Temple Pseudoscience

Written by May 19, 2012 12:52 pm 82 comments

Update: this article was translated and published here by the Polish rationalist group, Racjonalista.

A short post titled Why Visit Temples purporting to give scientific reasons for visiting temples is being shared in many social groups. This article strives to debunk it. For easy and effective understanding I will quote sentences from the article and my response to them.

Generally, a temple should be located a place where earth’s magnetic wave path passes through densely.

Is there such a place? “Magnetic wave passing through densely” – just because this sentence sounds “science-y” doesn’t make it pertinent. And what exactly is a “magnetic wave”???

A Hindu temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

A Hindu temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Photo by Soman (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Now, these temples are located strategically at a place where the positive energy is abundantly available from the magnetic and electric wave distributions of north/south pole thrust.

Positive Energy? Let’s try to understand what is meant by this weasel word “Energy”. Borrowing Brian Dunnings’ words:

“Do you ever hear people talking about energy fields? What does that mean?

“Especially when the subject of New Age alternative medicine comes up, you’ll often hear people refer to energy fields. Life energy, spiritual energy, the body’s energy fields. That sure sounds pretty cool; is it actually a real thing that we can detect and use somehow? To answer that we have to start by understanding what energy really is. In short, energy is a measurement of something’s ability to do work. It’s measured in joules, after the 19th century physicist James Joule. Think of Einstein’s equation E = mc2. Energy is a function of mass. How much mass you can move a certain distance, is exactly how much energy you have.

“The electrical energy in this battery contains enough joules of work to move an electric train a certain distance. If I raise this weight, I input enough joules of potential kinetic energy to break six bones in my foot. That’s basically what ‘energy’ is. But that doesn’t seem to match very well with how we hear the word ‘energy’ being used. We’re told there are energy fields, that enlightened people can tap into and draw strength from. Like a glowing, hovering cloud of power, how you might envision a highly evolved creature from the original Star Trek series. That’s kind of what it sounds like an energy field is. New Age concepts like reiki or feng shui are entirely built upon the presumed existence of such fields.

“But the scientific definition of energy seems inadequate to explain these. Why is that? It’s because the word ‘energy’ has been hijacked for its scientific-sounding value. Real energy fields, like the electromagnetic field surrounding a magnet, the heat radiating from a warm body, or the gravitational field around a planet, have definite properties — and their strength, and thus their energy, can be precisely measured. On the other hand, New Age energy fields, like your bodies supposed ‘life energy’, have no describable properties, cannot be detected, and do no measurable work. We can’t say they don’t exist, but since they are undetectable, we can say that their existence is yet to be demonstrated.

“When you hear the word ‘energy’ being used in a sales pitch or an advertisement, pay very close attention to how it’s being used. If it’s anything other than a quantifiable measurement of work, the word is being misused and you are being misled. And now you have the tools to respond.”

In fact, the temple structure is built after the idol has been placed.

Does the idol draw all the “Energy” from that place or is it just placed in a place with full of “Energy”?  If it is the place that is important, then you accept that the idol is not important; and if you feel that the idol makes the “Energy” then you agree that the place was insignificant to begin with.

This *Moolasthanam* is where earth’s magnetic waves are found to be maximum.

Has anybody measured it? It’s really not all that difficult.

We know that there are some copper plates, inscribed with Vedic scripts, buried beneath the Main Idol. What are they really? The copper plate absorbs earth’s magnetic waves and radiates it to the surroundings.

Perhaps, worth only the value of copper (excluding any worth it may have gained as a result of it being an ‘antique piece.’  Copper is not attracted to magnets. Iron and perhaps Steel, Cobalt and Nickel are attracted to a magnet. Surely NOT copper plates. Perhaps Copper wire can be turned into a magnet, by passing electrical current; but surely NOT copper plates.

Thus a person regularly visiting a temple and walking clockwise around the Main Idol receives the beamed magnetic waves and his body absorbs it.

Once again, human body cannot receive magnetic waves (whatever they are) and surely the body cannot absorb it.  If that was the case, then imagine what would happen during every Magnetic resonance scan.

This is a very slow process and a regular visit will let him absorb more of this positive energy.

As clearly explained earlier, this is a flagrant, malevolent or (perhaps) ignorant but definitely a despicable act of hijacking the word “Energy” to make some woo-woo SOUND scientific; all a cheap attempt to beguile a credulous audience.

Scientifically, it is the positive energy that we all require to have a healthy life.

“Scientifically?” This again is a flagrant and malevolent misuse of the word Science to gain credibility.

The lamp that is lit radiates heat energy and also provides light inside the sanctum to the priests or *poojaris* performing the pooja.|

I wonder why they need the light and heat. Can’t they just use their divine powers? Why shouldn’t they simply pray to some “Light bagawaan” and “Heat bagawaan” for the same?  Perhaps, they know the futility of praying to Agni bagawaan if they resorted ONLY to prayers.

The ringing of the bells and the chanting of prayers takes a worshipper into trance, thus not letting his mind waver.

It’s only when you have already been led to believe during impressionable childhood into thinking of it in undeserved high regard that you feel that it takes you into a trance!

When done in groups, this helps people forget personal problems for a while and relieve their stress.

Ever wondered why the same effect NEVER happens whenever a christian/ muslim/ jew/ atheist enters a temple? Why is it that only the hindu finds the effect in a hindu place of worship? Such gatherings and rituals are sometimes, quite appropriately, called “Serotonin factories.” It might give you a high. But it is a false high.

The fragrance from the flowers, the burning of camphor give out the chemical energy further aiding in a different good aura.

There is that weasel word “Energy.”  For fragrance, going to a garden or a park is a far better experience. And camphor fumes are best avoided. It can only harm, and can never help.  It can cause seizures, hallucinations, confusion, etc!

*Theertham*, the “holy” water used during the pooja to wash the idol is not plain water cleaning the dust off an idol. It is a concoction of Cardamom,*Karpura* (Benzoin), zaffron / saffron, *Tulsi* (Holy Basil), Clove, etc…

Actually it is not plain water but contaminated water. If you want such a concoction, then it will be far better and safer to cook it hygienically in the kitchen.

Washing the idol is to charge the water with the magnetic radiations thus increasing its medicinal values.

“Charge the water with magnetic radiations?” As already explained, the idol or even the copper plates are NOT magnetic. And one cannot just “charge” the water with magnetic radiations. That hypothesis can be presented for a thorough peer review and scientific analysis. Also, such a water can only cause illness, it can never be medicinal.

Three spoons of this holy water is distributed to devotees.

Why only three? Why not 2 or 4? What is the sanctity of that number?

Again, this water is mainly a source of magneto-therapy.

Magneto-therapy is a scam. It is another form of quackery and already pointed out, medical quackery is one of the most odious of all charlatanry.

Diagram of electromagnetic fields, from 'A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism' by James Clark Maxwell

From 'A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism' by James Clark Maxwell (image in public domain)

Besides, the clove essence protects one from tooth decay, the saffron & *Tulsi* leaves protects one from common cold and cough, cardamom and *Pachha Karpuram* (benzoin), act as mouth fresheners.

So, why not just take the clove essence to protect from tooth decay? It will be far better to just follow regular oral hygienic measures which are tried and definitely tested too. Saffron and Tulsi protect from common cold? Why not suggest these to all the people who are so paranoid about the common cold and especially against Swine Flu nowadays? After all, the H1N1 is also a common cold causing virus.  Who will be ready to forego vaccination in lieu of this holy “theertham”?

It is proved that *Theertham* is a very good blood purifier, as it is highly energized.

“Blood purification” is mainly the job of the kidneys and the liver. Unless they explain what they mean by such vague terminologies, these claims must be dismissed off contemptuously.  And ruthlessly too, for it is dangerous to fool people when it comes to medical and health issues.

This is why our elders used to suggest us to offer prayers at the temple so that you will be cured of many ailments.

This is secondary rationalization. The “elders” have never ever mentioned in any of the holy scriptures that THIS was the reason. You are just trying to beguile the innocent people. For your kind information, the so called elders had no valid ideas about what CAUSED the ailments.

When people go to a temple for the *Deepaaraadhana*, and when the doors open up, the positive energy gushes out onto the persons who are there.

What is the positive energy that gushes out?  Again that weasel word “Energy” is used.

The water that is sprinkled onto the assemblages passes on the energy to all.


This also explains why men are not allowed to wear shirts at a few temples and women are requested to wear more ornaments during temple visits.

Why? Should only the men benefit and not the women? Once again goes to show how all religions are misogynistic to the core. In all probability the men are basically forced to be bare-chested so that they could identify who are all wearing the sacred thread and who are not. Nothing but organized, divinely codified and sanctioned discrimination.

Also, it is a practice to leave newly purchased jewels at an idol’s feet and then wear them with the idol’s blessings.

For what? And how does the idol bless the jewels and what is the effect of the blessing?

This act is now justified after reading this article. This act of “seeking divine blessings” before using any new article, like books or pens or automobiles may have stemmed from this through mere observation.

Well the article was nothing but a bunch of utterly baseless claims.

Energy lost in a day’s work is regained through a temple visit and one is refreshed slightly.

What is the energy lost and how does a temple visit help in regaining it?

The positive energy that is spread out in the entire temple and especially around where the main idol is placed, are simply absorbed by one’s body and mind.

How does one’s ‘body and mind’ absorb the ‘energy spread out?’

Did you know, every Vaishnava(Vishnu devotees), “must” visit a Vishnu temple twice every day in their location.

Why should it be a MUST? Do you know that every muslim MUST perform the prayers 5 times a day at specific times. Is it be considered MORE powerful than the Vaishnava practice? Surely 5>2, right?

Our practices are NOT some hard and fast rules framed by 1 man and his followers or God’s words in somebody’s dreams. All the rituals, all the practices are, in reality, well researched, studied and scientifically backed thesis which form the ways of nature to lead a good healthy life.

“Well researched”? Can we have references please? “Studied” by whom? Can I please have access to the peer reviewed papers on this? “Scientifically backed thesis”?  Do you have proof for it being scientifically backed? In fact, this is the antithesis of science. Taking the name of science to garner automatic respect should be challenged head on!

The scientific and research part of the practices are well camouflaged as “elder’s instructions” or “granny’s teaching’s” which should be obeyed as a mark of respect so as to once again, avoid stress to the mediocre brains.

Mediocre brains? How can you automatically assume that all human brains are mediocre? Isn’t it condescending on your part? As elaborated earlier, there is NOTHING scientific in all the practices. In fact, they are all thoroughly irrational. And there is no proper scientific research in any of it. This talk of irrational statements being “camouflaged” is a cheap attempt at secondary rationalization. These were dogmatic dictates that one must follow and is so typically religious.

Windmills - Wind energy converters

Wind energy converter. Photo by P0lyglut (CC BY-SA 2.0).

To sum up, whenever you hear the word “energy” being mentioned anywhere please substitute the word with “measurable work capability” and check if it still makes sense. If it does, then it is proper science (because that’s what it means in science); and if it sounds like nonsense then it indeed is nonsense and the person is trying to use the word “energy” just to sound scientific. E.g. “Positive energy”, “Negative energy”, “Spiritual energy” and “Divine energy”.

Similarly, whenever someone uses the word “vibration”, replace it with “uniform oscillation around a mean” or “a regular periodic variation about a mean”. If it still makes sense, then it is proper science (because that’s what it means in science); and if it sounds like nonsense then it indeed is nonsense and the person is trying to use the word “vibration” just to sound scientific. E.g., “Positive vibrations”, “Negative vibrations”, “Spiritual vibrations” and “Divine vibrations”.

This post was written by:

- who has written 2 posts on Nirmukta.


  • Excellent article.

  • Some of the debunking points mentioned by you are wrong.Tulsi has an immune boosting activity,thus protecting from common cold by increasing your immunity.Just go to the web page of scientific journal-Pubmed and you would find numerous research studies on Tulsi.Secondly,Liver does the job of blood purification??Lungs do that job.The article explains the reasons behind people going to temples in that old era.When there were no antibiotics,preventive measures formed the basis of good health.Tulsi and other medicinal herbs are scientifically tested to prove their immune boosting active ingredients.So even today if herbs like tulsi are consumed on daily basis through various medicinal preparations,it would definitely help you boost your immune system,thus protecting you from diseases like common cold and viral infections.So your questioning regarding whether these herbs really improve our immune system is completely wrong.So please remove that point from your article.

    • Hi Ganesh Veluswami,

      Do you think you have scientifically posted the article condemning the facts. Though you intended to condemn the very own facts, you have lost the base of science even. Let me prove of the facts to you.
      -> As you said, copper doesn’t absorb magnetic waves. Is this correct?? Go to the basic modern Physics and know the fact.
      -> Doesn’t our body absorb Magnetic Radiation? If not why our modern science saying now that usage of mobile phones (Electro Magnetic Radiation) will harm human health drastically though not vividly. Go and check this.
      -> You said, how radiation is related to health. then how as i mentioned the harmful, the sooo very well versed useful mobile phones, are impacting health.
      -> Don’t simply neglect the usage of Tulsi and the above mentioned ones, think of why scientific people are fighting for patents on Tulsi, Termeric and many more if they are not that important.

      You should be general and rational think correctly on the mentioned points rather than simply going against the theme with the art of writing.

      • magnetic field lines don’t have a beginning or an end (a consequence of the absence of magnetic monopoles) So no , Copper or any material for that matter , can’t “absorb” magnetic “waves” (if you take them to be magnetic field lines) . However magnetic “waves” is a rather vague term – it might even refer to electro-magnetic waes. In case it refers to electro-magnetic waves (EM waves in short) – every material has some sort of absorption and transmission bandwidth i.e. absorbing EM waves is nothing special since all materials have that property. Also it is true that repeated exposure to high energy radiations can be harmful.

    • the liver does take part in blood purification within the body – This is what causes liver damage due to excessie drinking

  • Gaurav Mishra

    This is so nice!

  • If there is an abundance of ‘positive’ energy where temples are located, then, should we see the death of hundreds of people in front of the Kedarnath temple as a ‘positive’ development?

  • It is not the way to look at that temples are filled with positive energy and that those who visit temples would be absolutely safe.We should not see God as a superhuman being always ready to protect human beings and give them what ever they desire, in reonse to worship . It is a narrow minded view .Temple visit is expected to help to release positive energy in us, just like gym helps to build up health. We should not think that There is a super power outside us . Godsuperpower is everywhere including in each one of us . Temple worship should help us to realize that supreme power in each one of us . what people reap is what they sow .Those who commit sins will reap sorrows in the form of diseass and even death .Committing sin may not immediately follow by sorrows .There is a time gap .some people experience sorrows immediately, others take time to undergo the experience . It is a natural law . Temple worship is necessary, but for reasons common people hold now . See my Article can we find Gods in temples . in the above web site. open the web site, open link Articles and open DrA.SreekumarMenon’s rticles

    • Saurabh Pradhan

      POSITIVE ENERGY exists and it exists inside. Within us only. It may not be scientific though. In fact, all our beliefs are not scientific all the time.
      Imagine a place which is calm and soothing, where you can go and meditate. Where the whole atmosphere is built in such a way that it promotes the positive energy inside you. The bells, which are used not only in hinduism but it is related to many religions and beliefs. Even chinese people use wind-chimes for ‘positive energy’. All the cloves/tulsi/insense sticks/idol/the priest/prayers/temple hall, everything, it all provides an environment conducive to POSITIVE THOUGHTs. So, we call this place a TEMPLE.
      One may reject even the basic idea of Religion & God itself and call it not scientific. This positive energy doesn’t apply to them.

      • Captain Mandrake

        That is a lot of gibberish. I recommend you read high school (7th and 8th grade) physics text books to understand what the word “Energy” means.

  • amazing article

  • Subramanian Venkatraman

    As a Brahmin I only know one thing. All religions have evolved since their inception. While modern religions, I mean those religions which are just about a few thousand years old, have complete written records of their birth and growth, older religions do not have them in written form. The result is a lot of hearsay has been mixed with facts and this creates confusion. According to me “Facts are those which you believe to be so, with or without reason.” Information is pouring in from all sides nowadays. You do not investigate each and every information. You take for granted those information to be facts which you believe them to be and act upon them as you would like. Your beliefs are based upon your experience and experience depends upon your perception, emotional reaction and various other metrics of your own. That is why we have the world divided so much. No problem. If someone does not believe in the value of temples, so be it for him. For me it is still very valuable.

    • Your argument contains an implicit assumption that Hinduism is very old . No doubt , as you say, that very few ex-Hindu Atheists have the proclivity or even fewer the knowledge to distinguish between “criticisms” & “polemics” of what is this new phenomenon of Hinduism.
      But then if sections of Hindus have the right to believe in or propagate balderdash & some even bigotry , why do you think sections of ex-Hindus should not have the right to same??

      ##No problem. If someone does not believe in the value of temples, so be it for him. ##
      Thanks .

      ##For me it is still very valuable.##

      They are valuable to you despite the corruption , caste discrimination, Brahmin supremacism ,superstitions etc that have always plagued them since the beginning ? You exhibited the same emotional argument that you were complaining of .Instead why squander wealth on these unworthy structures , when the same can be used for welfare of the needy instead of priests.If you want Hindu-bashing or even anti-Hinduism to stop then instead of defending the untenable & then complaining , fight for Reforms .Also stop defending Hindu beliefs , just for the sake of defending .Pay heeds to “real criticisms” of Hinduism,instead of conflating them with “polemics” & then overlooking them.

  • Explain the double slit experiment with the same reasoning power you used above. Explain the quantum physics anomalies with the same reasoning ? Explain why the fundametal forces are there in the universe ? The scientists say that the fundamental forces are there by default and one has to accept it and then goes on building his scientific philosophy on the accepted belief. Is it not that the scientist also blindly belives on the existence of fundamental forces like a religious bigot who believes that god always existed? reason has its limits and is good if used reasonably

    • Scientists , “blindly believe”?
      In the absence of knowledge , they make hypothesis, which are essential for further study & keep it , as long as it works , if it does not they trash it. But it is always made sure that hypothesis is not taken as a fundamental truth , unlike what the religious people ,not necessarily just the bigots , do.

  • It’s good to read the pro-science arguments. It helps regulate our individual beliefs and question our personal assumptions. Nonetheless, it is sad to note that there are many who need to believe by disproving a belief. It is easier to disprove than to prove what cannot be proven. Hence the believer does not wish to prove. He only believes. And his beliefs are his own. They do not weaken. In fact, most times they grow stronger. Particularly when challenged by the views of a non-believer.

    Energy is a fact. That there are various forms of energy is a fact. Humans have only very limited capabilities of sensing these energies. That is also a fact. We then turn to scientific and mathematical methods for measuring energies and continue to make astonishing discoveries. Will we one day create ways and means of measuring all energies in this universe? Maybe. Is there such a thing as ‘spiritual energy’? And if so, how can we prove or disprove its existence?

    To the believer, these questions are already answered. Only the believer knows the answer. For he believes…

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