Magic and the Regulation of Piety

Randall G. Styers

in Making Magic

Published in print February 2004 | ISBN: 9780195151077
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835263 | DOI:

Series: AAR Reflection and Theory in the Study of Religion Series

 Magic and the Regulation of Piety

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This chapter traces scholarly debates concerning magic first through nineteenth-century theories concerning the origins of religion and then through various twentieth-century attempts by philosophers and social scientists to define the nature of religion. As intellectualized and privatized Enlightenment notions of religion came to define the appropriate forms for human relation to the supernatural, magic no longer designated idolatry, Satanism, or sin (as it had in medieval views of witchcraft and sorcery), but a new form of aberrational behavior, a delusion contravening appropriately rationalist, and largely Protestant, piety. Whether theorists have seen magic as designating a category distinct from (and external to) religion or as an internal subset of religion, magic has functioned to demarcate religion's limits and the bounds for appropriate religious behavior in modern liberal society. This chapter traces the normative views of human identity and power animating these scholarly formulations of magic.

Keywords: Enlightenment; identity; magic; origins; piety; power; religion

Chapter.  24328 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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