Is Religion Superstition?

Religions, Cults & Worldviews: Valuable Answers for Valid Questions.

Is Religion Simply Outdated Superstition?

This is the assumption heaped on all theistic views by the secular humanist in an effort to disparage any discussion of deity. In order to disprove this assumption we might do well to ask ourselves a qualifying question, “Is there information that I have not yet received or investigated?”.

Before we address this question, let’s first define our terms, specificically the term religion. There is both a secular and a Biblical definition to this term. Let’s look at the secular first.

Secular definitions

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines religion as:

  1. a: the state of a religious religion> b (1): the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2): commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
  2. a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
Dictionary definition of word

To paraphrase, it is safe to assert that the secularist defines religion as any set of beliefs combined with ritualistic observances and ceremonies which either partially, or completely comprise one’s world view and ultimately govern one’s actions.

Now let’s take a look at the definition for the second key term ‘superstition’.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines superstition as:

  1. a: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation
    1. b: an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition
  2. a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary

Biblical definitions

The Biblical definition of religion can be found in the book of James:

"If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."

To summarize this view in context with the wider passage in James, we can see that the Bible defines “religion” as a practical application of what one professes to believe resulting in tangible works of love and kindness on top of holy living before God. This is not the same as the secular definition and is a far cry from anything even resembling ‘superstition’.

As we’ve discussed on our “How to Become a Christian” page, we can see that this form of religion is an impossibility for anyone to achieve apart from born again by way of placing our faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.

There are “world” religions: Animism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, etc.secular religions: Humanism, Atheism, Politicism etc. and even some personal religions: Spiritualism, Amway, Alcoholics Anonymous, etc.
So if we take the Webster’s Dictionary to be correct, then suffice it to say that nearly every one of us has some sort of religious behavior (even ol’ Bill Maher himself). It may not be Muslim or Christian necessarily but the idea of religion and religious behavior do not necessarily have to follow or contain any reference to any God whatsoever, so chances are, we all have behavior that is ritualistic and coincides with the personal beliefs that shape our world view and ultimately our actions in the world around us.

Can we find outdated, primitive superstition in some religion? Certainly. Say for instance, the idea that a spirit lives in a river and if one were to cross that river without sacrificing a chicken to the spirit, then the spirit will be angry and will cause horrible curses to come upon the one who crosses it, is indeed superstitious, yet MILLIONS believe along those lines (see Animism). There are also nearly a billion people who believe that if they commit a crime in this life, they must be reborn as a victim to the same crime in their next life. Suffering people MUST not be touched or helped according to this primitive belief system as this will interfere in their natural life to life progression. So, people are left to starve and die of poverty and disease. This concept is referred to as “karma” and is an attempt by Hinduism to solve the problem of evil, but sadly, karma only perpetuates evil. It does not solve it: for one to come back as a victim in their next life, there must be a victimizer in that next life who then must come back as a victim at the hands of a victimizer and so on and so on without end, to the system, or to evil itself. Again and again, we see religion after religion holding to ancient tradition and ritual in an effort to curry favor with a cosmic being. Do we then broad brush all belief systems as superstitious? Do we dismiss all things deemed “religious” as ‘outdated’ whether there is any validity to their claims or not?

The answer is no, we do not. This would be absurd, great claims deserve investigation, the most we have to lose is a couple hours of reading/learning, but what we have to lose could be far greater. There are certain immutable truths with overwhelming evidence that deserve investigation prior to our dismissing them by way of prejudice.
Can religion be outdated? That would depend on whether the religion was based on myth or on verifiable fact. If the faith is based on verifiable fact then it falls into the category of truth. If the faith is truth, then we must ask the question: “Can truth be outdated?”. If 2 + 2 equaled 4 in 460 A.D. then how could time possibly cause this truth to become a lie?
So is there a religion (or religions) that is/are based on substantiated fact? Take a look at our World Religion Comparison Chart and judge for yourself.

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