The difference between religion and superstition
The Serenity Prayer - The Essence of Religion
Religions are not to be confused with superstitions.
First of all, here are some examples of superstitions:
1. When I wear a white shirt, I do well on my job. That's why I always wear a white shirt when I go to work these days.
2. Before I went inside Vegas casino, I pulled out a picture of my deceased parents from my wallet. I said a little prayer. Then, I won big. Now I always look at my parents' picture before gambling.
3. My baseball team was on a long losing streak. To change luck, I ate a slice of pizza for breakfast one morning. After that, my team has been on a winning streak. Now I eat pizza for breakfast.
As you can see, superstitions are based on an arbitrary belief in one event causing another event. There are no rational/logical explanations for wearing a white shirt 'causing' a success at work. But the person decides to believe that his white shirt was somehow responsible for his success at work. This is the most succinct explanation of superstition.
Can some religions be like superstitions? Absolutely. As with the examples above, some religious folks actually and sincerely believe that certain devotional actions (prayers & offerings) do bring preferred outcomes to them. We often hear that a religious person's illness was cured after much prayer. The effect of one's prayer caused illness to disappear. There are no rational/logical explanations for prayer actually causing the event of one's illness being cured. Some religious people call it a 'miracle.' Philosophers would call it 'superstition.'
David Hume, a Scottish Skeptic philosopher, said, "Miracle is a violation of the law of nature." A simple prayer actually causing cancer cells to die would fall into this category. Medically and scientifically speaking, a prayer can't kill cancer cells. (I personally do not always deny the possibility of a violation of the law of nature once in a great while.)
Now, I must say it is unfortunate that many (so called) "educated people" dismiss religions as nothing more than superstitions only because some religions stress the possibility of miracles via the act of faith. Although faith per se is neither blind nor irrational, faith is often perceived as an irrational act of believing in some unexplainable supernatural forces which bring on a violation of the law of nature.
To me, religion points to the way to lead a wise and wholesome life. It should never be assumed to be a bundle of superstitious beliefs. Religion's primary focus is to help us live wisely. We can all benefit from wisdom literature of world's great religions. After all, we are often greedy, vicious, jealous, vengeful, insecure, and unsettled in our day lives. Inner peace is often missing in our existence. We can certainly benefit from wisdom literature that has been handed down from our ancestors. My personal favorite is Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer. (See below) To me, it exemplifies what a religion is. Through this hub, I hope I clarified the differences between religion and superstitions.
“Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
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