One charge brought up against Christians many times is that we’re superstitious. This is also said when speaking about the ancients. If we went back to the times of the Bible, all of them were superstitious people. It’s quite entertaining what happens when you ask people what they mean by this. Does it simply mean believing in God? What does it mean?
I see a superstition as a way of controlling nature. It is a way of trying to appease to the powers that be so that you will not suffer. It is also a way of avoiding them. If X happens, you throw salt over your shoulder. You also in a negative fashion, try to avoid having a black cat cross your path or walking under a ladder.
In some sense, that did go on in a polytheistic society. It wasn’t without basis though. The conclusions were wrong, but they had reasons for thinking what they did. These weren’t idiots though. The Babylonians were polytheists, but they also were incredibly intelligent in their time and we still use some of their wisdom today.
Not all Greeks were polytheists. The gods could be seen more as ideals. It would be foolish of us to deny the intelligence of the philosophers. While we may think some of their conclusions are wrong today, some of them were quite right. The ancients did not have the technology we have today and yet predicted so much that if it isn’t correct, in many cases, it’s very close.
And lastly, Christians are not superstitious. (Well, we’re not supposed to be.) The Christian is usually seen as superstitious because he prays to a God he believes in. That is the opposite of superstition though. It is not an attempt to control fate as if God is at our mercy. It is properly placing us at his and saying “Thy will be done.”
There have been in history two ways of controlling nature. One is magic and the other is technique. Over time, man has chosen to rely more on technique. (Although I do think there is something to dark magic which would involve demonic powers.) Today, we refer to it as technology.
A Christian may pray for rain. A modern man will most often go up and seed the cloud for rain. Yet what is the purpose of all of this? Is man trying to fight against nature? Is man wanting to see nature as an ally or an enemy? Do we view nature at war with us in things like earthquakes and volcanoes and hurricanes and global warming. (The last of which, I don’t believe in.)
The ancients would not see it that way. They were the partners of nature working together on a noble path. I have been told that when the Native Americans were living in Florida, they did not build habitats on the seashore. Today, we send our senior citizens there. The Native Americans were smart enough to know that hurricanes come frequently and it’s best to work in tandem with nature than to try to resist her.
In many ways, in our attempt to control, we have become enslaved. No. We are not in the Matrix yet, but many of us could not live without our appliances that the ancients had no need of. Consider being in a car on the way to work and then stuck in traffic. You are far from home and far from work. What is meant to get you there in essence becomes your prison. You cannot really get out and just leave your car and start walking.
All of this has simply been our way to try to control nature. Now I’m not saying it’s all bad. Technology has brought us some good things, but it’s important for us to realize that nature is not our enemy. This is sensible in a theistic worldview where God is in charge. In an atheistic one though, nature must be red in tooth and claw and only the strong survive. Naturally, one will think that nature is an enemy then.
So what’s one to do? One will have to find a way to control nature. One will have to find a way to prevent evil from happening from the power of nature that be. One will have to set up precautionary actions in order to avoid suffering and when it happens, take the proper steps to deal with it.
In a way, one will have to become superstitious.