Archive for May 7th, 2014

As a pagan, do you believe in magic and psychic powers?  If so, what are your views on love spells, sex spells, tantra, etc.?

superstitionIt sometimes confuses (or even upsets) people to find out that I have some irrational beliefs, but all humans do.  Even the most vocal atheists and dedicated skeptics have some things they accept on faith or because they want to; for example, a couple of years ago there was a group called “Atheism Plus” which insisted its members embrace neofeminist dogma.  It could even be said that the principle of self-ownership upon which classical liberalism (modern libertarianism) rests is an article of faith, since there is no way to “prove” that such a principle exists or is “good” for the human species in some concrete way.  But in the end, self-ownership is a moral principle, not a scientific one; it cannot be “proven” in the same way as the existence of electromagnetism can be.  The moral difference between a good skeptic and an “Atheism Plus” style hypocrite is that while the former recognizes he might himself have some irrational beliefs, he has no right to impose them on others.  Furthermore, the wise person recognizes that because different people have different irrational beliefs, it’s probably best to keep them out of most conversation with strangers (the old “avoid religion and politics” rule).  The only exception is the self-ownership principle, because it’s the one irrational belief which allows our modern idea of manners to even exist; refusing to accept that every person is the “captain of his soul” opens the door to violence and coercion, which makes polite discourse impossible.  Can you have a truly polite conversation with a judge in his courtroom, or a cop anywhere at any time?  Of course not, because in both cases the “official” wrongly believes his view of reality is the “correct” one, and that he has the “right” to use violence to enforce that view upon everyone else.  Furthermore, he is backed by the vast and brutal machinery of the state, which will uphold his use of force no matter how arbitrary, excessive and immoral it may be.  The moral individual, on the other hand, accepts that everyone has the right to his own thoughts; he just doesn’t have the right to implement them in a way that infringes upon the equal rights of everyone else.  There’s nothing innately wrong with a personal feeling or belief that sex work is bad or sinful or whatever; it only becomes wrong when the one who believes it employs armed thugs to enforce that belief on other individuals.

Rhine cardsMany times in my life, I have experienced events that I cannot explain unless psychic phenomena and deities of some sort (though not anthropomorphic ones) exist.  I don’t believe in magic per se, because I don’t believe thought can affect physical reality.  In fact, I do not believe that even the gods can affect matter; as I have often said, “God cannot stop a nail from puncturing your tire, but She can move the heart of a passing motorist to stop and help you fix it.”  In other words, gods, prayer and “magic” (if you want to call it that) act only within the brain and have no power outside of it, nor do they have any effect on free will.  There is no “magical” way to “make” a person do anything; all psychic forces (including gods) can do is to “poke” his mind and create an urge.  But just as he has the power to resist the urges caused by the smell of delicious food, the sight of a beautiful woman or the presence of a drawer full of money, so he also has the power to resist the “push” of psychic forces or divine inspiration (though in my experience it’s very foolish to do the latter).  Given all this, there is no way at present to empirically demonstrate the existence of either psychic powers or deities; due to my own personal experiences I believe in those things for myself, but I don’t care if anyone else believes in them, nor will I waste my time trying to convince others of their existence.  Furthermore, I would oppose any laws based upon my (or anyone else’s) irrational beliefs; laws should be based on facts, not faith, even were that faith to be accepted by the entire human race save one.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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