Both are based on what people say and believe to, so is it a matter of faith?

  • Could we get more meat to the question? It is a bit bare atm. – Neil Meyer Nov 21 '14 at 6:49

To give a very simple answer: scope and context.

Superstitions generally revolve around single isolated events and often don't have context. Those religions (at least the Western religions that I am familiar with) with tend to have an element of cosmology, which is to say a unifying system by which the world came to be and how it functions, as well as an element of divine revelation.

Religion would be following the ten commandments as they were handed down as insight from a divine force credited with creating the world. Or it would be showing hospitality because strangers might be Zeus and Hermes in disguise.

Superstition would be: Don't walk under a ladder of you will get a somewhat nebulous form of 'bad luck' for no defined reason.

Compare a similar difference between comprehensive mythology or systemized folklore as compared to urban legends and 'friend of a friend' stories.

  • So would you say that religion is systematic superstition? – Fraser Orr Nov 22 '14 at 21:11
  • Probably not. I feel that phrasing implies that you can construct a religion out of disparate superstitions by fitting them into a system. And I want to avoid that implication because: A) I am not sure if it is possible. And B), even if it is possible, I don't want to imply that is the natural etiology of religion. – Chastain Nov 24 '14 at 18:28

This answer attempts to explain from a believer's perspective what the difference is. Obviously, for an atheist, the answer is: "there is none."

What's the difference between superstition and religion?

For the interested, Father Robert Barron discusses this at length in his various speeches and on his YouTube channel. The way he states it (and I think he gets this from others like Aquinas): superstition falls short of reason, faith (or religion, if you'd rather) is on the "far side" of reason.

For believers, saying faith is on the far side of reason doesn't mean that it is irrational (i.e., lacking in reason), but rather it extends beyond what reason alone can accomplish.

The archetypical example is the virtues: by reason, Cicero et al. came up with the cardinal virtues of Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude. These virtues are reasonable, and most faith traditions embrace them as far as they go. Religion (or at least, Christianity) introduces three virtues that bring virtue to its perfection: Faith, Hope and Love. These virtues do not contradict the cardinal ones (certainly, to love someone includes being just to that person!) but extend beyond it (for example, by loving someone you may not only be just to them but also merciful).

Similarly with all things, say religious people, religious faith brings rational things to their perfection.

Both are based on what people say and believe to, so is it a matter of faith?

The words "belief" and "faith" have taken on a meaning in common usage that differs from the technical sense that religious philosophers used them. Again, Barron says the common usage of the word "faith" is something more like "credulity." "Faith" is not "credulity" (believing something just because someone has told you that it is so), but rather the rational response to revelation.

  • All atheists do not hold the same set of beliefs any more than all people who believe in a god or gods or spiritual phenomena hold the same set of beliefs. The space of language is common. – ben rudgers Nov 22 '14 at 0:59

Political sanction: there are no official state superstitions nor high priests of superstition. [at the one sentence level of question and answer and analysis].


Many Western religions practiced in general are faith based. Eastern religions are not faith based. They say - find out for yourself. Eastern religions say that you can realize the truth in this lifetime, you do not need to wait until you die to find out of there is a God or not. You can realize the truth in this very lifetime. Question everything. If something cannot be proven, reject it as superstition. If someone saw God many years ago, how does that help you? If something is true and has been experienced by one person than other people should be able to experience it also. See God and then you can ask Him what is true and not true.

There are mystical traditions in both the East and the West that teach you how to see God. In the 8 Beatitudes Christ said 'Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God'. He didn't say when you die. Make your heart pure, and then you will find out. This purity of heart is taught in both Eastern and Western mystical traditions. There is no superstition or belief involved in making your heart pure.

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