Essay No. 199:
Superstitions: Superstitions are founded on irrational beliefs. They do not stand the test of reason and knowledge. Belief in ghosts and spirits cannot be rationally justified. Superstitious, one may say represent irrational fear on the part of the ignorant.
Superstitions thrive in a society where illiteracy and ignorance are at their height. The ignorant expect fear from some supernatural forces and to protect themselves from the harm that might come to them, run after amulets and charms to ward off the evil influence. In our society, people consider it inauspicious to travel towards the North a Tuesday and Wednesday and towards the South on Thursdays.
Lending and borrowing money are too, tied to particular time. Some people consider it a bad omen if a black car runs in front of them when they step out of their home for doing some business. The advent of certain diseases in the primitive societies was ascribed to some bad spirits. The yellow favor was thought to be the result of displeasure of a particular deity. The unknown fears made people a prey to superstitions.
Even now in many European countries, Number 13 is considered unlucky. Many hotels do not contain No.12. It is irrationally believed that persons residing in Room No.13, when sitting at a dining table, may meet death in a few days. The Europe which stands for rationality still is a victim of certain superstitions in one way or the other. However, majority of people do not believe in beliefs which have no rational basis at all primitive.
Illiteracy, ignorance promotes irrational beliefs in a society. In primitive societies, superstitions grow and prosper, where illiteracy is at its peak. Illiteracy breeds ignorance and both contribute to the emergence of superstition. With the spread of education and occurrence of economic development, irrational thinking, beliefs tend to be dissolved.
People begin to wear progressive outlook on life. The urban areas being comparatively developed exhibit less irrational attitude and thinking on different issues unlike the rural areas, where the hold of superstitions is strong.
Hence the remedy to lessen the grip of superstitions lies in spreading education in every nook and corner of the country. If more facilities of education, health as a result of high economic growth are provided to the people in the Northern areas, they will be sensitized to enlightenment and it will reduce the incidence of superstitions. Economic development brings a host of institutional changes in its wake, which are meant to transplant progressive values in the minds of people.
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Francis bacon’s views on superstitions are worth quoting here ‘it were better to have no opinion of God at all than such an opinion as it is unworthy of him; for the one is unbelief the other is contumely (profanity) and certainly superstition is the reproach of the ‘Deity.’ According to him, superstition is worse than atheism. An atheist does not know about God, while a superstitious person believes in God while attributing certain unworthy qualities to him.
Bacon is of the view that superstitions conjure up a false view in states. Wiseman, holding rational views are rejected and instead fools encouraged. Formalities are rituals receive much attention, while reason recedes in the background. Uncivilized state of mind is the result of superstitions. Rites and rituals spoil the beauty of forms, just as small insects are capable of infesting good meat.
The upshot of the discussion is that superstitions are not good for the growth of human society. Men bound by reason and intellect make their own way to life, as they inherently depend upon their abilities and not on irrational beliefs. Different objects of nature can’t influence the destiny of man.
Man makes his own fate by overcoming the challenges posed to him in different fields of life. Diligence, hard work coupled with a strong will are the weapons to fight against adverse forces in life. Superstitions be thrown away and stark realities be accepted to answer the calls of life.