“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”
― Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays
Superstitions usually give a negative vibe, since most of them talk about “bad luck” and about things we shouldn’t do. I don’t agree with Bertrand Russell when he says that “Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty” since fear isn’t the main reason people believe in superstitions even after decades. Yes, fear is one of them, but I’d say that the main reason is Education. At the time superstitions were made, many people weren’t educated and didn’t know what they were talking about. Fear isn’t the main reason that superstitions are in our minds in the 21st century. There have been consequences of these beliefs that people don’t know about, but if nothing is going to be done to stop these beliefs, it will be a problem in the future. Superstitions are everywhere. When we watch any sports match, we all have our lucky things (for example- a shirt) which bring us “good luck”. Before exams, we all wish our friends good luck. People who believe in superstitions are often insecure about something, or underconfident. Cultural Relativism is something everyone goes through, and there are ways to avoid it. It is connected to superstitions, which makes it a problem together. A video by International Law, in which Ms. Roberta Lea Brilmayer talks about Cultural relativism and supports my thoughts about it. She agrees that cultural relativism also triggers irrational beliefs in people. Therefore under pressure and circumstances, people believe in superstitions. Even though many people won’t agree, sometimes superstitions are good for us. It helps us reduce anxiety and stress. Eventually makes feel better, since there are beliefs that says would give us “good luck” and sometimes we blindly follow it. I want to know the main reason why superstitions still exist in our society, which brings me back to my research question “Why do superstitions still prevail in our society?”
Issue 1- Illiteracy
Globally, 264 million children do not have the opportunity to learn at school. This tells us a lot about the fact that many people, including children, are lacking education. Most of them don’t have access to it because they can’t afford it. Education helps us understand, and rationalize our thoughts and beliefs. We can look at things and situations from different perspectives. Fear is also a reason why we keep superstitions in our minds, but because education is missing, the person is not able to realize it. Education is the way we can stop believing these superstitions. With that, we can actually test and see if they are actually true. It is often, that people believe in superstitions because they are worried, what will happen to them, if they don’t? They are afraid of taking the risk of not doing what superstition tells you to do. After being educated, people will be able to question their beliefs and understand the truth about superstitions. Why isn’t everyone educated? Most people can’t afford it. What’s worse is that many people don’t even have education available in their country, due to poor conditions of schools, no access to electricity in schools and trained teachers. In terms of the course of action, there are many organizations, like UNICEF, and UNSD that have been helping and improving the rate of literacy in many countries.
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The literacy rate in India was 94% for males and 92% for females. But, with the help of the National Education Policy and Sustainable Development Goal 4, universal education for all Indians targeted at, with higher education, and teacher training. India is usually famous for its superstitions since there are just so many. Many people believe and follow superstitions, on a daily basis. It would be very common to see people religiously follow superstitions in India. An Anti-superstition law had been made in Maharashtra, on December 9th, 2013. “Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Ordinance 2013” helped spread awareness in our society, so that everyone can live in peace, without any conflicts caused by superstitions. Witchcraft, magic and omen are the main beliefs found in India. Supernatural powers, evil forces and many more things are expected from people living in India. This is why it’s necessary for the government to take action against it. The Ordinance approved by the Maharashtra Cabinet has 12 sections that spell out the crimes under the law. It provides for imprisonment of six months to seven years and fine of up to Rs 50,000. Crimes like:
- Torture, harm or possess someone’s body
- Any Aghori practice
- Making fake promises, deals which will result in miracles
Issue 2 – Cultural relativism
Cultural relativism is something everyone goes through. Judging other’s cultures, beliefs and habits with the base of your own culture and belief. Everyone has done it, we all have questioned what other people do, with a “Why?” I have been abroad and learnt that many people eat insects like grasshoppers. At first I was disgusted, only because people of my culture wouldn’t do that. I wasn’t that open-minded to understand the satisfaction people got by ingesting insects. Then I realized that maybe what I eat might be disgusting for others, but usual for me. Therefore I was convinced that many people are judged because of cultural relativism.
Cultural relativism is a link to superstitions since it’s caused by people’s cultural beliefs. Cultural beliefs are often the one’s that help pass superstitions from generation to generation. When believing something, people are often asked “Why do you follow/believe this?” or “Who told you to follow/believe this?” And the answers often are “This is what my ancestors believed, and it’s part of my culture, hence I follow this” and “My parents told me this, since I was a child so I’ve followed this since then”. Seeing that not everyone follows it, it strikes you, “Why do I actually believe in this? Nobody else does” This is something everyone goes through since they have been asked not to question their own culture and beliefs. Family is the one that tells you to follow certain superstitions, because they are from your culture, and make you believe. An article by Jane L. Risen supports my thoughts about superstitions being harmful to our society. This also helped me think about this in different perspectives. Also spoken about different reasons why superstitions are still in the minds of people living in the 21st century. Her article has references, in-text citations and evidence. It is a reliable source, since there are facts, and a diagram that helps us understand what she was trying to convey. Her research is similar to mine, but the only difference is that I chose education and cultural relativism as my issues, whereas she chose different ones. The only thing which makes her article less reliable is that it was published in 2016. This article helped me understand superstitions at a psychological level, which I didn’t understand earlier. I definitely agree with her, when she said “the tendency to search for and favor evidence that supports current beliefs and ignore or dismiss evidence confirms bias” Since I too think, that many people know the truth, and yet chose to ignore it. Simply because they don’t want to be the ones to question it, causing conflicts. In India many people would be found, talking about Hinduism and Muslims, the most common religions. Culture also links us to religion, there is a thin border-line difference between religion and culture, but religion also influences us in order to have ignorant beliefs. Certain beliefs which we still follow, are also mainly because of our religion. Religion is an important part of life. When marriage, work, education and living factors are concerned, religion helps us distinguish and know how everything is done. Along with that, it influences our thought process, which essentially makes us believe in superstitions, rituals and traditions.
Personally, I think that superstitions are just there, and nobody really wants to do anything about it. We can’t do things like walk under a ladder because something supernatural will happen, or because we ourselves have created that fear in our minds. Unfortunately, people who don’t have access to education get dragged into this mess. I grew up with in a Hindu family, where my parents have told me to never do certain things like not cutting nails in the evening. From sleeping in a particular direction, to not entering a temple when I’m menstruating has been the influence of superstitions on me. But I have also realized and put a stop to believing superstitions in my mind. Understanding this topic in depth has helped me comprehend this situation since I’m also a victim of Superstitions that were passed on to me by my family. This research has helped me go to the depths of superstitions, and discover things I didn’t know about. This is a problem, not many realize it simply because they think about it without knowing everything. I hope that people in the future people will let go, and eliminate these beliefs. I’ve had a good experience knowing more about this topic since I’ve learned about many unfortunate things that still continue in 2019.
Evaluation of sources – I have mostly used articles from organizations like UNICEF, UNSD, and more to support my opinions and arguments. Videos have been watched from YouTube and sites to understand Cultural relativism better. This gave me a clear idea of cultural relativism, which helped me link it with superstitions. Since Cultural relativism is another problem people deal with, I wanted to bring that to people’s attention, along with superstitions. All my sources’ authors are verified and have the authority to make comments on the topics that I have chosen to write about. The articles chosen by me, for this research have a bibliography, references and facts. They may not be accurately reliable, since they are a bit old. Otherwise, all sources are accurate and reliable.