superstition

Religion versus Superstition is the focus . Be sure to review all materials and follow the instructions. All the materials are attached.
A rationalist might conclude that religion is little more than “organized superstition.” Students are required to read the 750-word article by Austin Cline, identify his 2-3 main ideas, and then construct an argument for or against his premises/conclusion.. Be sure to interact with a substantive definition of superstition (e.g., refer to one of the provided resources), and demonstrate an understanding of how religion and superstition might or might not be related; or how the two might be contrasted and compared. Prepare carefully. In constructing your argument, be mindful of and apply critical thinking. Write persuasively; effectively defend your position.
Is religion just organized superstition?
Instructions:

1. Read Cline’s short article and identify his premise(s); and critique his argument.
2. Pay close attention to his wording “the similarities are not superficial…” and fundamentally different types of beliefs. Are these similarities significant? How so? If fundamentally different, how are we to understand fundamentally?
3. Research and consider: Check out the provided Encyclopaedia Britannica definition of superstition and the steps of critical thinking (below), and, if you are up to it, consult the expanded article (or segments of it) at http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/superstition.aspx

Then construct an argument based on your choice of A or B:

a. Do you agree with Cline that “the similarities (between religion and superstition) are not superficial?” Remember, he provides two supporting statements as to why the two are similar. (Explain your answer, arguing that his two supporting statements are sufficient and convincing, plus provide your own supporting examples.)

b. Or, do you disagree with Cline, and agree with those religious adherents Cline refers to who argue the opposite—that is, religion and superstition are fundamentally different types of belief? (Explain your answer, arguing that Cline’s supporting statements are insufficient and not convincing, plus provide your own supporting examples.)
Religion vs Superstition
Is religion just organized superstition? Is Superstition Always Religious?
Austin Cline http://atheism.about.com/od/religionnonreligion/a/superstition.htm
Is there a real connection between religion and superstition? Some—particularly adherents of
various religious faiths—will often argue that the two are fundamentally different types of
beliefs. Those who stand outside of religion, however, will notice some very important and
fundamental similarities which bear closer consideration.
Obviously, not everyone who is religious is also superstitious and not everyone who is
superstitious is religious. A person can faithfully attend church services all their life without
giving a second thought to a black cat walking in front of them. On the other hand, a person who
completely rejects any religion whatsoever may consciously or unconsciously avoid walking
under a ladder—even if there is no one on the ladder to fall or drop something on them.
If neither necessarily leads to the other, then it might be easy to conclude that they are different
types of beliefs. Moreover, because the very label “superstition” seems to include a negative
judgment of irrationality, childishness, or primitiveness, it is understandable why religious
believers wouldn’t want their own faiths to be categorized with superstitions.
We must, nevertheless, acknowledge that the similarities are not superficial. For one thing, both
superstition and traditional religions are non-materialistic in nature. They do not conceive of the
world as a place controlled by sequences of cause-and-effect between matter and energy. Instead,
they presume the added presence of immaterial forces that influence or control the course of our
lives.
Furthermore, there is also the appearance of a desire to provide meaning and coherence to
otherwise random and chaotic events. If we get hurt in an accident, it might be attributed to a
black cat crossing one’s path, spilling salt, failing to pay sufficient honor to our ancestors, or
neglecting to perform appropriate sacrifices to the spirits, etc. There seems to be a genuine
continuum between what we tend to call “superstitious” and the ideas in animistic religions.
In both cases, people are expected to avoid certain actions and perform other actions in order to
ensure that they do not fall victim to the unseen forces at work in our world. In both cases, the
very idea that such unseen forces are at work seems to stem (at least in part) both from a desire to
explain otherwise random events and from a desire to have some means of affecting those
events.
These are all important psychological benefits often used to explain the reason why religion
exists and why it persists. They are also reasons for the existence and persistence of superstition.
It seems reasonable to argue, then, that while superstition may not be a form of religion, it does
spring from some of the same basic human needs and desires as religion does. Thus, a greater
understanding of how and why superstition develops can be useful in gaining a better
understanding and appreciation of religion.
About Austin Cline: http://atheism.about.com/bio/Austin-Cline-5577.htm
Is religion just organized superstition?
1. Read Cline’s short article and identify his premise(s); and critique his
argument.
2. Pay close attention to his wording “the similarities are not superficial…”
and fundamentally different types of beliefs. Are these similarities
significant? How so? If fundamentally different, how are we to understand
fundamentally?
3. Research and consider: Check out the provided Encyclopaedia
Britannica definition of superstition and the steps of critical thinking
(below); an additional and expanded resource on superstition worthy of
consulting is http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/superstition.aspx
Then construct an argument based on your choice of A or B:
a. Do you agree with Cline that “the similarities (between religion and
superstition) are not superficial?” Remember, he provides two supporting
statements as to why the two are similar. (Explain your answer, arguing that
his two supporting statements are sufficient and convincing, plus provide your
own supporting examples.)
b. Or, do you disagree with Cline, and agree with those religious adherents Cline
refers to who argue the opposite—that is, religion and superstition are
fundamentally different types of belief? (Explain your answer, arguing that
Cline’s supporting statements are insufficient and not convincing, plus provide
your own supporting examples.)
SUpERsTiTiON
note the amulet to distract the “evil eye”
According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
superstition is: An irrational belief, half-belief, or practice.
Those who use the term imply certain knowledge or superior
evidence for their own scientific, philosophical or religious
convictions. An ambiguous word, it probably can only be used
subjectively.
Every religious system tends to accumulate superstitions as peripheral
beliefs—a Christian, for example, may believe that in time of trouble he will be guided
by the Bible if he opens it at random and reads the text that first strikes his eye. Often
one man’s religion is another man’s superstition: Constantine called paganism
superstition. Tacitus called Christianity a pernicious (destructive) superstition. And,
all religious beliefs and practices may seem superstitious to the person without
religion.
Superstitions that belong to the cultural tradition (in some cases inseparable from
religious superstition) are enormous in their variety. Nearly all persons in nearly all
times have held, seriously or half seriously irrational beliefs concerning methods of
warding off illness or bringing good, foretelling the future, and healing or preventing
sickness or accident. A few specific beliefs, such as in the evil eye or in the efficacy of
amulets, have been found in most periods of history and in most parts of the world.
Others may be limited to one country, region, or village, to one family, or to one
social or vocational group.
Finally, people develop personal superstitions: a schoolboy writes a good
examination paper with a certain pen, and from then on that pen is lucky; a
horseplayer may be convinced that gray horses run well for him.
Superstition has been deeply influential in world history. Being irrational, it should
recede before education, and especially science. Nevertheless even in a day when
objective evidence is valued very highly, there are few people who would not, if
pressed, admit to cherishing secretly one or two irrational beliefs or superstitions.
Encyclopaedia Britannica 15th edition. Chicago: William Benton, 1984.
Micropedia Volume IX, 683-84.
Superstition might be partially understood as a belief in the supernatural;
but it also is a demonstration of the failure to be guided by clear thinking,
and a lack of letting emotions carry away one’s ability to reason. The
following is a set of guidelines for improving critical thinking.
http://www2.napier.ac.uk/gus/managing_information/critical_thinking.html#reasoning
Developing critical thinking skills
A critical thinker is enquiring, analytical, and open-minded
Critical thinkers
 Pay attention to detail;
 Consider different points of view;
 Evaluate their own position;
 Develop an accurate understanding of an issue;
 Identify trends and predict outcomes;
 Consider broad implications and long-term consequences.
A critical thinker will
 Critically analyze the task;
 Identify the author’s purpose and position;
 Consider whether the evidence presented is sufficient;
 Identify any flaws in the author’s reasoning;
 Determine whether or not the author’s position is persuasive;
 Support an argument with evidence.
Critical thinking—Putting it all together
 Identify the assertion
(thesis/premise) of the argument.
Does the author use any emotive or
biased language? What is the author
asking you to accept or do?
Is this belief or action reasonable?
 Identify the evidence used in support.
Is the evidence relevant to
the assertion made? Is the
evidence from a credible
source?
Is there additional evidence that would weaken the assertion?
 Look for missing links between the assertion and the evidence provided.
If there is a missing link, is it reasonable?
 Look for ambiguous words that require more precise definitions.
Do any words
lack
definitions?
Are those
words used
consistently?
 Does the author compare one situation to another?
Are the items alike in the relevant respects?
 Does the author apply a general principle to a specific case?
Is the principle applicable?
 Does the argument recommend a particular action?
Would this action have any undesirable effects?

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