Some might associate the lack of “superstitious” beliefs as a quality of a modern society. Beliefs in the seemingly bizarre supernatural events simply would not fit in a society now dominated by science, codified laws, rules, and jurisprudence. As I have mentioned in an earlier column, as we grow more and more confident as a civilization, religious beliefs become less and less significant. The question is, whether it is a good thing for us to shed off our religious or “superstitious” beliefs as we become more “civilized”. There is a necessity for me to use quotation marks on certain words as an indication that I am not supposed to use them given my background in anthropology. I clearly remember how my teacher spent an entire period lecturing on why the word “superstition” has no place in the social sciences most specially in our course considered the mother of all social sciences. These beliefs should just be referred to as traditional beliefs and not “superstition” otherwise the user might be accused of being biased therefore might be incapable of making objective analysis or conclusion.
“Superstition” vs Law
The belief that certain spirits dwell in the forest makes people careful not to perform acts there that might offend the spirits. In a traditional society, disrespecting the spirits guarding the forest by cutting trees without performing the prescribed ritual can account for the illnesses of a person. The fear of offending the spirits makes their use of the forests sustainable as compared to the present situation where codified law has taken over while the traditional beliefs are now largely forgotten. There is a total log ban in the country but cutting of trees remains un-abated. The problem is that forest poachers operate when the law enforces are not present. And unless the government watch over the forests in the country 24-7, the depletion of our forest cover will continue and even escalate.
In the past, our elders would warn us not to venture into the night because malevolent spirits are active in darkness. We obeyed. We dare not go out at night for fear of ghosts. This was our form of “curfew” absent any legislation. Now that the we merely laugh at the idea of ghosts, it becomes difficult to make people obey curfew rules because the enforcers simply could not watch over the people all the time.
But of course we cannot turn the hands of time and return to our traditional beliefs, but this should make us think about coming up with more effective legislation or on whether we even need more of it in the first place. Whenever there arises a problem in our society, our tendency is to come up with more rules. Maybe we could reinforce existing rules or beliefs in a society instead of perceiving them as backward, outdated, or even obsolete. If we become less dismissive of traditional beliefs and law, we might be able to receive the wisdom passed on through the generations in order for us to make our present society a more livable one instead of being entangled with numerous rules of conduct that can become unbearable.