Chronic Manatism: Boy Wonder and His Invisible Magic Being
Readers will recall how offended Paul Manata has become whenever I use the word 'magic' in reference to his god-beliefs. He repeated over and over that my expression "invisible magic being" is "pejorative" while referring to me as a "monkey," "bafoon," "baboon," "hack," "joker," "fool," "goof ball," etc., which Paul apparently does not consider to be pejorative expressions. Beyond that, Paul did make some meager efforts to challenge the appropriateness of the expression "invisible magic being" when used to refer to his god, but these have proved to be, well, rather meager.
I had written:
This source [a dictionary] also acknowledges the association of magic with "the supernatural." Christians want us to believe in "the supernatural," so it seems they should welcome the use of the adjective 'magic' when speaking of their god and other invisible beings.
There’s plenty of ways to understand “supernatural” and only one of them is “magical.”
Paul's statement here is sufficient to concede the whole point to me, for he acknowledges that there is a kinship between "the supernatural" and magic, which is what I have been maintaining all along. As I had showed, "magic is associated with that which is alleged to be supernatural." Since Paul acknowledges here that this is valid at least some of the time, then he's basically handed the issue to me in full, whether he likes it or not.
Regardless, I am only speaking for what I personally mean by 'magic' when I use the expression "invisible magic being" to refer to religious fixtures, like the Christian god, demons, devils, angels, etc. Magic essentially means of, relating to or possessing supernatural power. So in my view it is applicable to anything that is said to be "supernatural" or exemplified by what is said to be "supernatural" power.
Now the Christian god is certainly thought, by Christians anyway, to possess supernatural powers. So by my definition, 'magic' suitably applies to the Christian god, given how its own self-appointed spokesmen have described it. According to Christianity, it's clear that demons, devils and angels are also thought to have supernatural powers, though in lesser degree or capacity. Demons, for instance, can strike otherwise healthy people with disease by inhabiting their bodies or causing some other kind of mischief (which is never explained) which can in turn affect the human body adversely. Angels, too, have supernatural powers. According to the bible, they can visit men in their dreams (and yet they're not themselves supposed to be dreams). It all certainly seems very magical to me.
Paul also writes:
Bethrick totally fails to make any apology for equating “magic” with the “supernatural” in the sense that Christians and philosophers around the globe mean it.
If by 'apoplogy' here we mean a defense of my usage of the word 'magic' to apply to the Christian god, then I have more than met the challenge that has been brought against me. Magic is associated with the supernatural (indeed, I use it specifically to refer to supernatural power), and the Christian god is said to be supernatural. So the shoe fits. But Paul prefers to go around barefoot.
Besides, I was not attempting to speak on behalf of “Christians and philosophers around the globe” and what they might mean by ‘magic’ (as if they were monolithic in viewpoint or necessary to appease). I was asked to explain my use of the word ‘magic’, and I did just that. And it fits. I don’t need to run to “Christians and philosophers” for their approval for my use and meaning of the word ‘magic’.
Again, it is important to remember why I use the term that Paul finds so discomforting. As I had written:
I use the term 'invisible magic being' because it is open-ended. That is my primary purpose in using it: it is intended to cover any postulated mystical entity which is said to exist beyond the reach of our senses…
In response to this, Paul wrote:
No, you use it to make fun of theists.
No, I use it because it is open-ended, just as the concept 'man' includes all men who exist now, have existed in the past and will exist in the future. The fundamental difference is that the concept 'man' denotes actual things, and its basis is objective fact rather than projected imagination. But the open-ended range in reference is a trait that both share due to their conceptual nature. The expression "invisible magic being" can be used to refer to any allegedly supernatural being, whether Christian or otherwise.
But I take Paul’s statement here as evidence that his feelings are hurt when I use the expression ‘invisible magic being’. That’s why he’s so sore at me. Christians can’t stand it when non-believers do not take his god-beliefs as seriously as they do. At any rate, what would be wrong with making fun of people who believe in invisible magic beings? Does Paul think that I should respect them for their folly? It’s funny to me that grown adults carry on with their imaginations the way they do. It’s certainly sad, but it’s funny, too.
Besides, if my primary objective were "to make fun of theists," I'd just call them names, like Paul does to me.
Bethrick can’t debate, so he resorts to making fun.
What exactly am I supposed to debate about?
Then Paul shows that he really does want me to stop using the expression “invisible magic being” when referring to his god:
You can stop now Dawson;
Yes, I do have that option. I also have the option of continuing to use it. And since it performs the task that I want it to, I see no reason not to continue using it. Paul’s tender feelings are not sufficient to persuade me to change my mind on these things. I'm confident that, with effort, Paul can get over it if he wants to. Of course, it would help if he dissolved his emotional investment in Christianity. But then who would provide such entertainment?
Paul shows that he puts a lot of stock in the herd mentality when he writes:
we are definitely all laughing at you.
Again Paul speaks about himself and what he values when he makes statements like this, and projects them onto unidentified nobodies whom we're supposed to imagine standing behind him in unanimous agreement. He assumes that others put as much stock in the approval of others that he does. But Paul needs to understand something about me on this point: if a group of people who believe in invisible magic beings are laughing at me because I do not believe in invisible magic beings, I'm happy to consider the source. The group-giggle that Paul alludes to here is something he values, because he’s so desperate for the approval of others.
Now recall that Paul had also denied that there are any natural laws. Indeed, a person seeking to defend belief that reality is dominated by magic would need to find a way to discount the fact-based principles that scientific minds have formed to identify certain regularities and constants observed in reality. The reason for this is two-fold: for one, the affirmation of regularities and constants in nature makes it harder to defend the doctrine of miracles (i.e., magical incursions which defy and overturn those regularities and constants), and two, the affirmation of regularities and constants implies an autonomous universe, i.e., one which is not under the control of an invisible magic being. In order to justify his rejection of natural law, Paul quoted Bahnsen on the matter. (Paul did not identify where exactly he got the quote, but I'm very glad he quoted it!) In that quote, Bahnsen affirms the following:
God personally created and now personally directs all the affairs of the world.
This is the cartoon universe premise in a nutshell. As I had suspected, Paul rejects natural laws because he conceives of the world in a manner analogous to a cartoon whose every detail and action is controlled by a master cartoonist which exists independent of the cartoon world in which Paul exists. Paul is simply a cartoon character – Boy Wonder – doing what his cartoonist wants him to do.