Superstition isn't about feeling like one has a place in the world, or has a specific purpose, but rather feeling like the world's variety, randomness, and meaninglessness have some kind of self-affirming order beyond evidence otherwise. Religion endows purpose and belief in ultimate reality, origin, or destiny, which allows it to function on a much more doctrinal level. Both are pervasive, but superstition is much more like guerrilla warfare; there's no formal rules, just strong suggestions, and even though superstitions are culturally or socially affected, each person can subjectively customize their flavor based on personal experience or memory.
Culture and society influence superstition, though since superstition lacks a formal doctrine, people's behaviors are limited only by the bounds of their imagination, or their emotive compulsion. I used to know someone who watched a football game with her father every sunday, each standing in the same spot in the room and wearing the same type of jersey. It's culturally fed because professional football was the cue, and socially fed because she and her father worked out a specific ritual that made the apparently torturous game more tolerable. I once made the mistake of telling her those rituals had no bearing on the results of the game, but that conversation didn't develop because apparently her customary response to superstition-critique was denial. Maybe superstitions have built-in defense shields that are raised when an investigation is cued, or maybe that was unique to her. I tend to think that since they're based in ignorance, they defend ignorance, though.
Superstitions are functionally like humans playing gods, extending their minds and emotions into the world, categorizing things until they subjectively work for them. It cares not about actual categories or evidence or natural causation, but about the subject feeling as if the variety, randomness and meaninglessness are anything but. Take the football example; dressing up and standing in those spots makes she and her father feel like they have more control over the situation than they actually have. In reality, the game's result would be no different if they sat on the couch silently, didn't watch the game at all, or blasphemously donned the opposite team's colors. But superstition wants participation, it wants action, it makes us feel like we're not just seeing a world infinitely larger and more significant than us, but that we've figured out a way to order some of the mess, despite the conflicting evidence.
Not all evidence is valid, let alone is evidence by definition. When a black cat crosses your path it's bad luck, right? It is...just because it is... Some still believe this, even though the basis of the myth has been nullified because witches were disproven, and they were the ones using cats. Such a superstition preceded formal scientific evidence, but despite that, the feeling still lingers in many that it's bad luck for a black cat to cross one's path. What about those who accept their superstition is a delusion but practice it anyway because it makes them feel better? This is where superstition and religion can cross paths, with many people practicing compulsive superstitious rituals, or attending church on sunday even though they don't believe in it, because their habits are so engrained. It's thus one step further from real evidence because it mutated into a reinforced behavioral appeasement. Habits are strengthened by repetition and since humans are habit and pattern-seeking animals, then we really do experience a certain fulfillment from repeating habits. Superstitions like tossing pennies into fountains and not breaking mirrors have no causal linkage to their future effects, but if we're encouraged and reinforced to believe in such things, and create habits based on those empty beliefs, we still experience discomfort when we don't act upon them. Superstitions thus become easier and easier the more we practice them, not because of their innate validity or legitimacy, but because we're simply playing out an evolutionary trait.
Not all superstitious beliefs are about good luck and bad luck, just many of them are because it's easy and convenient to break conclusions down into the binary model of good and bad. Nothing could be more erroneous though. Many superstitions do beg different implications: 666 is the mark of the beast, the devil, or whatever. This isn't just about bad luck, it's an omen that indicates something is doomed or possessed. (This is another crossover with religion). I read a week ago that a marathon runner bowed out of a race because she was given the number 666 which the judges wouldn't change. Yes, you guessed it, she was a devout Christian who believed that the ink on the paper that took the specific numerical shape that was randomly given to her to provide a numerical distinction in this one race, was really the mark of the anti-Christ. The behavioral affects of superstition are thus limitless, because since the subject practicing them isn't implementing objective criticality or analysis, they don't approach them from a perspective of natural causation, non-existence of special signals and cues, or neutrality toward physical cues. Superstitions break natural causal linkage to impart their own ideal of order, impart special meaning on certain signals and cues, as well as the same on chosen physical cues. Ironically, it makes a mess of reality when it intends to order it.
All superstitions are triggered by some cue. Friday the 13th. A ladder. A rabbit's foot. A professional football game. Each of these have cues that literally trigger a customary response within the brain, so strong that it's a compulsion. Superstitions are thus addictions that need to be acted upon for that person to continue functioning what they perceive as normally and properly.
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