109: Superstition and Religion (A Post on Sunday)


I just came across what’s below–surprised again (and again delighted by the surprise)! It seemed, since today is, for many, a religious day, just the thing to share.

Ruskin was brought up in a very religious home, for the most part, and quite literally, at his Mother’s knee. Every day they would read the Bible, going from Genesis, Ch. I, Verse 1 right through to Revelation, Ch. 22, Verse 21; at which point, they would start all over again. The mother, Margaret, made her boy, John, read every verse aloud as soon as he was able, making sure that his pronunciation of each word–“Elealeh,” “Kirheres,” “Beerelim”!!–was perfect, making him memorize huge swaths of the great book into the bargain. As a result, her son became one of the greatest Biblical scholars of the nineteenth century (a time when competition for that status was considerably more intense than it is today). In mid-life (the late 1850s), the son categorically and without apology rejected the Evangelical framework in which he had been steeped (the mother was appalled). But he never gave up his belief that a benevolent Diety had created this world and that that good soul wanted nothing less for the beings He had created in His image than their complete happiness. Often in his post-Evangelical years Ruskin would tell his readers exactly what he thought about religious matters and issues. The paragraphs below he included in a collection he named On the Old Road. Although they were set down in the early 1880s, they, and the book, did not appear in print until 1899, only a year before he died on 20 January 1900.

That’s enough. I’ll leave the reflecting to you.

Superstition, in all times and among all nations, is the fear of a spirit whose passions are those of a man, whose acts are those of a man; who is present in some places, not in others; who makes some places holy and not others; who is kind to one person, unkind to another; who is pleased or angry according to the degree of attention you pay him, or praise you refuse him; who is hostile generally to human pleasure, but may be bribed by sacrifice of a part of that pleasure into permitting the rest. That, whatever form of faith it colors, is the essence of superstition.

Religion is the belief in a spirit whose mercies are over all His works, who is kind even to the unthankful and the evil; who is everywhere present, and, therefore, is in no place to be sought, and in no place to be avoided; to whom all creatures, time and things, are everlastingly holy, and who claims not tithes of riches nor sevenths of days but all the wealth that we have, and all the days that we live, and all the beings that we are, but who claims that totality because He delights only in the delight of His creatures; and, therefore, the one duty that they owe to Him, and the only service they can render Him, is to be happy. A spirit, therefore, whose eternal benevolence cannot be angered, cannot be appeased; whose laws are everlasting and inexorable, so that heaven and earth must indeed pass away if one jot of them failed; laws which attach to every wrong and error a measured, penalty; to every rightness and prudence, an assured reward; penalty of which the remittance cannot be purchased; reward, of which the promise cannot be broken…

Religion proselytes by love, superstition by war; religion teaches by example, superstition by persecution.

Until next time!

Be well out there!





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1 Response to 109: Superstition and Religion (A Post on Sunday)

  1. satwood8 says:

    Excellent passages to highlight, Jim–and as so often with Ruskin, very timely.

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