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The theological virtue of religion stands midway between the two.
(II-II:92:1) This division is based upon the various ways in which religion may be vitiated by excess.
So far as this includes the worship of things other than God, it is not only an essential part, but the foundation also of the Positivistic system (Comte), which sets up humanity as the object of religious worship (see POSITIVISM).
Nor can Pantheism, which identifies God and the world, lead consistently to any but superstitious practices, however it may in theory disclaim such a purpose.
Under the head of vain observances come all those beliefs and practices which, at least by implication, attribute supernatural or preternatural powers for good or for evil to causes evidently incapable of producing the expected effects.
The number and variety of superstitions appear from the following list of those most in vogue at different periods of history: The source of superstition is, in the first place, subjective.
Worship becomes indebitus cultus when incongruous, meaningless, improper elements are added to the proper and approved performance; it becomes idolatrous when it is offered to creatures set up as divinities or endowed with divine attributes.
Divination consists in the attempt to extract from creatures, by means of religious rites, a knowledge of future events or of things known to God alone.
A layman performing priestly functions, a pardoner selling spurious indulgences, a fanatic devotee inventing false miracles and answers to prayers in order to introduce or spread his own favourite devotion, wholesale believers in supernatural apparitions, visions, revelations, which serve no good purpose -- all these are guilty of superstition, at least material.
Thomas (II-II:92:1) as "a vice opposed to religion by way of excess; not because in the worship of God it does more than true religion, but because it offers Divine worship to beings other than God or offers worship to God in an improper manner".
Superstition sins by excess of religion, and this differs from the vice of irreligion, which sins by defect.
Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath . It is also against the positive law of the Church, which visits the worst kinds of superstitions with severe punishments, and against the natural law inasmuch as it runs counter to the dictates of reason in the matter of man's relations to God.
Such objective sinfulness is inherent in all superstitious practices from idolatry down to the vainest of vain observances, of course in very different degrees of gravity.