Not all atheists are superstitious.... the very thoughtful die-hard, hang-on-till-we-go-extinct ones don't tend to be. But Ms. Hemingway has her finger on a pulse that I find as a growing trend in American culture among the masses.
There is a curiously finger-pointing at religion in our culture, but not just any religion. It's the "Christian" religion that keeps getting put into the boxing ring, stuffed with straw, sans boxing gloves. And when it falls down it gets propped up again for another round. So Jesus is rejected as irrelevant, not because good evidence to follow him is lacking, but because he can be labeled as 'religious' (which connotes 'private' and 'irrelevant'). Then all sorts of strange things follow.
This article, "Look Who's Irrational Now," which I found this afternoon in my weekend edition of the WSJ, speaks to a wide-ranging, growing disease of American unreason.
Jonalyn and I find as we engage with media, in our travels, in our speaking and writing, that G. K. Chesterton was right: Those who say they believe in nothing are very susceptible to believing in anything.
I am wondering if being superstitious will one day be widely accepted as 'normal' and not as an insult. If thoughtfulness and evidence will become the strange thing; if science will one day be ignored as it gets in the way of what we want and what we fear.
For all scientific and technological age we boast, modern humans have become a peculiar breed. We use technology to suit our passions but find irrelevant the very things technology stands on: a 'real world.'
Today, we see superstition poking out its head in phrases like 'spiritual, but not religious,' which usually amounts to an amalgamation of Eastern thought mixed in with Western productivity. Many are prone to believe the universe actually gives you things if you just desire them (like "The Secret") or that God is an impersonal force and we need to reach toward an enlightened consciousness (like in "The New Earth"). And if you hang around this boutique religion long enough, you'll also find out they hi-jack Jesus into a Buddhist-believer, offering us a 'Christ-consciousness' so you can achieve your full potential. Your material prayer flags of various colors will be caught in the wind and blow spiritual prayers across the countryside (and you won't have to do the hard work of encountering a real God and bringing your petitions)....
All that to say, you should read this article. It is the most succinct explanation I have found of this issue that we are seeing daily of irrational superstition replacing a rational look at the supernatural.
And these superstitious attitudes are very much in the church too. We are secularists about faith and superstitions about prayer. We think Jesus is about heaven and his making life easier and we rarely get a larger picture of the heavenly invasion of the Kingdom of God into the kingdoms of men to set things right-side-up. We forget that gratitude is not first a feeling in the Bible, as it is in "The Secret," but an action toward a larger Person who alone has the ability to give all good gifts. We fear radical love (it might make people feel validated in their sin) and we fear radical unity (it might make people feel validated in their doctrine)....
Jonalyn and I are working on a forthcoming book on this topic of making the most of spiritual small-talk in today's world by helping the church weed through superstitious ideas in our own lives, and engaging one another with a robust view of a Jesus who is spiritual on one hand and deeply human on the other. And that's, to me, is the only rational way forward... even rational enough for atheists to consider.