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Verbum et Ecclesia

versão On-line ISSN 2074-7705
versão impressa ISSN 1609-9982

Verbum Eccles. (Online) vol.32 no.1 Pretoria  2011 



Horseshoes, angels and other UFOs: Rethinking faith in light of present-day superstitions



Cornel W. du Toit

Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, South Africa





The monotheistic religions see God as the author of human faith. Faith comes 'from above' and as such is unnatural or supernatural. The faith of pagans, by contrast, is regarded as superstition and hence natural (Rm 1). One can make a case for the 'natural' universal incidence of both religion and superstition and their fulfilment of similar needs. In addition both are characterised by the pattern-finding operation of the human brain. The (causal) connections we make and the patterns we impose on reality have always helped people to comprehend and manipulate the world. Historical circumstances led to the development of 'official' religions as institutions wielding political power, whereas superstition has remained a para-religious phenomenon to this day.
But how should religion and superstition be viewed in a postmetaphysical, technoscientific environment? How can the supernatural aspects of religion and superstition be accommodated in such an environment? The role of affect and belief (placebo effect) in religion and superstition is also scrutinised. Viewed differently, both religion and superstition are considered natural and are proposed as a form of immanent transcendence, in which the 'supernatural' is not posited as a metaphysical model but is worked out 'from below' in terms of the human constitution.



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Cornel du Toit
PO Box 392
UNISA 0003
South Africa

Received: 09 Dec. 2009
Accepted: 05 May 2011
Published: 08 Sept. 2011

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