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One of the most basic complaints from “rational” religious people – and many atheists – is on the subject of superstition. As defined in Dictionary.com, a superstition is:

1. A belief or notion not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.

2. A system or collection of such beliefs.

3. A custom or act based on such a belief.

4. Irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, especially in connection with religion.

5. Any blindly accepted belief or notion.

In an experiential religion, the experience of the divine or the spiritual often gives reason enough for a given practice. Central to this concept are the twin forms of chiminage and taboo. Chiminage is a term that originally corresponded to the toll one paid to pass on a forest road; as I define it, it is what one does actively and usually repetitively to honor or appease a God, Goddess, Ancestor, or spirit entity, such as the covering of one’s head¬†for religious purposes. Taboos are the opposite side of the same coin: things one refrains from doing in order to honor or appease a God, Goddess, Ancestor, or other spirit, such as when someone gives up something for Lent in the Christian religion. (These terms may also be used culturally, without regard for spiritual entities, but that is outside the scope of this particular article.) From the outside view of mainstream society, both cases have the tendency of being highly scrutinized and disparaged, especially when there is something to be gained by belittling or debunking the practice. Mainstream Christianity is still often interpreted in such a way as to oppose religious and cultural viewpoints that differ. Atheism is plagued by a similar stance, ironically because of the former mindset. Those raised in one of these two viewpoints often port these views to the religious expressions they embrace later in life. Therefore, chiminage or taboos without a readily-apparent, physical reason are relegated to the realm of “superstition” and often disparaged or ignored as a result.

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Quote of the Day

"The Lord tells me He can get me out of this mess, but he's pretty sure you're f***ed".
-Stephen, Braveheart
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