March 24th, 2014 | By admin
By Paul Holland
Christians are broadly portrayed as being gullible and superstitious. This is largely because we believe in a God whom we cannot see. We cannot examine Him in a laboratory or put Him under a microscope. The word “superstitious” comes from Latin, super (meaning “over”) and stare (meaning “to stand”). Thus, a “standing over” something, in awe. In common parlance, it means an “excessively credulous belief in and reverence for supernatural beings; a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief.”
Whether Christianity per se is an “excessively credulous” belief for an “unjustified” belief is outside the purview on my thoughts here. You and I certainly would not say that our faith is unjustified but I sure hope it is excessive!
Anyway, we associate “superstitions” with beliefs in Big Foot or UFOs. In the early 80’s, Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge published a study they did of college students. This study was presented in theSkeptical Inquirer, a humanist magazine. The ones who were not religious were the most likely to belief in occult teachings and paranormal activity. Christians, especially the more active Christians, were the least likely to have such beliefs.
For example, Dr. Rodney Stark writes in America’s Blessings: How Religion Benefits Everyone, Including Atheists, that irreligious college students were three times as likely as Christian students to place a high value on tarot readings, seances, and psychic hearings. More than 60% of the non-religious agreed with the statement “UFOs are probably real spaceships from other worlds” (pg 155).
In 2005, Baylor University presented the results of their National Religious Survey. This study examined American’s beliefs in: dreams that foretell the future or reveal hidden beliefs, ancient advanced civilizations (like Atlantis) existed, places can be haunted, one can influence the physical world through the mind alone, UFOs, communication with the dead, Big Foot and Loch Ness monsters exist, astrology impacts one’s life, and palm readers and fortune tellers.
Briefly, African-Americans were more likely than whites to exhibit a high belief in these things (41% vs 26%). Women (33%) were more likely than men (18%). Under 30s were more likely (41%) than over 60 (16%). Unmarried (43%) and never married (39%) were more likely than married (23%) and widowed (21%). Democrats were more likely (38%) than Republicans (15%). In a remarkable way, education showed no signs of influencing the beliefs. If someone only finished high school, 26% had a high degree of faith in these beliefs; 23% of those with postgraduate education.
Now, as to religion. Those who worship on a weekly basis, only 14% registered a high degree of faith in those matters related to the occult and paranormal beliefs. Those who never worship, 30% have a high degree of such faith. Within denominations, those from a conservative church (like Baptists) were less credulous than those from liberal churches (like Episcopalians).
Dr. Stark’s conclusion: “For those concerned about shielding young people from the prevalent occult and paranormal beliefs in our society, it would seem unavailing to send them to college, but quite effective to have them attend a conservative Sunday school” (158).
Our God and His Son are being vindicated from every angle!