Friday, 13 December 2013

Why Superstition Is Irritating

On Friday 13th, Charlie Albuery asks why, even in the twenty-first century, people remain so prone to superstition.

Full disclosure before we begin: I originally intended to approach this article as I do most, tear something down with words, ruthlessly lampoon something hoping to mildly amuse the majority of you, offending a small minority in the process. However, if I took that approach to superstition, what would there be to say? My whole article could be boiled down to: ‘Don’t do silly things because of bizarre arbitrary guidelines you’ve set yourself, based upon little to no reason.’

But that’s boring – and if there’s one thing I’m trying not to be for the next few hundred words its boring. So stick with me, here we go.
The philosopher Blaise Pascal once issued this famous quotation regarding the existence of God: ‘Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.’ In essence, one might as well believe because in that way you lose nothing, but by not believing (in the small chance the belief in question is real) the consequences may be great.

Now, I don’t know about you, but personally, I’m relatively happy with my mother’s back unbroken and the seven years of moderate luck stretching before me aren’t a particularly grim concept, so, following Blaise Pascal’s sound logic, I should become superstitious. So, largely (although not entirely) due to his incredibly cool name, we’ll roll with Blaise for a moment, shall we? Let’s consider what life would be like were I, and all of you by extension of course (as I am one hell of a trendsetter), to immediately begin to follow a life-system based upon a hastily arranged amalgam of the world’s most popular superstitions. Actually, no, that will never work; some are simply too ridiculous for us to follow. Allow me a moment to discount some of my biggest superstition-based bugbears.
First up –I am a hay-fever sufferer (and not a quiet one) and from around mid-June through to late August the phrase I hear most often is ‘God Bless You’. Whatever belief system you happen to follow, this is irritating. If you say ‘God Bless You’ and don’t believe in God then your words are empty and you are, at that point, essentially, wasting oxygen. If, however, you do believe in God and say ‘God Bless You’, then (a) you’re invoking your Lord’s name in vain and (b) what does that say about the Big Man Upstairs’ priorities? There are global poverty, starvation and disease to deal with! Yet you’re trying to waste his time on me because I have the sniffles? Just . . . just . . . don’t! Especially because I am immediately obliged to thank you for your impromptu blessing, to which the most common reply is ‘No worries’ or ‘It’s all-right’; at this point we’ve used THREE SENTENCES to discuss a sneeze, a function we all understand and should treat with total indifference. From now on, I want to sneeze and hear either ‘Oh, he sneezed, no comment’ or total, blissful, silence.

Secondly – Rabbit’s feet . . . come on, seriously? Even assuming, for a moment, that the left hind foot of a rabbit does give good luck to its wearer, that still doesn’t make it a reasonable thing to do! Wearing the skins of 101 dalmations would have made Cruella DeVille both warm and fashionable and yet everybody hated her for wearing a piece of an animal to further her own cause.

Thirdly (and finally) – When we see stars in space, due to their distance from us and the speed of light, we are seeing those stars thousands of years in the past, and that ‘shooting star’, that symbol of hope and dreams? That’s what happens when a star dies. When you wish upon a star, that star is dead, and so are your dreams.
Oh, I appear to have ended up more focusing on the negatives here. I was trying so hard to be positive about superstitions, but things like horoscopes seem so illogical to me. Well that’s us Virgos, I guess, always being over-critical.

This article was originally published in the magazine version of Portsmouth Point ('Belief' issue) in December, 2013.


  1. I manely agree with you that superstition does seem to effect alot of people even in thise day and age, however somtimes superstition is a good thing. Superstition is a way of explaining something that otherwise sems unexplaineble. Superstition can also arouse the thought that you will have good luck if they find a penny on the floor, or manage not to step under a ladder, etc. It can also be used as a warning to say that you shoudnt break a mirror as you will have 7 years of bad luck, the real reason is that the person who owned the mirror will have to buy a new one. So in conclusion, superstion is just a way our mind works to warn us not to do things that could potentiolly be dangerous.

  2. Matthew Barney 7U9 January 2014 at 11:48

    My peronal belief regarding why superstition is irraitating is due to it being so illlogical. Even though that i do believe supertition is just more a of a myth than factor people should bring into there daily lives it does bring up man intriguing questions. Example of these questions would be...
    Why do people believe in "Superstition"? Or altenratviely the question "Should we believe in Superstition?"
    Regarding the question "Should we believe in Superstition?" the awnser to this is would you believe someones case without evidence to back it up? Generally the awnser would be no, this mean that the topic Superstition, a subject with no evidence, should not be believed in or trusted.
    However i can see peoples personal point of view for believing Superstition this might have some relivance to the saying "Better safe than not". I personally do not believe in "Superstition">

  3. Saskia Egeland-Jensen 7X13 January 2014 at 09:39

    I personally do not believe in superstition, although last week I walked under a ladder at the end of lunch, an between period 7 and 8, I tripped at the top of the stairs. I don't believe the two events are related, although it is a teensy bit wierd.

  4. I think that my view on superstition has changed over the years; with my mum being incredibly superstitious it has influenced my opinion.

  5. From reading this I can assume that the autor is an aetheist by some of your word choices such as "the big man upstairs". Assuming that my first assumtion was correct your motivation was blaise pacal and his philisophical quote. If True i assume you have misunderstood hi philosophy for all superstition his belief was that is better to believe in god and maybe go to heaven than not and maybe go to hell. This does not refer to all religion as that is not possible as most major religions do not alow you to be part of more than one of them. On a more complimentary note the post you have made was excellent and I am waiting for a followup :-)

  6. Samuel Griffiths 7Y13 January 2014 at 14:48

    I've never really paid attention to superstitions all though half of it is just common sense


Comments with names are more likely to be published.