Black and Atheist Too: Myth, Superstition, and Ignorance
“It ain't necessarily so
It ain't necessarily so
The t'ings dat yo' li'ble
To read in de Bible,
It ain't necessarily so.” These lyrics, by George Gershwin in Porky and Bess, sums up the Bible very well.
The t'ings dat yo' li'ble
To read in de Bible,
It ain't necessarily so.” These lyrics, by George Gershwin in Porky and Bess, sums up the Bible very well.
We can also look at Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, when a vain Emperor, who cared about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes, hired two swindlers who promised him the finest, best suit of clothing from a fabric invisible to anyone who was unfit for their position or hopelessly stupid. The Emperor’s staff, of course, claimed they could see the clothes themselves, but for the fear of appearing unfit for their positions. Finally, when the swindlers reported that the suit was finished, they pretended to dress the Emperor and the Emperor then marches in a procession before his subjects. Everyone pretended that the new suit is the finest, not wanting to appear stupid. But then a young boy in the crowd, not being tainted by wanting to fit-in with the others and not appear stupid, yelled out the truth, “The Emperor is wearing nothing at all. The Emperor has no clothes”. I take the place of that young boy. I proclaim regarding the existence of God or Gods, it is only myth, superstition, and ignorance. Ignorance in the sense that intelligent people refuse to adhere to the knowledge they have and turn a blind eye to the truth as they actually understand it.
Myth: The Greek Gods
The belief in God (Deity is the overarching concept/definition, but for the sake of understanding, I am using the Christian term God) or Gods is nothing more than a myth. The first Gods have a logical pattern. The Sun God Ra represented the thing that provided humans with the most dependable and beneficial phenomenon they knew. The human species theorized that Ra was then responsible for the creation of other minor Gods such as water and air. Clearly the first Gods represented the major physical and emotional (birth, death, love, etc.) forces in nature. The most well-known Greek God and the one that had the most impact on earth was Zeus. However, Zeus was not the first. Zeus was the son of the Gods Cronus and Rhea. Cronus, being the paranoid God that he was believed that he was going to be overthrown by his children; therefore, he swallowed all of them, against the will of Rhea, their mother. Rhea plotted to save Zeus by giving Cronus a rock to swallow instead of Zeus, when Zeus was first born. Zeus was then sent away where a number of legends say how and by whom he was raised, including being raised by a nymph named Cynosura and a nymph named Adamanthea. Some legends say that since Cronus ruled over the earth, the sky, and sea, Zeus was hidden from him by dangling on a rope from a tree in order to be between heaven sky and sea. When Zeus became a grown man, he forced Cronus to regurgitate the stone, thus allowing all of the other children he had swallowed to escape. Zeus then joined by his brothers and sisters, the Gigantes, Hecalonchires, and Cyclopes overthrew Cronus and the other Titans. Some of Zeus’s siblings were Poseidon (water) and Hades (underworld of hell). Zeus maintained control of the sky and air.
Zeus was a powerful force and very amorous, which led to many off-springs, some by his sister. One of the most notable groups of children he is said to father were the Muses, which represented forces in nature such as Clio, the muse of history; Calliope, the muse of music and poetry; Urania, the muse of astronomy; Erato, the muse of lyric poetry, especially erotic poetry; Melete, the muse of thought and meditation, and many others of human talents and emotions.
Zeus and his siblings, and his children were constantly in a struggle for power over that which they controlled. This is the story of the human species, control over resources, primarily land and what that land produces, be it food, oil, or gold. I am truly fascinated by the Greek Gods. They seem to represent a liberal attitude toward love and sex and reproduction. They were also in a constant struggle with nature, as Homer and the Iliad. As you will see, the Greek Gods had much in common with Gods from other lands. They have the theme of trying to explain the origin and nature of humans.
Gods of East India
The three dominant Gods of East India are Brama, Vishnu, and Shiva. Brama is said to have created the world, but he is not as powerful as Vishnu. Vishnu controls the avatars. Vishnu intervenes in order to protect people from the forces of evil. Shiva is the third God of the Brahman. Shiva protects humans from many vices such as, lust, greed, and anger. He fights evil, bestows grace, destroys ignorance and stimulates people to be enlightened and have wisdom. Typical of the East Indian Gods it that they have many arms or other tentacles. They also typically display means of travel such as birds or other winged animals. To East Indians, Gods come from the sky. These Gods are one of the main sources for the Ancient Alien theorist who suggests that the Gods may have arrived in East India aboard space ships. One distinct feature about the East Indian Gods is that they do not seem to be in constant conflict, and they are accepting of other beliefs or religions. But they are indeed mythical, like all other Gods.
Gods of Asia
Gods of Asia are typically deities in human form. A significant exception is the Monkey, who was originally a trickster turned into a humble servant. In general, ancient Asia had a structured system of Gods. The highest God, Shangdi, ruled through lesser gods with whom humans could communicate. These Gods controlled water, the sun, birth, death, war, and the usual things that affected the lives of humans. For example, the Gods of business: there is the God of prosperity, Cai-shen; Fan-kui, the God of butchers; Sun-pi, the God of cobblers; Fu-xing, the God of happiness; and Chengphuang, the God who protects your city from enemies. To appease the God, or Gods, offerings, usually of food during specific times of the year (spring was an ideal time), were given as a sacrifice for favor of the Gods. Their concept was that in order to get something from the God or Gods one must give something of value in order to be blessed or get something of value. That value could be a good crop, male children, or a successful hunt. Although the rituals are different from country to country, the idea of the God or Gods is the same. The God or Gods explains the origin of the human species and it is usually tied to the sky; although, sometimes the sky and the earth combined to give birth to man.
Gods of North and South America
Native Americans in North America have a God and Gods that explain nature but are usually associated with animals. Native Americans hold cultural beliefs that the human being must live within the concert of nature along with other living things or creatures. Certainly there are some differences from tribe to tribe, but typically there is a “great God’ in the sky who created their tribe. The Great God or Great Spirit is an English translation of the concept. Other Native American Gods are typically represented by such animals as rabbits, birds, coyotes, Ravens, and Beavers, etc. These Gods provided dominion over forces or obstacles in nature such as water, successful fishing, and the abundance of fish in various rivers. South American God or Gods typically took on human form.
The most noted Gods in South America is the Gods of the Incas. The Incas most powerful God was Viraocha, who created the sun, moon, stars, humans, animals, and all things on earth. This God took the form of a man and walked the earth. He had three principal Gods under him: the Sun God, Inti; the Thunder or Weather God, Lllapa; and the Moon God, Mamaquilla. Inti, the Sun God, was the one who ruled over agriculture. Inti had a human face surrounded by sun rays. Illapa was the God of weather and provided the important sources of water for the crops to grow. The third God, Mamaquilla or Moon God, was a wife of the sun and functioned chiefly as the goddess of festivals and maintaining the calendar. Of course, there were other minor Gods that controlled various aspects of the earth and sky, such as rivers, mountains, highlands, and coastal areas. Many of the Gods in South America are said to be possibly Alien inspired in that they are represented by large stone carvings, with unexplained locations and unexplained means of transporting them to their present locations. The God and Gods of North and South America had a range of sacrifices. Those sacrifices ranged from a simple meditation ritual to providing earthly goods, typically food; and the ultimate sacrifice of life itself. In some cases this meant the ritualistic killing of enemies, members of the tribe (primarily in South America), and especially virgins; sometimes sacrificed to volcanic Gods who dwelled over cliff or water falls. Consistent with other Gods, they were used to explain the origin of man/woman and the unpredictability of the forces of nature.
European Gods are usually in human form, and many represent death and destruction. One goddess, Mati-Syra-Zemlya or labeled as Moist Earth or the planet earth and requires sacrifice of bread, wine, and beer, after you have plowed or dug a hole in the ground. Most of the eastern European Gods were lost to history or died as most eastern Europeans embraced Christianity. The Gods of Europe were used for the same purpose as Gods from other continents; that is, to explain the existence of humans and the unknown characteristics of nature. Of special note about the European Gods is their pre-occupation with death, destruction, and war. Such was the Slavic Black God of Evil and Swearing, Chernobog. Chernobog was known for causing calamity, disaster, and all kinds of misfortune. Another interesting God is Perun, the Thunder God. He is said to cause young girls to dance themselves to death as a ritualistic honoring of the God. Some European Gods survived Christianity and were incorporated into the culture of Christianity; one of the most noted is the Goddess Eostre. She is the Goddess of the Saxon people of Northern Europe. She represented the Pagan Anglo-Saxon celebration of the Vernal Equinox. They made offerings of colored eggs to her and placed them at graves sites as a symbol of rebirth. They also celebrated the hare and used ham as the major meat for this celebration. This observance was incorporated into the resurrection and became what we know as Easter.
African Gods and Goddess are very diverse. The African Continent is currently divided into 53 or 55 countries, with one country each belonging as a member of the United Nations and the African Union. It is the second largest in land mass, as well as the second most populous. It covers 20.4 percent of the earth’s total land area and six percent of the total earth surface, and 15 percent of the world’s population. Asia is the largest continent, with North America, third; South America, fourth; Antarctica firth; and Europe, sixth. But Africa with such large, diverse area and people has varied Gods. Until the introduction of Islam and Christianity, African people generally worshiped a major God and lesser Gods, with the ancestors intervening to control the weather, birth, death, war, good fortune or bad fortune, agriculture, hunting, and the usual forces of nature as all other Gods and Goddesses. The God of creation, named the Mighty Creator of Vomit, was the God Bumba. Bumba seemed to be consistent with the idea of creationism. He came out of the darkness with a giant stomach ache. For relief, he vomited up the Sun, moon, stars, earth, nine animals, and a variety of humans. From this vomit every living thing grew. African Gods typically took on human characteristics, such as drinking, sex, trials and tribulations of life to make it interesting, and of course death. African Gods were pleased as other Gods with sacrifices, such as food and drink, meditation, group rituals, and in some cases human sacrifice. African Gods, as with Gods from other nations, were an attempt to explain nature and their reality which had not been empirically understood. As explained by many scientists, God is used to explain what science has not yet discovered.
Superstition is from the Latin Superstitionem, meaning excessive fear of the Gods. It is further defined as a belief resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation; a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary. These are faulty beliefs about why things happen; curses, as in the Bible; witches and their ability to cause harm to individuals; and obsession with the dead having an impact on the lives of the living. The more light-hearted views are beliefs such as don’t walk under ladders, rub a lucky rabbit’s foot, a four-leaf clover, be careful if a black cat crosses your path, don’t break a mirror less you suffer seven years of bad luck, horse shoes, Friday the 13th is bad luck, birds pup equal riches, cross your fingers for good luck, opening an umbrella indoors, and knock on wood for good luck. These are somewhat humorous and harmless, but many practices, past and present, exist and affect the lives of many people. I am going to identify and address briefly some of the most prominent. A few will seem to fall under ignorance, but my section on ignorance will focus more on knowledge and denial of knowledge. Some of the most noted superstitions are: Voodoo, witchcraft, communion, Muslim prayer, and New Guinea airplane worship
Voodoo is a religion derived from ancient African Gods and ancestor worship. It has elements of Roman Catholicism and has strong ties to magic and is characterized by sorcery and spirit possession. Some historians believe the practice of Voodooism started some 15,000 years ago during the building of some of the Egyptian pyramids. These were the Yoruba, who were slaves to the Pharaohs. After the end of this slavery, they took with them some of the beliefs of the Egyptian people and down through the centuries spread the practice of Voodoo. For example, the Egyptians believed that individuals continued to live after death in the underworld. Voodoo has no specific written tenants or Gods. It does not have a formal structure, although there are priests and other dignitaries of power. It is an individual religion that depends on ignorance and worship of the ancestors and beliefs in the influence of the dead and how they affect the present. It is practiced world-wide, but especially in the West Indies and historically in New Orleans. The core of Voodoo is ancestral worship and reincarnation. There is no heaven or hell in Voodoo. Individuals continue to return, and their deeds in the present life affect their reincarnation in the next life. Thus, their deeds in the present life have the opportunity to shape the next life. In 2001, Voodoo became an officially recognized religion in Hatti and is in no way underground any longer. Hatti is, however, about 80% Roman Catholic, 10 % Baptist, 4% Pentecostal, 1% Adventist, 1% other Christian, 3% others such as Islam, Baha’, Judaism, Buddhism, and 1% no religion. It is estimated that 50% of the population mix Voodoo with Catholicism.
Growing up in Texas I had a firsthand experience with Voodoo. My great great uncle’s wife believed strongly in Voodoo. In retrospect I believe she was clinically paranoid schizophrenic, but she was convinced that someone with super natural powers was out to harm her. She would put a ring of salt around a tree in their front yard in order to protect herself from the evils of those, unknown, who wished to harm her. I remember an argument with her and my uncle in which he dismissed her concerns because he did not understand her illness.
Much of Voodoo is misunderstood, beginning with the transition of Africans, as slaves, into the Caribbean and South America, and later the colonies and the United States. Colonization has done a great deal to eliminate much of the witchcraft of Africa and the superstitions that come with it. In Hatti, much of Voodoo has been replaced by another equally hideous practice, communion.
Communion or is it Symbolic Cannibalism
John 6:53-58 New International Version (NIV).
“Jesus said to them, Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Now we don’t know whether Jesus said this or not. This was not a firsthand account. This is strictly the interpretation of writers penning these words many years after the death of Jesus (Yeshua). Like many things in the Bible, these are selected works from many submissions. But clearly this ritual is an act of symbolic cannibalism. In this passage, John mentions flesh and blood. According to John, Jesus said, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink”. To any reasonable mind, this is symbolic cannibalism. It is dressed up in civilization, but in reality, I view it as no better than the cannibalism attributed to indigenous people of the past in various civilizations in many parts of the world.
The Virgin Birth: Immaculate Conception
I addressed the virgin birth in chapter three, but I think it is necessary to talk briefly about it here as part of superstition. I attribute and label the Immaculate Conception and birth as superstition. I believe that any reasonable mind would conclude that the Immaculate Conception and birth did not occur. Imagine God impregnating a 14-15-year-old girl without her father’s or anyone else’s permission. To me, this falls into the category of witchcraft and superstition. Some will say that artificial insemination in humans has been practiced since the 1940s and hundreds of thousands of women use this procedure annually. To this I would agree, but it is not immaculate, it is science. The Virgin Mary is great support of the Ancient Aliens theorist. Some would theorize that the legend could have come out of a lack of understanding science practiced by ancient aliens. However, I believe the myth could have come from a more known tradition. In ancient times it was a usual practice for the Lord of the manor to have his way with the bride of a peasant or serf. On her wedding night, the Lord of the Manor could, if he so desired, claim the first night with a peasant man’s bride. Perhaps this was how the myth with Mary got its origin. So the idea that somehow Mary, the virgin, gave birth to the mythological savior is purely superstition.
Talking in Tongues and The Tower of Babel
I remember my first experience with talking in tongues. In my community of Nigton, Texas, we had a Pentecostal or Holy Sanctified Church, as we called it. Why it started I do not know, nor do I know who started it. But as a dedicated Christian and out of curiosity I attended a service there during a summer revivals. The service was filled with joyous shouts of the Holy Spirit and music and dancing that was second to none. During one particular service I noticed this one young woman, perhaps a teenager about 15 years of age, go into an emotional and flailing frenzy, seemingly physically out of control and began shouting inaudible words. This I later came to understand as talking in tongues. Cor. 13:1
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. “
Speaking in tongues is representative of ones baptism into the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues is a psychological experience brought on by an indoctrination of cultural response and adaption to fulfilling family values and contentment. Speaking in tongues reminds me of the Biblical theory of how language is acquired.
It appears that during the building of the Towel of Bebel. Genesis 11:1-9 (NIV)
“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
“They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel-because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
There are people today that still believe that this is how different languages were acquired.” How language is acquired is not clearly understood, but all agree that language is a construct upon which knowledge of a particular culture is developed based upon climate, region and perceived needs of the people of that region. For example, in Alaska there are many words, at least, 25 meanings for snow; whereas, in some places in South America there is only one term for ice and snow alike. From a historical perspective, the Tower of Babel was constructed in approximately 2000 BCE. At that time, all continents were populated with people who spoke thousands of different languages, and some of them had a written language. Certainly math had advanced. The Tower had architectural drawings for its construction. It is ridiculous to suggest that the Tower of Babel represents the reason people speak different languages.
Talking in tongues is purely psychological and non-sense as is attested by some I have discussed it with who say that they just got caught up in the moment, and some can talk in tongues on cue. Talking in tongues on cue is akin to Shirley MacLaine channeling herself into another dimension on cue.
Channeling, used to be known as spiritualism, was brought to the general public in the late 1840s by Margaret and Kate Fox who claimed they heard voices from the other side, meaning another dimension. They in turn communicated this information to interested parties; people who wanted to make contact with deceased love ones. Shirley MacLaine of movie and TV fame has helped to make channeling more acceptable to people in general. Another type of popular channeling is the Ouija board. Used a great deal by college students to try and call up the dead. These are all examples of smoke and mirrors; utter non-sense and no empirical evidence has been put forth to verify these claims.
Does God Answer Prayer Five Times Per Day
If they can do so, Muslims pray five times per day. Can you imagine a person feeling a need to pray five times per day? Praying five times a day is considered the second most important of Islam’s five pillars, after professing that there is no God worthy of worship but God (Allah) and that the Prophet Mohammed is God’s messenger. This has to be one of the most unproductive activities I can envision. Muslim prayer reminds Muslim of the mortality of man. You mean that it takes five times per day to remind a human that they will die. The Muslim prayer requires one to submit to the lowest possible position to the ground as a symbol of submission to Allah. This to me is counterproductive. Taking the time five times per day is taking away from productive work or other activities. I suggest, however, that there is some value in meditation throughout the day to decrease stress and help one lead a more tranquil life. But taking the time to submit to an unknown and unseen God five times per day seems to be a loss of productive work time.
Millions of people believe that daily God answers their prayers concerning major and minor things. A person prays that their love one survives a tragic car crash that could have ended in death, to the person late for work who prays that they find their keys. Each feels that they had a personal relationship with God that led to the answering of prayers. Let me sum it up in this manner, “According to the Standard Model of God; God is an omniscient, all-powerful, all-loving being who answers prayers. Imagine God sitting on his magnificent throne in heaven looking down upon Earth, seeing every detail. God speaks:
"Look at all of those praying people getting tortured in that death camp. Excellent! I won't do anything to stop that. And look at that little girl down there being raped and murdered. Perfect! She is praying like mad, and so is her mother, but I won't do anything to stop that. And there are three terrorists preparing to blow up a church and kill 1,500 people who are saying the Lord's Prayer to me right now. Outstanding! I won't do anything to stop that. How wonderful it is that 1,000 prayerful people will die of starvation today in Ethiopia. I love it! I won't do anything to stop that. Oh… and there's little Suzy Jenkins praying that I remove that pimple from her nose for her big date with Chad tomorrow. Let me go help Suzy right now…" (The above quote was taken from the following website. http://godisimaginary.com/i31.htm
The idea that each person has a personal relationship with this powerful being is silly, ignorant, and filled with superstition. Again, I submit that prayer might serve as a calming process or ritual to ease the tension of life’s sometimes difficult experiences, but to suggest that there is an outside force that intervenes does not present or demonstrate any empirical evidence to support the success of such a ritual.
Cargo cults the Religion of the Conquerors
During World War II, U. S pilots dropped food supplies to natives in the South Pacific. The natives were pleased with the food supplies and viewed the food falling from the sky as it was dropped by parachute to the ground. Since the food came from the planes, the natives who had not seen planes before could not distinguish between the mechanical make-up of the planes and a living entity that provided them with food. At the end of World War II, when the food drops discontinued, the natives did not understand why, so they created the idea that they should copy everything they saw, including building an airplane of straw and wooden headphones as if they were communicating to the control towers. Of course, the food drops had stopped and finally the natives realized that the “God” they had created was not coming back to drop more food. It is simply, the human species creates Gods and spirits for things they do not understand.
In another part of the South Pacific is located the Philippine Islands. The islands, like all other ancient people, had their Gods, but today the Philippines have been taken over by the Gods of others and people of the Philippines have bought into it totally. The people of the Philippines were first introduced to Islam around 1350 ACE. Well, this was not a kind introduction. It was either convert or be killed. Islam was not spread throughout the Philippines. It was concentrated in the southern islands. In 1565, Spain arrived, headed by Miguel Lopez de Legasp. Spain’s goal was to Christianize everyone and eliminate any non-Christians, such as Jews and Moors. Spain had a more powerful army and succeeded in making Christianity the dominant religion. Spanish missionaries established towns and moved people from rural areas to more collective living arrangements and made the Church the center of town life. The Church was surrounded by markets; but Islam still had pockets of significant resistance until the takeover by America in 1898, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on August 12, 1898. The people of the Philippines were still in conflict with the Americans, and this conflict led to the Philippine-American War, which began On June 2, 1899. The war ended in 1901. A major American goal after the war was to Christianize and democratize the Philippines. Democracy has had its ups and downs, but the goal to Christianize has been more successful; although the Philippines are considered a democratic nation. Today 86% of the population is Christians; 4% Muslim, and the remaining are indigenous beliefs and other forms of Christianity. A few, almost too small to measure practice Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. But the Philippines are a nation of people with many Islands. There are 7,107 total islands, 2,000 of which are inhabitable. These Islands have been totally taken over by a religion that was used, in part, to conquer them; first by Muslims and later by Christian, European and American respectively. Filipinos of the Philippines are not alone. Mexico is another prime example. The people were enslaved or reduced to servitude and converted to Catholicism.
Another example that I find intriguing is the conversion of African Americans almost totally to Christianity. Now, to be sure, Islam was imposed on Africans in the traditional Islamic manner: convert of die or be sold into slavery to the Christians. In the Caribbean islands, many were able to hold on to some of their African traditions (Voodoo), but by and large, they were all converted. It is estimated by some historians that between 15-30 percent of Africans imported as slaves into the Americas were Muslim, with the remaining practicing indigenous forms of worship. All of these are religions of those who conquered and/or enslaved the ancestors of African Americans. Now I would not go as far as some and say that once you take on the religion of the oppressor, you are forever to a degree enslaved, but I will say that theoretically you are forever inferior to the conquerors because you have accepted their God. The conquerors are in theory superior to you. They can always claim to have brought you enlightenment, even if was just more gun powder, bridges, and temples.
The Salem Witch Trails
Colonial Massachusetts in 1692 experienced what history may say was one of the most barbaric and insane miscarriages of justice in the history of North America (American colonies). Europeans came to the American colonies with new found freedom to think in terms of a personal relationship with God and the idea that one could choose their own manner of worship, and to experiment with new technology and medicines for healing. But those in leadership felt a need to control the population. So in the late 1600s, the colonial leaders imposed strict and harsh penalties for those whose religious practices they did not agree. According to historian Clarence F. Jewell, at least 12 people were executed in New England prior to the 1692 witch trials. The township leaders objected to the proliferation of a variety of religious sects and wanted to hold the colonist in check. Many people of this time believed in witchcraft; it was a commonly held belief that witchcraft was the cause of many maladies in the colonies. Therefore, anyone who could be proven to practice witchcraft was subject to penalties. And of course, prisons were not readily available or certainly had limited capacity for punishing in those days, so direct punishment was the most viable alternative. The Salem witch trials represent a variety of superstitions that came together at one time: witchcraft was accepted as an evil of life; rumors abound that stupendous witchcraft was having a significant influence on the children of Boston. Most crimes committed by children were attributed to witchcraft. Children, who were guilty, I assume, began to have convulsions. Two girls, 9 and 11 years of age, began to go into convulsions. Perhaps this was some medical malady, but it was seen as witchcraft. Some historians attribute these actions to one family trying to get back at another; a family feud. But township leaders wanted to identify a solution, which included blaming someone, including a four-year-old who was the daughter of a woman accused of witchcraft, and punishing them for the offense. As a result, a total of 20 people, most of them women, were executed. These are the kinds of tragic actions that are taken when humans don’t have knowledge about the causes of things. Superstition with the face of God can take over reason when science cannot answer the question (s). It seems to me that as human beings as we encounter unknown questions that are resolved in a reasonably, logical, and scientific manner, we could let go of some of the primitive and post-primitive ideas. To be sure, there has been much progress in the thinking of humans about God and the universe and what we reasonably know. We know what causes many diseases and how to cure them. We have learned to reduce pain, even for women in child birth in spite of the Catholic Church’s past opposition. In industrialized locations in the world the life expectancy of humans has increased, and equally important the quality of life has improved greatly. But our medical and other scientific advances have far outpaced our social and cultural revelations and acknowledgments. The human species, in terms of religion, is still essentially in a primitive state.
Ignorance or Refusal to Apply Knowledge
The third part of the basis of belief in God or religion is ignorance. Ignorance is from Latin ignorantia or want of knowledge. It is further defined as lack of knowledge, information, or education. For this writing, I define it in a different manner. It is not so much as a lack of knowledge because many people who are religious are very intelligent and have an enormous amount of knowledge. It is the refusal to apply that knowledge, or refusal to adhere to knowledge that they possess. There are many very intelligent people in the world who are devoutly religious. This includes scientist, doctors, biologist, botanist, people who understand nature and why things happen, but yet they refuse to accept the knowledge that they have. I must note, however, that a larger percentage of scientists are non-believers versus believers, and of course, the general public. While 95% of US Americans believe in a Supreme Being or higher power, only approximately 33% of scientist believes in the same. Although I am not a scientist, I also claim the position that there is no empirical evidence supporting the existence of God as demonstrated by easily available knowledge.
I would like to identify some of the common knowledge that to me defunct the idea that a God, who designed and controls the universe suggest or provides empirical evidence that an all omnipresent God exist. Some of this I have cited in other chapters, but it is also appropriate here:
The earth is not the center of the universe. Galileo Galilei, born February 1564, was an Italian astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician. One of his greatest achievements was improvements in the telescope. He used the telescope to observed planets, stars, moons, and the solar system in general. From his observations, he concluded that the earth was not the center of the universe, as the Catholic Church taught, but in fact the earth revolved around the sun. This statement against Church teachings was considered heresy. As a result of this charge, Galileo was tried by the Roman Inquisition in 1633, and found guilty. He was thus forced to recant his observations, and was also placed under house arrest until his death January 8, 1642, at the age of 77. Can you imagine how much more we would know about the universe if empirical knowledge he offered had been allowed to grow at that time. What the Catholic Church did was further the cause of ignorance in the face of knowledge. It was rumored that most priests agreed with Galileo, but for fear of retribution from the Church, they remained silent. There is also some evidence that some scientists in the East knew the pattern of the universe, but this was not common knowledge to the western world.
In the view of Church leaders, all things were caused by God, including any illness which was caused by sin and any attempt to alter that illness was against God will. Therefore, the human species should be accepting of suffering. The Lutheran Council confirmed this in 1215, stating that anyone ill must have deserved it and any attempt to go against God’s will was a sin in itself. Infants born deformed were said to have been touched by the devil before they were born.
Leviticus 21:16-23New International Version (NIV):
“The Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who have a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the Lord. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the Lord, who makes them holy.”
The acceptance of suffering was viewed by the Church as consistent with the will of God. That anything the human species needed, God had provided, and there was no need for additional knowledge. The Bible has stated it. Suffering and especially the suffering of women was not to be interfered with or altered.
The Bible is especially adamant about the suffering of women. In Genesis 3:16 God is reported to have said, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow (pain) and they conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. One way the Church translated this was for the Church leaders to discourage pain relief during child birth. During the middle-ages, women who tried to help relieve the pain of women during childbirth were condemned and some put to death and accused of witchcraft. Their crime was defying God for the “Curse of Eve”. Now there is some biblical dispute about this passage. Some religious scholars say that during ancient time’s child birth was not the painful experience it became later, that natural remedies prevented such pain.”
They further say that the translation of the “curse of eve” was a 15th- century creation, and did not appear in earlier versions of the Bible. If this is true, then it stands to reason that so much of the Bible has been translated incorrectly and, therefore, has some limitations regarding reasonable truth and knowledge.
Exorcism is defined as the religious or spiritual and ancient rite/practice of casting out demons from the souls or body of living beings that have been possessed by evil spirits. There are thousands of people currently who believe that there are demons or spirits of evil floating around in another dimension just waiting for the right body to come aboard so they can enter it. Primarily it is thought to be practiced by the Catholic Church, but others as well; some refer to it as “lying on hands”. I have seen many televangelists “cast out” demons of people who believe they are healed and have been rid of diabetes; cancer; desires to use drugs, drink, sex addiction, or any maladies that befall them. This started with Jesus in Mathew 10:1, when he said (KJV) “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease”.
Many “men of God” make millions of dollars on Sunday morning claiming to heal people. Many people neglect their medicines and medical treatment in the name of religion because they believe that the minister has cast out their sickness that had manifested in them as a result of sin. To me, this is clearly an example of ignoring knowledge. With so many people in the world having knowledge that exorcism is a hoax, it is astonishing that it is still practiced in many locations worldwide.
Who is More Moral: Atheist or Non-atheist
Morally, who takes the higher ground, Atheist or non-atheist? The question I pose is this, is there a difference morally in atheist and non-atheist? Atheists, demographically are defined as predominately male, more educated than the general population, higher incomes than the average, not as sexually conservative as the general population, mostly white, and a growing segment of the United States population. Worldwide, the least religious countries in the world are: China with a 90% atheist or non-religious population; the Netherlands, with 66% non-religious or atheist; the UK, with 66% non-religious or atheist; Israel, with 65% non-religious or atheist; Japan, with 65% non-religious or atheist; Germany, with 69% non-religious or atheist; and Australia, with 58% non-religious or atheist.
The most religious countries are: Thailand, with 94% who say they are religious; only 1% say they are atheist; Armenia with 93% who say they are religious; Bangladesh, Georgia, and Morocco also say they are 93.5% religious. Some of the general characteristics are that the least educated and lower income earners are the most religious. Income and education are also probable factors that affect the crime rate. Atheists don’t commit crime, as a percentage of the population, at a rate equal to or higher than people who identify themselves as religious or spiritual. Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Rasta’s, Jewish, Church of Christ, Pentecostal, Jehovah Witness, Adventist, Mormon, and Scientology all have a higher number of people in prisons that atheist. Study after study has shown that atheists are least likely to commit crime than people who classify themselves as religious or spiritual. Rick Gervais (Movie Director, Writer. Actor, Stand-up Comedian), posted in 2013, that if all atheist left America, they would lose 93% of the National Academy of Sciences and less than 1% of the prison population. As an African American who is writing about religion, I have a special interest in this question of crime and religion. Let’s take a look at that population, in particular, the African-American population. Are religious African Americans more likely to commit crime than non-religious African Americans? Certainly there are many social and economic variables, but let’s look at religion. African Americans, including Hispanic Blacks make-up approximately 13.6% of the general population, and 87 say they have a religious affiliation versus 83% of the general US population. Yet 40% of the inmates in US prisons are African American, and only a small percentage, if any at all, are atheist. Again, there are many social and economic barriers that affect crime and incarceration, but something as powerful as God should help overcome these barriers, less you conduct yourself without faith. On average, a Black person, mostly male, is killed by white police officers or persons in security position every 28 days, or 313 per year. However, over 6,000 Blacks are murdered annually, with other Blacks being the assailants 90% of the time. When is God going to intervene?
I believe in facing the facts. It does not appear that religion has had a positive impact on the crime or incarceration rate of African American, yet African Americans hold strong religious beliefs. The United States represent 5% of the world’s population, yet 25% of the world’s prison population. Yet, there is no evidence that those Blacks in prison have any significant atheist affiliation. Now I don’t take the arrogant higher moral ground because I am an atheist. Atheists, as a group tends to be more educated, have higher incomes, disproportionately white, and therefore don’t face the scrutiny as Blacks in the criminal justice system. I am painfully aware that crime and punishment are affected by social and economic factors, plus the lengthening shadow of slavery with the accompanying racially imbalanced justice system, but you would think there would be some correlation between the religious fever of African Americans and restraint from and involvement in crime. So, I know you will have a higher percentage of African Americans in prison. But, obviously, somewhere along the way, God has failed African Americans. Again, I want to be clear that I do not believe that atheists are somehow more moral than non-atheist, but neither are believers more moral than non-believers. There are some good atheist and some morally detestable atheist; there are some morally good religious people, and there are some detestable religious people.
Ministers (Dr.) Cornell West and (Dr.) Eric Michael Dyson
My last topic will deal with two people in whom I have the highest of regard. They are eminent scholars, as demonstrated by intellectual accomplishment and academic productivity. They are perhaps two of the most brilliant minds of the 21st century. They are Dr. Cornell West and Dr. Eric Michael Dyson. They are also ordained ministers.
Dr. Cornell West, born June 2, 1952, graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in 1973; a Ph.D from Princeton University in 1980, and coincidentally the first Black American to be awarded a doctorate in philosophy from Princeton. He has served as a professor at a number of universities, including Harvard, Princeton, and Union Theological Seminary. Dr. West is a very prolific writer, penning 20 books and many articles. He has been and still continues as one of the intellectual backbones of the struggles of Black and other oppressed population, including lesbian and gays. His books include The Ethical Dimensions of Marxist Thought (1991), Beyond Eurocentrism and Multiculturalism (1993), Race Matters (1994) Restoring Hope: Conversation on the Future of Black America (1997), The African-American Century: How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Century (with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 2000), Brother West: Living & Loving Out Loud (2006), The Rich and the Rest of US: A Poverty Manifesto (with Tavis Smiley, 2012), and Black Prophetic Fire (2014). He has also been an activist, participating in demonstrations, such as Occupy DEC, PETA, Million Man March, Hip-Hop Summit, against Human Trafficking, and he is a member of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy.
Dr. West has also made appearances on TV programs and documentaries, such as the Matrix Reloaded, the video game, Enter the Matrix, the documentary film, Examined Life, academic discussions about philosophy in real-world context, Real Time with Bill Maher, 30 Rock, and numerous other appearances.
He is the consummate activist intellectual, academician (in terms of production of works); a person to be admired and I admire him very much. But there are two issues I have with Dr. West: his claim, as he grins and says, "I am a Christian,” and his criticism of Dr. W. E. B. DuBois’ religious views.
Dr. West states:
“I follow the biblical injunction to look at the world through the eyes of its victims, and the Christocentric perspective that requires that one see the world through the lens of the Cross-and thereby see our relative victimizing and relative victimization. Since we inhibit different locations on the existential, socioeconomic, cultural and political scales, our victim status differs, though we all, in some way, suffer…..
My acceptance of the prophetic Christian tradition is rational in that it rest upon good reasons. These reasons are good ones not because they result from logical necessity or conform to transcendental criteria. Rather, they are good in that they flow from rational deliberation that perennially scrutinizes my particular tradition in relation to specific problems of dogmatic thought, existential anguish and societal oppression.”
In other words, he says I know there is no reasonable intellectual thought process that can support Christianity (or God), but the sociology of it satisfies my position that I do not have to come to grips with the reality that the history and the idea of Christianity and its antecedent God is based on historical myth. This is my view of Dr. West’s thought pattern. I would like to ask him to explain. Dr. West goes on to state:
“Yes, presently, I remain convinced by prophetic Christian tradition. Its synoptic vision speaks with insight and power to the multiform character of human existence and to the specificity of the historical modes of human existence. Its moral vision and ethical norms propel human intellectual activity to account for and transform existing forms of dogmatism, oppression and despair. And the historicist turn in philosophy of religion helps us understand that we are forced to choose, in a rational and critical manner, some set of transient social practices, contingent cultural descriptions and revisable scientific theories by which to live. This historicist stress on human finitude and human agency fits well, thought it does not justify, my Christian faith. And, to put it bluntly, I do hope that the historists turns in philosophy of religion enriches the prophetic Christian tradition and enables us to work more diligently for a better world.”
In other words, I know this God and Christian stuff is bunk, but I don’t want to have to deal with being an atheist and defending it for all the crazy Christian, Muslims, and Jews (not so much Jews. A large portion of Jews really get it. Over one-third are reported to be atheist or agnostic), who may not listen to me in other than academic circles if I were to be an out-of-the closet atheist.
Briefly, Dr. West criticized Dr. W. E. B. DuBois for his criticism of religion/God, suggesting that Dr. DuBois should not reject religion/Christianity because of the loss of a loved one. I suggest that non-religious people deal with the loss of a loved one in the same manner as religious people: they feel emotional pain, and then they try to move forward with the logic that some people die early, and the reasons are connected to the scientific and environmental cycle of the mammal experience. I feel that Dr. West’s criticism of W. E. DuBois was unfair and not founded on an intellectual platform that can withstand logical or empirical scrutiny.
Dr. Dyson is a somewhat different case. He is not as intellectually eloquent regarding doubts about his faith as Dr. West if he (Dr., Dyson) has any. He just seems a little “God struck” to me. Dr. Dyson was born October 23, 1958, part of the boomer generation, as am I, but I am 11 years older. He became an ordained minister at 19 years of age, as I became an atheist at 19 years of age. He received his Bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Carson-Newman College in 1985; and his master’s and Ph.D in religion, from Princeton University in 1991 and 1993, respectively. He has served as a faculty member at Chicago Theological Seminary, Brown University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Columbia University, DePaul University the University of Pennsylvania, and Georgetown University. He has written 18 books, including Making Malcolm (1994), Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster, Let me Hear you Holla: the story of Tupac Sukur; and Brother and Keepers; he is a regular guest and commentator on National Public Radio, CNN, and MSNBC. He has received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (2004), 2006, and 2007). His many awards and recognition abound. My question is if he is so intelligent, then why in the hell is he still holding on to the ridiculous belief that he should be a Christian, a minister, or for that matter any religious faith. You would think that given his intelligence and intellect he would recognize that the Bible is filled with inaccuracies, lies, non-sense, witchcraft, ghost stories, illogical thinking, anti-intellectual thought (although I am sure he will dispute that the Bible is anti-intellectual, but I think he will admit that much of what is written in the Bible lacks rudimentary empirical evidence). I spent about ten minutes talking to him once at a small gathering at a bookstore in Long Beach, CA, as he lectured on Let me Hear you Holla: the story of Tupac Sukur. We exchanged a few kind words and cards, and he invited me to follow-up with him for further discussions. I had spent eight years teaching ethnic studies, part-time at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA, and had some knowledge of Tupac. I had also taught Black History at a community college for ten years. Now, to be fair, I have not read all of Dr. Dyson’s writings, and some of my criticisms may not be accurate, but the major thrust of my concerns is firm. He can dress it up and say that Black people have embraced Christianity and made it their own, as the followers of Jesus embraced the term “Christians”, but this does not change the fact that African Americans have taken on the religions of the populations that oppressed them most, Islam and Christianity, respectively, and African Americans continue to do so today.
Each of us, all people, individually and collectively, has had to formulate a perspective on life and the universe based on our individual socioeconomic and cultural experiences, combined with our own psychology. So I am not judging Dr. Dyson or Dr. West’s individual social and psychological perspective for expressing their views in the manner in which we receive it and they promulgate it. I simply have questions about their religious intellectual honesty. Dr. W. E. B. DuBois said that the best that a scholar can give is a reverence for truth, a disdain for hypocrisy and sham, and a real sincerity in purpose. In fact, Dr. DuBois was unforgiving of Galileo for recounting his knowledge of the earth’s rotation before the tribunal during his trial for heresy. Dr. DuBois believed that Galileo should have maintained, before the tribunal, that the earth was not the center of the universe. Now, I have not faced imminent death, and therefore, I cannot say what Galileo should have or have not said, but Dr. West and Dr. Dyson do not face death or for that matter any form of ridicule for their beliefs. They are the experts, and they will continue to be respected as eminent scholars of their time. Now, if they revealed themselves as atheist, they would not be accepted by many of the Black masses and elite with the esteem that they currently enjoy; so I understand, to a degree, their dilemma; but like DuBois, I am not forgiving of their position, although I respect their right to have a difference of opinion. I simply don’t understand it. One of the major problems, as I see it, it that other voices are not heard as they should be because of Dr. West and Dr. Dyson. I am speaking of the Black free-thinking intellectuals.
There are some least talked about Blacks in America, dead and living that are not religious, and certainly their religious views are not at the center of their discussions. These individuals are viewed as atheist, agnostic, or free-thinkers; Dr. Carter G. Woodson, historian and author; Richard Wright, author; Zora Neal Hurston, author; Butterfly McQueen, actress; Lorraine Hansberry, Playwright; James Foreman, Civil Rights Activist; A. Phillip Randolph, Civil Rights Activist; Charlie “Bird” Parker, musician; Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, scientist (Dr. Tyson is beginning to get more airtime for his beliefs); Langston Hughes, writer; Morgan Freeman, actor; and Whoopi Goldberg, actress, Certainly they have had and current occupy forums, but the topic of religion is usually not at the center of their discussions. I am especially impressed with the thoughts of Dr. Niel DeGrasse Tyson. For example, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson stated to Bill O’Reilly on the subject of God,
“Does it mean if you don’t understand something, and the community of physicists don’t understand it, that means God did it” Is that how you want to play this game: Because if it is , here is a list of the things in the past that the physicists at the time didn’t understand, and a talk show you might have conducted 200 years ago would have said “The planet do retrograde: Can’t understand that, must be God, And we’d say “You know, you’re are right: And then ten years later we understand it, so what do you do: So if that’s how you want to invoke your evidence for God, then God is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance that’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time moves on, so just be ready for that to happen if that’s how you want to come at the problem.”
This is one of my major problems with the theory of Gods or Gods. It appears that many intelligent minds cannot let go of the fact that they are going to die, not return, not know what is going to happen in the future, and that if you are lucky enough you get old, your body deteriorates, and your mind is not as sharp as you want it to be; if you are a man, at some point you will have erectile dysfunction, or, at least, decreased libido; and you will die, and you will not come back to see how everything goes afterwards. Although more intelligent, we are just like the wildebeest that cross the Serengeti, the crocodile of life will get some of us, and most will die from old age. Not believing in God has not made me a better or worse person. I am certain that many people can give examples of people who have turned their lives around because they felt a close relationship with the idea of God. This is good, but it does not make the existence of God true. The idea of God just fills in the gap when we don’t know the answer. It did not work in the past but was accepted. The idea of God has been a hindrance to the full development of the human species. The idea of God thwarts intellectual development. Not believing in God has given me the ultimate freedom – to be an existentialist and to be more human and to try to make the best decisions I can for the betterment of the human race.
The Bible is anti-intellectual. The Bible depicts a man (Moses) parting the Red Sea with a stick; Jesus bringing Lazarus back from the dead after three days of death; the virgin birth; turning the poor wife of Lot into a pillar of salt; Sampson’s strength in his hair (Someone had better tell Michael Jordan and all the other men who shave their heads, including me); crucifixion; Jesus rising from the dead; and that man (woman) will burn in an eternal hell of fire.
An unknown writer in Humanism by Joe, sums up the view of knowledge in the Bible in this manner:
“The acquisition of knowledge was so evil in God’s eyes that it caused him to curse all of humanity and the entire creation. Moreover, human reason is untrustworthy and should not be used. There’s little point in studying the world, anyway, because it belongs to Satan and will soon be destroyed and replaced by another. Besides, superior results can be obtained from the assistance of supernatural beings. And pursuing knowledge of this world brings misery. People’s main focus should be on heaven and not earth.” (The above information was taken from the following website.) http://humanismbyjoe.co/biblical-opposition-to-knowledge/
With the acceptance of Jesus came ignorance. The outlook of Christians was fundamentally different from that of the ancient Greeks and Romans. According to Christians, God revealed himself through the Bible and the Church. As Tertullian explained, scientific research became superfluous once the gospel of Jesus Christ was available:
‘We have no need of curiosity after Jesus Christ, nor of research after the gospel. When we believe, we desire to believe nothing more. For we believe that there is nothing else that we need to believe.”
“The Church taught that it knew all there was to be known. Christian knowledge was comprehensive and unquestionable. Rational investigation was, therefore, unnecessary. Existing learning was not merely superfluous, but positively harmful. Theologians were convinced that God had defined strict limits on the knowledge that human beings might acquire, and anything else was "sorcery". De praescnptione haereticorum (On the Rule of the Heretic)
Now, for me what does it mean to be an atheist and why should it matter to anyone else. Does it help the human species? My intent in writing this book is to further the humanity of the human species. Atheism is not a Civil Rights movement. It is individual; it is existential, meant to improve the free-thinking of individuals and hopefully influencing more individuals to embrace the humanity of man/womankind.
Dr. Arthur R. Byrd is a retired community college Vice President. He worked 37 years in community colleges in the states of Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada; 24 years as a vice president for student services. Dr. Byrd was awarded a doctorate degree in Higher Education from the University of Washington. In addition, he served as adjunct faculty in six universities in both undergraduate and graduate studies for Portland State University, Portland OR; Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA; Chapman University, Orange, CA; CSU, Long Beach, Long Beach, CA; University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV, and Alliant International University – Online. His disciplines include Ethnic Studies, Communications, and Education. Dr. Byrd grew up in a small rural community of 500 people called Nigton, Texas, located in the piney woods of East Texas, during the Jim Crow segregation era. The community’s social and cultural life focused on three Churches, three juke joints, plus a school. Growing up Dr. Byrd focused on the religious aspects of his community, but at the age of 19, while in the United States Air Force, he had an intellectual epiphany and transitioned into becoming an atheist. He has been an outspoken atheist since that time. Since his retirement from higher education in 2011, Dr. Byrd has dedicated himself to the study of the history and philosophy of religion, culminating in the writing of a book that chronicles his transition to atheism, and the various stages of atheist he has experienced up until the present time.