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Discourse on Civility and Barbarity


Further information: SuperstitionMagical thinking, and Magic and religion

Greek and Roman pagans, who saw their relations with the gods in political and social terms, scorned the man who constantly trembled with fear at the thought of the gods (deisidaimonia), as a slave might fear a cruel and capricious master. The Romans called such fear of the gods superstitio.[166] Ancient Greek historian Polybius described superstition in Ancient Rome as an instrumentum regni, an instrument of maintaining the cohesion of the Empire.[167]

Superstition has been described as the non rational establishment of cause and effect.[168] Religion is more complex and is often composed of social institutions and has a moral aspect. Some religions may include superstitions or make use of magical thinking. Adherents of one religion sometimes think of other religions as superstition.[169][170] Some atheistsdeists, and skeptics regard religious belief as superstition.

The Roman Catholic Church considers superstition to be sinful in the sense that it denotes a lack of trust in the divine providence of God and, as such, is a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that superstition “in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion” (para. #2110). “Superstition,” it says, “is a deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand is to fall into superstition. Cf. Matthew 23:16–22” (para. #2111)