Prof. Brian Cox has inadvertently caused debate recently. He was presenting 'Stargazing Live' on BBC2 when he shared his views on astrology stating “astrology is nonsense.” As you can imagine this caused quite an uproar amongst astrologers. It caused The Astrological Association of Great Britain to start a petition to force a public apology out of the BBC, as part of their campaign for fair representation of astrology in the media.
The incident in general has raised an interesting question. Does astrology form part of any religious belief systems? And therefore be afforded that level of respect.
Astrology and ancient religions certainly went hand in hand. The history of astrology is usually traced back to the Babylonians, whose religious leaders would use it as a way to try and determine the will of the Gods. To really form an opinion on if astrology can be considered a religious practice, we need to look at how we classify religion. The Oxford English Dictionary provides the following definition;
the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power , especially a personal God or gods.
[count noun] a particular system of faith and worship.
[count noun] a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion.
I think the two definitions that are the most relevant here are the last two. There is no doubt that some people put a great deal of faith in astrological prediction, having personal charts professionally created in order to plan their year ahead. There are also a great many people following Earth Based religions that hold lunar, solar and planetary movement as an integral part of their beliefs.
Today astrology is often viewed by people as made-up paragraphs from the back pages of gossip magazines. But, whether or not you believe it has any real value in it's predictions, you can not deny it's history, or that it's place in modern culture is many and varied. To some people astrology will play an important part in their life, but does this mean it should be exempt from ridicule?
Some people will instantly react to this question with “Yes, you should be free to believe whatever you like as long as it doesn't hurt anyone.” Generally I agree, but in practice things get a little more difficult. Would someone walking down a street with a placard stating any given religion “is wrong” be acceptable? No, it would probably cause a riot. In the same situation would the words “astrology is wrong” inspire a riot, I doubt it, but no doubt the person with the placard would get a few angry glances and cause a little upset to some. This leads me to the conclusion that although astrology is important for some it is a practice or a tool, not a way to live your life. Some people believe it helps them, and like to incorporate elements of it into their spiritual life, but it is not a spiritual basis in it's own right.