I must have struck a nerve with my atheist stance in a few of my essays as I find myself debating half a dozen believers via Email. The declaration a number of people have taken issue with, concerns my conviction that a belief in god is no different from a belief in ghosts, psychics and the like, so I thought I would clarify and expand my position with a few steps of logic (hopefully).
What brings one to an endorsement of a traditional view of god? To answer that question maybe we should explore where "God’s" authority originates in the modern world. Whether it is from a peer, a teacher or direct study, the manifestos of each major religion are passed down to us via the written word. This is the sole basis (with the exception of other peripheral archaic writings not accepted into the sanctioned versions) of God’s authority to which the institutionalized religions subscribe. I can’t accept the argument for God’s direct intervention in the mortal world. After all there is no coherent overview, instead there are just random reinforcements of the established dogma, or worse, commands to kill in his name. So the axioms for the religious institutions are based on these various writings. Usually the choice of which of these writings becomes central in one’s life is based not on careful study of the scriptures, but more pertinently one's geographical location, family leaning and tradition. And yet these writings contradict themselves and each other.
Imagine if a mechanic was reading the manual for a Toyota car and on the first page it explained the workings of the engine thus: The engine is a container of hamsters on a treadmill. It is necessary to add gasoline and oil to feed them. It may be true that you need to add gasoline and oil, but you wouldn't encourage the mechanic to delve deeper into the manual to affect repairs. So why would you believe a document claiming the Earth was supported by great pillars? (1 Sam. 2:8 & Micah 6:2). The scriptures embody many practical truths, but if you want to understand the workings of the universe, study physics!
It’s easy to counter those who take these writings literally, but what about the cherry pickers? It’s clear the various holy books were written by homo-sapiens, often hundreds of years after the subjects death, dependent on the knowledge available at the time. Despite vague mystic references which could be molded to fit any number of eventualities, there are no prophetic references to the silicon chip, the jet plane, the space shuttle, x rays, cloning and so on. Like psychics and astrologers, there is nothing of substance. To select useful information from the sacred writings is no different to what we all do with everything in life.
If however you accept the proposition that, under even slight scrutiny, the logic of these supposedly authoritative writings collapses, then why accept the greater and wilder supernatural claims. To choose useful segments can be helpful, but to extrapolate a transcendental dominion based on writings unable to explain the basic nature of this universe is ludicrous. Therefore to fashion a creed anchored, not on well tested building blocks, but on whimsical fancy is not addressing the subject. Similarly, psychics tend to assimilate snippets of various mystic concepts into a new age amalgam disregarding scientific consideration. Moreover, the lack of a basic theory lends license for irresponsible conjecture. Unlike DaVinci’s extraordinary speculations based on an established fundament framework, psychics are more likely to utter useless phrases like: I see someone with the letter J being important in your life.
More than mere parallels, the realms of occult and religion more often merge. After all, they both are grounded in the "Supernatural" (relating to existence outside the natural world). There is a long tradition of religious institutions engaging in mystical rites & rituals. Exorcism, speaking in tongues, prophetic visions, and miracles are rife. The earliest of these were often incorporated into the body of the major theological manuscripts. Likewise, in occult circles, god’s name is liberally employed in an endeavor to legitimize their "craft." It seems to me that the choice is clear regarding institutionalized religions; gravitate toward the literal accounts of the targeted writings and in some way insulate yourself against the realities of science and logic, or fabricate a logic-free composite easier to defend but offering nothing tangible. Psychics and astrologers share this dilemma compelled to favor the charts and manuals fully exposed to scientific scrutiny, or a vague assemblage of pagan and new age folklore covertly suggesting some sort of proprietary knowledge. My advice to a would-be psychic is to choose the second path, because to conceive of a mechanism explaining why only the first letter of someone’s name appears to you, (Usually J or M being the most common first initials for men and women respectively), would be an impossible task. Both necromancers and proponents of religion would fare better striving to attain a scholarly manner while donning mystic attire and avoiding any explanation of their practice. In fact that’s what most do.