Observations of Magic in Western Religion
September 25, 2007
My knowledge on neopagan ideas is limited to… well, to almost nothing. But since this became the topic for this months synchroblog, I decided to post some thoughts, or rather, some observations. These are things I have been observing in the past few months, and I think they get confirmed from time to time.
When talking about magic I’m working with a definition coming down to something like this: Magic is an attempt to manipulate spiritual forces, while religion is a surrender to spiritual forces.
In this definition one of the “purest” forms of religion would probably be Calvin on predestination. You can do nothing but surrender to God, and even the fact that you can surrender to God is pure grace, and only the those chosen by God can surrender to God. Although, I wouldn’t say that this is the possible theology which does not end up in a manipulation of God. But my observations are rather with the opposite: Where Western Christians are actually quite comfortable with ideas of magic.
Think of the Sunday school teacher that told you that your prayers won’t be answered if you don’t add “in the name of Jesus, Amen”, at the end. I remember people sharing similar ideas when I was a kid. In many cases this is no more than an attempt to win the favor of their deity.
Some of the most classic observations is those associated with the “sinner’s prayer”. In it’s most extreme form a certain wording of the sinners prayer would become prerequisite for being saved from hell and get to heaven. Wording your prayer in the wrong way, would ultimately end up in you not being saved. Kind of like we should trick God into having to do something God don’t really want to do, but since we know the magic words God is compelled to act. In a softer form the idea that some form of sinners prayer must be prayed usually comes down to the same thing.
What about the popular believe that if I give a lot of money to the church or whatever organization God will give a lot of money back to me? Or the believe that if life is treating me badly then I must have done something wrong, and changing this something wrong would make things right. Again, manipulating some spiritual forces to make my own life better. Or the believe that more prayer would yield better results, or prayer by a certain person with healing powers that would manipulate God into giving results? Or that enough faith would cause God to heal me?
Maybe I’m making a caricature of Western Christianity, and yes, many of you would know Christians who do not fit these observations. But many of you might have made similar observations. Maybe you can share some of them…
- Matthew Stone at Matt Stone Journeys in Between
- John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com
- Steve Hayes at Notes from underground on Christianity, paganism and literature
- Heathens and Pagans and Witches … oh my! at Calacirian
- Sam Norton at Elizaphanian
- Erin Word at Decompressing Faith
- Chasing the Wild Goose at Eternal Echoes
- Visigoths Ahoy! at Mike’s Musings
- Phil Wyman at Phil Wyman’s Square No More
- Steve Hollinghurst at On Earth as in Heaven
- Undefined Desire at Igneous Quill
- A Walk on the Wild Side at Out of the Cocoon
- Observations on Magic in Western Religion at My Contemplations
- Tim Abbott at Tim Abbott
- Spirituality and the Zodiac: Stories in the Cosmos at Be the Revolution
- Rejection, Redemption, and Roots at One Hand Clapping