Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

Non-traditional religions

By non-traditional or new religions, I mean any set of beliefs that does not fall into the category of conventional religions. Examples include Inner Engineering, Pranic healing, Reiki, Yoga, Meditation, New Age, The Secret, witchcraft, Satanism, Art of Living, Feng Shui, Vastu, astrology, etc. Some of these are not new, and the adherents of some of these beliefs may deny that these beliefs are religions, preferring to call them science instead (although you won't find them in your physics text book). Non-traditional beliefs are growing in their popularity today. Let's compare their message and credentials with those of the Bible, and the God of the Bible.

The main selling point: power

Adherents to these beliefs claim that there is extraordinary power in these techniques. While some of the "power" can be explained away as tricks, the placebo effect, psychological effects, etc. there is nevertheless, real power in these techniques and practices. Practitioners are able to heal people, harm people, have extraordinary strength, etc. These things are a reality, much as materialistic atheists would like to deny them. I'd like to investigate the origin of the power of non-traditional techniques. Before that, a clarification is needed.

Energy

Believers in non-traditional techniques talk a lot about "energy"  - this thing that is out there in the universe, or in your own body, which can supposedly work wonders. "Energy" is also a scientific term. So is the energy that the physicists talk of the same as the energy that the new age people talk about?

Energy in physics is a physical quantity. It is not a "thing" that we can see, but it can be quantified. It is measured in Joules or calories. It is tangible - a fire cracker releases less energy than an atom bomb. There are two very important features of physical energy:-

  1. The mere availability of energy is no good - it usually spells disaster.
  2. Energy is beneficial when channelized properly, but this requires a clever application of the laws of physics and chemistry.

As an example, the local china shop would be ruined if we let a waterfall or river in, but we can instead build a hydroelectric power plant, convert the waterfall's energy to electricity, make a safe power transmission system, and then the china shop owners will be happy to use the electricity. Another example: mere sunlight is a total waste of energy. But plants have an amazingly complex and efficient mechanism (called photosynthesis) to channelize solar energy and use it to make food for themselves and other living things.

Two more things to note about physical energy:-

  1. Energy has no moral attributes. The neutrons in a nuclear fission reactor don't know whether they are being used for generating electricity or to make a weapon - and they don't and can't care.
  2. Channelization of energy requires engineering - it cannot be done by rituals and intentions.

But the energy that the new religions talk about can supposedly be channelized by having good or bad intentions, closing one's eyes, drawing symbols, chanting things, and so on.

Conclusion: The "energy" of the new agers and others is not the energy of physics, and their use of the term does not make their techniques "scientific". 

Interpreting the power

The genuine ability to heal people, make people feel good, repair machines, and affect events can have three possible sources:-

  • Technology
  • The Creator (God)
  • Angels (who are known by various terms)

Technology is based on science, which is governed by comparatively few, well known laws. These laws can be verified by anyone who can do experiments. For instance, every physicist knows the laws governing charges, and these very laws are being obeyed in all electronic devices, no matter how amazing these devices seem to be.

On the other hand, practitioners of non-traditional beliefs are able to do things for which there is no clear mechanism. When my friend who was a reiki master did reiki "over the phone" and healed a patient a thousand miles away, the mechanism could not be broken down into simple steps governed by the laws of physics or chemistry. Why should the position of the kitchen platform in my house affect my business prospects? Why should wearing a particular stone improve my academic performance? Why should a frail teenager suddenly develop the strength to lift a set of weightlifter's weights like a cricket bat? The answers have nothing to do with science, which deals with molecules and energy (the concrete kind, which is measured in calories). Paul Huson (an authority on Wicca) says that magic needs a "burning intensity of will and imagination". But how or why should the micro-organisms in a patient respond to my intense will (which probably generates a lot of electric signals in my brain)? Huson cannot provide any answers from the laws of chemistry or physics. Stars are spheres of hydrogen radiating energy. In the absence of any engineering activity, there is no way that energy can determine what can happen in my life. Nor does the radiation coming out from the "Scorpio" stars have any property to make a person more reserved than a person on which light from the "Virgo" stars shined on when he was born!

Will future scientific discoveries unravel the mystery behind psychic powers? No, because these belief systems have an ethical element. They ask us to be good. Good (or bad) intentions are not the properties of molecules, and thus cannot form the content of any scientific mechanisms. The wonderful "energy" of the psychics is not the same as physical energy, nor is there any other physical quantity in science that has the properties of psychic "energy".

Conclusion: The power of new religions does not come from technology.

This leaves us with two more sources: God and angels. To distinguish between these sources, let's consider some aspects of the miracles of non-traditional religions.

The Scale of miracles: The miracles performed by the adherents of non-traditional techniques include healing people from sickness, changing one thing to another, changing a person's business fortunes, levitating oneself, etc. In contrast, the Lord Jesus raised people from the dead, calmed a storm, healed handicapped people, and rose from the dead. He even predicted the future. The God of the Bible declares that He will reveal Himself to the world through Israel. This has been fulfilled, as we can see when we match Biblical teaching about Israel with her incredible history. The history of the Jewish people is a miracle spanning thousands of years, stretching over five continents - far greater than any miracle that non-traditional religious techniques can boast of. It is worth reading Exodus 8:16-19 to compare God's power with that of others.

The Reason for miracles: Non-conventional religious techniques boast the capability to perform miracles. But why are these miracles granted? Presumably because people want them. Non-traditional techniques specialize in giving people what they want. On the other hand, the God of the Bible makes it clear that His power is not available to human whim and fancy - it will be used only for carrying out His purposes - these purposes are for our ultimate good, but they will conflict with our current desires, for the simple reason that His purposes are the product of infinite goodness and wisdom, while ours aren't!

The outcome of miracles: The witches, the yogis and the reiki masters are unable to stop the pain and misery in the world. Even those who are healed and benefited by reiki ultimately die. Thus, their power ultimately fails to carry out its supposed purpose. This proves that there are severe constraints to the power available in these techniques. On the other hand, the God of the Bible has told us why He has allowed pain, misery, and death in the world, why things often seem unfair, His plans to make a new universe without pain, how that universe cannot be ruined, and how His power can get us there if we cooperate with Him. Moreover, the God of the Bible adopts those who submit to Him as His children, and He cares for them, taking care of all their emotional, physical and spiritual needs.

This analysis shows that non-traditional techniques do not derive their power from the Creator of the universe. They derive it from sinister angels who are out to play games with men. 

The source of power

To further investigate the source of non-traditional beliefs, let's compare their teachings with Biblical teachings about God:-

Social context: New religions are parochial in their origin and outlook. Reiki is a Japanese technique, Vastu is Indian, and Wicca is British. New religions don't tell us how the world began, why things are the way they are today, and where things are headed towards. On the other hand, the Bible begins with the creation of the world. It gives us the names of the first few humans (see Genesis 5:1 onwards), the founders of various nations, and how they were dispersed all over the world. It also has explanations for basic features of human nature, such as our sense of shame at nudity, the seven day week, etc. The message of the Bible enjoys a following all over the world. In contrast, non-traditional religions enjoy a following primarily in the place of their origin and among Westerners who are willing to experiment with new things.
 
Historical context: The origins of non-traditional religious philosophies are either recent or wrapped in myths and legends with no proper documentation. For instance, yoga developed in ancient India, but yogic texts have little to say about the historical context in which their authors lived. Their content mostly consists of the thoughts and speculations of their founders, and thus lacks historical concreteness. In contrast, Biblical authors such as Daniel mention the historical setting in which they lived, and their writings can be correlated with secular history. The message of the Bible is inextricably linked with historical events such as the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the entry of Israelis into Israel, the fall of Jerusalem, the campaigns of Alexander the Great, etc - real people living in real times in real places.
 
Steadfast witnesses: Non-traditional religions lack witnesses who stand by their religion unto death. In fact, the founders and leaders of most non-traditional religions are wallowing in wealth and luxury. On the other hand, the writers of the Bible were eye-witnesses who were willing to die rather than deny their claims.

Logic: Non-traditional religions are not logical because they do not provide a coherent prescription for human living, and because they do not provide a credible mechanism for their functioning.  Reiki says we should be good to people. But why not be good to the AIDS virus instead? Astrologers have not told me how and why the relative position of the earth and the stars at the time of my birth (my zodiac sign) should affect my attempts to find a life-mate or a new job. Palmists cannot say why and how the arrangement of skin molecules on my palms should decide whether I become a doctor or engineer. Regression therapist Dr Brian Weiss talks a lot about important messages he has received from "the masters", but he does not say why those masters waited for thousands of years before communicating their messages, or why those messages can be accessed only by buying his expensive, copyrighted books. On the other hand, the God of the Bible invites us to reason together (Isaiah 1:18). Every prescription in the Bible has a logical basis: the self-consistent character of God expressed in God's acts and God's will for us, the ultimate objective being the eternal happiness of both man and God. The Main Message of the Bible has remained the same since the start of history.
 
Eternal significance: It is undeniable that humans have eternity set in their hearts. People strive to do things which would outlast them. When someone dies, his friends say, "You may be dead, but you will live forever in our hearts". If eternity is important, so is purpose. Why are we here?! What happens after death? Who made the universe? Why? Reiki does not tell us why humans exist. Wicca does not clearly specify what happens after death, although most Wiccans have a vague belief in reincarnation. In contrast, the Bible clearly states that God is eternal, and so are humans. The Bible calmly begins with the creation of the universe, goes on through the present, and ends with the eternal future. We learn from the Bible why God created the universe, and what He wants from us. The Bible clearly tells us what elements of human activity on earth will truly count in eternity, and how we can secure our eternity.
 
Besides all this, there is unmatched Evidence for God (the God of the Bible). There is also unmatched evidence that the Bible is God's word, and proof of its authenticity

Conclusion

Despite their power, non-traditional religious philosophies don't provide the complete picture. Thus, although they are supernatural, they don't come from God, the Creator. They therefore derive their supernatural power from angels. But these are angels that are not cooperating with God, because these techniques keep people away from the God of the Bible.

Thus, non-traditional religious techniques come from angels who have rebelled against God (just like all other world religions!). Though you may gain some things from them, your ultimate welfare depends on how you respond to your Creator, the God of the Bible.

A teenage girl can flirt with boys who offer her some fun. Or she can wait patiently for her future husband who will be faithful to her - not just take her to parties but be there for her in all she needs. Similarly, we humans can seek angels (knowingly or inadvertently) who give us some things we fancy, or we can seek our Creator, to whom we are ultimately accountable, and who can give us what we ultimately need. God wants you to make a genuine choice.
 
Further Reading:
  • Copan, Paul. Loving Wisdom: Christian Philosophy of Religion. St. Louis: Chalice, 2007
  • Kimball, Dan. They Like Jesus, but Not the Church. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2007.