The Future of Superstition
Prodigies, omens, oracles, judgements quite obscure the few natural events that are intermingled with them. But as the former grow thinner every page, in proportion as we advance nearer the enlightened ages, we soon learn, that there is nothing mysterious or supernatural in the case, but that all proceeds from the usual propensity of mankind towards the marvellous; and that though this inclination may at intervals receive a check from sense and learning, it can never be thoroughly extirpated from human nature.
David Hume Essays
In isolated pre-literate cultures, where superstitious beliefs form an integral part of people's total outlook on the world, nearly everybody believes nearly everything. This, as has been shown, is because alternatives are not readily conceivable by individuals. However, such a state of affairs is becoming increasingly rare today, with few communities remaining untouched by external influences. Over most of the globe now it is more characteristic to find a mixture: some people take socially transmitted superstitions seriously, while others laugh at them; some claim to have occult experiences, others are sceptics. My guess would be that everybody has his own personal 'Skinnerian' superstitions, whether they are prepared to admit them or not. The most striking factors, though, are the variations in the incidence of superstitious beliefs and behaviour. Some of the theories discussed help to throw some light on this problem. Thus on the Freudian interpretation one would expect certain kinds of neurotics to be more superstitious than normals. There is a certain amount of support for this from studies carried out during the