The elemental dynamics of superstitions

Well another Friday the Thirteenth has come and gone. The day is a day superstitiously considered to be “bad luck” or a day when bad things can happen. The Friday the 13th superstition is apparently one of the most widespread. Now certainly it is interesting to examine the origins of superstitions and one such article can be found here:

If you look at the origins you will find roots to pagan religions, you will find misunderstanding of bodily functions, and you will find human create perspectives in dealing with evil or not offending God. There are reasons superstitions develop and become part of cultural nomenclature. The purpose of this article is to examine some the elements that go into how we begin to hold to superstitions in our life.

The basic elements of superstitious behavior are in fact rather elementary. These behaviors happen with the prospect of improving self in some way. An individual engages in an action or acquires an item with the hope and faith that it will bring good things into their life or prevent bad things from occurring. The basic formula would be: Self + Action= Benefit. Action being either something a person does or acquires. Benefit being either good things happening or bad things avoided. The key here to all superstitious behaviors is the self receiving some benefit. The behaviors in turn get reinforced when either a good thing happens as a result or the perception of avoiding something bad that was expected. Either way the behavior is likely repeated. Repeat a superstitious behavior often enough and it become ritual.

The fact is, each of us at some point or another engage in superstitious behaviors and actions. Granted, there are the superstitions that are learned and practiced within culture. These are things said and done without even realizing the source or origin. We just do them. The biggest area where superstitious behaviors develop is in competitive situations. The games we play or sports we root for often result in our engaging in behavior we hope will influence the results.

Often times the practice of superstitious behavior and ritual is rooted in fear. The psychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and other anxiety based conditions exemplify ritualistic and superstitious behavior development. Something is feared and behaviors are repeated to prevent what is feared. When what is feared does not happen the behavior is repeated.

Now the reader may be thinking is not all religious behavior actually superstitious behavior with what is done to achieve some reward or avoid some consequence. Yet, there are also supernatural forces that can contribute to the effectiveness of superstitious behaviors. For example, with the use of blessing or curses they can have a simple self-fulfilling aspect that changes behavior. People may view evidence in such a way to validate a blessing or a curse. Yet, there are real supernatural forces that can be at work.

Sadly within Christianity, many people take a superstitious approach to God and evangelism. Some people pray and do thing to please God in order to get some gain or avoid some evil. There is a strong disconnect with truly relating to the Creator of the Universe. What is done is all about the benefit of self. This is even compounded by an approach to heaven that focuses on emphasizing eternal reward versus eternal punishment. The reality is the matter really comes down to being in relationship with the Creator of the Universe who loves far beyond our knowledge of love, a desires relationship or not being in such a relationship. It is hard to grasp for some the reality of such interactions and far easier to focus on rewards and consequences to self. The reality is Heaven is eternal time in God’s presence whereas Hell is eternal separation from God.

Now hopefully this article has got you thinking about how you let superstitious behavior influence you life. Each of us can benefit from thinking about why we do what we do and examine the origins of behaviors. Hopefully a strong look is taken at your approach to God. Do you dismiss the supernatural and view all religious practice as superstitious behavior? Do you take a superstitious approach to interacting with the Creator? Do you take only a reward and consequence approach to sharing the Gospel with others? These are questions for each of us, depending on where you are in life, please consider them.


4 Responses

  1. This an interesting statement:

    “Do you take a superstitious approach to interacting with the Creator? Do you take only a reward and consequence approach to sharing the Gospel with others?”

    I have been in dispute with some fellow Christians who are seeking to intimidate self-proclaimed atheists with the threat of hell, and I think that is wrong as well as counterproductive. Is taking a “reward and punishment” idea of faith a form of superstition then? If yes, how and why?

  2. The reward and punishment idea of faith, fits within the elemental formula of superstition. Heaven and Hell are realities, but if you approach faith as all about self it is rather shallow. Rather it is about relationship with God. Hell is a reality, and discussing it or pointing it out can get a person to think but it really falters in drawing toward bridging the seperation with God. Ultimately it becomes a matter of God awareness and subsequent reconciliation versus self-awareness and self-focus.

  3. This part from your reply: “God awareness and subsequent reconciliation versus self-awareness and self-focus.” would be a really good forum topic in the near future! Really good!! Can you find the right words to start a thread???

  4. […] this all the time. Fans engage in an endless array of superstitious behaviors. (Feel free to read my blog article on the dynamics of superstitions.) It is very easy to fall into thinking that if your team wins […]

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