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Why do people believe in superstitions?

Amy Saad

Have you ever knocked on wood for luck? or flipped over a shoe that is faced down? Maybe you even have a lucky pen which you use during exams.

Superstitions are widespread across the world, having a surprisingly large following, but why do people believe in something so irrational? Superstitions involve beliefs and practices which attempt to manipulate events into having positive outcomes by doing/avoiding something in particular. It is believed that these actions will bring upon good luck, keeping you and others safe. Superstitions can be rooted back to important events throughout history, including, the Black Death, famine, war, witch trials and belief in evil supernatural spirits; all in which invoked fear into millions of people. In 1670, Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza anonymously published ‘Theological-Political Treatise’. This book made revolutionary and controversial arguments supporting ideas around democracy and free speech beginning with the issue of superstition, “If fortune was always favourable…no one would be in the grip of superstition”. Highlighting the inherent gullibility of human nature as we fear adversity and instead pursue omens and superstitions. Spinoza perpetuates this main idea that superstitions are harmless if we understand what we are getting ourselves into. However, they can become dangerous when they result in jeopardising another person’s safety. Still, many superstitions from the past have been useful in saving people from danger; such as, avoiding walking under ladders and not leaving food out overnight.

Nowdays, there is usually no harm in believing in superstitions. Although, it is important to consider that historically, superstitions were a way of achieving good luck to keep yourself safe in times of uncertainty and fear.


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