Magic, science and religion are relatives. Magic can be defined as a power that influences various human activities by using supernatural forces. It includes symbols, rites, taboos, and fetishes that individuals perform to achieve the desired outcome. Whereas these individuals have no control in determining the consequences of a situation or activity, their belief in the symbols, rites, taboos, and fetishes are vital to them and influence the success of the magic. To those practicing magic, it is usually suitable when the outcome of a situation is deemed dangerous or uncertain. The Trobriand islanders, for instance, used the ritual of magic to ensure a successful fishing expedition in the open sea. Science, on the other hand, differs from magic. Science is a method of inquiry and discovery.
Unlike magic, science relies on repetitive experimental procedures and measurements to determine an outcome. Scientific data can be measured, evaluated, and quantified to determine the results. Unlike magic that relies on the supernatural to influence an outcome, scientific procedures can accurately determine the development of an experiment. Religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden — beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community all those who adhere to them.” Therefore, religion can be seen as a combination of beliefs and practices and is centered on faith on supreme power.
From the above, it is evident that humans throughout history are always looking for ways to determine the outcomes of a situation. As a result, they try different approaches to arrive at a path they deem more suitable. Therefore, it is clear that magic, science, and religion are have existed to give other people the answers they desire the most, and each person or group subscribes to what suites them the most.
There are many relationships touching magic, science, and religion which are both similar and different. Focusing on the similarities, it is clear that man uses both to find answers. Whereas magic relies on the supernatural to influence an outcome, science relies on experiments, and religion relies on faith to get these answers. The three also relate as there are rituals in each case. A ritual in magic may include rites involving the drinking of substances to arouse the supernatural spirit. Science also has experimental procedures which differ in each case and can be classified as “ritual.” Religion also uses rituals as evident in modern Christianity that include baptism, confirmation, ordination, and even the anointing of the sick. Significant distinctions between the three lie in belief.
As discussed, magic believes in the supernatural while science and religion believe in results based on experiments and the Supreme Being, respectively. Secondly, the other distinctive factor originates from history. Magic and religion were some of man’s earliest practices to find solutions. Scientific development later came by ushering in the era of medical advancement. From the varying historical backgrounds of the practices, there have been conflicts amongst the practitioners of each group. Over the years, there have been other metaphors used by members of each party whereby each group deems itself more important than the other, branding the other as either backward, corrupt, or evil as members find it easy to criticize what they don’t understand.
In examining the point of view of the colonized and the marginalized peoples rather than the normative, powerful, socially dominant, and religions, our understanding of magic, science, and religion changes. It paints a clear picture that people criticize what they don’t understand. Modern society has made many feel that what they believe is accurate and superior to the beliefs and feelings of others who hold a contrary opinion. Early practices by people such as Hmong and the Native Americans are stereotyped as primitive or savage. Yet, these practices have been familiar with them for ages and were living happily before modern religion and science forced them to change their lives.
Modern society fails to see how the rights of these people were violated and their heritage robbed of them. Therefore, using othering metaphors does more damage by de -historicizing and distorting their cultures. With this, it is clear that making ancient practices used by a people look evil is an act to justify colonialism and oppression. I now understand that there is no evil in magic and traditional religion and that deeming people who subscribe to those practices backward is robbing them of their heritage. I have also learned that the three are similar in many ways and that only our viewpoints differ. With this understanding, we can create a culture of togetherness and embrace one another despite our differences in views and opinions.
When we think of religion more by practice and experience than belief and dogma, our understanding of magic, science, and religion change. With this, we will look at magic as rationality which looks to invisible forces to influence events, effect change in material conditions or presents the illusion of change as opposed to thinking that magic only dwells on evil and charms to bring harm to others and the society. Our understanding of science also chances as the goal is to look for solutions to make people live better. The view of religion also changes since it is man’s way of finding solutions and growth. From the above understanding, the three can coexist as they correlate. Like religion, magic is concerned with invisible forces, yet it causes a cause-effect relationship like science. Indigenous religions, which are the foundations of most Christian faiths, such as the Abrahamic religion, practiced all the elements seen in magic in their worships. Therefore, we should embrace a culture of inclusivity and accommodation without judgment.
In the three, rituals are used in many shapes and forms and performed in solitude or multitude. People perform rituals to achieve a comprehensive set of outcomes. In magic, for example, rituals are used to cleanse people of evil spirits. In other cultures, they are used to make it rain. Science uses rituals in many areas, such as therapy, to reduce anxiety and boost confidence. In religion, rituals are used in alleviating pain and connecting with God. Rituals affect outcomes and reinforce worldviews by impacting thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
Indigenous people have used magic, religion, and ancient science to mastery human, natural and supernatural worlds. Ancient science has been applied in medicine through traditional medicine and herbs in healing. They also used magic to predict natural world outcomes in their daily activities, such as fishing in dangerous waters. Ancient people used religion to inspire people to lead better lives, obey the law, influence healing practices, define politics, and shape family lives. The three helped the Indigenous people understand supernatural worlds. Religion influenced their understanding of life beyond death, good and evil spirits Science played a part in assisting them in understanding astrology and cosmic bodies. The indigenous people used magic to heal, chase evil spirits, and prevent calamities.
Unlike the Indigenous people, Western peoples attempted to understand mastery over human, natural or supernatural worlds by mainly focusing on science and religion. Western people used religion to comprehend better the diverse ways in which people live lives and understand reasons for the diversities even though everything was viewed from a Christian perspective. The church was pivotal in shaping the societies, families, and politics of a people. They used science in their attempted understanding of the solar system and medicine, making advancements from the works of the indigenous people.
Comparing the indigenous and the western people’s use of magic, science, and religion in their understanding of the human, natural, and the supernatural, it is evident that they used them to better society, which was the foundation of modern society. In most cultures today, all three are being practiced simultaneously. Like our ancestors, we consciously and unconsciously continue using magic, science, and religion today to determine the outcome. Therefore, creating more awareness on the three will ensure unity in the society as everyone will feel included leveling the hierarchies and social classes.
Understanding the concepts of magic, science, and religion from a different perspective makes the familiar strange and the strange familiar. Without understanding the three, it is easy to judge others of different beliefs. Understanding these make us realize our contributions to the injustices facing those of different views by the fact that we are using our familiars,’ i.e., what we have inherited, learned, and adopted throughout our lives to judge others as unfamiliar to us. On the other hand, we have learned that magic, religion, and science all serve the same purpose of finding answers and making life better. With this, what was unfamiliar to us is now very clear while the familiar becomes unclear.