Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Christianity, Superstition & Gullibility (G.K. Chesterton)
As only Chesterton can say it. Believing in something supernatural is no reason at all to take other supernatural or spiritual ideas at face value without careful scrutiny. The Christian is in an excellent position to resist superstition and gullibility precisely because he is acquainted with something truly spiritual and supernatural.
"'I should hardly have thought, sir,' he said, 'that you had any quarrel with mystical explanations.'
'On the contrary,' replied Father Brown, blinking amiably at him.
'That's just why I can quarrel with 'em. Any sham lawyer could bamboozle me, but he couldn't bamboozle you; because you're a lawyer yourself. ... It's just because I have picked up a little about mystics that I have no use for mystagogues."
The Arrow of Heaven, in The Incredulity of Father Brown, 1926
"'Besides, you have no business to be an unbeliever. You ought to stand for all the things these stupid people call superstitions. Come now, don't you think there's a lot in those old wives' tales about luck and charms and so on, silver bullets included? What do you say about them as a Catholic?'
'I say I'm an agnostic,' replied Father Brown, smiling.
'Nonsense,' said Aylmer impatiently. 'It's your business to believe things.'
'Well, I do believe some things, of course,' conceded Father Brown; 'and therefore, of course, I don't believe other things.'
The Dagger with Wings, in The Incredulity of Father Brown, 1926
"'You see, it doesn't quite do for a man in my position to joke about miracles.'
'But it was you who said it was a miracle,' said Alboin, staring.
'I'm so sorry,' said Father Brown; 'I'm afraid there's some mistake. I don't think I ever said it was a miracle. All I said was that it might happen. What you said was that it couldn't happen, because it would be a miracle if it did. And then it did. And so you said it was a miracle. But I never said a word about miracles or magic, or anything of the sort from beginning to end.'
'But I thought you believed in miracles,' broke out the secretary.
'Yes,' answered Father Brown, 'I believe in miracles. I believe in man-eating tigers, but I don't see them running about everywhere. If I want any miracles, I know where to get them.'"
The Miracle of Moon Crescent, in The Incredulity of Father Brown, 1926
"It's part of something I've noticed more and more in the modern world, appearing in all sorts of newspaper rumours and conversational catchwords; something that's arbitrary without being authoritative. People readily swallow the untested claims of this, that, or the other. It's drowning all your old rationalism and scepticism, it's coming in like a sea; and the name of it is superstition.' He stood up abruptly, his face heavy with a sort of frown, and went on talking almost as if he were alone. 'It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense and can't see things as they are. Anything that anybody talks about, and says there's a good deal in it, extends itself indefinitely like a vista in a nightmare. And a dog is an omen, and a cat is a mystery, and a pig is a mascot, and a beetle is a scarab, calling up all the menagerie of polytheism from Egypt and old India[.]"
The Oracle of the Dog, in The Incredulity of Father Brown, 1926
Father Brown's friend Professor Openshaw, after the priest debunked the fear and mystery surrounding a book which appeared to make anyone who opened its pages vanish:
"'But you must admit the accumulation of incidents was rather formidable. Did you never feel just a momentary awe of the awful volume?'
'Oh, that,' said Father Brown. 'I opened it as soon as I saw it lying there. It's all blank pages. You see, I am not superstitious.'"
The Blast of the Book, in The Scandal of Father Brown, 1935