THE FOLLOWING WAS PUBLISHED IN OUR REGULAR SCIENCE & CRITICAL THINKING COLUMN IN THE SUNDAY TIMES (OF MALAWI) – MARCH 20, 2011
WHY HUMANISM IS BETTER THAN SUPERSTITION
By Bonda Chifundo, Chancellor College
Quote: When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself. Mark Twain
Superstition encompasses beliefs in gods and witchcraft. Humanism rebuffs superstition, all supernatural beliefs and places man at the centre of life. Let me show why Humanism is better than superstition by looking at these three ways; reliability, the contribution each makes to humanity, and the view each holds of the human race.
RELIABILITY: Superstition is based on beliefs that have not been experienced and for which little evidence exists. It is founded on the precept of the unknown, unseen and should be feared. Superstition instils fear; a tendency not to question it even if one sees flaws in it. Fear is unhealthy; it restricts people from reaching their full potential and enjoying life. Humanism promotes the need to question everything and promotes free inquiry. Beliefs must be questioned. As a result, Man has made great strides in life. It was humans not gods who discovered modern medicines, created modern technology and invented things. All the inventions and positive discoveries are a result of human effort on its own.
CONTRIBUTION TO HUMANITY: Superstition has been the major cause of conflicts, death and human suffering. Religion has caused millions of deaths by persecution and we still have wars among different religious groups. Religion and other superstitions consume a lot of time, money and human labour and waste a lot of resources. If the money going to building churches were to build schools; help the poor and time spent in prayer well utilised in human development, we would be better off. Humanists don’t worship in churches, thereby saving resources, advocate that everyone must be productive; promotes reasoning without having to conform to imaginary supernatural entities. Through reasoning, man has achieved great wonders. Humanism promotes scientific explorations, whose discoveries have promoted a better life for humanity to our present world.
VIEWS OF HUMANITY; Superstition places man below the supernatural powers and therefore obliges man to subjugate himself to them. In Christianity man is below Jesus and God. Man’s purpose is to glorify these entities. Superstition denigrates man and elevates the unknowable. Superstition leads people to see others as members of a group and discriminates against minorities. In African tradition and the Holy books, woman is merely a creation to serve man. Humanism believes in the power of the human being, and that there is no supernatural source of help. Humans must solve challenges of wars, poverty, and disease on their own. Humanist do not discriminate against anyone and through evolution see men and women as equal, who live this life in the here and now without discrimination.
We live in the 21st century where we cannot be guided by doctrines and dogma. The world is now different and changing. Humanity must examine the world without fear, pursue its dreams and create a better world, free from the baleful influence of belief in non-existent powers. That is what Humanism has to offer.