Religion and Nature  

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I picked up a new book last week titled The Sun due to my recent fascination with the sun as a result of my weekly photographs. It's beautifully done and features many impressive photos of the sun and everything sun-like. Each chapter contains a brief summary of the types of photographs that will follow. Chapter four is largely about auroras. As I was reading the summary one paragraph struck me:
Humans have at times seen a lot more in the heavens than just a brilliant light show. Folklore from China and Europe describes auroras as great dragons or serpents in the skies; some researchers now speculate that the dragon faced down by Britain's patron Saint George was in fact the aurora swirling over Scotland. In Scandinavia, Iceland, and Greenland, auroras were often seen as great burning archways by which the gods traveled from heaven to Earth. Some Native American tribes pictured spirits carrying lanterns as they sought the souls of dead hunters, while the Inuit envisioned souls at play. p.116

It's the religion slant. I realize that before we knew that auroras were caused by solar winds, we tried to explain it and looking back we can see those explanations as silly. But it's the Saint George legend that really gets me.

Saint George was a Roman soldier that is venerated as a saint due to his martyrdom. In his English veneration he supposedly slew a dragon and saved a princess. The dragon really being an aurora only pinpoints the arrogance of the legend. To think that a person could dispel the aurora is just ridiculous to think about. Now perhaps that's not the origination of the legend, but it brings the idea home to me.

Religion is all about claiming humans have power over nature. And I'm not just talking about plants and husbandry, but about ecosystems, the sun and moon, and indeed the entire universe. And it's so damn arrogant. We can't even harness the power of the sun and yet religionists want to claim they have the whole cosmos figured out.

We're such a small speck in the vastness of the universe, and yet religionists want to claim that we're the center of creation. They fear the thought that this world wasn't created especially for them. They'd rather deny the truth than face our true nature.

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