Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook, or read online
Pages (PDF): 214
Publication Date: 1857
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Chapters include: Origin Of Popular Superstitions; Inductive Philosophy Not Understood; Ignorance Of The Causes Of Dreams; Effects Of The Imagination On The Nervous System; Ignorance Of Mental Philosophy; Ignorance Of True Religion; Belief In Witchcraft; Necromancy And Fortune Telling; Fairies, Or Wandering Spirits, And Gypsies; Omens, Charms, And Divination; Modern Miracles; False Prophets And Christs; Mormon Superstition; Miller Delusion; Intercourse With Departed Spirits; Evil Effects Of Popular Superstitions; Banishment Of Popular Superstitions; and many more.
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Ignorance of correct reasoning has undoubtedly given rise to many superstitions. Inductive reasoning teaches us to infer general conclusions from particular facts which have come under our observation. This definition may be illustrated by an example. You know that water boils on the application of a certain degree of heat. You have seen this experiment tried many times without a single failure. You therefore conclude that water will always boil on the application of this degree of heat, although you have seen it applied but to a small portion of the water in creation. Thus you draw this general conclusion from the few particular facts which you have witnessed. But had you noticed several failures in the trial, your conclusions would have been doubtful. And if the experiment had failed ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, you would have adopted an opposite conclusion. You would have said that the application of the specified degree of heat would not boil water. In this way, logical reasoning leads to the discovery of truth. Now, apply this principle of sound reasoning to the whole mass of pretended signs. Let me select one to show you the absurdity of believing in any. It is commonly reported that the breaking of a looking glass betokens death to some member of the family. This sign probably originated in the following manner: A death happened to follow the breaking of a mirror. Some ignorant person immediately concluded that the breaking of the glass was a sure sign of death. The story soon spread among credulous people, and at length was handed down from generation to generation as an established truth. But you readily perceive the absurdity of forming this general conclusion from one or a few particular facts. We all know that death does not follow the supposed sign oftener than once in a hundred times; and therefore the breaking of the glass is almost a sure sign that no death will immediately take place in the family.
But as mirrors are always breaking, and people are always dying, it is not strange that the latter event should sometimes follow the former. It would be a miracle if it did not. But the events have no connection whatever with each other. The coincidence in any case is altogether accidental. We might with the same reason affirm that the breaking of a teakettle is the sign of death, or any thing else, as the breaking of a mirror. But the truth is, there is no sign in the case. It first originated in ignorance of correct reasoning, and has been perpetuated by the credulous. It is but a short time ago that a girl in Exeter, N.H., broke a mirror. She believed that ill luck always followed such an event and therefore became seriously affected in her mind. Finally, her strength failed, and she died a victim to her superstition. Hence we perceive the great importance of a just conception and well-informed judgment upon such apparently trifling, yet oftentimes serious events, in their effects upon social and individual happiness. We have only to apply this principle of correct reasoning to every sign in existence, to find them to be superstitious. We shall find, upon investigation, that they are based upon no rational evidence, and consequently are not entitled to our belief or confidence. If they indicate any thing, it is something directly opposite to what is generally supposed, for they do not come to pass more than once in a hundred times, and therefore warrant a different conclusion. Not only so. If you believe in the present pretended signs, you may make a million more equally good. A man quarrels after drinking a glass of wine; you may therefore say that taking a glass of wine is the sign of a quarrel. A man draws a prize in a lottery; you may say therefore that the purchase of a ticket is the sign of a fortune. A man dies after supper; you may say therefore that eating supper is the sign of death. In this you may multiply signs to infinity, and they will prove just as true as any now in existence. But our Creator has endowed us with understanding. He has given us reason to regulate our belief by satisfactory evidence. And if we do this, we cannot believe in any of the pretended signs. We must conclude that they have all originated in ignorance of correct reasoning, and are kept in remembrance by those who will not use their intellectual powers as their Maker designed.