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As traditional religion declines, superstition rises?

black halloween cat
"I shall hex your dinner jacket!"

Apparently so. And not what was predicted. t Access Research Network, British physicist David Tyler reflects on new atheist claims about how beliefs arise, as opposed to verifiable facts on the same subject (“Science as the saviour of humanity” 06/27/11):

Here are some data of relevance to these questions. We have a trend of increasing secularism in the UK and in the US. Are there discernible trends relating to superstitions? In the UK, during the National Science Week in 2003, a survey was undertaken of superstitious behaviour. The first two findings are as follows:”* The current levels of superstitious behaviour and beliefs in the UK are surprisingly high, even among those with a scientific background. Touching wood is the most popular UK superstition, followed by crossing fingers, avoiding ladders, not smashing mirrors, carrying a lucky charm and having superstitious beliefs about the number 13.”

“* Superstitious people tend to worry about life, have a strong need for control, and have a low tolerance for ambiguity.”

Also, from later in the report, “People become less superstitious as they age – 59% of people aged 11-15 said they were superstitious, compared to 44% of people aged between 31-40 and just 35% of the over 50s.

These findings do not suggest that superstitious behaviour and beliefs will be consigned to the past. Instead, they are strongly held by the younger members of society.”

In 2009, via a ComRes poll, the situation was worse. Here is a comment from Tony Watkins:

“That’s roughly a four-fold increase in belief in ghosts and astrology, and a doubling of belief in tarot. Interesting, given that Richard Dawkins and other atheists think they are driving superstition away along with religious belief (they see the two as the same category, of course, which they are not).”

The US data in particular disconfirm skepticTM Michael Shermer’s claims altogether.


Many sources would point out that superstitions are often survivals of inchoate early religions, thus not likely to be welcomed by an ethical monotheist one.
But then new atheists may be more likely than other people to believe in space aliens.

If random mutations filtered through natural selection produced all of the variety of life, there's no reason not to believe in just about anything! Mung
Well, If you can believe that random mutations filtered through natural selection can produce all of the variety of life, you can believe in just about anything! EndoplasmicMessenger

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