Funny how people interpret words differently. When I refer to a religion, for example, as primitive and superstitious, I don’t necessarily mean it in a derogatory way. Let’s face it: most religions and spiritual ways of life have primitive origins — primitive meaning “pertaining to the beginning or origin; earliest; primary.” So, yes, most religious people have a primitive belief system. So do I — as a Theosophist, I believe in reincarnation and karma, beliefs that pre-date the Christian era.
But some religionists take exception to their belief system being called “primitive.” They equate it with “backwards,” as one reader wrote to me, complaining that I was calling his country, the Dominican Republic, “backwards.” I wasn’t. That is not my interpretation of the word “primitive.”
But we all have to be careful about trying to impose our beliefs on others to the extent that we deny them equal rights. That, too, is a primitive act, and it may be “backwards” as well. So, perhaps there is a fine line between the words “primitive” and “backwards.”
Then there is the word “superstitious.” Many religions have superstitious rites and beliefs. As do I. Every day, I pray to a God that I know, personally speaking, doesn’t exist so much as an individual entity but as a Universal Energy Force. In other words, there is no little old man up in the clouds hearing my prayers and pulling puppet strings on my behalf. Still, I do believe in the power of prayer and its ability to effect reaction in the Energy Force that fills the heavens and the Earth. Some call prayer “white magic.”
I could go on and on talking about the superstitious rites and practices of religions and spiritual people. But the real question is, is the word “superstitious” a derogatory term? Well, I suppose it depends on how it is being used. Lots of people will tell me that I am superstitious for simply praying every day — for a safe journey, for example. They will tell me that no God is watching over me as I journey to work, and when I get there safely, that God had nothing to do with it. But they may not be laughing at me — they may just be simply pointing out that my prayer is based on a questionable belief, if not an irrational fear.
Again, I want to emphasize that it is OK to believe in primitive spiritual systems. It’s just not OK to oppress others because of your questionable beliefs — and they are questionable, because they cannot be scientifically proven. I can no more prove that we are reincarnated than you can prove that we die and go to heaven (or hell).
And since no God is appearing to speak for himself, then we have to respect the fact that ALL religions require leaps of faith. As Theosophists say, “there is no religion higher than the truth.” Whatever the truth may be . . . .
The bottom line for all religions, though, should be brotherly/sisterly love . . . unconditionally. And when they stray from that principle, they are suspect.