Many watching Mayoiga have no doubt discerned that the characters are stupid. Not that this sort of thing is rare in the horror genre, but here it should be pointed out that much of their stupidity derives from their superstitious ideas, which plainly comes forth in that most believe Masaki to be a ghost. What is a ghost? The soul or spirit of a deceased person. It is in the nature of ghosts to be immaterial, and so they can’t be touched and don’t need food, which explains why Our Lord had St. Thomas the Apostle touch His wounds and why He ate fish before the apostles after His Resurrection. I might add that one cannot tie up or wound ghosts either, as the protagonists of Mayoiga were able to do to Masaki. The point of the above is that no Christian would take seriously the contention that Masaki was a ghost, but particular nonbelievers, lacking the education provided by the Faith, are more susceptible to superstition in this matter.
The concept of religion guarding against superstition sounds odd to us: we’re trained to think of religion as promoting superstition. Even in the days of Plutarch (c. 46 – c. 120 AD), the Romans were held to be superstitious by the Greeks because of their fervor for religion. There are even some Catholic superstitions, which often base themselves on certain acts or rituals guaranteed to gain the object of our prayers. In reality, there are several elements which much be present for a prayer to be effective, such as humility, devotion, confidence, necessity for salvation, and the will of God. Believing a pious practice will obtain one’s prayers may increase one’s confidence and devotion, but without the other three conditions, one’s prayer will not be answered. Sometimes a prayer to a lesser saint is more effective because one’s devotion to that saint is greater; but, as George MacDonald wrote, God would “instead of being a merciful Savior, be the ministering Genius of our destruction” if He answered every prayer exactly as we wished it. Not everything we want advances our salvation or is in accord with God’s will.
But, even in the case of Catholic superstitions, the remedy is found in Catholic education. All would agree that education rolls back superstition, but few realize the extent to which Christians of all stripes have advanced education. Ever since St. Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165 AD) established a school of philosophy, the West has seen religious orders copy and preserve important documents of Western civilization, the rise of universities, and the birth of science. A great many scientists, including Roger Bacon, the inventor of the scientific method, have been clerics. Fast forward to colonial and early America, and one can see that even here most colleges had a religious affiliation.
In modern times, we see that the Church has lost much influence on the culture. As a result, many superstitions flourished and are now flourishing. We saw the great harm theories of eugenics caused in the rise of Nazi Germany, and even in America with the establishment of Planned Parenthood and laws mandating sterilization. The superstition of obtaining superior quality human beings through purifying the human gene pool of undesirables also plays into the superstition that the world is becoming overpopulated. In truth, overpopulation is a myth: there is plenty of more land available and we even pay farmers not to grow all the food they can. Another one is climate change, whether it be the global cooling theories of the 1970’s or modern global warming ones. (The planet’s not nearly as warm as during the Middle Ages.) Then, there are smaller superstitions, like circumcision causing trauma.
Basically, the superstitions above derive from man believing that he has complete control over his environment, can shape his fellow human beings as he will, and need not rely upon the wisdom of others. Contrast this to the more Christian notions of God having overall control, individual responsibility for one’s actions, and the importance of humility and obedience. In effect, today’s secular education starts from the basis of religion being wrong and then attempts to decide its own morality–in much the same way as the protagonists of Mayoiga create their own definition of what a ghost is. Conversely, the medieval philosopher Bernard of Chartres famously compared himself to a man standing on the shoulders of giants. People of past ages were happy not to rely on their own wisdom and experience but to base themselves on the erudition of others. That is the proper way to advance in knowledge; otherwise, one will start as a dwarf and see little above themselves.