On April 6, 2012, the New York Times published an essay titled “In Defense of Superstition” by Matthew Hutson.
Hutson argues that everyone believes in the supernatural to some degree. Spiritual beliefs are not only inevitable but also beneficial–even when those beliefs misrepresent reality. Nobody can can enjoy a sense of control or meaning without being at least modestly superstitious.
Hutson reports how the psychological effects of superstition improves sports performance and reduces anxiety through offering a sense of control. Superstition also enables people to cope with disaster by allowing them to attach meaning to their misfortune. Furthermore, regardless of how irrational spiritual beliefs may seem, everyone is religious to some degree. When faced with pressure, uncertainty, and loss, people expose their core beliefs, and those beliefs always include some supernatural element. Contrary to the claims of skeptics, religious people are not insane. Spiritual belief makes sane behavior possible.
Romans 1:18-32 teaches that all people know God instinctively but suppress that knowledge because they want to do wrong. Hutson points out areas where even the most ardent atheists cannot consistently maintain their self-deception. Theologians call such inconsistencies evidence of common grace, where God restrains the effects of the fall. From a Christian perspective, Hutson’s argument implies that unbelievers rely heavily on God’s common grace, even for their own sanity.