We Must Keep the Signal Fire Burning
I was thinking recently. I was thinking about a novel I read - one that most of us have read, probably long ago. I was thinking of Lord of the Flies.
Because I'm a huge heathen godless bastard, I was struck with how much the actions of the boys on the island mirrored religious vs. non-religious interaction in the world. Piggy was the only one on the island who actually thought and had solid reasoning for what he said and yet he was ridiculed for being fat and wearing glasses. No one save for Ralph later in the story took him seriously. Ralph, the leader early on, had the sane idea to keep a signal fire burning to ensure being seen in the event of a passing ship, thus increasing the chance of being rescued. Some of the boys, however, were more concerned with "having fun" and hunting.
What happened eventually, after the ominously foreshadowing mention of becoming afraid of humans, was that the Hunters became focused on "the Beast" and appeasing it with the now-famous pig's head on a stick. They painted themselves and started doing meaningless rituals (dancing to stave off the rain and mock-hunting a member of the tribe before a hunt) instead of being practical and making shelters or keeping the fire going.
That would be fair enough, but what happened after that is what is so frightening. They started to eliminate their competition. The end of the novel with the Hunters stalking Ralph and setting the island on fire to burn him out is a grim reminder of how "magical thinking", when set ablaze in groups of easily led followers, can turn deadly.
Do a dance. Leave an offering. Those people don't agree with us, don't think that our group is the best? Tomorrow we'll get 'em. Tomorrow we'll set the whole place on fire and if we die in the effort, so be it.
Magical thinking scares me a lot.