Superstition is a credulous belief or notion, not based on reason, knowledge, or experience. The word is often used pejoratively to refer to folk beliefs deemed irrational. This leads to some superstitions being called "old wives' tales". It is also commonly applied to beliefs and practices surrounding luck, prophecy and spiritual beings, particularly irrational belief that future events can be influenced or foretold by specific unrelated prior events.
Arranged alphabetically by author or source:
A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P · Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z · Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations · See also · External links
- When man seized the loadstone of science, the loadstar of superstition vanished in the clouds.
- William R. Alger, in James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 544:20.
- One of the largest promises of science is, that the sum of human happiness will be increased, ignorance destroyed, and, with ignorance, prejudice and superstition, and that great truth taught to all, that this world and all it contains were meant for our use and service; and that where nature by her own laws has defined the limits of original unfitness, science may by extract so modify those limits as to render wholesome that which by natural wildness was hurtful, and nutritious that which by natural poverty was unnourishing. We do not yet know half that chemistry may do by way of increasing our food.
- Anonymous, 'Common Cookery'. Household Words (26 Jan 1856), 13, 45. An English weekly magazine edited by Charles Dickens.
- The general root of superstition: namely, that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss; and commit to memory the one, and forget and pass over the other.
- Francis Bacon, The Works of Francis Bacon (1819), Vol. 2, 73.
- It were better to have no opinion of God at all than such an opinion as is unworthy of him; for the one is unbelief, the other is contumely; and certainly superstition is the reproach of the Deity. Plutarch saith well to that purpose: "Surely," saith he, "I had rather a great deal men should say there was no such man at all as Plutarch, than that they should say that there was one Plutarch, that would eat his children as soon as they were born:" as the poets speak of Saturn: and, as the contumely is greater towards God, so the danger is greater towards men. Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation: all which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, though religion were not; but superstition dismounts all these, and erecteth an absolute monarchy in the minds of men: therefore atheism did never perturb states; for it makes men wary of themselves, as looking no further, and we see the times inclined to atheism (as the time of Augustus Cæsar) were civil times: but superstition hath been the confusion of many states, and bringeth in a new "primum mobile," that ravisheth all the spheres of government. The master of superstition is the people, and in all superstition wise men follow fools; and arguments are fitted to practice, in a reversed order.
- The superstitions of today are the scientific facts of tomorrow.
- John L. Balderston, in the play Dracula (1927), spoken by the character Von Helsing. In the script Dracula: the Vampire Play in Three Acts (Samuel French Inc., 1960), 25.
- A visitor to Niels Bohr's country cottage, noticing a horseshoe hanging on the wall, teasing the eminent scientist about this ancient superstition. 'Can it be true that you, of all people, believe it will bring you luck?' 'Of course not,' replied Bohr, 'but I understand it brings you luck whether you believe it or not.'
- Anecdote about Niels Bohr, as described in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), Andrè Bernard (ed.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 68.
- It is the business of science to offer rational explanations for all the events in the real world, and any scientist who calls on God to explain something is falling down on his job. This applies as much to the start of the expansion as to any other event. If the explanation is not forthcoming at once, the scientist must suspend judgment: but if he is worth his salt he will always maintain that a rational explanation will eventually be found. This is the one piece of dogmatism that a scientist can allow himself—and without it science would be in danger of giving way to superstition every time that a problem defied solution for a few years.
- William B. Bonnor, The Mystery of the Expanding Universe (1964), 122.
- Thus identified with astronomy, in proclaiming truths supposed to be hostile to Scripture, Geology has been denounced as the enemy of religion. The twin sisters of terrestrial and celestial physics have thus been joint-heirs of intolerance and persecution—unresisting victims in the crusade which ignorance and fanaticism are ever waging against science. When great truths are driven to make an appeal to reason, knowledge becomes criminal, and philosophers martyrs. Truth, however, like all moral powers, can neither be checked nor extinguished. When compressed, it but reacts the more. It crushes where it cannot expand—it burns where it is not allowed to shine. Human when originally divulged, it becomes divine when finally established. At first, the breath of a rage—at last it is the edict of a god. Endowed with such vital energy, astronomical truth has cut its way through the thick darkness of superstitious times, and, cheered by its conquests, Geology will find the same open path when it has triumphed over the less formidable obstacles of a civilized age.
- David Brewster, More Worlds than One: The Creed of the Philosopher and the Hope of the Christian (1854), 42.
- Foul Superstition! howsoe'er disguised,
Idol, saint, virgin, prophet, crescent, cross,
For whatsoever symbol thou art prized,
Thou sacerdotal gain, but general loss!
Who from true worship's gold can separate thy dross?
- The true wisdom of man consists in the knowledge of God the Creator and Redeemer. This knowledge is naturally implanted in us, and the end of it ought to be the worship of God rightly performed, or reverence for the Deity accompanied by fear and love. But this seed is corrupted by ignorance, whence arises superstitious worship.
- To seek God’s truth, wretched people do no rise above their nature, as would be fitting, but they measure His greatness according to the weakness of their senses. They do not understand Him at all as He has given Himself to be known, but imagine Him as they have made Him by their presumption. In doing this they open a deep gulf in which, once opened, no matter which way they turn they must always fall to damnation. For no matter what they try to do after that to serve God, they cannot hold Him in their debt since they do not honor Him but, in His place, they honor what they have imagined in their heart. This way the vain pretext which many are accustomed to claim to excuse their superstition is struck down. For they think that every feeling of religion—of whatever kind, even when it is all mixed up—is sufficient; but they do not reflect that the true religion ought to be conformed to what is pleasing to God according to His everlasting rule, and further, that God remains ever like Himself and is not an imaginary thing which changes according to the wishes of each person.
- In doing practically only the things which He testifies He cares nothing about, superstition neglects those which He has ordained and said are pleasing to Him or even openly rejects them. Therefore those who (in order to worship God) establish religions which have their source in their own minds, only worship their own dreams.
- The origin of certain superstitions is often connected to the intention of attributing adverse events to specific causes.
- Fausto Cercignani in: Brian Morris, Quotes we cherish. Quotations from Fausto Cercignani, 2013, p. 39.
- For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper; or from that old baboon, who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs—as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.
- Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 404-5.
- Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible...
- Batman The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom Detective Comics #33 (November 1939), written by Bill Finger
- Science of to-day — the superstition of to-morrow. Science of to-morrow — the superstition of to-day.
- Charles Fort, The Book of The Damned (1919), 157.
- Mankind have been slow to believe that order reigns in the universe — that the world is a cosmos and a chaos.
... The divinities of heathen superstition still linger in one form or another in the faith of the ignorant, and even intelligent men shrink from the contemplation of one supreme will acting regularly, not fortuitously, through laws beautiful and simple rather than through a fitful and capricious system of intervention.
... The scientific spirit has cast out the demons, and presented us with nature clothed in her right mind and living under the reign of law. It has given us, for the sorceries of the alchemist, the beautiful laws of chemistry; for the dreams of the astrologer, the sublime truths of astronomy; for the wild visions of cosmogony, the monumental records of geology; for the anarchy of diabolism, the laws of God.
- James A. Garfield, speech (16 Dec 1867) given while a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, introducing resolution for the appointment of a committee to examine the necessities for legislation upon the subject of the ninth census to be taken the following year. Quoted in John Clark Ridpath, The Life and Work of James A. Garfield (1881), 216.
- Alas! you know the cause too well;
The salt is spilt, to me it fell.
Then to contribute to my loss,
My knife and fork were laid across;
On Friday, too! the day I dread;
Would I were safe at home, in bed!
Last night (I vow to Heaven 'tis true)
Bounce from the fire a coffin flew.
Next post some fatal news shall tell:
God send my Cornish friends be well!
- John Gay, Fables (1727), Part I. Fable 37.
- All superstitions exist at least in part to satisfy the emotional needs of the experiencing subject. The chief emotions that give rise to superstitious beliefs are fear and anxiety, and they are often reinforced by a disposition to fantasy and mental laziness.
- Patrick J. Hurley, A Concise Introduction to Logic (2000 [Seventh edition], Wadsworth, ISBN 0-534-52006-5), p. 594
- History warns us … that it is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions.
- Thomas Henry Huxley, "The Coming of Age of the Origin of Species" (1880). In Collected Essays (1893), Vol. 2, 229.
- Who can over estimate the progress of the world if all the money wasted in superstition could be used to enlighten, elevate and civilize mankind?
- The office of reformer of the superstitions of a nation, is ever dangerous.
- May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.
- Tenemos que ser muy conscientes de que debajo de cada enfermedad hay una prohibición. Una prohibición que viene de una superstición.
- We have to be very conscious of the fact that beneath every illness is a prohibition. A prohibition that comes from a superstition.
- Alejandro Jodorowsky Psychomagic: The Transformative Power of Shamanic Psychotherapy (2010)
- Primitive superstition lies just below the surface of even the most tough-minded individuals, and it is precisely those who most fight against it who are the first to succumb to its suggestive effects.
- Carl Jung, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle (1960)
- “Superstition” is simply a derogative term for a belief about the supernatural that you don’t share.
Why should it be socially acceptable to make fun of psychics and not priests? What’s the difference between crossing yourself or hanging a mezuzah outside your door and avoiding black cats? Believing that you’ve been abducted by aliens or that Elvis is alive is, on its face, no sillier than believing that Christ rose from the dead or that God parted the Red Sea so that Moses and his followers might traverse it. People who believe that God heeds their prayers have probably waived the right to mock people who talk to trees and guardian angels or claim to channel the spirits of Native Americans.
- Wendy Kaminer, Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials, p. 35
- Inclinations of illusion make weak men superstitious and superstitious men weak. ... The illusion that leads them to mistake the subjective for the objective, to take the voice of inner sense for knowledge of things themselves, also makes the tendency to superstition comprehensible.
- In moments of great anxiety there is a sort of natural superstition about the heart, which the reason rejects in cooler moments.
- Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Traits and Trials of Early Life (1837), 'Frances Beaumont'
- Through it [Science] we believe that man will be saved from misery and degradation, not merely acquiring new material powers, but learning to use and to guide his life with understanding. Through Science he will be freed from the fetters of superstition; through faith in Science he will acquire a new and enduring delight in the exercise of his capacities; he will gain a zest and interest in life such as the present phase of culture fails to supply.
- Sir Edwin Ray Lankester, "Biology and the State", The Advancement of Science: Occasional Essays & Addresses (1890), 108-9.
- Science intensifies religious truth by cleansing it of ignorance and superstition.
- Charles Lindbergh, Quoted in "Antiseptic Christianity", book review of Lindbergh, Of Flight and Life in Time magazine, (6 Sep 1948).
- Astrology is a sickness, not a science … It is a tree under the shade of which all sorts of superstitions thrive.
- Maimonides, Attributed.
- Wherever modern Science has exploded a superstitious fable or even a picturesque error, she has replaced it with a grander and even more poetical truth.
- George Perkins Marsh, "The Study of Nature", The Christian Examiner, 1860, 67, 40.
- The greatest burden in the world is superstition, not only of ceremonies in the church, but of imaginary and scarecrow sins at home.
- John Milton, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 573.
- It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening custom and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, of a rich country inhabited by starving people... Who indeed could afford to ignore science today? At every turn we have to seek its aid... the future belongs to science and those who make friends with science.
- Jawaharlal Nehru, Quoted in Atma Ram, "The Making of Optical Glass in India: Its Lessons for Industrial Development", Proceedings of the National Institute of Sciences of India (1961), 27, 564-5.
- τοὺς δὲ βεβήλους καὶ γραώδεις μύθους παραιτοῦ. γύμναζε δὲ σεαυτὸν πρὸς εὐσέβειαν.
- So I had to face the fact that I was blessed with abilities that were considered symptoms of emotional abnormality or mental derangement by psychology, often thought of as demonic by religion, and whose very existence was denied altogether by science. So in my darker moments I used to think that my psychic initiation and subsequent experiences were a mixed bag, to say the least. But the fact is that I was very sensitive to criticism for the very good reason that often I shared many of the beliefs that stimulated it.
- Jane Roberts, in The God of Jane: A Psychic Manifesto, p. 48
- Hence, to the realms of Night, dire Demon, hence!
Thy chain of adamant can bind
That little world, the human mind,
And sink its noblest powers to impotence.
- Samuel Rodgers, Ode to Superstition (1786), I.1 l. 1-4.
- Midnight hags,
By force of potent spells, of bloody characters,
And conjurations horrible to hear,
Call fiends and spectres from the yawning deep,
And set the ministers of hell at work.
- Nicholas Rowe, Jane Shore (1714), Act IV, scene 1, line 240.
- Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom, in the pursuit of truth as in the endeavour after a worthy manner of life.
- Bertrand Russell, An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943), 23.
- Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition. They avoid rather than confront the world. But those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries.
- Carl Sagan, Cosmos (1985), 275.
- The experiment might be said to demonstrate a sort of superstition. The bird behaves as if there were a causal relation between its behavior and the presentation of food, although such a relation is lacking. There are many analogies in human behavior. Rituals for changing one's fortune at cards are good examples. A few accidental connections between a ritual and favorable consequences suffice to set up and maintain the behavior in spite of many unreinforced instances. The bowler who has released a ball down the alley but continues to behave as if she were controlling it by twisting and turning her arm and shoulder is another case in point. These behaviors have, of course, no real effect upon one's luck or upon a ball half way down an alley, just as in the present case the food would appear as often if the pigeon did nothing—or, more strictly speaking, did something else.
- B.F. Skinner "Superstition' in the Pigeon", in Journal of Experimental Psychology #38, 1947.
- Some devils ask but the parings of one's nail,
A rush, a hair, a drop of blood, a pin, a nut, a cherry stone;
But she, more coveteous, would have a chain.
Master, be wise: an if you give it her,
The devil will shake her chain and fright us with it.
- William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors, Act IV, scene 3, line 72.
- I pull in resolution, and begin
To doubt the equivocation of the fiend
That lies like truth: "Fear not, till Birnam wood
Do come to Dunsinane."
- A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.
- George Bernard Shaw, "Maxims for Revolutionists", in Man and Superman (1905), 230.
- Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.
- Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature And Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776, 1801), Vol. 2, 314.
- Superstitions and selfish desires weave a pattern of mind which interprets objective and subjective happenings in life as forebodings of personal weal and woe. ... In the time of the Buddha such a belief was as much in evidence as today, and as he was opposed to anything that fettered the healthy growth of the human mind he raised his voice against such superstitions. He denounced "luck" or "fortune" or "auspiciousness" and proclaimed instead human behavior, associations and activities as the real origins of "fortune" or "misfortune." Thus the emphasis was shifted from unhealthy fears and fettering superstitions to individual responsibility, rational thinking, social obligations and self-confidence. This had far-reaching effects in improving both human relationships and the efficiency of the human mind.
- R. L. Soni, commentary on The Maha Mangala Sutta, Collected Wheel Publications Volume XVI (Buddhist Publication Society: 2012), p. 137.
- Men are probably nearer the essential truth in their superstitions than in their science.
- Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 27 Jun 1852, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906), Vol. 10, 158.
- Laws should be made, not against quacks but against superstition.
- Rudolf Virchow, in Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1966), 577.
- Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy; the mad daughter of a wise mother.
- Voltaire, "A Treatise in Toleration". In Voltaire, Tobias George Smollett (ed.) and William F. Fleming (trans.), The Works of Voltaire (1904), Vol. 4, 265.
- The glossy surface of our civilization hides a real intellectual decadence. There is no area in our minds reserved for superstition, such as the Greeks had in their mythology; and superstition, under cover of an abstract vocabulary, has revenged itself by invading the entire realm of thought.
- Christianity was an epidemic rather than a religion. It appealed to fear, hysteria and ignorance. It spread across the Western world, not because it was true, but because humans are gullible and superstitious.
- Colin Wilson in The Occult: A History, p. 212 (1971)
- Imagine a book of unexplained mysteries written by a contemporary of Shakespeare. It might include the mystery of the falling stars that sweep through the sky foretelling disaster; the mystery of the Kraken, the giant sea devil with 50-foot tentacles; the mystery of monster bones, sometimes found in caves or on beaches. Such a book would be a curious mixture of truth and absurdity, fact and legend. We would all feel superior as we turned its pages and murmured: "Of course, they didn't know about comets and giant squids and dinosaurs." If this book should happen to find its way into the hands of our remote descendants, they may smile pityingly and say: "It's incredible to think that they knew nothing about epsilon fields or multiple psychic feedback or cross gravitational energies. They didn't even know about the ineluctability of time." But let us hope that such a descendant is in a charitable mood, and might add: "And yet they managed to ask a few of the right questions."
- Colin Wilson in Enigmas and Mysteries, p. 142 (1976)
- The progress of human knowledge depends on maintaining that touch of scepticism even about the most "unquestionable" truths. A century ago, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection was regarded as scientifically unshakeable; today, most biologists have their reservations about it. Fifty years ago, Freud's sexual theory of neurosis was accepted by most psychiatrists; today, it is widely recognized that his methods were highly questionable. At the turn of this century, a scientist who questioned Newton's theory of gravity would have been regarded as insane; twenty years later, it had been supplanted by Einstein's theory, although, significantly, few people actually understood it. It seems perfectly conceivable that our descendants of the twenty-second century will wonder how any of us could have been stupid enough to have been taken in by Darwin, Freud or Einstein.
- Colin Wilson in The Mammoth Encyclopedia of the Unsolved p. 4 (2000)
- When you believe in things that you don't understand then you suffer? Superstition ain't the way!
- Stevie Wonder, "Superstition" (24 October 1972), Talking Book (1972).
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 770-71.
- Superstitione tollenda religio non tollitur.
- Religion is not removed by removing superstition.
- Cicero, De Divinatione, II. 72.
- Accedit etiam mors, quæ quasi saxum Tantalo semper impendit: tum superstitio, qua qui est imbutus quietus esse numquam potest.
- Death approaches, which is always impending like the stone over Tantalus: then comes superstition with which he who is imbued can never have peace of mind.
- Cicero, De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, I. 8.
- Superstitio, in qua inest inanis timor
Dei; religio, quæ dei pio cultu continetur.
- There is in superstition a senseless fear of God; religion consists in the pious worship of Him.
- Cicero, De Natura Deorum, I. 42.
- My right eye itches, some good luck is near.
- John Dryden, paraphrase of Amaryllis, Third Idyllum of Theocritus, line 86.
- Dish yer rabbit foot'll gin you good luck. De man w'at tote it mighty ap'fer ter come out right en' up wen deys any racket gwine on in de neighborhoods, let 'er be whar she will en w'en she may; mo' espeshually ef de man w'at got it know 'zactly w'at he got ter do.
- Joel Chandler Harris, Brother Rabbit and his famous Foot.
- Minimis etiam rebus prava religio inserit deos.
- A foolish superstition introduces the influences of the gods even in the smallest matters.
- Livy, Annales, XXVII. 23.
- Why is it that we entertain the belief that for every purpose odd numbers are the most effectual?
- Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book XXVIII, Chapter V.
- Number three is always fortunate.
- Tobias Smollett, Peregrine Pickle. Quoted as a well-known proverb.
- Superstition is related to this life, religion to the next; superstition is allied to fatality, religion to virtue; it is by the vivacity of earthly desires that we become superstitious; it is, on the contrary, by the sacrifice of these desires that we become religious.
- Anne Louise Germaine de Staël; reported in Abel Stevens' Life of Madame de Staël, Chapter XXXIV.