By Ogova Ondego
Published November 19, 2009
“What is your star sign?” I ask Janet Samoei, who identifies herself as a born again Christian.
“Aquarius and Pisces,” she says.
“Do you believe in horoscopes?” I shoot back.
“No, I don’t. How can a person have two star signs?” she retorts, adding that her birthday, February 19, sometimes falls under Aquarius and at other times it appears under Pisces periods.
Even though many people say they don’t believe in horoscopes, yet they agree they have a star sign or horoscope.
Horoscopes, or stars as they are commonly known, are said to be descriptions of someone’s character, life and future. This prediction is gained by knowing the position of stars or planets at the time of one’s birth. The people who make such predictions are known as star-gazers or astrologers. Astrology is therefore the art through which stars are studied in order to foretell someone’s future.
Writers James Bjornstad and Shildes Johnston in Stars, Signs and Salvation in the Age of Aquarius say, “Even those who frown against astrology cannot resist looking at their horoscopes in the press to see the way their day will bring.”
Daniel Kamau, 19, confesses that he started reading horoscopes out of curiosity but now finds himself hooked. He cannot go anywhere (including the church) before finding out what his horoscope in all Kenya’s daily newspapers says.
Many religious people deny the influence of the stars in their lives yet find it difficult to resist asking their acquaintances what their star signs are. Some wear bracelets; carry key holders or own mugs with an emblem of their star sign to show when they were born. Many, unknowingly, speak astrologically when they say “lucky star”, “mooning around”, “disaster”, and “ill-fated”.
Charles Strohmer, a former astrologer and author of What Your Horoscopes Doesn’t Tell You, says that people who read horoscopes as a hobby usually end up transforming it into a way of life.
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“If astrology can make one unknown thing about me, such people argue, according to Strohmer, “perhaps it knows other things that I didn’t even know about myself.”
Christine Nafula, a college student, says that even though she read a lot about horoscopes before becoming a Christian and found their predictions to be accurate, she no longer reads them out of what she terms as her obedience to God’s word.
Asked whether the “accuracy” of the horoscopes was not coincidental, she says, “When coincidences occur too many times they cease to be mere occurrences.”
Saying that her star is Leo, she admits that she finds many character traits that Leos are supposed to posses in her own life. She says that her mother, a Gemini, has the traits that horoscopes say all Gemini have.
But Peter Nduru, an engineer, argues that the solar system obeys Kepler’s laws of motion and that as such, stars and planets have nothing to do with people’s lives. He cautions against fatalism saying it may cause passivity and laziness in people as they will believe that the course of their lives is already charted out and therefore that whatever they do can never alter it.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, astrology can be traced back to Mesopotamia where it was used to inform the royal court of impending disasters or successes. This provided a basis for an intelligent action rather than indicated inexorable fate. Unpleasant foreboding could be mitigated by ritual means.
Later, however, some astrologers denied God the possibility of intervention and humanity that of free will. This strained relationship between Christianity and Islam on one hand, and astrology on the other.
Today, while some astrologers believe that horoscopes only indicate trends and directions that can be altered either by divine or human will, others believe that humans are victims of fate over which they have no control.
During the Renaissance Period in Europe, astrology did not only become scientifically untenable among intellectuals, but also became more fraudulent. It became difficult to explain how astrology could influence the universe when the phenomena of the universe could be explained by science.
To believe in astrology, argues Michael Van Buskirk, author of Revival In The Cosmic Garden, one must support the view that one is either “a born loser” or “a born winner.”
First, says Van Buskirk, astrologers based horoscopes on the mistaken notion that planets revolved around the earth and not the sun, as Copernicus was to later prove.
Secondly, astrology is based on the theory that there are only seven planets in the solar system including the sun, and the moon as planets. Early astronomers were unaware of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto as they lacked powerful telescopes.
Thirdly, horoscopes are cast from the time of birth “not conception” as astronomers can’t tell the exact time of birth, let alone that of conception.
Twins born at the same time and “sidereal time”, i.e. four minutes of each other, should have the same horoscope, but they do not conform to this as their lives and deaths could be almost unbelievably different, Buskirk contends, arguing that newspaper horoscopes are replete with generalisations and ambiguous statements.
He contends that while some character traits are specific and recognisable, others are so general to the one whose horoscope it is supposed to be. The inaccurate descriptions, he explains, are forgotten in the light of the ones that seem fit. He argues that the fraudulence of horoscopes is covered by what is read into it by the inquirer rather than what is actually there. Those who read the horoscopes do so when they have already made up their minds to believe anything they are told, he says.
Strohmer, a former astrologer, warns that Christians should not dismiss astrology outrightly as a hoax. Having been an astrologer for eight years, he says that seasoned astrologers can be astonishingly accurate in their predictions.
Unlike speculations, generalities, and the abstract language that Buskirk talks of, Strohmer says that an astrologer may tell you precisely what he means. For instance, he says, an established astrologist will tell you that you broke your arm in fifth grade, you won lottery four years ago, or that you spent two years in jail for violent temper.
That astrology works, says Strohmer, is one of the reasons why he stayed in it for eight years. In the same breath, he cautions intellectuals against dismissing astrology just because it cannot be proved using scientific laws.
And by the way, astrologers are never wrong in their predictions. If your horoscope says that a disaster awaits you and you break a leg, they stay it could have been worse if they hadn’t intervened, says Buskirk. On the other hand, he says, if nothing happens they say you were careful because you had been forewarned.
Saying “astrology, begun in latitudes close to the equator, made no possibility that no planet may be in sight in the higher latitudes for several weeks in a row”, Buskirk calls astrology absurd and argues that “the only people today who claim that astrology is “scientific” are those ensnared in the cobweb of the occult and other practices contrary to reality”.
He says that horoscopes are a stepping stone to witchcraft and Satanism and that it is not ultimately satisfying. Quoting Eternity magazine, he says that young people are led to take further steps and sink deeper into the occultic practices as astrology is not ultimately satisfying. They may have started with seemingly harmless practices as looking up to their horoscopes in the newspapers and before they know what is happening, find themselves helpless in a quagmire of occult.
Saying that that astrological literature cleverly conceals Satan as the power behind horoscopes, Strohmer adds that the people who find accuracy in the predictions of horoscopes also fail to recognise the power behind self-disclosures.
Since modern man does not want to believe in the supernatural due to this so-called mechanistic and scientific age, Strohmer says, astrology adopts scientific and naturalistic dogma, that of “planetary influence”. Because of this, writes Strohmer, the “modernized person will accept the astrological answer as to why it “works” but rejects the real reason as horrible puritan superstitions.”
Strohmer warns that things like reading horoscopes should be shunned as they can be used as contact material for influences from the spirit world.
Astrology, which had been dealt a mortal wound in the 17th century, seems to have come back with some vengeance. Buskirk, quoting Los Angeles Times, gives three reasons for this:
The collapse of religious faith.
The church is preaching a liberal, non-transforming gospel. Humans are always looking for answers to perplexing questions such as why innocent children should become victims to AIDS or wars they know nothing about. The church’s stock answer that suffering is God’s will which result from man’s abuse of free will appears too simplistic, and therefore unacceptable. Furthermore, Christianity has not lived up to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Those who carry the label “Christian” therefore disillusion People. With sexual immorality, power struggle and grandstanding rampant in the church, non- Christians don’t regret staying away.
Science, which had eclipsed astrology, has failed to deliver its promise to the people. As such, people have lost confidence in pure reason as a guide to action.
People’s unparalleled interest in the oriental mystical cults such as Yoga and the TM has welcomed astrology.
Due to the rising despair and dilemma in the world, many people (including Christians with excellent social and educational backgrounds) are turning to stars for guidance concerning careers, investments, mates and even most favourable time to have children.
Today, it appears, astrology is enjoying heights of popularity never before realised in its history and this popularity seems all set to soar to unprecedented heights unless the above three factors are changed.
Quoting McCall magazine, Bjornstad and Johnson say that “to many of today’s young, astrology has taken the place of psychology as the personality decoder of their generation.”
And who can blame them?
They see many marriages, including those conducted in the church, breaking. Even couples whose character traits were matched by computers are not spared either.
To these youngsters, this proves that neither Christianity nor science can guarantee happy and lasting relationships. Why not turn back to star-gazing? After all in India, where match-making is done through astrology, divorce rates are very low despite heavy western influence.
It should be noted that it is not the first time astrology is confronting Christianity. The latter had fought the former right from birth. The Roman Empire into which Christianity was born was replete with mysticism and astrology. St Augustine, who had dabbled in astrology, denounced it as false in the fifth century and was backed by Pope Gregory VI.
Between 13th and 15th centuries, however, Thomas Aquinas introduced the compromise position and Popes Leo III, Sylvester II, Honorius III, and Urban V not only tolerated astrology, but also consulted astrologers, says Bjournstad and Johnson.
From the 16th century to date astrology, like a demon, has returned from the grave to haunt humanity. Riding upon a crest of popularity unequalled in history, it has swept many off their feet. Astrology is even offered as a degree course in some US and Indian universities.
Even though astrology has existed much longer than Christianity, it was knocked out by the latter when Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity and made it the official religion of the Roman Empire. Today, it appears, the situation is different. Astrology and Christianity appear all set for a major showdown.