Probing with Astrology

Sitting next to us on our flight from London to Amsterdam was a 20-year-old Hague student.  We chatted on everything: linguistics, politics and Dutch bigotry – to name a few. He told me how his father (British) was a capitalist working in Hong Kong and yet though a socialist, like his mother (French), he still got along marvelously with his father.

Agreeing with the notion that beliefs don’t have to hinder relationships, I cautiously probed by explaining that I had friends who believed in Astrology but that we got along marvelously because we didn’t argue about Astrology.  I realized that Astrology was important to them, they found meaning in it, and so we just let it go at that.

My new acquaintance agreed and quickly saw through the parallels I was conjuring and more directly probed: “I don’t believe in God, do you?”  I said, “No, but I have many friends who do and it serves them well.”

He agreed, elaborating, “If it offers hope, I can’t argue.”  I nodded adding the caveat: “For some, instead of hope, their beliefs offer security, community, identity or status and even those I understand, but when their religion affects politics, bigotry, science teaching or causes mockery of my kids on the school grounds, my ecumenical tolerance evaporates.”   We laughed together in agreement.

It was fun to use Astrology as a probe to discuss religion. Fortunately he was not a superstitious Scorpio astrologer!

 Comment Suggestion for Visitors:   Give us an example of a subject you often probe delicately and how.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

12 responses to “Probing with Astrology

  1. Now after someone learns I am an acupuncturist, I’ll often give a couple examples of things I’ve researched or written about that I’m skeptical of–i.e. acupuncture is not going to cure beriberi, no matter how many Chinese textbooks say it may, or talk about weird things in “herbal” medicine history like use of heavy metals or feces… It’s amazing how almost everyone will give an example or a story of something that is “too far out.” Also, I get more people saying “I knew someone who got acupuncture for XXX and it didn’t work for them” whereas previously I think people were very cautious about self-censoring, thinking I was a 100% true believer.

  2. @ AncientWay-Kevin,
    Indeed ! People often expect others to grab the whole package and not be picky about what they believe. Here in the US, if you say I am Democrat or Republican, it takes a while to talk yourself out of a stereotype. Likewise for Married/Divorced, Atheist/Christian, Gunowner/not …

    I ofter wait a while before I let a physician know my alternative medicine background, for the reasons you allude to.

    Well written — thanx for sharing.

  3. Astrology as a gateway conversation to skeptical/atheist talk. I like it. “What’s your sign?” isn’t just a pick-up line anymore.

  4. Hmm. The whole, “religion offers hope; it is comforting,” idea rings a bit hollow to me. From the research I’ve seen, it seems to me that religion can be just as much a crutch: people could do as well without out it, but they just lack the confidence/experience. Sure, there may be an adjustment period to going without. As for religion offering community . . . that’s a tough one. In our day and age, finding and participating in meaningful, non-blood, multi-family groups isn’t easy. At least beyond what religion provides. But because religion does provide this, I’m not sure we should give it a blanket ‘pass’ (though you weren’t suggesting that). And who knows, if people didn’t have religion to turn to, maybe they would find or create something that lacks the drawback of that old-tyme religion.

  5. Hi Andrew:
    I think some people use religion to offer themselves some type of security (false or not) and agree that methods outside of religion work also and thus religion is not needed. Put I hold that religion does offer functions otherwise it would not exist.

  6. I’m a Scorpio but not an astrologer!

    If I could gently probe, I would probably want to talk about more, but since I trample into topics with the finesse of a bull in a China shop, I prefer to bring up topics and listen, mostly on women’s issues and parenting. I will offer a question now and then to keep the conversation going but keep my own comments to myself. Days later I will keep repeating the conversation in my head until I assimilate and accommodate the experience.

  7. @ Jessica
    On my recent couch surfing adventure that is the method I largely used also. But I was a guest — other times I like being the bull! Even if I am not a Taurus! 😉

  8. anon

    You act like your beliefs might not affect politics….what gives? That’s an unfair standard- to act like your metaphysics don’t impact anyone and that everyone else should be good little religious boys and girls and keep their metaphyisics out of the public square.

  9. @ anon ,
    [please consider making up a unique identifier for easier communication]
    I think beliefs can affect politics — and again, maybe not. Both believers and unbelievers can be bigots — a bigot will use any tool at their disposal to cloak their bigotry. There is often something deeper than our beliefs themselves. But yes, beliefs can matter. But I don’t believe that inaccurate beliefs are always bad. How about you?

  10. not-anon

    I agree that beliefs affect politics…the beliefs of both religious and non religious people. In your post you seem to be alluding to the idea that while the metaphysical beliefs of the religious can be ok they should be kept out of the public square and should not be allowed to affect public policy. At the same time you seem to be under the impression that you as an atheist have no metaphysical beliefs so your values ( I would term values as metaphysical beliefs) should be allowed to affect politics. It seems hypocritical to me. Thanks for responding so courteously….a nick name…I will have to think about that:)

  11. @ not-anon/anon [seriously, make up a handle],

    I am saying that I often won’t confront folks’ wacky beliefs as long as they don’t have real implications in my life in order to have a good relationship. Now, I agree that the “wackiness” of a belief is a subjective decision, but the fact that we can get along great with those who have very different non-coercive opinions is what I am talking about.

    I agree that I have beliefs that affect my political opinions — whether you call them “metaphysical” or not, I don’t care. I agree that if my values are coercive in your world, they should be open to addressing strongly in the public square.

    Hope that helps.

  12. not-anon but trying to think of a better handle

    ok sounds good, thanks for the clarification.

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