Friday, August 21, 2009

Religion and Magic

Religion is a great force and exists in all societies in one form to the other. The hold of religion in the past was very strong but with the advancement of science its hold and grip is comparatively less tight than what it used to be only few decades back. Influence of religion is felt both at individual and collective level. In our modern society relationship of religion with science has assumed great significance. Religion also means certain beliefs, rituals and ceremonies and it is essential to discuss their relationship with magic on the one hand and science on the other.
Religion and Magic:
Magic has briefly been described as a system by which an effect is sought through an unseen power. Magic has no relation with scientific arguments. As already said magic is both imitative as well as contagious. Sometimes religion and magic are confused with each other because of their stress on super-natural power and authority. But there is clear distinction between the two. According to Kingsley Davis, “In religion emphasis is placed on the subjective attitude of the participants. Feelings of awe, reverence, elevation and inspiration are experienced with reference to the holy. In magic, on the other hand, attitude is more matter of fact, being much the same kind of attitude one would hold when using ordinary technological device.” Distinguishing between the two, it is said that magic has some definite in view whereas religion has no such end in view and in fact it is an end in itself. Then another difference is that magic wants to get something direct whereas religion tries to get that indirectly i.e. through prayers. In magic there is no bond whereas religion tries to establish bond between God and worshipper. Still another difference is that whereas in magic tricks and deceits may be used in religion no such things can possibly be used. Kingsley Davis has brought another distinction between the two to the notice of the readers. According to him, “Religion brings into play an entire super-natural world with creatures in it that is capable of responding to human wishes and human sorrows. Magic may accomplish its effect through the agency of these creatures, but on the other hand it may accomplish its effects simply by automatic action.”
In magic, one finds that intellectual contents are very narrow and sometimes these are to the vanishing point. On the other hand in religion these contents are very wide because of this varied and many questions can be and are actually posed. Then another difference is that sometimes magic behaviour becomes purely commercial where as it cannot be so in the case of religious behaviour. Magic is always considered perfect and if there is any failure that is attributed not to the magic but to the procedure. But that is not the case with religious.
Religion and Science:
Relationship between science and religion is really a taxing question. It is because there are both conflicts as well as compromises between the two. There are thinkers who believe that science and religion are incompatible with each other whereas the others think to the contrary. Even very eminent sociologists and scientists are divided on the subject. H. B Barnes says “While there is an irreconcilable conflict between fundamentalist religion and modern science none exists between the latter and humanism, because the humanists frankly base their religion upon the findings of science”. A.D. White, “It is as difficult to find any type of religion which has welcomed free enquiry as it is easy to cite eminent enquirers who have executed or persecuted by religious authorities”. C.E.N Joad in his ‘The Recovery of the Belief’ says, “In other words science cannot give an account of the impact of Super-natural order in so far as it makes itself felt upon the natural, or of the result of that impact. If this is so, there seems to be no necessary reason why we should not accept the conclusion that in the last resort to complete account can be given of the natural order, which does not make allowance for the intrusion into it of the super-natural”.
Conflict between Science and Religion:
In the midst of this controversy it may be stated that both the schools of thought firmly hold their viewpoint. Every one knows that historically religion has always opposed science and free enquiry. It has not encouraged scientific knowledge. Some of the main causes of conflict are as under:
1. One of the important causes of conflict between science and religion is that boundary between the two is shifting. What was unknown till yesterday is known today. In the words of Kingsley Davis, “So long as frontier between the known and unknown is a shifting one, so long in other words as science is expanding, there will be conflict between religion and science”.
2. Then another cause of conflict is that science possesses a faith of its own. The scientific pursuit of empirical truth is opposed to religious pursuit of no-empirical truth.
3. Then another cause of conflict is that the religion is subjected to scientific analysis. In the words of Kingsley Davis, “Dependent as it is upon subjective faith, religion withers like a leaf before a flame when the scientific attitude is brought to bear on it”.
Compatibility between Religion and Science:
Those who believe that religion and science cannot be opposed to each other argue that the two are two aspects or facets of life. One aspect touches soul while other indicates material advancement. Religion gives peace to scientifically advanced and worried society. It is also said that both try to pierce into the realm of unknown. They also argue that in every society there are eminent scientists who believe in God. They therefore, feel that it is not correct to say that both are absolutely opposed to each other.
In spite of compatibility between science and religion it cannot be denied that there is conflict between the two. The religion fears that free enquiry of science may damage or shatter its image, if not wholly at least practically.


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