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The bane of superstition

columns Updated: Aug 27, 2013 07:16 IST
PP Wangchuk

One may define superstition as the bane of our reasoning ability. But the fact remains that one can't be free from superstitions. At times, even not believing in superstition could be based on superstition!

I am yet to see a person who does not have the habit of indulging in some kind of superstitious acts. Those who claim they are not superstitious are not being honest to themselves; even though they may not be deeply involved in those "killer rituals".

The recent killing of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, a fiery advocate of rationalism, is not only a great loss for the cause of reason but the very act of killing is, in a way, based on the idea of superstition. Some acts and behavior that we display under the garb of reasoning have deep roots in superstition.

Dabholkar spent over two decades with grass-root level people in making them believe in the futility and harm that inhuman superstitious practices could attract. His aim was to make society give up all those social practices that are based on superstition. He lived up to his belief that the best thing one could do for the cause of rationality was to become a martyr.

At the root of superstition are fear and insecurity as the primary reasons. When you are scared of something that you don't understand, you tend to believe and act in bizarre things. Bertrand Russell had said that fear was not only the main source of superstition but of cruelty as well. No wonder, most of the cruelties we see being done these days are because of one going off the track of reason. John William Fletcher strengthens this more forcefully, "Fanaticism is the child of false zeal, and superstition the father of intolerance and persecution."

Only the weak with feeble minds fall prey to superstition because fear of the unknown has a vicious grip on their psyche. And, as Burke said, "Superstition is the religion of the feeble mind."