spirit of lying”, a “spirit of envy”, a “spirit of homosexuality”, a “spirit of adultery”, a “spirit of hedonism”.  They might say a child has a “spirit of rebellion” or a woman has a “Jezebel spirit”.  There is even a “spirit of gluttony”, a “spirit of anger”, a “spirit of avarice”, and a “spirit of infertility”.  They find something with which they disagree and then assign a supernatural entity to it.  Then, they work to “fight” this spirit.

[mainbodyad]Likewise, they might say that having a statue of a dragon in your garden invites spirits into your life.  This is the same religion as the voodoo of the French Quarter and those who believe in the occult!  The idea that objects hold spiritual power and can influence you is the very heart of, again, what our ancestors called witchcraft.  (Not to mention that in addition to being drawn directly from the witchcraft of yesterday, this idea is laughable to modern science.)

Going through life thinking that “a spirit” or “the devil” or “Satan” is responsible when all action requires man to choose to do something is one of the greatest sins imaginable because the person who believes it willingly gives up the most powerful thing man has – our will; the ability to make choices.  Our life is shaped by our choices.  Our present is determined by the sum culmination of our past decisions.  Choices matter.  If you earn more than you spend, you accumulate money.  If you eat more calories than you burn, you put on weight.  If you study, you accumulate knowledge that can be applied.  In a free society, life is choice.

Even in the Christian Bible, Satan didn’t cause mankind to fall – Adam and Eve both individually made a choice to eat the fruit.  The devil didn’t cause David to murder Bathsheba’s husband.  He chose to do it.  Nothing could be accomplished without consent, which is choice.

Magic Is a Term for Things Physics Can’t Yet Explain

And “magic”?  Yeah.  “Magic” is a term that ignorant people use to describe things that physics can’t yet explain.  Holding an iPad and watching a movie would have looked like a “magic mirror” a few hundred years ago and gotten you burned at the stake.  Listening to radio waves from thousands of miles away would have seemed suspiciously demonic.  Viewing a baby inside a mother’s womb through an ultrasound would have seemed like black magic.

(Side note fact: The term “occult” means the study of “hidden things”.  In the middle ages, magnetism was said to be an “occult property” because society didn’t understand how magnets worked and chalked it up to magic.  Over the past few centuries, the term has come to have a religious connotation associated with Satanism often, ironically, by the very Christian groups that engage in most of the neo-pagan belief systems.)

The next time you hear someone say something like that, just remember: What they are really saying is, “Man is an animal.  He is subject to the unfathomable and incomprehensible shifting mores of unseen magical spirit beings and is therefore not responsible for his or her own destiny through choices.”  I reject that.  Willful ignorance is a crime I refuse to commit.  The glory of man is the rationality given to us by God.  The ability to think, to reason, and to analyze are sacred and holy.  All of civilization are built upon them.  Every building, machine, computer program, and medical advance that makes life better depend upon them.