Your fate is not written in the stars

“The proposed mechanism is all out of proportion with the described effects,” vorjack says of astrology. And I agree.

The impetus for that post was the introduction of Patheos’ new Astrology channel.

I’m not a fan of astrology. I do not believe in it — do not believe it is true or helpful. As such I regard it with suspicion as a vehicle for hucksters.

But then I’m a Christian — an American evangelical Christian. So I’m not in any position to dismiss a belief system just because it may have been exploited by disingenuous hucksters over the years.

Plus I admire Patheos’ commitment to genuine, robust religious and spiritual pluralism. And that means celebrating such pluralism in the particular as well as in the abstract. More voices and more perspectives is a Good Thing, even when that means, by definition, more voices and more perspectives with which I disagree.

So while I remain critical of astrology as a belief system, I think the new Astrology channel is a good sign.

Here’s my astrology bit. I don’t do this anymore, and I don’t recommend that you do either, but here’s how it worked.

When someone asks what your sign is, tell them you’re an Aries (unless you really are an Aries, in which case, tell them something else).

If they respond with a detailed description of why that’s appropriate and why, yes, you do seem to embody the classic characteristics of an Aries, admit that you were lying. Tell them you’re not really an Aries, but actually a Gemini (unless you really are a Gemini).

If they tell you that lying about your sign was a very Gemini thing to have done, and then explain how this just confirms that you really are such a total Gemini, interrupt to say that you were once again lying.

In theory, you could keep this up, repeating the process 11 times. My personal record was four rounds.

I probably could have kept it up for five or even six rounds, but that’s when I figured out that this bit was funnier as a concept than it was in real life, where it just seemed kind of mean. And mean isn’t funny.

So don’t be mean. But don’t give anybody money to read the stars for you either.

  • LL

    Eh, I view belief in astrology as a handy IQ test.* If someone professes a sincere belief in it, I know not to listen to anything they say about anything else. I don’t try to talk them out of it, I just shake my head and move on. 

    * There is actually a pretty lengthy list of things I use in this manner. 

  • Donalbain

    Normally, I don’t respond to posts containing profanity.
     
    Fuck off then. You used a bullshit piece of bollocks to give medical advice to people. You did that to people who trusted you enough to give you details about themselves and engage in a ritual while you made up crap about what they should do. You are amongst the horrible, disgusting people who prey on the sick with the likes of homeopathy and quantum crystal healing. You disgust me.

  • Ygorbla

    There’s lots of reasons why birth month could affect personality (though of course the effects would be statistical in nature, not predestination.)  In pre-industrial societies, you would get different amounts of food at different stages in your development based on your season of birth; you’re exposed to not just different temperatures but different diseases, people around you behaving differently and so forth.

    Of course, as you say, such an effect would be highly localized, dependent on culture, local weather patterns, etc.  But such a thing _could_ perhaps be the origin of beliefs in astrology, mingled with correlation / causation effects related to the stars…

    However, I think it’s simpler to just say that since the stars were so omnipresent, inexplicable, and important-seeming to ancient people, that they were just incredibly eager to tie them in to whatever they could.  I mean, think about it.  From the perspective of an ancient human with no understanding of the cosmos, the sun has clear ‘purpose.’  The meaning of the sun to an ancient civilization is obvious.  The moon’s ‘purpose’ is somewhat less clear, but it provides light at night, at least, and it gets meaning from its duality with the sun.

    The stars are an enigma.  Why are they there?  What do they mean?  To the early human mind, it would be unthinkable that something that dominates the entire dome of the sky — literally occupying half the world you see, half of the time — could have zero direct relevance to your life. It seems natural that people would poke and prod at that question until they came up with an answer, even if it was entirely without basis.

  • LoneWolf343

    I don’t know. Astrology isn’t really a religion, but a practice of some older religions. It would make as much sense to have a “Communion” channel, or a “Ramadan” channel?

    Actually, how about a Voodoo channel? I am being serious there, because Voodoo is actually a full religion (as full as an animistic polytheism could, but still full,) and it is practices in the Southern US.

  • http://twitter.com/HelenKistler Helen Kistler

    If you always celebrate your birthday in warm weather, does that affect your personality?

  • http://twitter.com/HelenKistler Helen Kistler

    I found that the descriptions for my moon sign were more accurate than the descriptions for my sun sign. I do believe that the positions of the planets could have an affect on our biological functions, but I don’t believe that their influence is absolute.

  • dblinkhorn32

    It’s quite entertaining listening to the believers of one unsubstantiated belief system mock the believers of another unsubstantiated belief system. That’s the problem with “faith”, it justifies ANY belief, not just one.

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    It seems to me that the absence of an afterlife is operationally indistinguishable from a scheme in which your soul goes back in time from the moment of death so that you can be reincarnated as yourself. (With total amnesia, of course.)

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    In my own more mystical moments, I tend to think that the property of being able to have subjective experiences isn’t connected to any individual mind, and is a thing that every conscious being shares in some way. I can theoretically imagine all the particulars of my personality and memory being stripped away without removing that core of conscious experience. When they’re all gone, what’s left? Nothing of me, surely.

    I suppose you could interpret that either in a more Hindu-esque way as being about the universal world-soul, or in a more Buddhist way as being about perceptions not actually requiring any soul to perceive them.

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    It’s true, Tarot is a card game (or a family of card games):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarot,_tarock_and_tarocchi_games

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    In my less hopeful days I wonder if that endless cycle is what life really is. D:

  • Matri

    Please don’t get a Royal Flush.

  • Sunny Day

    A tool for what?
     
    Amusement?

  • Kaylya

    I’m always a fan of the chart about compatibility between signs OK Cupid generated with their online dating data - http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/how-races-and-religions-match-in-online-dating/  (spoiler: it’s *very* even).

    Time of birth does have some impact, although I don’t think it has anything to do with the positions of the planets, and more to do with timing of birth vs. arbitrary cutoff dates – for sports like Hockey where cutoffs are Dec 31st, there’s far more Jan-March birthdays in the pro levels than Oct-Dec, and kids born shortly after the school cutoff do a bit better than the ones just before.

  • Sindigo

    I think my copy of Illustrator just agreed with the Mayans. Oh Wise One who speaks with the forked tongue of Adobe, should I prepare for Armageddon?

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

    I’ve never understood how religious people / people who believe in anything supernatural can claim that other beliefs are silly. They have exactly as much proof for their beliefs as you do for yours! When someone brings up their religion/beliefs in a nonconfrontational way, I think the best response is an “Oh, that’s nice.”

  • GDwarf

     

    I think my copy of Illustrator just agreed with the Mayans. Oh Wise One
    who speaks with the forked tongue of Adobe, should I prepare for
    Armageddon?

    Well, they did just release Acrobat XI, granting it the ability to better withstand internal catastrophes (Though did nothing to make such catastrophes less likely), so I’d prepare for something. :P

  • Sapphire

    I seriously need help in knowing the accurate answer. Please tell me that is it really necessary to break up just because signs don’t fit in love for example. I am a scorpio what if I fall in love with a gemini a sign which according to austrology don’t fit in love with scorpio, what will I do then

  • EllieMurasaki

    OKCupid (or some other dating site, but I think it was OKCupid) did a study of successful vs unsuccessful couples they matched up, broken down by star sign.

    All the possible combinations had, within two percentage points, the same success rate.

    Astrology is a fun toy, but ultimately it is just a toy.


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