I’m busy reading Bruce Hood’s fascinating SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable, and a recent article about Pope John Paul II offered itself as a perfect example of Hood’s ideas. A vial of the deceased pope’s blood is being taken “on tour” to Mexico in the hopes that it will ease the drug-driven violence and strife in that country.

It is quite astonishing to think that people (aside from doctors and researchers) would regard a blood sample as anything worth looking at, let alone revering. But it’s worth remembering that this sort of superstitious thinking is not limited to religious relics, or religion generally. Hood has demonstrated this by asking volunteers from his audiences to don a sweater he claims was once worn by a serial killer. He finds that very few people, even in strongly skeptical audiences, are willing to take the challenge.

A more worthwhile challenge, and one we should constantly strive for, is to learn to recognize such superstitious thinking for what it is, even if we can’t entirely overcome it.


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