Happy Thor’s Day
I am going a little out of order here and the original design of “Religion Problems” was to hit other religions besides Christianity. But it is St. Valentines Day, so I am drawn to the holiday because of what we do with it. But in the area of religion, the subject of relics is an interesting one.
Even as a Christian I wrote about St. Valentines Day as being something of a weird holiday when you look at it rationally. I wrote a post on it back in 2013:
St. Valentine’s Day – Maybe I Should Get a Tattoo
From that post I quoted Wikipedia:
The most popular martyrology associated with Saint Valentine was that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire; during his imprisonment, he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer Asterius. Legend states that before his execution he wrote “from your Valentine” as a farewell to her.
The other thing is his relic: A skull (said to be his) with flowers that bloom from it. I mean according to the church no one just puts these flowers on the relic, they just appear. The idea that this regular miracle builds faith in the Saints and in the faith they served is a pretty common theme in the use of such relics regardless of religion.
Time to Look Through the Eye:
So the question of miracles comes up with relics. I mean the blooming flowers thing would be impressive, if it is true. But notice something right away in the picture of this relic. It is carefully preserved in a box and that box probably has a back door. I wonder what that would be for? It would be too simple have someone reach in when no one is watching a replace the flowers from time to time. Having grown up in the Pentecostal church I have seen the height of sleight of hand to get people to believe and to me the most rational explanation for blooming flowers is not a miracle, but placement when people are looking the other way. That is very easy for any illusionist. I saw people doing this all the time to ‘prime the pump’ of faith. Sorry, this is a ‘miracle’ that may not be so miraculous.
I also find it interesting that this use of relics is even present in the three major monotheistic religions. All of them have as a base the commandment about idolatry and no matter how you shake and dance, veneration of an object is idolatry. In the case of relics, this idea of a spiritual force infecting an object, is definitely on the idolatry side is given a pass. because it ‘builds faith’.
Miracles in general are often attached to things in my opinion that really are not a miracle. The idea of genuine miracles being possible I do not dismiss, I just also have a very specific theological definition of miracle that is basically an act of the divine that does something both unusual and unnatural. Babies being born, beautiful sunsets, etc. are not miracles by that definition. To prove such a thing would require actual rational observation. When you do this with most relics, you find the sleight of hand and illusion aspects every time.
I guess from a personal spiritual point of view, I don’t really have a need to have relics prove faith or theology. I engage both with my spiritual side but it is much more internal for me as a pagan. Relics and ritual have always be a bugaboo for me because, I can see that they can be easily turned into something where people are psychologically manipulated. It can have absolutely nothing to do with real spiritual or divine power. Relics are a good example of that kind of manipulation, if you ask me.
On a lighter note, I prefer the modern version of Valentine’s Day. A day devoted to expressing love toward your significant other. A day where you remind each other how much you love each other. In that respect I can give a nod to the holiday. But relics – no. Just no.
Continuing to Walk the Path,
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.