Things that go bump in the Night

I was asked this week to distinguish between superstition and belief. It was in the context of a BBC programme which examined why someone like Andy Murray should insist on using the same ball for a service immediately after scoring an ace. My argument was simply that a superstition of any description is something which is often passed from one generation to the other and might involve not putting new shoes on a table, or touching wood. The avoidance of bad luck is a common trait in most people and naturally understandable. Above all, most of these little rituals are harmless and often quite quaint. The discussion raised some interesting contradictions in definition between belief, faith and superstition. I contested that a superstition is simply that: nothing else. Others argued that a superstition was often born out of pagan ritual and belief, although I still can’t quite see my grandmother sitting with her friends around a cauldron discussing the pro’s and cons of walking under a ladder! Additionally, even if that were the case: what’s the point? One of my fellow debaters was from a ‘sceptics’ group who meet at various locations to discuss being sceptical, although quite what that has to do with being superstitious still leaves me baffled. He became quite agitated at my suggestion that he and his fellow sceptics might like to track down the nearest life and get on with it. One of the beautiful things about this limited span of life allocated to each of us is that we have choices to make. For example, to tell the truth or to lie. Other important choices are open to interpretation, right and wrong, love and hate for example. Though even the difference between true and false may be manipulated to suit an individuals needs. It is this manipulation of information that leads to, say, the belief in ghosts or a particular set of opinions. I for one believe that forty years ago representatives of my species walked on the moon for the first time. Even if it was a fake, wasn’t it brilliant? My interpretation of this event however is not a superstition it is simply my belief given the ‘facts’ as presented. It cannot be denied that on that particular occasion the ‘feel-good’ factor was incredible. Yet none of this has anything to do with superstition which, for many, also has the ‘feel good’ factor attached. It is for that reason that I feel that anyone with a sceptical nature may be better searching for more realistic targets for said scepticism. At the end of the day, quite simply, it really doesn’t matter. Perhaps it’s just another truth that everyone needs a hobby.

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