By James Haught
The solar system is relatively flat, occupying an imaginary plane in the sky called the ecliptic. Planets waver 8 degrees on each side of the centerline, in a belt called the zodiac. As the Earth travels around its orbit through the year, 12 different constellations of stars come into the zodiac area.
Centuries ago, ancient mystics thought the position of these constellations, plus the whereabouts of passing planets, were magical signs and portents. They charted the dates when the constellations were hidden behind the sun, and listed supernatural conditions supposedly caused by each passage. Especially, the celestial positions at the hour of a person’s birth were believed to cast miraculous influence over the individual.
Today, every reputable scientist says astrology is nonsense. If planetary positions influenced lives, each child born in New York on a certain day would have the same personality and future.
Worse, the charts devised in ancient times — and still used today — are invalid. Shifting of Earth’s orbit has caused the constellations to enter the zodiac at different dates. For example, on March 23, when the charts say Aries is the all-powerful constellation, the sun actually is in Pisces.
Remember in 1987, when astrologers and other mystics announced “the Harmonic Convergence,” an alignment of planets coinciding with the ancient Mayan calendar, which was supposed to transform the world with “galactic beams” of psychic energy? Nothing happened. A skeptical woman I know called the event “the Moronic Convergence.”
The staid Encyclopedia Britannica says astrology is “devoid of intellectual value.” It says scientific astronomy discoveries “eradicated a belief in astrology among the educated” and caused astrology to become a “pseudoscience continued among non-intellectuals… becoming more and more fraudulent.”
Astrology is little different from palm-reading, crystal-ball gazing and Tarot card fortune-telling. Yet it remains immensely popular. That’s why this newspaper publishes a horoscope every day. But we mean it only for fun and entertainment. (Ours is written by Jeane Dixon, a psychic notorious for erroneous predictions.)
For example, we printed a report about a West Virginia counselor who holds all the college degrees required for a state counseling license, and supplements her psychological advice with horoscope reading. Some other licensed counselors are uneasy about it. The director of the National Board of Certified Counselors said: “No accredited counseling program teaches the use of astrology in counseling….”
It’s a controversial area. Earlier this year, former West Virginia counselor Lynn Hartz was sentenced to prison for false billings to insurance companies. Among other evidence, witnesses testified that she charged for tarot card readings and identification of “personal angels and spiritual animals.”
As for horoscopes, they’re harmless when regarded only as amusements. But when they’re taken seriously — by ex-President Reagan or anyone else — it’s disturbing. A recent proposal to license certified astrologers should be defeated, because it would give them undeserved status.
(Daylight Atheism – May 31, 2021)
(The Charleston Gazette, Aug. 14, 1995)
*Associates and resources listing last updated May 31, 2020.*
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
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Image Credit: James Haught.