Before we get started on this just a relaxing piece of Stevie Wonder:
Augustine’s view on non-Christians does differs throughout “On Christian Teaching.” His interpretation of heathens seems to be pretty general as he refers to most mankind to having heathenesque frailties such as superstition (although Dawkins would count all that St.Augustine held holy as superstition). Human institutions (which I believe to equate to other religions) are rife with superstition, all ritual is superstitious. Yet even superstitious behavior that does not equate to religious ritual is found to be offensive by Augustine. In everyday life, a stone, dog or bout coming across friends arm in arm.
A convoluted yet ‘astute’ observation of a strange superstition. This part of the book has very little to do with reading scripture, but is more just a rant about “what grinds Augustine’s gears.” He rants about Astrologers as being heathens because they grant stars names and believe that stars were once great people or God’s that walked the earth. In the modern era astrology is used in the daily lives of many Christians through sections of newspapers and online. A common ice breaker is “what is your star sign?” So Augustine would hate the modern world where people don’t step on pavement cracks in fear of breaking mama’s back. But these signs and symbols provide some use in society. Man is wired to be superstitious, it is not something you can just throw out as it is part of one’s genetic build up, a view that would likely be supported by Robert Marantz Henig. Humans adapt to make sense of things and although superstition is often incredibly silly it is often practiced as a parameter to allow something good to happen. Augustine equates some ritualistic medical practices to the devil, these superstitious practices are done with the purpose of helping people.
Then why is it bad?
It is bad because Augustine in his own Human arrogance claims that all of these are borne of the devil and of heathen practices. Unfortunately he believes that if something superstitious is done in an attempt to help someone the devil (the encompassment of all evil) must have been involved. Kudos.
Once again it may be said that modernity wins on this count.