Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, tr. Peter Winch (University of Chicago Press, 1980), P. 72:
Religious faith and superstition are quite different. One of them results from fear and is a sort of false science. The other is a trusting.
Although Winch's translation is correct, I would translate ganz verschieden as 'entirely different.' For in American English at least, 'quite' can mean either 'very' or 'entirely.' Glaube (faith) and Aberglaube (superstition) are, says Wittgenstein, entirely different. I agree. It follows that religion cannot be a species of superstition. It is not as if the genus superstition divides into religious and nonreligious species. And as Aberglaube suggests, superstition is a degenerate form of faith, which is what I have been maintaining.
But is it true that superstition arises from fear while religious faith does not arise from fear but is a kind of trust? I don't think so. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Proverbs 9:10, Psalms 111:10) A certain fear is ingredient in religious faith. So arising out of fear cannot be what distinguishes religious faith from superstition. It is worth noting that Wittgenstein himself believed and feared that he would be judged by God. He took the notion of the Last Judgment with the utmost seriousness as both Paul Engelmann and Norman Malcolm relate in their respective memoirs. In 1951, near the end of his life, Wittgenstein wrote,
God may say to me: I am judging you out of your own mouth. Your own actions have made you shudder with disgust when you have seen other people do them." (CV, p. 87)
Wittgenstein had trouble with the notion of God as cosmic cause, but had a lively sense of God as final Judge and source of an absolute moral demand.
Perhaps we could say that superstition arises from mundane fear, fear concerning the body and the things of the body, while religious faith does not arise from such fear, but from fear concerning the soul and its welfare. But this is not what Wittgenstein says. Religious faith is a trusting.
A trusting in God, but to do what? Presumably not to supply us with the material necessities of life or to save us physically from life's trials and tribulations. Perhaps one can makes sense of Wittgenstein's notion of trust in terms of his early experience of "feeling absolutely safe" recounted in a lecture on ethics from 1929. "I mean the state of mind in which one is inclined to say, 'I am safe, nothing can injure me whatever happens.'" (LE 8)
The feeling of being absolutely safe is the mystical sense that deep down, and despite appearances, everything is perfect and that one is ultimately safe and secure. But surely as indigent bodies in a world of bodies we are not safe and secure. So who is the ME that nothing can injure no matter what happens? Me as individual soul? Me as eternal Atman? If I am at bottom an individual soul confronting God my Judge, then the mystical feeling of being absolutely safe is illusory, is it not? How can I be absolutely safe as individual soul if I am to be judged and perhaps found unworthy of entering the divine presence and then either annihilated or sent to hell? If I am at ontological bottom the eternal Atman, then I am absolutely safe and nothing can touch me -- but this does not comport well with the notion of God as Judge.
Wittgenstein says that superstition is a sort of false science. That is essentially what I said when I said that a necessary condition of a superstitious belief is that it be or entail erroneous beliefs about the causal structure of the natural order. But I think we are both wrong.
Suppose a soldier is pinned down behind some rocks under withering fire. There is nothing he can do. So he prays. Supposes he prays that his life be spared by divine intervention. There needn't be any "false science" involved here in the way false science is involved in the childish belief that stepping on a sidewalk crack will break your mother's back. And yet the soldier's prayer is superstitious in the way that the prayer, "Thy will be done," is not.