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They were to a large extent eliminated by the preaching of Christianity ; but so deep-rooted was the tendency to which they gave rise that many of the ancient practices survived, especially among peoples just emerging from barbarism.It was only by degrees, through the legislation of the Church and the advance of scientific knowledge, that the earlier forms of superstition were eradicated.
Cicero also drew the distinction: "Superstitio est in qua timor inanis deorum, religio quæ deorum cultu pio continetur", i.e.As regards formal guilt, this is often reduced to the vanishing point by the prevailing credulity and common practice of the period.The worship of imaginary saints or relics, devotion based upon false revelations, apparitions, supposed miracles, or false notions generally, is usually excusable in the worshipper on the ground of ignorance and good faith ; but there is no excuse for those who use similar means to exploit popular credulity for their own pecuniary profit."Superstition is the baseless fear of the gods, religion the pious worship." According to Isidore of Seville (Etymolog., l. iii, sent.), the word comes from superstatuo or superinstituo : "Superstitio est superflua observantia in cultu super statuta seu instituta superiorum", i.e."observances added on to prescribed or established worship"] is defined by St.Ignorance of natural causes leads to the belief that certain striking phenomena express the will or the anger of some invisible overruling power, and the objects in which such phenomena appear are forthwith deified, as, e.g. Conversely, many superstitious practices are due to an exaggerated notion or a false interpretation of natural events, so that effects are sought which are beyond the efficiency of physical causes.
Curiosity also with regard to things that are hidden or are still in the future plays a considerable part, e.g. But the chief source of superstition is pointed out in Scripture : "All men are vain, in whom there is not the knowledge of God : and who by these good things that are seen, could not understand him that is, neither by attending to the works have acknowledged who was the workman: but have imagined either the fire, or the wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the great water, or the sun and moon, to be the gods that rule the world" ( Wisdom 13:1-2 ).
[From supersisto , "to stand in terror of the deity " (Cicero, "De Nat.
deorum", I, 42, 117); or from superstes , "surviving": "Qui totos dies precabantur et immolabant, ut sibi sui liberi superstites essent, superstitiosi sunt appellati", i.e.
But the tendency itself has not wholly disappeared.
Side by side with the Rationalistic philosophy and the rigorous scientific methods which are characteristic of modern thought, there are still to be found various sorts of superstition.
With regard to the subjective guilt attaching to them it must be borne in mind that no sin is mortal unless committed with full knowledge of its grievous wickedness and with full deliberation and consent.