From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Superstition or religion? Handle with care

According to Wikipedia, “superstition” is a “belief in a false conception of supernatural causality…”  Now for some (we often call them atheists), any belief in supernatural causality is false.  For others, their own belief in supernatural causality is true, but all others are false.

“Supernatural causality” is further linked with the notion that “one event leads to the cause of another without any physical process linking the two events…” and is said to contradict “natural science.”  Since “natural science” is an evolving discipline, it is also quite possible for today’s  “contradiction” to become tomorrow’s “natural.”  For example, few would have predicted that what was called physical “matter” for centuries has actually been a shifting between particles and waves of energy all along.

So is Voodoo a superstition?  How about Scientology? Astrology?  Christianity?  By somebody’s standards, yes – by somebody else’s, no…

It might therefore behoove us to be somewhat tolerant of those beliefs that are deemed “superstitious” – at least in terms of developing a basic knowledge of them.  Not only do many people lack an understanding of other faiths, but many also lack a basic understanding of the principles underlying their own faith.  Before claiming that other beliefs are false, it seems important to at least be able to explain a theological basis for condemning them.

Take hamsa, for example.  Wikipedia describes it as “a palm-shaped amulet popular throughout North Africa.”  Muslims call it the “hand of Fatima.”  Christians call it the “hand of Mary.”  Jews calls it the “hand of Miriam.”  Adherents of all three major religions believe hamsa to bring luck or ward against the “evil eye.”  Which religious belief, if any, is true?  By what theological standard?  

It gets complicated.  And well it should.  It has been all too easy throughout history to condemn “superstitious” beliefs on the basis of one hazy stereotype or another.


No comments:

Post a Comment