I Want to Believe . . . But I Don’t Have To
A commenter raised the common interpretation of magic: that it relies strongly upon belief. I say this is common because it’s an idea I’ve run into before, either in the form that it only works if you believe in it, or belief somehow “powers” it. I do not subscribe to this view.
First, if magic only worked if you believed in it, why does it work for people who don’t even know it’s being done on their behalf (or to them?) I have seen this many times. People who don’t even believe in magic can benefit from its effects.
Second, if belief was the engine that changed reality, why aren’t the delusional the most powerful magicians of all. Yet they’re not: they live difficult lives and cannot easily function. One rebuttal is that perhaps they’re counteracted by the democratic union of all sane beliefs. But if that were the case, then all we need to do is point to a time in history when the vast majority strongly believed something untrue. That’s not hard.
Finally, if belief was the driving force of magic, all it would take is plenty of confidence. I know people who are extremely confident in their abilities — yet can’t manage to achieve even basic magical goals.
No, there is a real, absolute truth. It isn’t an easy truth to perceive (in fact, we can never be certain that we have perceived it; we must always leave open the possibility of being convinced otherwise). People don’t like to hear that, especially in magical circles where a sort of naive relativism is the norm. But there is truth, and belief does not change truth.