Superstitions—Why So Dangerous?
CAN superstitions harm you? Some might dismiss this notion or minimize the danger. Still, in his book Believing in Magic—The Psychology of Superstition, Professor Stuart A. Vyse warns: “Superstition could lead to diminished quality of life if one spends large sums of money on psychics, fortunetellers, numerologists, or Tarot-card readers, or if one’s superstitious rituals help to maintain problem gambling.” Allowing superstition to rule our lives can have far more serious consequences.
As we have seen, many superstitions serve to allay fears about the future. It is important to distinguish, however, between superstition and reliable knowledge about what lies ahead of us. Consider an example.
An Illuminating Story
In 1503, after months of exploration along the coast of Central America, Christopher Columbus managed to beach his last two vessels on what is now the island of Jamaica. At first, the islanders freely shared food with the stranded explorers. In time, however, the misconduct of the sailors caused the islanders to stop supplying them with food. The situation was critical, since it would be some time before another ship would arrive to rescue them.
According to the story, Columbus consulted his almanac and learned that a total eclipse of the moon would occur on February 29, 1504. Playing upon the islanders’ superstition, he warned them that darkness would cover the moon unless they supplied his crew with food. The islanders ignored the warning—until the eclipse started! Then, “with great howling and lamentation,” they “came running from every direction to the ships laden with provisions.” The explorers were supplied with food for the rest of their stay.
To the islanders, Columbus had performed powerful magic. But their conclusion was the result of mere superstition. In reality, the “prediction” was based on the consistent movements of the earth, the moon, and the sun. Astronomers can reliably predict such things as eclipses long in advance, and this information appears in almanacs. Furthermore, the precise movements of celestial bodies allow astronomers to determine their exact position at any given time. Therefore, when your newspaper announces the time of a sunrise or a sunset, you accept it as fact.
The Grand Creator of the heavenly bodies is, in effect, the source of the information published about the timing of eclipses, sunrises, and sunsets. But the predictions of fortune-tellers, psychics, crystal-ball gazers, and tarot-card readers are from a different source, one that is in opposition to Almighty God. Consider what we mean.
A Dangerous Source
At Acts 16:16-19, the sacred record reports that “a certain servant girl” in the ancient city of Philippi furnished her masters with much gain by her “art of prediction.” The account plainly says, however, that the source of her predictions was, not the almighty Creator, but “a demon of divination.” Hence, when the apostle Paul expelled the demon, the servant girl lost her powers of prediction.
When we understand that such predictions come from a demonic source, we see why God’s Law to Israel stated: “There should not be found in you . . . anyone who employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events . . . For everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) In fact, the Law made such practices a capital offense.—Leviticus 19:31; 20:6.
It may surprise you to learn that evil forces are behind many seemingly harmless superstitious practices. Yet, the Bible says that Satan ‘transforms himself into an angel of light.’ (2 Corinthians 11:14) Satan and the demons under his control can make dangerous practices appear harmless, even beneficial. At times, they may fabricate portents and make them come true, deceiving onlookers into thinking that such omens are from God. (Compare Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.) This explains why some predictions made by those claiming special powers at times come true.
Of course, many, if not most, who claim special powers are fakes, mere charlatans, out to bilk money from the unwary. But whether fakes or otherwise, they are all effectively used by Satan to turn people against Jehovah, blinding them to “the glorious good news.”—2 Corinthians 4:3, 4.
“Lucky” Charms and Idolatry
And what of the “lucky” charms and superstitious routines that people use to gain a sense of security and control over random events in life? These present a number of subtle dangers. For one, the superstitious person could in effect be surrendering control of his life to unseen forces. He throws logic and reason to the wind, bowing instead to irrational fears.
One writer cites another inherent danger. He states: “When someone counts on a good luck charm for protection and the charm fails, that person might have a tendency to blame [his] misfortune on the actions of others, rather than to accept the responsibility himself.” (Compare Galatians 6:7.) Interestingly, essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once declared: “Shallow men believe in luck . . . Strong men believe in cause and effect.”
The “cause and effect” at work in our lives often amounts to random events—the “time and unforeseen occurrence” that befall us all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Random events are not the result of the capricious whims of “bad luck.” Christians know that superstitious routines and magic charms have no effect on the outcome of random events. When they occur, we are reminded of the Biblical truth: “You do not know what your life will be tomorrow. For you are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing.”—James 4:14.
Furthermore, true Christians know that reverential attention is often given to good-luck charms as well as to superstitious rituals or routines. Hence, Christians view all such as forms of idolatry, clearly condemned in God’s Word.—Exodus 20:4, 5; 1 John 5:21.
How We Can Know the Future
This does not mean that Christians are unconcerned about the future. On the contrary, sound reasoning dictates that there is real value in knowing what lies ahead. If we know in advance what is to occur, we can take appropriate action, benefiting ourselves and our loved ones.
There is real need, though, to seek this information from the right source. The prophet Isaiah cautioned: “People will tell you to ask for messages from fortunetellers and mediums . . . You are to answer them, ‘Listen to what the Lord is teaching you! Don’t listen to mediums—what they tell you will do you no good.’”—Isaiah 8:19, 20, Today’s English Version.
The correct source of reliable information about the future is the Author of the Bible. (2 Peter 1:19-21) This inspired book contains abundant evidence that prophecies the almighty God, Jehovah, has made are reliable—as reliable, in fact, as the movements of heavenly bodies “predicted” in countless almanacs. To illustrate the detailed accuracy of Bible prophecy, consider this example. Let’s suppose that a prominent person today goes on public record and predicts events 200 years ahead, for the year 2199. His prediction contains these details:
◻ A great military battle will erupt between nations that are not as yet rival world powers, and the result will change history.
◻ The strategy to be used involves a tremendous engineering feat that will alter the course of a mighty river.
◻ The name of the conqueror is given—many years before he is even born.
◻ The ultimate destiny of the loser is described, extending the prediction many more centuries into the future.
If all these predictions came true, would it not cause people to consider other things this person had said about the future?
What we have just described actually took place. Some 200 years before the overthrow of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians, Jehovah, through the prophet Isaiah, foretold the following:
◻ The strategy used would involve the drying up of a moatlike river defense. Additionally, the gates to the fortified city would be left open.—Isaiah 44:27–45:2.
◻ The conqueror would be named Cyrus—foretold some 150 years before his birth.—Isaiah 45:1.
◻ In time, Babylon would become a total ruin.—Isaiah 13:17-22.
All these predictions came true. Is it thus not worth your while to consider other prophecies Jehovah has made in his written Word?
The Grand Future That God Promises
What does the Bible foretell? The Bible promises that in the new world of God’s making, no one will suffer because of insecurity about the future. Note God’s guarantee to those living at that time: “There will be no one making [my people] tremble.”—Micah 4:4.
The Bible further promises that God will ‘open his hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.’ (Psalm 145:16) Is the fulfillment of that promise a long way off? No! Well in advance the Bible foretold that the very conditions we see on the earth now constitute proof that we are living in “the last days” of the present wicked system.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
Soon the loving Creator will bring an end to these evil conditions. He will cause all wars, sources of worldwide insecurity and suffering, to cease. Furthermore, hatred, selfishness, crime, and violence will forever be things of the past. The Bible promises: “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:10, 11.
Among the many blessings that people will enjoy in this new world is good health. Even death and its attendant sorrows will be no more. God himself says: “Look! I am making all things new.”—Revelation 21:4, 5.
At that time no human will be subject to the random events that alter and destroy lives today. Gone, too, will be the wicked demons and Satan, the source of superstitious fears and evil lies. These thrilling truths are found in the Bible.
[Pictures on page 8, 9]
Superstition and spiritistic practices are closely linked
Except woman inside crystal ball: Les Wies/Tony Stone Images
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God’s new world will be free of superstition