27 May 2012

Witches, Demons And Monotheism

The Biblical injunction against witches ("thou shall not suffer a witch to live"), implicitly assumes that witches exist. Exodus, in the several trials Moses endures before the Jews leave Egypt, even acknowledges that priests of other gods have real power, albeit not as great as the God of the Hebrews. The Gospels and other books of the Christian New Testament embrace a demon possesion theory of mental illness and routinely cure mental illnesses with exorcisms, a rite retained by the Roman Catholic church and some non-Roman Catholic Christians. Indeed, the rite of exorcism has more biblical support than much of what Christians actually do ritually today. The Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament alike a full of angels. The Koran recognize the existence of Jinn, another species of metaphysical beings.

Whatever monotheism means, it does not, in the context of systems of religious belief conventionally described as monotheistic mean that God has a monopoly on the exercise of supernatural power.

It also appears that free will appears to be a freedom in these religions that is granted not just to metaphysically natural humans, but to demons and angels and witches as well. Whether it is for lack of an ability to do so, or from some ulterior and perhaps unknowable reason, God does not in practice appear to interfere with the free will of even supernatural beings very often and when God does, he seems to do so only in a focused, intentional, personal exercise of divine power by one of his Earthly agents.

The "tradition" doesn't seem to offer any particular affirmative reason that free demons who can possess the minds of humans, intervening angels, or genuinely powerful witches no longer exist, or why at least they might be much more rare now than they once were. Very few Christians or Jews in the developed world (I don't have enough personal experience at that level with Muslims or Third World Christians to know) still leave in such a demon haunted world. American Christians generally don't leap to the conclusion that a mentally ill person is likely suffering from demon possession and that someone they might encounter might be a witch who needs to be executed for witchcraft. Intuitive belief has raced far ahead of doctrine for most of us, even those who claim a Abrahamic religious affiliation.

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