Superstition

"What harm does superstition do? What harm in believing in fables, in legends?

To believe in signs and wonders, in amulets, charms and miracles, in gods and devils, in heavens and hells, makes the brain an insane ward, the world a madhouse, takes all certainty from the mind, makes experience a snare, destroys the kinship of effect and cause -- the unity of nature -- and makes man a trembling serf and slave. With this belief a knowledge of nature sheds no light upon the path to be pursued.

Nature becomes a puppet of the unseen powers. The fairy, called the supernatural, touches with her wand a fact, it disappears. Causes are barren of effects, and effects are independent of all natural causes. Caprice is king.

The foundation is gone. The great dome rests on air. There is no constancy in qualities, relations or results. Reason abdicates and superstition wears her crown. The heart hardens and the brain softens. The energies of man are wasted in a vain effort to secure the protection of the supernatural.

Credulity, ceremony, worship, sacrifice and prayer take the place of honest work, of investigation, of intellectual effort, of observation, of experience. Progress becomes impossible.

Superstition is, always has been, and forever will be, the enemy of liberty.

Superstition created all the gods and angels, all the devils and ghosts, all the witches, demons and goblins, gave us all the augurs, soothsayers and prophets, filled the heavens with signs and wonders, broke the chain of cause and effect, and wrote the history of man in miracles and lies.

Superstition made all the popes, cardinals, bishops and priests, all the monks and nuns, the begging friars and the filthy saints, all the preachers and exhorters, all the "called" and "set apart."

Superstition made men fall upon their knees before beasts and stones, caused them to worship snakes and trees and insane phantoms of the air, beguiled them of their gold and toil, and made them shed their children's blood and give their babes to flames.

Superstition built the cathedrals and temples, all the altars, mosques and churches, filled the world with amulets and charms, with images and idols, with sacred bones and holy hairs, with martyrs' blood and rags, with bits of wood that frighten devils from the breasts of men.

Superstition invented and used the instruments of torture, flayed men and women alive, loaded millions with chains and destroyed hundreds of thousands with fire.

Superstition mistook insanity for inspiration and the ravings of maniacs for prophesy, for the wisdom of God.

Superstition imprisoned the virtuous, tortured the thoughtful, killed the heroic, put chains on the body, manacles on the brain, and utterly destroyed the liberty of speech.

Superstition gave us all the prayers and ceremonies; taught all the kneelings, genuflections and prostrations; taught men to hate themselves, to despise pleasure, to scar their flesh, to grovel in the dust, to desert their wives and children, to shun their fellow-men, and to spend their lives in useless pain and prayer.

Superstition taught that human love is degrading, low and vile; taught that monks are purer than fathers, that nuns are holier than mothers, that faith is superior to fact, that credulity leads to heaven, that doubt is the road to hell, that belief is better than knowledge, and that to ask for evidence is to insult God.

Superstition is, always has been, and forever will be, the foe of progress, the enemy of education and the assassin of freedom. It sacrifices the known to the unknown, the present to the future, this actual world to the shadowy next. It has given us a selfish heaven, and a hell of infinite revenge; it has filled the world with hatred, war and crime, with the malice of meekness and the arrogance of humility.

Superstition is the only enemy of science in all the world."

Superstition, Robert Green Ingersoll, 1898.

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