"Religion is Superstition"

Spinning a Web of Reality, Michael Bennett, under CC BY 2.0

Ben Wilson ·

There are things we believe. Somebody told us we should believe some of those things. Life shapes those beliefs as our experience does not always fit with those beliefs. Regardless of what we believe, there is an underlying reality that is. Occasionally, someone will tell me that my religion is superstition; usually without having the slightest clue what I believe, how I arrived by what I believe, or whether they are merely talking to a mirror. What they may not consider is what they believe is superstition, and what I believe is grounded in reality.

I’ve been a Christian for nearly four decades. I came by my faith as a teenager. During my 20s what I believed was put to the test. By my 30s, I developed an understanding of what I believed. After earning my doctorate in law, I looked at my beliefs more rationally. What I believe has been tested by life, intellect and education. I have lived in three countries, five states and discussed and debated my beliefs with some of highly intelligent and capable skeptics. I have lost family, friends and a marriage. I’ve been at the lofty heights of joy and the rock bottom of depression. I do not hold what I believe lightly. I cling to it firmly.

“Religion is superstition,” is an often given conclusory statement. Webster defines religion as, “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” Webster defines worldview as “a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint.” Therefore, religion and worldview are virtual synonyms. Webster’s religion definition includes “religious,” which speaks to “relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality.” The point being, worldview and religion are fundamentally the same term.

Superstition is “a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary.” For a worldview or relgion to be superstition, there needs to be clear evidence to the contrary. Superstition implies ignorance or an abject refusal to accept fact. There are numerous superstitions pretending to have scientific backing, including a field of psychology, which culminated in the book Willpower.

It is worth nothing that when one says “religion” or asserts “all religions are the same,” then they are partly right but completely wrong. Hinduism alone supports poly-, mono- & atheism; three viewpoints that are completely at odds with one another. Even within monotheistic religions there is dispute: Islam asserts an aloof, impersonal god who must be blindly obeyed, yet Christianity asserts a relational God who has (in Christ) experienced life as we have and understands us to a degree that we cannot. Those who say all religions are the same do not understand religion.

The Bible has a passage that neatly describes the nature of reality.

By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. Romans 1:18-23

Here Paul asserts a reality based in a recognition of God and evident in his Creation. The less one accepts God, Paul says, the more detached from reality one is and the more meaningless it becomes. Of course, this is a truth claim, which needs to be proved.

Scientific Causality

Scientific Naturalism is an atheist worldview, a way of understanding the Cosmos. When 19th Century scientists attacked Christianity, they used Evolution and the creation of the Universe as part of their basis; asserting the Universe was eternal. In the 20th Century, Science established the Big Bang theory for the Universe, which is still the prevailing cosmological model.

As a philosophy, Scientific Naturalism requires a belief in causality. Yet, Science is not able to establish First Cause. They introduced Evolution as a way of saying humankind is just an animal, operating on causal ways. As a worldview, Scientific Naturalism states that you and I are infinitesimal things on a dust speck in infinite space. It offers no hope.

This worldview embraces what Paul said would happen in rejecting the reality of God: a confused, meaningless existence:

Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best! Romans 1:28-32

Christian Consistency

Christianity as a philosophy does not require causality because it accepts an eternal1 God who is not caused. Christianity is more intellectually consistent. The Big Bang model supports theism2, and it is supported by multiple recent discoveries.3 Further, there are over 100 examples of constants that must be selected within a narrow range in order for the universe to support the minimal requirements for life, and our planet is fine-tuned for life. Science cannot provide a meaningful answer here either and is reduced to hypothesis. It is conclusory.

Faced with this evidence, I am persuaded in theism. Faced with other evidence, I am further persuaded in the Christian God, Salivation in Christ and the consequences and opportunities implied by it. Christianity states that each of us is unique and special in God’s eye and each fitted for a purpose. This provides hope.

Does this mean that I and other Christians fully understand the nature of reality? There seems to be a lot of different philosophies in Christianity. I agree with Paul that we don’t have the answers. However, we are on a more intellectually fulfilling path. Part of the confusion that remains is based more in our nature and desire to inject into God’s message what we want, rather than let God be in control.

We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. 1 Corinthians 13:9-13

C.S. Lewis was raised an atheist. As a youth he boarded with and was tutored by a powerfully intellectual atheist. Works he wrote before his conversion bear out his lack of Christianness. He served in the trenches of the First World War and came away shaken, yet still not Christian. In time, however, his intellect and atheism could not overcome what he experienced in life and reality. He came in time to be a theist then a Christian. Thus as a Christian, he addressed the intellectual richness of Christianity.

Beliefs Have Consequences

I wish I could say I don’t care whether an atheist agrees with me. However, the reality of God carries a death sentence for those who reject him. It frustrates me that I alone cannot persuade an atheist of the merciless tyranny they serve under, and the freedom I experience as a Christian. Sin can’t tell me how to live. I’m living in the freedom of God.4 There’s a joy and purpose there an atheist lacks, but I cannot explain it. I cannot use clear evidence as one always finds an alternative interpretation. I can only strongly hope that the atheist may be given this same freedom.

I’ve read the Bible throughly. I’ve lived a life fully. I’ve faced reality. My faith is battle-earned. I’m not trying to persuade the reader that Christianity is truth. I merely assert that the one who asserts that religion is superstition does not have the faintest notion of what they are saying.

  1. Specifically, when God created in Genesis 1, he created both Space and Time and is therefore not governed by Time as we would consider it. 

  2. Genesis 1:1 “First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. God spoke: ‘Light!’ And light appeared. God saw that light was good and separated light from dark. God named the light Day, he named the dark Night. It was evening, it was morning—Day One.” I should note here that I espouse a framework interpretation of Genesis. 

  3. Conversely, the quantum gravity model supports atheism, but it pure theory and has never been tested or confirmed by experiment and observation. 

  4. Romans 6:12-14 

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