Roman Catholic bishops in the Philippines have criticised the traditional Easter rituals of people publicly whipping themselves or having themselves crucified.
It should not be done as an act of superstition,” Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, the bishops’ spokesman, said in a statement.
from ABC News
Which made me smirk a little, and think “isn’t all of religion an act of superstition?”. I wondered, how can a senior religious figure tell his followers not to conduct any acts of superstition, when one could consider everything about religion is a superstition? Perhaps I had incorrectly remembered the definition of superstition, so I thought I better find a definition and check. From Wikipedia:
Superstition is a credulous belief or notion, not based on reason, knowledge, or experience.
So my first reaction was correct, but then I read the rest of the Wikipedia entry. Not surprisingly this line in Wikipedia intrigued me, “religious believers have often seen other religions as superstition” which is like the oft used phrase “We’re all atheists, I just believe in one less god than you do”. It’s that amazing ability of religious people to look skeptically at other beliefs but not their own.
This sentence in the Wikipedia entry for Superstition also intrigued me:
Religion and superstition are usually considered separated because while superstitions are based on fear, uncertainty and insecurity in the future and in peril, religious people can feel secure and safe under the protection of their God(s), thus actually making them fearless and resilient to calamity.
But isn’t a fair portion of most faiths based on the fear and uncertainty of what happens in the afterlife? Don’t a lot of religions teach that the followers better be good or else they’ll go to hell when they die. Isn’t that then the definition of superstition per “fear, uncertainty and insecurity in the future”?
Then I got to the bit about the Catholic Churches take on superstition, which explains why the bishops in the Philippines criticised some of their followers who whip and/or crucify themselves at Easter.
The Roman Catholic Church considers superstition to be sinful in the sense that it denotes a lack of trust in the divine providence of God and, as such, is a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments.
But what constitutes superstition for the Catholic Church?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states superstition “in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion” (para. #2110); or this “a deviation of religious feeling” (para. #2111).
So according to the Catholic church its only a superstition if your too religious? 😉
A lot of people have superstitions about all sorts of weird things, but as long as you don’t let them rule your life, or worse make your superstitions rule other people’s lives, then they are probably reasonably harmless.
Then there’s always this fantastic Superstition: