Have You Ever Wondered . . .
Is It Good or Bad to Be Superstitious?
DO YOU know someone who is afraid to walk under a ladder, or who touches wood to ward off bad luck? Why is it that some hotels have no floor or room numbered 13? Why did British Admiral Nelson have a horseshoe nailed to the mast of the ship “Victory”? Why do many persons wear or carry amulets or other “charms”? The answer is that all these people were, or are, superstitious.
HAVE SCIENCE AND CIVILIZATION ELIMINATED SUPERSTITION?
Superstition is a blindly accepted belief or notion. Seventy years ago, when the advances of science were exposing many blindly accepted beliefs, the noted “Encyclopædia Britannica” foretold that the future would bring “a civilization freed from the last ghost of superstition.”
Yet that forecast never came true. Even though science and so-called civilization have caused some persons to be less superstitious, a more current edition of the same encyclopedia admits: “There are few people who, if pressed, would not admit to cherishing secretly one or two irrational beliefs, or superstitions.” Today, even highly skilled and no-nonsense pilots of huge jet airliners reportedly “frequently cross unused seat belts prior to takeoff, or spit on a wheel after their preflight inspection.” All of this is because of superstition.
Why do such superstitions still linger? “Superstitions are one of life’s better props against doubt, anxiety and insecurity,” says Dr. Edward Hornick, professor of psychiatry in New York. Additionally, other authorities consider superstitions to be “a mistaken fear of the Divinity” or “any misdirection of religious feeling.” Such feelings run deep.
CAN SUPERSTITIONS BE DANGEROUS?
They certainly can. One authority states: “It would be impossible to estimate how many people have been hanged or burned as adults or drowned in infancy, . . . because of superstition.” Yes, superstition has bred intolerance and has mothered witchcraft, magic, astrology and other occult practices.
However, since such abuses as hanging or burning because of superstition are rare today, many see no harm in being superstitious. Yet one man who nailed a horseshoe over his front door for good luck highlighted a subtle danger of being superstitious. He confessed: “I know it’s foolish, and I don’t believe it, but you’d be surprised how well it works.” Yes, he got to the point that there was a reliance on his good-luck charm. During World War II, a bomber gunner who survived when his plane was shot down, betrayed a similar trust. He pointed to a small brass doll hanging on his pocket and admitted: “I’m not superstitious, but this lucky gremlin sure brought us through one of the closest scrapes we ever had.” Did it? How many persons died in warfare while clutching a good-luck charm?
Many persons, feeling secure because of a good-luck charm or because of following a certain superstition, take needless risks. Reliance on their good-luck charm actually becomes a snare.
Yet there is an even greater danger to those who are superstitious.
DOES BEING SUPERSTITIOUS HINDER TRUE WORSHIP?
A whole nation at one time worshiped Jehovah God properly, but something happened. At Isaiah 65:11 the Bible says about these people: “You men are those leaving Jehovah, those forgetting my holy mountain, those setting in order a table for the god of Good Luck and those filling up mixed wine for the god of Destiny.”
When these Jews began to depend on “the god of Good Luck,” they were turning away from Jehovah. Though they still carried on a form of worship at his temple, it was only a ritual, for in their hearts they honored the “god of Good Luck.” Because of this, Jehovah said he would ‘destine these ones to the sword.’ (Isa. 65:12) The fulfillment of these words resulted in a national catastrophe when Jehovah no longer protected the nation from attack by mighty ancient Babylon in 607 B.C.E. The Jews’ “god of Good Luck” failed to prevent the city of Jerusalem from being totally destroyed. So, by being superstitious, a person turns away from proper faith in and reliance on the Almighty God. This can bring his disfavor and leave one without any genuine help in these difficult times.
But what if being superstitious has become a habit?
HOW CAN ONE BREAK FREE FROM SUPERSTITIONS?
The way to break free is to develop a genuine faith in God so that a person can ‘set his confidence in God,’ not in some good-luck charm or superstition. The Bible tells how to do this. At Psalm 78:4-7 it mentions the “wonderful things that [God] has done,” and then urges true worshipers to relate these to the next generation so that these “might set their confidence in God himself and not forget the practices of God but observe his own commandments.” Yes, discussing what God has done, his mighty acts and his care for his people, can build real faith. A person can learn to rely then on the true God and his help and not have to feel the need to follow some superstition.
Many of the “wonderful things that [God] has done” are recorded in the Bible. For this reason, a sincere study of it is the best way to develop genuine faith. No doubt you feel as did the apostles of Jesus Christ who asked of him: “Give us more faith.” (Luke 17:5) Jehovah’s Witnesses are willing to help you to study the Bible in a systematic way, completely without obligation or charge. Why not contact them locally, or write the publishers of this magazine?
“If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:31, 32.