March 13, 2009

Religion is Just Another Superstition

black catImage via Wikipedia
You may not have even noticed, but today is Friday the 13th. Despite the fact that this post is being written in 2009 and not in 1809, there are still people around who treat this date as if it is somehow different from any other day. They regard the number 13 as unlucky and seek to avoid it. We call this "superstition," and we are right to do so. But even in 2009, atheist blogs and books by atheist authors are among the few places where one can expect to see the same label applied to religious beliefs.

This presents an interesting puzzle, as it is quite obvious that religious beliefs are merely culturally sanctioned forms of superstition. What makes them different from other forms of superstition is largely the structure erected in order to protect and maintain them against...well...reality.

Many Christians will eagerly join in the mocking of those who continue to believe in those superstitions which have fallen out of favor with mainstream culture. They join us in snickering at the man who avoids stepping on sidewalk cracks for fear of bad luck, and they are perfectly willing to laugh at those who fear black cats. They are right to do so because these beliefs are absurd, and their continued presence is a source of amusement.

And yet, notice how quickly things change when we atheists expose religious beliefs as simple superstition and magical thinking. The very same Christians who had no trouble recognizing the folly of other examples of superstitious belief are unwilling to do so when it comes to their own. "The difference," they insist, "is that what I believe is true." Sure it is (except that it isn't).