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A moderate’s lament June 10, 2010

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Religion, Superstition.

I don’t understand how the world has come to this.

Why do people insist on going to extremes? Why must they be so literal-minded? Can’t they see that the best of all worlds is to be found at the middle ground? Alas, it seems that fewer and fewer people appreciate the wisdom of taking a moderate position on witchcraft.

On the one hand, I am horrified to continuously see women burned at the stake for engaging in black magic, and children’s nails torn off for use in potions. The fundamentalists who endorse such practices have misunderstood the core principles of witchcraft, which is really about healing and peace and connecting with nature. There may be black witches as well as white witches, but we should all be free to live our lives without coercion, no matter what it says in the Book of Shadows. (I don’t mean to question the unique wisdom of that eternal moral guidebook, but it’s possible that some of its precepts must be reinterpreted before applying them to today’s world.)

On the other hand, I see more and more people deciding that they want nothing whatsoever to do with the occult, and that is a shame. They may be put off by the behavior of some of the more extreme believers in witchcraft, but why throw out the baby with the bathwater? The Wiccan tradition has many positive teachings that help strengthen families and unite communities. I don’t mean to imply that a life without witchcraft is worthless or insignificant, but it is certainly missing out on something of value.

Some argue that witchcraft is unscientific, but it merely represents a complementary way of looking at the world, focusing on magic and mystery and the deeper meaning of it all. I don’t claim to be 100 percent certain that witches exist, but nobody has proved that they don’t exist, either. The Wiccan tradition goes back thousands of years, and inspires many people to live rich, meaningful lives. So where’s the harm?


1. david resnick - June 10, 2010

Satire aside, the author’s piece would be strenghtened if he could
provide some substance to the claim that “the Wiccan tradition has many positive teachings that help strengthen families and unite communities.” The enduring, ethical substance of the tradition would be an important benchmark, well aside from strenghtening families and uniting communiteis which, after all, the Taliban does quite well.

Ezra Resnick - June 11, 2010

The point is that even if a tradition does contain some positive elements, that doesn’t make the beliefs of the tradition true, and it doesn’t guarantee that holding such beliefs will be harmless. If there is no such things as witches, we’d be better off not believing in them, no matter how wonderful the associated tradition. We can keep the “enduring, ethical substance,” while getting rid of the divisive, superstitious, irrational beliefs.

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