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What Is The Difference Between Magic And Religion?

April 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Fr. Fortea, Magic, Occult, Spiritual Warfare

Difference between Magic and Religion

Father Fortea, what is the difference between magic and religion?

When we speak here of magic we are not referring to the popular art of the “magician” who pulls a rabbit out of a hat or makes things (apparently) disappear. Such “magicians” are just entertainers – illusionists – who use various techniques to trick our eyes.

In this discussion, the word magic refers to occult practices performed by witches or sorcerers. Throughout history, in many cultures, magic and religion came to be mixed to one degree or another. Nonetheless, we can see there is a clear and precise difference between these two realities.

Religion is obedience (to God); magic seeks power (over forces or beings). Religion requires faith and worship; magic seeks control (over forces or beings). Religion requires us to change our lives; magic wants to change others through manipulation.

Magic and religion


While religion is defined by adoration, magic is defined by dominion or control over supernatural forces or entities. It does not matter whether these forces are good or evil; a witch or sorcerer seeks to harness their power. In magic, one is not dealing with the transcendent, since God by His very nature is omnipotent and therefore unable to be dominated. As such, one is dealing with powers that, no matter how powerful they may be, can be dominated by a technique.

On the contrary, in religion, the believer deals directly with God, the Holy One, and a relationship exists between God and us – much like a parent with his children – in which we submit to His will and obey His commands. This relationship sanctifies us and keeps our minds and hearts focused on heaven. Magic, on the other hand, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is “gravely contrary to the virtue of religion” because it “attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others” (CCC 2117). Witches and sorcerers seek power rather than holiness. In addition, magic requires no conversion or change in the one who practices it.


Editor’s Note:  To learn more about spiritual warfare and demonology, Catholic Spiritual Direction recommends Fr. José Antonio Fortea’s excellent book Interview With An Exorcist – An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance.

Father José Antonio Fortea Cucurull is a priest, exorcist, and writer from Spain. He has published many books, some of which have been translated from Spanish into English, and has spoken at various venues in the United States. His most famous title is the Summa Daemoniaca, currently available only in Spanish. His book Exorcistica is a supplemental publication of Summa Daemoniaca.

To see many other posts on spiritual warfare and demonology, please click on the following link to see all our posts in this series: Spiritual Warfare and Demonology Posts (and Their Links) on


Art for this post on the difference between magic and religion: Witches' Familiars, an image of a witch and her familiar spirits taken from a publication that dealt with the witch trials of Elizabeth Stile, Mother Dutten, Mother Devell and Mother Margaret in Windsor, 1579, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less; detail of Padre José Antonio Fortea 2017, photographed by Elgatoconbotaselgatoconbotas, 5 May 2017 own work, CCA-SA 4.0 International; both Wikimedia Commons. Cover of “Interview with an Exorcist” used with permission, all rights reserved.

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About Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea

Father José Antonio Fortea is not only an exorcist, but also a writer, and parish priest. He once thought he would lead what he has termed ordinary life as an attorney in Madrid, much as his father did before him, but sensed instead a vocation to the priesthood in his adolescent years. A theology graduate of Navarre University in Spain, Father Fortea wrote a thesis there on exorcism. He has been a practicing exorcist for several decades.

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  • Patricia Bustamante

    I love this article! So many people are really confused. They don’t understand many things about the Roman Catholic Church and they are so wrong in their belief system. I have to say that if someone has something to say about an institution, he/she should find out first all about it. I love my church and my new belief and I am very happy to have come to understand it! 🙂

  • Sandra

    I am wondering can anyone tell me if witches … (Seen one on same website as Fr Keating (Centering Prayer, Contemplative Outreach) can they affect people spiritually using Centering Prayer from afar. E.g here in Ireland. I know some people are adamant that CP Is not New Age? Hope this question makes sense as I worry what they are opening up to.

    • Dear Sandra ­ you have seen a Witch on Fr. Keating’s web site? Can you give me the link?

      • Sandra

        Yes. Just gone to bed Dan so do it tomorrow.

        • Sandra

          Dan, I would like answer to first question. Any takers.

          • What is the question?

            Sent from my iPad

      • Sandra

        This is the site that he is on with

        Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki

        Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki is
        director of The Servants of the Light School in England, and has taught
        thousands of students in the esoteric path. A third generation occultist, she
        is author of 17 books, including The Shining Paths and The Ritual
        Magic Workbook.

        Related Content

        Magic: The Sacred Science with Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki

        You will see Fr Arico who
        Has spreading CP with fr Keating in IRELAND since 1995 and I have told you just
        how much that this has increased since then. All the (Universal
        Spiriters) Buddhists names are there – David Fanette, Ken Wilbur,
        Here Fr Keating speaks of Esoteric (Part 2) Christianity – A new Language for God And R.

        The group lands themselves to a publication called Sounds True (I wonder who owns that site?) On the same site with them is an English 3rd generational occultist see below.

  • Guest

    Hi. I am a regular and thankful lurker on this site.
    When I Saw this Article, And Your question, Sandra, memories from last summer Came Flooding Back. I had run smack Into a sudden major life change and on the spur of the moment signed up for a weekend retreat, that I mistakenly thought was going to be a silent retreat, as it was listed as ” praying without words.”
    That very weekend, this site ran a 3 Part Series (just for me It protected me at the very moment when I needed it… A belated thank you!.)
    The retreat was presented by a Catholic nun at a retreat center run by other Catholic
    nuns, so I thought I would be in good hands… but I was so wrong… and I am thankful for the strengthening I received to abstain from participating in the “prayer” that was being taught.
    Things were getting too new-agey for me. However, the presenter tied a Catholic-ribbon around every little aberration, calming any fears of, “should I be doing this?”
    – Prayer Labyrinths are on Cathedral floors, (Chartres)… so they are perfectly Catholic
    – Mudras and other Eastern prayer postures… well, look at old icons… Jesus is shown displaying them… they “must be Ok, Too!”
    – Energy Healing was covered, I forget justification For That One…)
    – The final segment was “Kything PRAYER”
    Here is a definition from a site that was exposing it :
    “Kything Prayer.
    This is a way of calling up another person’s spirit to enter you, so that you can use their energy and gifts for yourself. You can also let others “centre” into your spirit to call your spirit to them. You can do this with saints as well as others who are dead and it’s all done in the name of Christian Prayer.”

    My presenter spoke of “giving or receiving a gift”, while the examples she gave were all about exerting one’s self-will on a situation, to receive a benefit. Never “Thy will be done…”
    Inviting others’ Spirits (Jesus and His Blessed Mother, excepted) to enter my soul seemed more than a little dangerous to me, so up goes my hand and out came, “Doesn’t the CCC caution us against stuff “like this?” And in response she tried first said she doesn’t read that book… (I hope that set bells off for others) and then said, think of it like the communion of saints…

    Reading this post on magic, specifically the distinction Adoration vs. Control further clarified things for me.

  • Alycia Rice

    This is a bit biased lol.

    • LizEst

      Not sure what you mean, Alycia Rice. Father Fortea is a world-renowned exorcist. He knows what he is speaking of here.

      • Alycia Rice

        Never once did I say he was wrong you have interpreted my comment incorrectly, I know its hard to understand comments but no where did I say he was wrong. I came here for research and left thinking this article was biased… and it was based off the consistent description of magic being negative. Great write up but I didn’t like the vagueness and brushed off-ness of magic in certain parts. Thanks for the read bye now. Not here to belitte anyone.

        • LizEst

          Alycia Rice — Thanks for getting back to us. Didn’t say you said he was wrong. Would you kindly please explain what you meant by “This is a bit biased lol.”? Thank you so much.

        • LizEst

          Thanks for your further explanation. Magic is wrong. And, the Church teaches that. Paragraphs number 2115 through 2117 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church address divination and magic. You can read about it in the link here:

          Hope that helps…and God bless you!

  • LizEst

    Le Hoang – Magic and religion, among God’s people, have never been approved by the Lord. That some people practiced magic, when it was forbidden, does not mean it was accepted. The references you use are taken out of context, using biblical citations to proof text the Bible. Please see our Frequently Asked Questions here, especially number 4.14

    A good place to learn more about magic and other such things is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church within the section on the First Commandment about having “no other gods before me”. There you will read about superstition, idolatry, divination, magic, irreligion, atheism, etc, and what the Church has to say about them.

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