The Rise of the Witches

I've been doing a deep dive into witchcraft lately. I'm discerning if I want to write a book about witchcraft or devote a long, in-depth blog series to the subject.

You might be wondering, "Why witchcraft?"

Three reasons. 

First, the main subject of my latest book Hunting Magic Eels focused on the rising rates of unbelief in our culture--skepticism, agnosticism, and atheism. But as I point out in the book, a lot of the people turning away from organized religion (the Nones) aren't opting for hardcore atheism. Most of them are turning toward alternative spiritualities. Paganism, particularly, is on the rise. As I say in Hunting Magic Eels, paganism is back. And witchcraft most especially. For example, see this and this and this. And if you didn't know, WitchTok is a huge, huge thing.

All that to say, while I do discuss paganism in Hunting Magic Eels, I spend most of the book talking about unbelief and skepticism. But I'm wondering now if I focused on the smaller of the two trends, having focused on atheism and scientism rather than upon paganism and witchcraft.

Second, I think white male church leaders, like me, have had a blind spot here. So I'm trying to correct that. To be simplistic about it, atheism is mainly a white guy problem. And since many preachers are white guys, they tend to focus on what they and their peer group struggle with. Witchcraft, by contrast, is big among young women. A richer and more comprehensive look at modern trends in religious belief has to attend to these sorts of gender differences. Preachers know how to talk to atheists. I don't think many would know how to talk to a witch. 

Third, as pointed out by Tara Isabella Burton in her book Strange Rites, modern witchcraft may be more of a political than metaphysical movement as a reaction to patriarchal structures in the world and in the church. Witchcraft is as much political resistance as religious practice. And if that's so, the church should be listening. The biggest appeal of witchcraft for women is empowerment, which places witchcraft in a critical posture toward patriarchal expressions of Christianity. Going forward, if the church wants to appeal to women, especially among the younger generations, it needs to attend to the political critique of the witchcraft community.

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