The concept of sacred places is another subject that fascinates me. Therefore, I have been following stories about the recent earthquake and aftershocks surrounding the East Malaysian state of Sabah's Mount Kinabalu.
According to Dr. Benedict Topin, the executive secretary of the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association, the souls of locals "journey upwards towards our creator in the sky, Kinohiringan. But we are not perfect," he adds, "so our souls rest on the peak of Kinabalu and await for emancipation. It is like our purgatory." According to local lore Kinohiringan created the universe together with his wife Umusumundu, an earth deity.
That sacredness was desecrated recently by four tourists who had scaled the mountain's heights and stripped down to have naked pictures of themselves taken. They were jailed and fined for their misbehavior (actually for breaking local customs and laws).
But locals felt there was a link between the desecration and the earthquake. So sacrifices to appease an angry deity were in order. Read all about that at this link.
There is, one must admit, a fine line between religion and superstition, and often that line is indistinct.
It is easy laugh off stories such as this one as just so much primitive thinking. But I'm reminded of something C. S. Lewis wrote which I've slightly paraphrased: In Science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Religion we find the poem itself.
Somewhere therein lies the truth of the matter.