Why are gullible people repudiated


The term superstition is used disparagingly for a belief that is opposed to one's own right belief - often accepted as a dogma - as irrational, unreasonable or unscientific, useless, sometimes also inhuman, and therefore viewed as worthless or not of equal value. For the Enlightenment it is the deviation from what a reasonable person is allowed to believe. As a rule, the term is used to distinguish from a lack of education, for the clarification of the traditional views of the Middle Ages, or by Christians with regard to non-monotheistic (polytheism) religions and cults.

In addition, the term also describes certain individual ways of acting that can be conditioned by such beliefs, as well as social rituals and customs, or just more or less amusing quirky habits.

The word is derived from Old High German ubarfengida, "what goes beyond the true faith, next to it" [2]. But originally does not mean “against”, but “beyond”, “lying on the other side”. This etymological root was preserved in ludicrous (with joke: "according to the understanding": "going beyond the understanding", so in the original sense "transcendent"). So superstition referred to "belief in the supersensible" and only became a "belief in false supernatural forces" or "misbelief" in the context of the Enlightenment.

Today's importance only stabilized in the 19th century;
In the German dictionary by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the word superstition is placed as a homonym to the then more common superstition, along with forms such as "Überbelief, dem super in superstitio", admission to the Bohemian powẽra.

The term superstition appears in the Christian religion at the end of the Middle Ages, it was intended to denounce deviations from the church's doctrine of faith.

The conversion of the pagans in Europe was complete, but the local folk beliefs lived on within certain limits. Spells, amulets, evil eyes, holy trees and holy groves should not dissuade Christians from the true faith.

In addition, one wanted to counteract the new pre-Reformation and sectarian influences with the term superstition. Church critics and dissenters, the heretics, should be placed on the same level as witches and wizards. The Inquisition was waiting for them.

The term superstition also defamed the knowledge of the rules in the emerging natural science: knowing or wanting to see instead of believing and trusting was suspected of arrogance and fanaticism, and was therefore in contradiction to Christian ethics.

In the worldly area, superstition is either a rule-based knowledge that cannot be substantiated or confirmed, or an interpretation of mechanisms as social actions (e.g. natural phenomena as the behavior of natural spirits). This judgment can either be disparaging or joking (readiness for illusion in the consciousness of the illusion).

Superstition also arises from the wrong assignment of cause and effect. Misuse of scientific methodology is one of the most common types of non-religious superstition. Traditional knowledge of action represents a limit area for which no explanation has yet been found (para-science).

A background of many secular forms of superstition is the so-called "popular belief", whereby the line between misuse and lack of information is difficult to draw - for example with the so-called peasant rules, with which empirical values ​​from household and agriculture are conveyed in part, but in part weather forecasts can also be operated.

The evidence that beliefs depend on conventions and are therefore not objective often turns them into superstitions in the Western world. In contrast, many cultures outside Europe know neither the term “superstition” nor the exclusive idea of ​​“right belief”.

Current importance and distribution

Superstition is widespread even today. Here: an elevator in Buenos Aires without a 13th floor. Nowadays there are apparently only remnants of superstitions of unknown origin in European culture, such as the belief that black cats bring bad luck when passing from a certain direction, or that it is unfavorable for that The happiness of life is to walk under a ladder. At the same time, a four-leaf clover conveys happiness (possibly just having found it on your own), just as the soot of a chimney sweep turns to personal happiness.

In fact, it is precisely these forms of traditional superstition that are still widespread today. In a representative survey in Germany, the number of superstitious people is given as 51 percent, including more women (62 percent) than men (38 percent). As the level of education increases, so does superstition. The 50 to 59 year old age group has the highest share at 62 percent. Among those under 30, the proportion is increasing again (53 percent). The four-leaf clover is particularly popular: 40 percent think it brings luck.

Pseudoscientific theories of esotericism, such as the belief in horoscopes, number mysticism or so-called lunar calendars, are also widespread in the present. Conspiracy theories are also a form of superstition that is particularly widespread in modern times.

Reasons for superstition

Most of the time, a worldview that is described as superstitious has a less self-contained structure than that built up by the scholastics for the Catholic Church, for example, or by scientism for its followers. There are strong regional differences - but these are becoming more and more blurred due to modern media and the newer possibilities of communication. The individual varieties differ less clearly from one another than is the case with the religions. However, this does not necessarily mean that there is greater tolerance between competing forms of superstition.

The reason for the missing basic framework is often to be seen in the Christianization of the original popular belief, whereby the substructure was lost and only rituals such as the shooting of New Year's Eve or individual ceremonies, e.g. at funeral celebrations, were preserved or hid as a Catholic belief in saints.

Due to the narrative embedding of its content, superstition still provides many indications of the socio-cultural knowledge of ancient cultures and is the object of numerous folklore research. From a folklore point of view, one can say that belief becomes superstition when it can no longer keep pace with socio-cultural developments. Analogously to this, one could say from a scientific point of view that theory becomes superstition if it does not keep pace with the development of the state of knowledge: Many ways of thinking today called superstitions were once up-to-date and recognized.

In psychology, superstition is closely related to terms such as magical thinking, self-fulfilling prophecy, the myth of one's own invulnerability (see work safety), and belief in the “surefire system” in gambling (see probability). He arises z. B. in nondeterministic experiments (e.g. the superstitious rat, reward systems that follow the learning curve, see Paul Watzlawick). Superstition and magical practices are also relevant to developmental psychology, since children can turn to a magical-superstitious worldview in a so-called phase of egocentrism.

Rituals and customs
Superstition is often a form of traditional, repeated, habitualized social actions and customs that may once have been associated with meaning, but later became meaningless rituals. Also, in certain milieus superstitious beliefs are more widespread than in others, which indicates a social function of superstition. Particularly in professional groups that are very dependent on external circumstances, a lively and ritualized superstition is often typical, such as seafarers, farmers, soldiers in war, performing or risky professions (e.g. actors, singers, gamblers, athletes, etc.). This points to a security-creating psychological function of superstition. It is also more common in all societies where the chances of life are low (cf. lower class), and then manifests itself in special forms of behavior in the context of lotteries and the like.

Often a private superstition also arises from the connection of certain experiences of success or unhappiness with coincidental side effects, between which a causal connection is then established. An example of this is the “lucky sock” (or any other item of clothing or accessory) that is used by the wearer on certain occasions when he is carrying it with him.


Siren as a symbol of evil, around 1130 Switzerland, church painting in St. Martin zu Zillis / Graubünden The particularly dangerous seafaring in the past has led to many superstitious ideas that are still known today.

The whistling on board was not allowed, "a storm could whistle". (It is more likely, however, that the whistle was reserved for the boatswain as a command signal; see boatswain's whistle).
Scratching the mast should, on the other hand, bring favorable wind in a lull.
At the start of the voyage, coins were thrown overboard in order to get a good trip, as a kind of tribute to the Lord of the Seas Davy Jones.
Nailing a shark fin on a jib boom or a whale fin on a whaling boat should transfer power and speed to the ship.
The unlucky day is Friday, you didn't run out, Sunday was always the good day.
Cats on board brought luck, but women brought sickness and distress at sea.
The souls of dead sailors reside in albatrosses, gulls, and petrels.
Elmsfeuer - electrical discharge during thunderstorms, in the form that small flames arise on the tops of the masts, the spars, etc. This phenomenon, known from ancient times, found the most varied of interpretations among superstitious seafarers before the real connections could be explained. It ranges from the fire devil to omens for good or bad weather to the advance notice of the imminent death of a crew member. There is a special superstition here, since it refers to a proven natural phenomenon, but interprets it in a superstitious manner.
Klabautermann - a small goblin who is invisible on board the ship and who knocks and rumbles in the ship and either shows the ship's sinking by his appearance or who sees order in the ship and shows disaster by his disappearance. As long as he stays on board, the ship is on a safe journey. The Klabautermann worries about the ship, his presence protects the ship.

In the performing arts world, too, there are numerous superstitious ideas, often related to the premiere, on which the success of the performance supposedly depends.

One of the most common rules is that you are not allowed to whistle in the theater. There are two explanations for this. One says that whistling indicates a fire. This superstition comes from the time when there were still gas candlesticks in the theater; the whistling sound indicated that there was a lack of oxygen. Another explanation is that the stage technicians used to communicate by whistle. But if an actor whistled, it could suddenly happen that a different set was hired.

Only actors are allowed to wear a hat on stage.

Furthermore, one should not thank for the congratulations ("Toi Toi Toi" - actually "Devil, Devil, Devil").

You are not allowed to eat or drink on stage (unless the piece requires it).

Before the premiere, it is customary for the actors to suggest three spits over their shoulders to each other so that the performance is successful.

A dress rehearsal full of mishaps means that the premiere will be a success. (Does not lack a certain psychological basis, since at the end of the rehearsal work it is easy to make mistakes through unfocused work as a result of the routine. Under tension at the premiere, this improves again, while the routine remains)

Although the dress rehearsal not infrequently takes place in front of an audience, one should not applaud at the end of the piece because it brings mischief.

It is also frowned upon to perform the last line in the dress rehearsal.

Allegedly, a rehearsal schedule should include seven run-through rehearsals and three main samples.

Peering out through the still drawn curtain is said to have unfortunate consequences.

As far as the props are concerned, care should be taken to ensure that no real mirror is used as a mirror and that dolls belonging to the piece should be stored face down on the prop table, as poltergeist-like creatures could live in them that would otherwise get through their eyes could slip into the open. Certain props, e.g. knitting needles, should be avoided on stage, possibly because they could get caught in the costumes.

Many theaters believe that the house has a “theatrical spirit”.

It is also interpreted as a bad omen for the upcoming performance if the first spectator to enter the theater sits in the front row, or if the first spectator is an old woman.

The superstition that the name of the play Macbeth should not be pronounced in the theater building is allegedly justified by a chain of accidents. In English-speaking countries, only the Scottish play is used instead.

Proven superstition
For example, farmers' superstitions were held to be the view that the grain disease black rust occurs where barberries grow, until it has been scientifically proven that the barberry is the intermediate host of the fungus that causes the disease.

From this one can gain the insight that “superstitious” are not certain types of statements, but that superstition is based on the way in which people deal with the same statements, i.e. on the basis of which arguments or methods they believe or accept them as true.

The superstition in which we grew up does not lose its power over us, even if we recognize it. (Lessing, Nathan the Wise)

Superstition is the poetry of life. (Goethe, maxims and reflections)

Superstition is a child of fear, weakness and ignorance. (Frederick the Great)

Superstition makes the deity an idol, and the idolater is all the more dangerous because he is a fanatic. (J. G. Herder, palm leaves)

Superstition trusts the senses too much, now too little. (Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Theological pamphlets, Das Testament Johannis)

The worst of superstitions is those who consider them to be the more tolerable. (Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Nathan the Wise)

Every superstition puts us in paganism. (J. v. Liebig, Chemical Letters)

Superstition always lies in ambush where the banner of truth billows. (A. v. Platen, The New Prophets)

Many will now be annoyed that I have not simply copied this information in here as a Wikilink. Well, it's your right. But I just had to copy this text into here because I was convinced that no one else would read it. A superstition?