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Is religion more than superstition?

By Samantha Atkinson (age 14), Archbishop Holgate's School, York

On the one hand, some non-religious people may believe religion is no more than superstition, as there are some similarities between the two that one cannot ignore. Both doctrines think that our world isn't a place controlled by science, matter and energy, but rather that unexplainable forces influence or control our lives. Furthermore, there is also the desire in both beliefs to provide a reason and meaning for every random and coincidental event that happens. For example, if an accident happened where somebody was hurt, the superstitious might connect it to walking under a ladder or spilling salt and the religious might connect it to not performing prayers or not going to church that morning. Also in both cases people are expected to avoid certain actions and perform other actions, for instance; not opening an umbrella inside and wishing on a star, or not sinning and following the Ten Commandments.

However on the other hand, some religious people may believe that religion is more than superstition. As superstition can be seen as being childish or irrational, therefore some religions may take offense at being called superstitious. Instead Christians may argue that faith is all about Jesus. He was born from the Virgin Mary, preached in the temple, looked up to by his disciples, betrayed by Judas, crucified by the Romans and resurrected on the third day (Luke 18:33). Christianity is more about a relationship with God as he is an essence to connect with: I am with you always (Matthew 28:20). This scripture shows that God's omnipotence allows him to strengthen every one of us all the time. This is only possible because Jesus died for our sins (Corinthians 15) so that we may have our sins forgiven, and cultivate a close connection with God. It gives us a hope of being with God in his paradise in the afterlife. Whereas a belief in superstition is not so encompassing as to have an impact on the afterlife, bringing me back to ‘yes', religion is more than superstition.

However another argument to support that religion is no more than superstition, is the many stories that the bible is based on were passed down through the word of mouth many hundreds of years ago, as this was the only means of communication. So religion in many respects is similar to superstition, as these stories were also passed down through folk law. Therefore both may have been exaggerated or even completely false. Also religion along with superstition were founded a very long time ago when people had extremely different views, and these views may not be relevant to today; How many things served us yesterday for articles of faith which today are fables for us? (Michel de Montaigne, a 16th century French philosophist and writer). Many religious people may only believe in their chosen God because they believe if they are faithful, they will ascend to heaven.

But if they are not faithful God will punish them and they will spend eternity in hell; the absence of God. Therefore out of fear and superstition, they believe in a God and follow a religion: What the mind doesn't understand, it worships or fears (Alice Walker, author).

My second argument to support that religion is more than superstition, is that the first followers of Jesus and Christianity didn't follow him because they aspired to go to heaven. In fact, his disciples wouldn't have even known about heaven in the first place. So instead of following Jesus out of a selfish reason, they followed him out of loyalty, awe and admiration. This is because Jesus appeared to perform: wonders that cannot be fathomed (Job 5:9): healing the blind, healing the crippled, splitting fish and bread to feed thousands, walking on water, resurrecting, the list goes on. Therefore religion is about faith, love and connection to God, which are emotions that are more deeply rooted in anyone's consciousness than superstitious thoughts could ever be. This is perhaps why some religious people can feel guilt when they stray from God's wishes.

In conclusion, it seems reasonable to argue that while religion is not exactly the same as superstition, they both spring from the same origins: a natural human need and desire to believe in something, even if it isn't plausible or backed up with any evidence. Also, gaining a greater understanding of superstition may aid you in developing a better understanding and appreciation of religion. Therefore, I disagree with the statement: religion is more than superstition.

© 2018 Samantha Atkinson

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