Difference between Magic and Religion
Father Fortea, what is the difference between magic and religion?
When we speak here of magic we are not referring to the popular art of the “magician” who pulls a rabbit out of a hat or makes things (apparently) disappear. Such “magicians” are just entertainers – illusionists – who use various techniques to trick our eyes.
In this discussion, the word magic refers to occult practices performed by witches or sorcerers. Throughout history, in many cultures, magic and religion came to be mixed to one degree or another. Nonetheless, we can see there is a clear and precise difference between these two realities.
Religion is obedience (to God); magic seeks power (over forces or beings). Religion requires faith and worship; magic seeks control (over forces or beings). Religion requires us to change our lives; magic wants to change others through manipulation.
While religion is defined by adoration, magic is defined by dominion or control over supernatural forces or entities. It does not matter whether these forces are good or evil; a witch or sorcerer seeks to harness their power. In magic, one is not dealing with the transcendent, since God by His very nature is omnipotent and therefore unable to be dominated. As such, one is dealing with powers that, no matter how powerful they may be, can be dominated by a technique.
On the contrary, in religion, the believer deals directly with God, the Holy One, and a relationship exists between God and us – much like a parent with his children – in which we submit to His will and obey His commands. This relationship sanctifies us and keeps our minds and hearts focused on heaven. Magic, on the other hand, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is “gravely contrary to the virtue of religion” because it “attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others” (CCC 2117). Witches and sorcerers seek power rather than holiness. In addition, magic requires no conversion or change in the one who practices it.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about spiritual warfare and demonology, Catholic Spiritual Direction recommends Fr. José Antonio Fortea’s excellent book Interview With An Exorcist – An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance.
Father José Antonio Fortea Cucurull is a priest, exorcist, and writer from Spain. He has published many books, some of which have been translated from Spanish into English, and has spoken at various venues in the United States. His most famous title is the Summa Daemoniaca, currently available only in Spanish. His book Exorcistica is a supplemental publication of Summa Daemoniaca.
To see many other posts on spiritual warfare and demonology, please click on the following link to see all our posts in this series: Spiritual Warfare and Demonology Posts (and Their Links) on SpiritualDirection.com
Art for this post on the difference between magic and religion: Witches’ Familiars, an image of a witch and her familiar spirits taken from a publication that dealt with the witch trials of Elizabeth Stile, Mother Dutten, Mother Devell and Mother Margaret in Windsor, 1579, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less; detail of Padre José Antonio Fortea 2017, photographed by Elgatoconbotaselgatoconbotas, 5 May 2017 own work, CCA-SA 4.0 International; both Wikimedia Commons. Cover of “Interview with an Exorcist” used with permission, all rights reserved.