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One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. -Nietzsche

  December 27, 2008

Witchcraft Today

Westerners flatter themselves with titles such as "rational", "logical", and "scientific" as if their daily lives are not commanded almost entirely by irrational impulses and thoughtless compliance.

The facts of life are the same today as thousands of years ago and the conditions that allow man to be drawn to irrational conclusions and compel others to join him there remain as strong as ever. Even hundreds of years after persecuting witches, the same mechanisms used for witch hunts continue in the present day, using modern standards of "truth" based on self-flattering prejudices, new witchcraft experts, and loud proclamations of pseudo-knowledge about the wickedness of witches and other imaginary dangers.

After the madness of the 1692 Salem witch trials that found 29 people guilty of witchcraft and killed 20 of them for their heinous crimes, one of the witchcraft juries recanted after realizing they had no real knowledge or ability to judge whether anyone was actually a witch, saying

    "We do...hereby signify to all in general our deep sense of, and sorrow for, our errors, in acting on such evidence to the condemning of any person; and do hereby declare, that we justly fear that we were sadly deluded and mistaken; or which we are much disquieted and distressed in our minds; and do therefore beg forgiveness...and we also pray that we may be considered candidly, and aright, by the living sufferers, as being then under the power of a strong and general delusion, utterly unacquainted with, and not experienced in, matters of that nature."

The accusation of witchcraft was typically the result of an ideological or property dispute, providing an opportunity to attack an opponent and swear to invented facts. As witches were imprisoned and killed, one opponent effectively defeated another, settling petty arguments with the tactical use of force instead of anything resembling reason or truth.

The technique of labeling others remains powerful and common today. Unwelcome ideas are labeled with pejorative titles so their advocates can be dehumanized, depersonalized, and marginalized. Even "educated" people, well schooled in repeating platitudes learned from televisions and professors, often oppose ideas with nothing but ad hominem attacks on their originators. They then rally opponents of an idea who collectively say the idea is wrong because it is unpopular, i.e. a loud group opposes an idea and proclaims it unworthy of logical consideration. The same group supports a different idea because they or their televisions and teachers deem it "good", though it quickly wilts if given rational scrutiny.

The process of supporting and opposing an idea based on irrational crowd delusions is especially amusing when a great mind is summarily dismissed for expressing an unpopular opinion, as if mindless obedience to modern trends carries more weight than thoughts a genius might have considered carefully for decades. Rather then dispute the facts or reasoning of an idea, the true heirs of witch hunts label a person or idea, gather witnesses to testify their personal biases against the accused, and seek resolution by settling the matter with unjust force. The accusers enjoy the privilege of being taken seriously, preventing a hundred false assumptions from being challenged. It is really evil to hold an "erroneous opinion"? Is there any evidence that casting spells is even possible? If someone flew through the air or turned another person into an animal, does an enemy's claim of this make it believable? Should having an opinion contrary to authorities be enough reason to punish someone, especially if they make a convincing argument for being more correct?

The war against modern day witches continues the tradition of censorship seen previously in churches and royalty that protected their power by controlling which ideas could be expressed. The role of censors has since been largely outsourced to superstitious citizenry championing the masses and offended by any truth contrary to the superstitious ideals of the day.

Just as the books on a church's blacklist or the people exiled from a nation tend to be unusually interesting and thoughtful, so too are the people attacked today with labels. A few of humanity's benefactors try to inform us about popular but erroneous delusions, for which their reward is becoming a personal target and enduring tedious name calling from censors intent on protecting pleasant lies from being seen in their true light.

If Socrates lived again today he would again be attacked for offending small minded officials. Voltaire would be exiled, imprisoned, and slandered; Galileo censored and called immoral by a superficially different mass of superstitious opponents.

Instead of tolerating campaigns enforcing the dogma of the irrational, we should point out how modern day crusaders and witch hunters instigate elaborate battles to defend lies, superstitions, errors, and illusions. Though they often succeed in imprisoning witches and silencing wizards, they are acting with ignorance and malice as they repeat history.

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