There have been questions raised which essentially concern the nature of belief and reality.Confusions arising from social conditioning have also distorted the idea of 'belief' and 'superstition'.Clarity is what is required in examining these matters so that some sembelance of sense may be retrieved from the amount of muck surrounding such issues.
What is belief ? I feel it is an opinion about a matter you are not sure of.The idea of having an opinion about a thing you don't know about, is as good as not admitting ignorance about it.How that 'opinion' is shaped is a messy detail, it doesnt matter.The thing that matters is by having an pre-concieved opinion about some thing a person is as good as closing all possibilities of knowing the truth for himself/herself.
The true seeker of truth doesnt 'believe', he either knows or doesn't.There is no second hand opinion, there is no belief.Belief can exist only in ignorance.Yet the real seeker will never be ashamed to admit his ignorance, and say 'I dont know', rather than pass on a 'belief' as a substitute and be merry about it.
Do you have a little finger, do you have an eye, a nose ? The answer will be yes (well, mostly !) . Do you 'know' that you have a finger, or do you 'believe' that you have a finger.Will you say, that since it written in so-and-so book that people have ten fingers, therefore i must be having a finger ? No, that would be ridiculous, wouldnt it.Even if the answer would be 'No.' it would be definitive, simple knowledge.It would never be a 'Perhaps' atleast.
That is the nature of belief, the idea of belief is ridiculous.
Then what about things that one doesnt have direct experience about, or a idea that is so abstract that it cant be measured or deduced.Then about such things it is best to say 'I dont know.' than to have a 'belief' and fool your self.
Now here is the part where illusion meets belief, that belief is therefore only an illusion of knowledge, an illusion of a person that is not willing to admit ignorance.Which is really a pity, because true knowledge starts from ignorance, never from pre-concieved ideas.One must courageous to say 'I dont know.'.
What then about 'superstition' ? A famous online encycolopedia defines Superstition as
"a credulous belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge."
Well that is what 'belief' is.
The difference between the word belief and superstition, is only superficial.The words 'superstition' being used mostly for fantastic and rationally unbelievable beliefs.
At a time in history the idea that the sun goes around the earth was a credible theory, now if someone stilly firmly believes so , then it is plainly 'superstition'.Evolution has long back discredited the arguments of creationists, and Creationism as a theory of origin will soon join the ranks of other archaic belief systems.
Considering 'religious' beliefs, it is firstly important to understand that just because it is a part of 'religion' doesnt mean that a belief is automatically free from scrutiny.That such a belief should not be tested, denied, argued against, or criticised just because it can 'hurt religious sentiments' simply points to the insecurity amongst the so called 'religious' people.Religion in itself, which was supposedly designed for peace, has caused more suffering and pain in all history, than all other things put together.This is because insane people who are anyway violent and just looking around for a cause to spill blood, love religion because it allows a Divine Sanction to their acts, which justifies war, looting, arson and deaths of innocent people.It magnifies and glorifies their acts, making it a Work of God, or whatever fancy name they decide upon.
So called 'religious' people justify their beliefs , violent, hateful or otherwise, based on their Books.Then they go on to say that they have 'proof' of the divinity of their religion, because their books say so.Well all kinds of people have their books, and all of them believe that they are correct.The Jews have their Tanakh of which the Torah is the principal part.The Christians have the Bible, which literally means 'book'.The Muslims likewise have the Qo'ran which literally means 'recitation'.The Hindus, well, have innumerable books, out of which some are easily recognizable like the Vedas and the Gita.
The Buddhists have a large cannon themselves, principally the Dhammapada.
Now even among these there are their subdivisions, and each religion has many sects.Among the large number of Christian sects, each believes that they themselves are the true followers of Christ, which they claim as the Messiah who was promised to Israel.The Muslims say the Prophet has already come.The Jews differ, saying that the Messiah is yet to come, and is neither the Prophet of the Muslims nor the Christ of the Christians, but some other person.The Hindus, subscribe to various theories right from the absolute Monism of Shankara, the Monotheism of the Upanishads, down to forms of animism practiced in tribal communities.The Buddhists on the other hand, deny the notion of any God, or of any soul (anatta), or of reality itself (shunyata).The Jains similarly deny the existence of God, but not so to the soul.
So what conclusion can one possibly make out of such varied and contradictory ideas ? Each person believes in his own book, but then it is a question of Book against Book, of my God versus your God, of my Belief versus your Belief.This is the seed of all conflict.One will say 'My book says that', the other might something completely opposite,yet another might have innumerable books to chose from, while the other may say that the book itself is an illusion, it doesnt exist.The solution to this is to keep aside your Books, which are definitely just paper and ink, and think for yourself.As a human you have intelligence , and if you dont use it, but follow something like senseless sheep, then where is the difference.
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.