the bible and magical thinking

the bible and magical thinking cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

“The Bible & Magical Thinking” by David Hayward, aka nakedpastor

What came first? The magical thinking or the bible? Do our minds crave magic and we use the bible to substantiate this? Or did the bible encourage us to start thinking magically?

Actually it’s not a very good question because the bible was written by men. Ancient men from ancient cultures where magic was just as much a part of the intellectual landscape as it is today, if not more so. No… actually I don’t think any more so because we still think magically.

True liberation from this magical thinking and using the bible to support it comes when we realize that, first of all, we are thinking magically, and second, that the bible if read a certain way supports a magical worldview.

When will we stop looking to the bible for permission to believe what we know to be true? You can’t argue with Reality. Reality always wins. The debates that continue to look for validation in the bible are hopelessly trapped in magical thinking.

About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    The Bible points us back to reality. We see through the glass darkly. And our own appetites cloud reality.

    The true reality is the one that Jesus spoke of and lived. And that we regularly reject for our own vision.

  • Gary

    I believe the Bible is a record of man’s attempt to comprehend God and understand His nature. As such when man is steeped in “magical thinking” (very concise and accurate term David) there is naturally much magic recorded in the attempt to explain what is beyond human comprehension. THAT is the reality. Not that the Earth is fixed and the sun journeys around it, or the highest mountain on the entire globe was covered with water, or that the entire Universe was created a mere 6000 years ago, etc., etc., etc.

    I agree with Steve that the Bible points us towards reality in that it points us toward a creator. (Acknowledging fully that though I accept a creator as reality…many others don’t) But the bible itself is not the reality…it is only a man made object full of “magic” as David suggests.

  • Sheila

    Man started thinking magically, the day he started thinking. We have early man worshiping the sun, the earth (for a good harvest), the Egyptians had all kinds of gods. It was so they could make sense out of their world before science brought in contradictory evidence.

  • leannemcginney

    And the rabbit is Jesus. I think the look on his face is perfect!

  • Liza

    When I stopped going to church I also stopped reading the Bible. Not because I had come to a conclusion as to the validity of it, but because I had heard for over 20 years man’s interpretation of it and just wanted to hear only from God.

    There are some scriptures that I have looked up in the original text because I do believe that the people of Israel are the olive branch, and they have preserved the Tanakh so I’m thinking that there has got to be some truth written in there. (I always did prefer the “Old Testament”).

    I see it as history, and we are always supposed to learn from history. I have never seen this angry judgemental God that a lot of these fundamentals seem to see. I always saw a God of mercy and love.

    I haven’t figured out if I totally trust the “New Testament” though. The Jews refused (and for the most part, still do) to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, so who exactly kept accurate records of Jesus? There are debates over what nationality he was, so it’s difficult to figure out what language it was originally written in. So many “traditions” have been created that it makes it even more difficult to decipher the truth.

    I have, however, discovered that there are too many people who use the Bible to back their actions-judging, accusing, admonishing, etc. I can only speak for myself when I say that I know I am guilty of this to a certain degree. I was so scared to think for myself for so long, trusting that I was being taught correctly, and felt justified in my actions. I know now that that was a terrible way to treat anyone. I wasn’t an extremist or anything, just in my mind there were judgements about others, etc. Even if it is only a thought, it is felt by others.

    I don’t believe in magic. Watching a magic show only frustrates me because I am a logical thinker and can’t figure out how they do what they do. I just know that there is no way they are actually tearing a person in two, or making a jet disappear, so I get no enjoyment out of it.

    I do, however, believe in energy. Everything around us is energy; we are energy. Mind over matter is the ability of your mind to go beyond the current circumstance. I used to be able to sustain a lot of pain with this way of thinking. Most times I didn’t feel pain because I used my mind to overcome it.

    This brings to mind the story of Peter walking on the water. Did he do so of his own ability? Or was it a miracle? Or because of faith?? I could be wrong, but if that story is true, I believe Peter was able to do so because he believed in himself. When the storm picked up he lost faith in himself, not Jesus.

    Churches don’t teach this. They teach that we are to be completely dependent on God. I can’t tell you how much frustration this brought me all the while I was in churches. I already had problems with self-esteem because of my childhood, and churches didn’t help me at all. I look back and can’t help but see how much people treat God like he’s a genie in a bottle. How they wait for a miracle. How they pray and pray and pray. What about doing? When do we get up and just do something?

    But, no. That is of Satan. If you do not do exactly as they teach, then you are following the Devil, and it’s “We will pray for you” or “do you not know what the Bible says about that?” Even though I haven’t been in church for a few years, this stuff still stings and I am working it all out.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    But this is the issue. Say with Peter walking on the water. Some are at pains to figure out how it was done. It wasn’t done. It’s a story. I just don’t believe any such thing happened.

  • Liza

    Is it possible that “walking on water” is metaphorical?

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    yes that’s what i think

  • Liza

    Ah, literal vs. metaphorical. OK. :)

  • Vinny

    I honestly still haven’t been able to completely wrap my head around Marcus Borg’s “post-critical naivete” phase of reading the bible and treating biblical accounts as being “true”, whether or not they factually occurred. Perhaps it’s because the post-modern world tries to apply the scientific method to determine the validity of sacred writings, and that debates about religion invariably propose the false dichotomy of faith vs. science.

  • Brigitte

    I talked to a Chinese Christian the other day who spoke about Christianity spreading like wildfire in China. I asked him how it happens and he said, first of all it is because of the truth about God. Confucius was a philosopher. Buddha was a philosopher… But Christianity teaches about God. But also there is a lot of caring community with Christians, there, which really is the answer to all the years of state control and communism. And apparently people confess to miracles. Personally, I haven’t seen miracles of the walking on water kind, myself, but seeing how science and technology have evolved, allowing me to sit on my sofa to send out this post on my lap top and quantum physics necessitating 13, or however in comprehensively many, dimensions, I can’t even see why we quibble about walking on water any more. It seems so 19th century to me, like Haekel’s embryos, etc. That sort of thing was once considered science.

  • Liza

    Everyone’s spiritual awareness and questioning of what they have been taught cannot be placed on a time table. We all learn different things at different times. Being in all these churches they ALWAYS went on about mircales like walking on water. I always wondered what that meant exactly, because we just don’t see people do that…and then when we do, the churces want to say it’s Satan…CONFUSING…so I was still left wondering…as well as trying to heal from the damage done at these churches. I am on my journey, and if I were to worry about “being in the right century” with my questions I will stay in the dark.

  • Suzanne

    My ideas on all off this are constantly changing and evolving. The challenge for me is to separate the magical from the mystical – and being OK with that tension.

  • Brigitte

    In my church we never go on about miracles and helps like doctors, psychiatrists are not evil, they are first article good gifts of God. But I known there are churches like you describe and I think you are right with some of the assessment.

    Faith is good. Doctors are good. God gives faith. God gives science and medicine and counselors. I’ve heard people talk as if faith and other good help is incompatible. We have brains and are meant to use them.


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