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ninjacolin's avatar

How do you feel when you hear/read heartfelt expressions of superstitious belief?

Asked by ninjacolin (13667 points ) January 25th, 2013

Lovingly inspired by this thread.

First of all, in this thread you are not allowed to feel ashamed for any feelings of disfavor you may have towards anyone else’ beliefs. The whole purpose is to examine those feelings, so let it all out if you must.. but do help us to understand.

Questions:

When people attribute normal/random material going-ons to angels, ghosts, aliens, extra-dimensional entities, or to a god you don’t believe is real.. how does it make you feel? Can you describe it in-depth? Why does it make you feel that way?

Example: “I blew on the dice and rolled it, and I won!”
Example: “I prayed to god for help and he answered my prayer when ____________ suddenly happened. He has been there for me my whole life.”
Example: “Dad didn’t eat the cookies, you idiot! Santa did!”

Feel free to provide more examples and considerations.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

47 Answers

Jaxk's avatar

Everyone has some superstition. When I play cards I always wait until they’ve all been dealt before I pick them up and fan them out. I can’t get past the notion that if I pick them up before they’re all dealt, they won’t be as good. I lose nothing by doing this. It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

Why was it so important to point out the question that inspired it? Surely this is a standalone question in itself?

glacial's avatar

I feel a desire to share with them alternative ways to interpret what they see as obvious signs of mysticism. I also feel a desire not to offend, particularly if it is someone I don’t know well, who won’t realize that I intend no harm. Balancing these two feelings is a delicate tightrope act. Sometimes I fall.

I also feel a separate kind of curiosity-at-a-distance, that is not related to my own history with faith, but more of an appreciation that is akin to what I feel when looking at works of art.

Good question, @ninjacolin. It made me think.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@TheProfoundPorcupine It’s all good, I specifically posted my Q because people ridicule and shame us constantly here. I find other religions or the lack thereof interesting as well, with the same curiosity-at-a-distance as @glacial mentions.

No one should feel shame for being their authentic self (if they hurt no one else.)

@glacial You can express alternative ways of interpretation without demeaning I’d hope, and I’d be interested. I’m not saying you’ll change my mind, but listening is a lost art- lol

Shippy's avatar

Maybe there was too much happiness in one thread? ha ha

I’ll stick with the happy crowd.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I laugh, and say to myself “Another sucker”.

People are going to believe what they want. it’s their right. But I sure don’t have to take them seriously.

glacial's avatar

@KNOWITALL Agreed (about the lost art), and I see it in both directions here. Sometimes I feel it’s not worth asking a question, despite genuine interest, because the question itself will be interpreted as an offence.

thorninmud's avatar

We all build stories to make sense of our lives and the world, and I happen to think that even the most rational among us take great license with these stories.

For example, we unhesitatingly speak and act as if there’s some little separate, individual self at the controls of “my” life, thinking “my” thoughts, doing “my” actions. When we’re pressed to justify that belief, we end up falling back on the certainty of a feeling, a compelling conviction. But it’s such a common way of understanding reality that it largely goes unchallenged.

It seems to me that there’s little difference in this and attributing agency to many other occurrences in the world. It’s kind of like thinking that the universe has a self, an ultimate “doer” of the universe’s actions. Not so long ago, that way of thinking had such currency that it went largely unchallenged too. It, too, comes down to a certainty of feeling.

There seems to be a fundamental human need for these sense-making narratives. They can have a toxic side, sure (dangerous pathologies can certainly arise from being overly attached to the idea of a self, for instance), but they can also provide for a mutually agreed upon way of communicating about experience.

So as for how I feel about it, when I’m tempted to feel smug that I don’t need to resort to stories about some master agent at work in the universe, I turn the question around and ask, “So who exactly is this who’s feeling smug?”.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s sad when people are poorly educated. It’s worse when they seem smart enough to have gotten a good education, but either did not take advantage of it, or are ignoring it. But the worst is when people insist on believing something for which there is no evidence just because they want to. Then they go and push the idea on others for no other reason than to validate their own beliefs. If enough people believe stupidity, they feel ok believing it, too.

Unfortunately, many people won’t try to analyze how they “know” things. So, if you’re going to talk to them, you have to accept their world view. Otherwise no conversation is possible. When you accept their world view, you are lying. So you have a relationship based on a lie. What good is that?

But the alternative is endless conflict. What good is that? So it comes down to frustration. If I’m in a mood to fight, I’ll lay into someone who is like that. If I don’t want to fight, I’m smile politely and nod and get away as soon as I can, feeling guilty that I haven’t taken an opportunity to help someone. But you can’t help everyone. So on I go. Feeling guilty for not doing everything I can to educate people. But it’s just too hard.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@glacial I understand and empathize completely. I can’t remember anyone ridiculing any unbelievers for their lack of belief though, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask in return.

@wundayatta Take me to school, I’m down. :)

Shippy's avatar

@wundayatta I personally don’t have the need to point out anything to you, or to anyone on this thread. What I would like to know is, why do you find it so irksome that people have found happiness? What makes you assume we are stupid? What surity do you have that perhaps I don’t think you are stupid? Would I say such a thing to you? Or to the person who started this thread.

No, of course not. Why would I, what would be MY agenda ?.

You’re all so superior in your knowledge? What knowledge do you have of my life? My experience? I have near two degrees, plus 30 years of industry experience. I have also traveled the world. Does that make me stupid? What pearls of wisdom do you have actually?

Pachy's avatar

Since and even before ancient man gazed at the heavens and turned random star patterns into constellations, we have looked for explanations for things we don’t understand, or that frighten us, or that amaze or surprise us. I don’t think anyone is totally immune to this, including me. I’ve long-since discarded many superstitions. but I do have a few. Yet even when I’m in the middle of exercising one, there’s a voice that reminds me it’s nonsense. Having said that, I may occasionally tease others for their superstitions—teasing is part of my nature—but only in fun, not to make them feel bad.

diavolobella's avatar

I have no objection to people who have beliefs which I do not share expressing them and I’d hope that I would always be respectful of them as human beings regardless of our differences. They are not hurting me in any way. One question that I do have that I would sincerely be interested in hearing a response to is this.

When I hear someone say that they went through a horrible experience, such as an abusive childhood, a terrible illness or tragic accident and that God somehow saved them or helped them survive, I do wonder why they don’t question why God allowed them to suffer in the first place. If God (or whatever deity or beneficial force) could save you, why would he/she simply not subject you to that to begin with? I wonder how people of faith can reconcile what seems contradictory or arbitrary to me. If God can save you from evil or suffering, why can or won’t he just prevent it? How do you know that it was God that helped you? If happenstance caused your suffering (if you believe God didn’t cause it on purpose), couldn’t mere happenstance caused it to be relieved?

Shippy's avatar

@diavolobella Thank you for your respect. God does not allow suffering.

wundayatta's avatar

@Shippy Unless you are two different people, I think you have shared some of your experience of life with me. There are times when you have been very unhappy. I think we see some of your questions from those periods here and there on fluther. So I believe that you are being honest at times when you have said you are desperately unhappy and confused. Have you been exaggerating?

Now if your belief in God does bring you happiness… or you believe it makes you happy, who am I to tell you it is wrong? Well, if I think there is a way you could be happier more of the time, and if I care about you, then it seems to me, I need to try to show you how to do that. And so I have tried to help, and you have seemed to appreciate it. And all my help comes from the scientific method.

Shippy's avatar

@wundayatta I was referring to the thread. But since you have to be personal? Yes, I have Bipolar there is a certain amount of suffering in Bipolar. It seems you might know that despite being on medication? I live in the world. I am not currently in heaven. So I am subject to earthly things, occurrences. Yes, I am sad, I have lost four people in around four years. There is some difficulty in that. I’m sure you realize that. The point of my answer to your statement was, you possibly think I am stupid?

diavolobella's avatar

@Shippy You’re welcome. A follow up question. If God doesn’t allow suffering, why is there so much suffering in the world? Is it not within God’s control to prevent it, and if so how can he be God (within the general “all powerful” concept)? If he is able to save people from suffering, but not prevent it from initially happening, it seems his abilities are strangely selective. I genuinely am interested in understanding, and hope my additional questions continue to be interpreted with the good intentions and genuine curiosity with which I ask them.

wundayatta's avatar

@Shippy No. I don’t think you are stupid.

Shippy's avatar

@diavolobella The world is made up of people. A lot of suffering is caused because of how people are. I do believe that when I am fully focused on God, I do suffer less. I use his words of wisdom to get me through harder times. However, I am not a great Christian as stated on the thread that this is referring to. Meaning, I do not pray a lot, I do lack faith at times, I do not live in the word. Which would cause me a lot less hassle if I did. I don’t know if that makes sense? I was not raised in a Christian home, in fact my family were haters. I have experienced God. So for me it is about making sense of that for me. I am also happy to share with people who have had similar experiences. It helps me to make sense of them. I don’t understand why it has to be up for debate, by people who remind me of my family, haters of the topic. I am not sure what their agenda is for me? Are they trying to help me in some way? and the others? I kind of over answered your question here, but that was at this general thread. Apologies on that!

Carinaponcho's avatar

I face this kind of situation on a weekly basis in church with my mother. The members of the church are often telling stories of laying hands on people to heal them with God’s power, or how they believed that their prayers were the reason for some dramatic change in their lives. While I accept that these are their beliefs and not mine, I envy them in a way. I wish that I could say that I believed in something with that much conviction and certainty. Maybe they are right, maybe they are not. But they are lucky that they have faith and something to believe in. It’s better than the crippling uncertainty I face when I think about what might happen to me after I die.

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

@wundayatta but then if you feel that you know a way for @Shippy to be happier and feel the need to show her how to do that, then surely you are doing the same as a religious person or somebody that believes in a superstition is doing when they are talking to you about what they believe? You are then pushing your own beliefs onto somebody else in the exact same way even if they are scientific

wundayatta's avatar

It is true, @TheProfoundPorcupine. Except for one thing. There’s actual evidence to support most of the things I suggest. And where there isn’t evidence, there is a plausible theory that doesn’t rely on interpretation of experience.

diavolobella's avatar

@Shippy I think your answer is just fine. You have experienced God and it’s not for me to question your personal experience. I think my question was more black and white and you are talking about something that happened to you that you can’t necessarily explain (nor do you have to). You are coming from a position of faith, whereas I tend to look at everything super pragmatically and need to see proof. The bottom line for me is, you are the only one who can interpret what happened to you. It didn’t happen to me, so I can question it in my own mind, but I have no right tell you that you are wrong, especially when I don’t really know (I’m agnostic, so I’m pretty much on the fence). Only you know what your experience is. I think to really be sure of something, you have to be the one it happened to.

There are other people who can’t just step away from a conversation like this and accept that their beliefs and another person’s beliefs are different and that it doesn’t really matter. We can all live in the world and get along whether we share the same beliefs or not as long as no one is hurting anyone else. We aren’t under any obligation to go around persuading or dissuading others. I truly don’t know if I believe in God or not anymore, but I like to think that whether he/she exists or not, my behavior in this world would be the same – that I’d try my best to be kind, fair, honest, loving and respectful, because God or no God, it’s simply what I feel is the right way to be. :)

Shippy's avatar

@diavolobella Thank you, and I respect what you believe too. :)

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

@wundayatta well in my field of archaeology and religious studies we are used to dealing with theories and we work with the idea that “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” basically meaning just because you have not found evidence for it in one place does not mean it does not exist elsewhere it is just maybe that you were looking in the wrong place.

There is of course a large field of Biblical archaeology where various items have been uncovered that link in with things that appear in the Bible and relate to various figures such as seals related to different kings (that do tie in with dates stratigraphically speaking), ancient sites that did exist and so on, so in that sense it is impossible to completely debunk a number of things since science has proven that certain events did indeed happen.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Shippy if i’m reading your sentiments accurately, you seem to experience a sort of frustration towards expressed beliefs about the potential errancy of your beliefs and that frustration seems akin to the frustration @wundayatta describes feeling towards people who express superstitious beliefs. Do you see the parallel?

To answer the original question myself, I do feel a sense of anxiety/frustration when people express superstitious belief around me. I almost don’t know what to do with myself when I hear someone say in a heartfelt way: “God really helped me through that time in my life.” or “I really feel God had a hand in how things turned out.”.. and yes, I experienced this recently, within the past week.

I do appreciate the art reference, @glacial, oftentimes I’m able to access that sensation. But sometimes I’m overcome with frustration and disbelief.. I guess a sense of denial.

I would describe it as something like being lied to (whether intentionally or not) and the feeling of wanting to say something about it. Like.. imagine hearing someone ask where the Sugar is kept, and your roommate or spouse gives the wrong answer: “It’s in the cupboard”.. meanwhile, you know that you had moved it earlier to the bedroom to pour into a brand new sugar pot you purchased and you wanted to see how it looked beside the brand new TV and dresser draw you ALSO purchased but then you left it there and then there was the break-in and they all got stolen together 3 days ago and now there is no more sugar in the house at all!! But it’s a long explanation and the previous container was your roommate/spouse’ favorite and it’s a delicate issue.. so instead you simply say: “It’s not in the cupboard…” And they challenge you,.. and it’s a mess to have to explain and even when you do explain, there’s disbelief and denial.. and yea.. it’s a mess. But you know for reasons that there is no sugar and you know it’s gonna be a long conversation that won’t go over well but you can’t just sit there and pretend you don’t know better when the sugar is being discussed.

yea.. that’s how I feel.. only the matter is more complicated than a sugar pot that got stolen.

Shippy's avatar

@ninjacolin no, just find your Lovingly inspired by this thread. odd.

there was no love in the question.

ninjacolin's avatar

Only love, promise! It’s love that has led me to inquire about this sensation because I don’t want to fight with anyone really. I don’t think anyone does. Out of love, I seek answers to the causes of our frustrations. And you do sound frustrated, @Shippy.

Shippy's avatar

I hate being called stupid, blind, ignorant, but oh well we are all entitled to our opinions, specially by such great minds here at Fluther, so I am done with this thread.

ninjacolin's avatar

Another example would be correcting someone who pronounces something inaccurately or who doesn’t get there “theirs” right. (see that?)

KNOWITALL's avatar

@ninjacolin I think you took the only logical step for non-Christians, and it was respectfully done. I actually really loved the “you are not to feel shame”, because that’s what mine was about too really. All lifestyle choices should be valued and treated with respect.

“Love is all you need”

DominicX's avatar

It’s all a factor of why I am an atheist. I don’t think that people who attribute certain occurences to the result of prayer are “stupid” or any bullshit like that, but obviously, as an atheist, I don’t believe that it was actually the result of prayer. And to me, it doesn’t prove the existence of God—and these are all things that I considered and read about in my “journey” of becoming an atheist. For my religion class I interviewed a Native American man about his experiences with his own gods and spirits. I wrote based on what he said, but I didn’t really believe that what he experienced was truly the work of gods. And certainly, just as Christians will say they have experienced their own god, so have Muslims, Hindus, and native Americans. I don’t know if all their gods exist or if one of them exists or if none of them exists…but it doesn’t change my beliefs, and it doesn’t need to.

Sorry, I kind of rambled toward the end there…

ninjacolin's avatar

I’ll add to your ramblings a bit, @DominicX:

When someone jumps in to correct you about a word choice.. do you assume they think you are irreparably “stupid” because you confused “there” and “their” or mispronounced or misused a term?

Probably not.

What about when someone uses a racial slur or calls a group of ladies a “bunch of bitches”??.. hmm.. this might be more like what we’re dealing with..

I think expressions of superstitious belief stir up the same sort of urge to call out legalities. (wow, I think I’m onto something here..) I think expressions of superstitious belief are irritating only because they profess accuracy where there can’t be any. I think it might be that such expressions are simply politically incorrect statements and offensive as a result.

They tend to say things like: “God did this.” where it cannot actually be demonstrated. In fact, it would be more politically correct if the said: “I would call that a miracle.” rather than: “That is a miracle.”

Know what I mean?

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

@ninjacolin the part about being stupid that @Shippy has mentioned in this thread refers to a comment higher up about education made by wundayatta.

ninjacolin's avatar

Well, @Shippy knows @wundayatta pretty well by this point and I’m sure you do too.
It’s not like he meant to offend, he meant to express his feelings. Which is what I asked for. So, how can we get upset with him for doing what the question asked?

Name calling like that is most-most-most often a starting point of feelings and ideas that are not yet fully articulated. When someone uses a simple word liek that, you know there’s more behind it. It begs for refinement. The appropriate response to something like that with a view towards progress, I would think, should be as follows:

@wundayatta.. could you please define “stupid” as used in this context?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@wundayatta I think he may have meant stupid. I have talked to W a few times and he is pretty articulate. He and I already had this religious discussion, we can agree to disagree and it’s all good. Still consider him a good friend.

ninjacolin's avatar

Thanks for all your comments @KNOWITALL :)

wundayatta's avatar

There’s a difference between thinking someone is stupid (which I don’t) and seeing people believe “stupidity.” Which is to say, things for which they can not provide any evidence.

A scientist might state a “stupid” theory. I do it all the time. But they don’t believe a theory until there is evidence to support it. So that’s what I call believing stupidity.

Again I didn’t say anyone was stupid. That’s an aspersion and I certainly don’t believe @Shippy is stupid, and she probably knows that, but if she doesn’t know it, I say it again. @Shippy, I don’t think you are stupid and I have a great deal of respect for you, and I care about you a lot.

Sunny2's avatar

I take the easy way out. I smile and say, “Good for you.” Because that’s the truth. It’s good for the person saying it, perhaps not for me.

tinyfaery's avatar

Bemused and amused. It all depends on what is actually occurring.

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

I think superstitions in general can be quite interesting though, but I’m talking about things such as throwing money in a wishing well or fountain for luck and things like that. I know some go way back in time (we have been making votive offerings in water for thousands of years), but then how did some people start believing in not walking under ladders and things like that?

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

@diavolobella
A follow up question. If God doesn’t allow suffering, why is there so much suffering in the world?

http://i.fluther.com/153331/people-want-god-to-prevent-massacres-of-the-innocent-or-horrendous/

FYI, this question is actually already on fluther @Shippy

Oh boy I took a licking on there because I believe in God, on that day I was actually in a little but of a high of my bipolar, so I was a little more thinking non believers were out to get me, hey that’s the fun of mental disability, sometimes it’s mental torture, God helps me see straight :)

Shippy's avatar

@nofurbelowsbatgirl Ah! Time wasters loll. Pfft!

diavolobella's avatar

@nofurbelowsbatgirl That’s interesting, but it isn’t the same question I asked and doesn’t answer it. That one was asking, “if people want God to step in and fix things, would they be cool if he stepped in and fixed everything?” Not what I asked. I said “If he doesn’t allow suffering (which was said above), then why does it exist?”

mattbrowne's avatar

Pity, but I keep this to myself. I intervene when people become victims of negative superstition, but don’t when it’s about positive superstition, like when a ladybug lands on you it is said to be good luck. There’s one exception, though. If people say they don’t have to prepare for an exam, because the ladybug already took care of that, then…

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