Magic And Miracles (1)

Moses Delivering the Ten Commandments by William Hawkins
The Temptation of Christ by Ary Schefer, 1854

As an educator and as a casual observer of popular culture, I believe that our society is overly dependent on passive entertainment. We view more than we read. We assume more than analyze. Don’t get me wrong. If you’ve read very many of my posts in the past, you know that I love some of the entertainment that’s out there. My concern is the degree to which we are dependent on it.

In the biology courses which I teach, I emphasize the scientific method of thinking, its limits, and how this relates to our perception of reality. We currently have a problem with scientific literacy in America, but arguments which merely appear more scientific are given more widespread credibility.  I call this faux intellectualism the “culture of the scientific.” It’s more a statement of style than of content.

Additionally, our emotions influence our perception of reality. We believe in things we want to be true. Conversely, we disbelieve things we don’t want to be true. From this perspective, truth is often perceived as inconvenient, but consider the alternative. Ignorance can hurt or even kill us, and denying the existence of something doesn’t prevent it from affecting us if it’s real.

Finally, there is what sociologists term the “social construction of reality.” We tend to believe what those whom we identify with believe or what the majority of people believe, and that can sometimes get us into trouble. Metaphorically, the blind can lead the blind. Truth is not established by majority vote, and history is replete with cases involving individuals who went against the status quo and were later vindicated.

I have described a cultural mash in which our shared perception of reality is affected by at least four factors: our desire for and orientation toward entertainment, a “culture of the scientific” among the scientifically illiterate, emotional preference, and the social construction of reality. Within this context, society has grown increasingly incredulous about the existence of spiritual beings and the occurrence of miracles. This has been accompanied by a general drift away from the tenets of Judaism and Christianity. Historically, the two most prominent lines of thought in the development of western civilization have been the Greco Roman and Judeo Christian traditions.

Gods of Olympus, 1534-35 Giulion Romano
Gods of Olympus (1534-1535) by Giulio Romano
the-ascension-1801
The Ascension by Benjamin West, 1801
SchoolAthens
School of Athens by Raphael
The last supper
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

Ironically, western culture has shown an increased sympathy for Islam (with notable exceptions) and an increased interest in magic, paganism, and witchcraft even as it discards Judaism and Christianity as being irrelevant, superstitious, or worse. Please note what I am not saying. These are trends among diverse individuals who happen to exist in significant numbers. They are not the product of widespread, monolithic group think.

christianhinduspagans

Okay. This is my teaser. I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this, but I’ll pick it up again next week.

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20 thoughts on “Magic And Miracles (1)”

  1. You have made some astute observations on our culture. Unfortunately, there are many trends that are not working in favor of Christian faith and orthodoxy. Perhaps it has always been so. True Christian faith has always collided with the culture of this world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, and, yes, it is hard to communicate with people who don’t think well. I think you’ll gather from what I say in future posts that we can’t always ascribe disagreement with bad thinking, but it does greatly hamper any discussion of the topic.

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  2. Thanks for setting the stage for future discussion. I’ve been standing for the reading of the Passion for many years. Yesterday’s Passion was a participatory one for the congregation, responding as the people of the time. At this old age I must say it was the first time I read along with the reading and followed it word for word. Some would say “good story.” I will say I felt a little better for being there as I walked out with my Palms. I pray the house will not burn down in the forthcoming year. Superstitious? I was told at a very young age, fresh Palms each year, the home will not burn.

    http://wordsmith.org/words/today.html

    Apr 10, 2017
    This week’s theme
    Eponyms from Greek mythology

    A story is like a magic carpet. It can take us across oceans, over the mountains, and to exotic places. And each word in a story has its own story. Think of it as a rolled-up carpet. This week we’ll take five words from Greek mythology and unroll them and take you on a ride to the world of magical stories. ( From Wordsmith.org )

    Have a good week Professor.

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  3. Here’s a suggestion: miracles happen when God is in control. Magic is a human effort to try to be in control–to have the right words, gestures, ingredients, and the like to force God/spirits/the universe to do what we want. J.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “Truth is not established by majority vote, and history is replete with cases involving individuals who went against the status quo and were later vindicated.” This is probably your best so far, which is saying a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for checking in, and thank you for the link. Off the top of my head, I see faith as being rationally informed but with room for mystery and unanswered questions. I guess that’s why I like combining fiction with mythology. Take care.

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