What do you think about common superstitions? How many can you think of that people around you still practice or believe in?

Have you ever:

  • avoided stepping on sidewalk cracks
  • held your breath in a tunnel
  • wished someone “Good luck!”
  • walked around a ladder instead of underneath it
  • been afraid of breaking mirrors
  • crossed yourself, kissed a saint medal, or lit a candle before performing a task
  • crossed your fingers when telling a lie or wishing for a certain outcome
  • believed in Murphy’s Law
  • owned a rabbit’s foot or four-leafed clover
  • broken a wishbone with a family member or friend
  • kept the groom from seeing the bride before the wedding

All of the above are what we see now as silly superstitious actions and beliefs, but still hold a memorable place in western culture. What others did you grow up with that are stillย  practiced even though they have no basis in science or rational thought? Are you at all superstitious? Do you play along with any superstitions for fun? Does it bother you when someone else does?

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35 thoughts on “Silly Superstitions”

40 Year Old Atheist · August 24, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Have you read Bruce Hood's Supersense? I'm just starting it and finding it quite fascinating. Here's his blog http://brucemhood.wordpress.com/ and, yes, he also has a twitter account. ๐Ÿ™‚ http://twitter.com/SuperSense

    godlessgirl · August 25, 2009 at 5:37 am

    That's a great link. I should check out the book!

Rich · August 24, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Nope. Not superstitious in the slightest. Figured out that all that stuff was guff when I was about 7.

    godlessgirl · August 25, 2009 at 5:37 am

    Ha. That's when I was believing it the most. Children and their imaginations and gullibility!

Rooker · August 24, 2009 at 6:13 pm

I was guilty of most of those at some point or another. Haven't believed in any of them for years though.

Robert Bumbalough · August 24, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Greetings GG: Pleased to meet you and make your acquaintance. When I was a child, I was taught to be a Christian. What a silly superstition that was. My deconversion story is posted on John Loftus' (author of "Why I Became and Atheist" http://www.amazon.com/Why-Became-Atheist-Preacher… ) blog at http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2008/06

Best Regards and Wishes for Your Continued Success

    Robert Bumbalough · August 24, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    A superstition is defined as 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.

    Are you at all superstitious? > I'm a follower of Ayn Rand's Objectivism, so I'm certain of the metaphysical primacy of existence.

    Do you play along with any superstitions for fun? Recently, my employer (a devout Christian) asked me to fix her printer. After making the adjustment and while she was there, I lay my hand on the printer and prayed to the great gods of printers to fix the machine. After the print job rolled out, I said "Oh, just great. Now I have to go sacrifice a goat." in order to make a little good fun of her silly religion.

    Does it bother you when someone else does? No. People in general are for the most part ignorant savages, and hence it is expected for them to behave in such fashion as the primitive who upon seeing a disaster occurring feverishly mumbles prayers or magic incantations rather than taking physical action in material existence to remedy the situation.

    godlessgirl · August 25, 2009 at 5:38 am

    And the same good wishes to you, thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

MichelP · August 24, 2009 at 6:24 pm

What others did you grow up with that are still practiced even though they have no basis in science or rational thought?

– Very few superstitions were part of my growing up, My parents weren't superstitious.

Are you at all superstitious?

– Nope and it's been quite a while.

Do you play along with any superstitions for fun?

– Not really, though I'll often defy other people's superstitions: walk under ladder, point to black cats, etc.

Does it bother you when someone else does?

– When someone manifests or expresses a superstition, I won't hesitate to point out the irrationality involved. Kind of the party-pooper.

    godlessgirl · August 25, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Well that's a good thing to do! I'm amazed at the number of things that people don't even see as superstition that are.

JM_B · August 24, 2009 at 7:15 pm

A friend of my wife's has so many that the list could go on and on. I kid you not here are a few:
* Close the loilet cover so that the family does not lose money
* Never go to bed or out of the house with small electrical applicances (toasters, coffe maker, etc) plugged in
* Say a prayer if a dark cloud passes in front of and obscures the moon (not sure what one is suposed to say in the prayer)
* Always put you child's left shoe on first to avoid accidents. Granted her son is 9 and has never had anything serious – maybe this works – NOT

Anyway, as I say the list goeas on.

    godlessgirl · August 25, 2009 at 5:40 am

    I have never heard of any of these! Wow. What a fascinating person. She must be very afraid.

    godlessgirl · August 25, 2009 at 5:40 am

    I have never heard of any of these! Wow. What a fascinating person. She must be very afraid, don't you think?

      JM_B · August 26, 2009 at 3:42 pm

      Yeap, spot on! She's on Prozac and another anti-depressing drug. But she's SURE that going to church every Sunday helps her. Go figure!

    TheSecretAtheist · January 25, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    But you should close the toilet just because it is weird to not do so. It isn’t a superstition to me, I just don’t like it being open. (I know, I’m strange for a guy.)

anthuswilliams · August 24, 2009 at 10:10 pm

I say "good luck" still, because it's a common farewell. I also facetiously reference "God" and "the Almighty" and "the Lord" even though I don't believe in any such beings.

As to Murphy's Law, I'm confused. I don't know whether you mean the "everything that can go wrong will go wrong" idea commonly understood to be Murphy's Law, or the Law as it was originally written by Edwin A Murphy back in the 1940s. Originally, Murphy's Law said "if there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways could potentially result in catastrophe, someone will do it."

While the current Murphy's Law is not always true, the original Murphy's Law is 100 percent, incontrovertible, spoken from a burning bush TRUTH.

    godlessgirl · August 25, 2009 at 5:49 am

    I say "oh my God" and "bless you" even though I don't at all believe in the supernatural or that demons will possess someone if they sneeze. But hey, cultural habits are so ingrained! It's like removing a tattoo to get them to stop.

      Rooker · August 25, 2009 at 4:33 pm

      I've given up trying to stop saying "thank God" or "Oh good God" or even "Goddamn!" The habit is just too deeply embedded. I see people saying "thank Bob" or "ramen" and it just looks silly.

      I do say "gesundheit" when someone sneezes, possibly because I was one of the bad Christians you hear about who never says "bless you." >_>

JezuzFree · August 24, 2009 at 10:04 pm

I had never really thought of Murphy's Law as a superstition, just something to keep in mind in order to minimize loose ends and consider multiple contingency plans.

    godlessgirl · August 25, 2009 at 5:46 am

    It seems more like a belief from anecdotal evidence than anything else ๐Ÿ™‚

Tomas · August 25, 2009 at 6:29 pm

The superstitions are silly, indeed. Yet your picture looks so attractively. Wow, I would like to hang her on my wall.
In other words, am I superstitious? Or caught by the beauty

The Atheist Pig · September 13, 2009 at 2:51 am

I admit that I still say bless you or god bless you when someone sneezes mainly out of being courteous. I suppose I could adopt the Seinfeld method and say, "You're so good looking," after someone sneezes.

kathy benn · December 15, 2009 at 11:27 am

hey guys…. soooo uh…yeah

Mansi · December 31, 2010 at 9:30 am

I wrote about this in October (http://www.mansibhatia.com/2010/07/just-because/). Everytime I cut my nails indoors at night I would feel a tad guilty. Why? Because of years and years of hearing I shouldn’t do it. No reason. No rationale. My maternal grandmother just insisted I not do it. As much as I argued and defied all her silly superstitions somewhere inside her chiding voice got lodged permanently.

    Godless Girl · January 2, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    This is a new one to me. So interesting what kinds of different superstitions cultures bring.

Unknown Atheist · December 31, 2010 at 10:47 am

I’ve done a lot of the ones mentioned in the original post, but never really believed in them.

Well okay, I admit to sometimes believing in Murphy’s Law (the modern adaptation: whatever can go wrong will). Emotionally I feel that way sometimes, but don’t actually believe there’s some force out there making sure that things go right or wrong.

The same thing with “luck.” Like anthuswilliams I still wish people good luck and talk about luck, and occasionally think that it was lucky something happened. But I don’t really believe in good or bad fortune as a guiding force or a state of being.

With “(god) bless you”, I avoid saying it whenever possible. If I do say it, then I just say “bless you.” I figure it’s kind of like when they bleep out “god” in the expression “god damn” on TV or on the radio (if you’ve never noticed it, believe me it happens). People don’t think about the fact that they’re actually getting rid of the “god” in the expression, but that’s what I think whenever it happens or whenever I say “bless you.”

TheSecretAtheist · January 1, 2011 at 1:18 am

I still say “good luck” and “bless you” and that sort of thing but I don’t really mean anything superstitious about it. And I’ve broken wishbones but never as a superstitious thing, just for the fun of winning something. (Interestingly, I’ve never been one to make a wish when blowing out candles, breaking a wishbone, or seeing a “falling star”. I mostly never could think of something I really cared enough to wish for, so I wouldn’t do that, and then I just stopped even trying or caring.

Now, of course, I still participate in prayers and religious ceremony but I’m just playing along with those superstitions.

TheSecretAtheist · January 1, 2011 at 1:34 am

In fact, I’ll be partaking in some Southern superstition in a few hours for lunch! I’ll be having the traditional Southern New Years meal of pork, black eyed peas and collards (and corn bread). The pork is for luck, the black eyed peas and collards (I think turnip greens and spinach work, too) are for wealth (coinage and “folding money” respectively). The cornbread is just because that is what you eat with pork, black eyed peas and collards.

Of course, I don’t partake in this meal for the superstitious reasons, it just just one of my favoritest of meals EVER. Yumm! *looking forward to sopping up pot liquor with some cornbread*

    Godless Girl · January 2, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    I had no idea there were reasons for choosing those specific foods. That’s a new one to me!

      TheSecretAtheist · January 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      Some also say that the peas are for luck and the greens for money.

      And pork could be considered a sign of wealth. (That not being a superstition as much as an observation.)

Jacob · January 3, 2011 at 3:56 am

Here in the Philippines there are tons of superstitions.

For instance, at night you can only sweep dirt away from doorways, unless you sleep your blessings out. People really follow it. It’s a shame since logically you would want to sweep all the dust and dirt out of the house.

If you clear dishes from the table before everyone is still eating, you will not be married. Again, people really believe it.

The list goes on… then there are all the legends(why Filipinos have small noses, how we got white, tan, and black peoples, etc). Those generally are known as fiction but they are still commonly known.

    Godless Girl · January 3, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I’d love to learn how things like that get started in cultures. So fascinating!

aspentroll.myid.net · January 19, 2011 at 11:11 am

I have always thought the bible was full of superstition and misconception.
I have just read DM Murdoch’s book, “Who was Jesus, Fingerprints of the Christ” and now understand how the bible was probably contrived. It is truly
a great read for anyone who has had those kind of doubts.
As to those silly superstitions, they are for kids in the playground.

    Godless Girl · January 20, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Thanks for the tip. I’ve added the book to my wishlist ๐Ÿ™‚

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