Consider how accusations of witchcraft in history (including collusion with Satan and use of supernatural powers for evil reasons) may be similar to ways that some people are characterized today....

Consider how accusations of witchcraft in history (including collusion with Satan and use of supernatural powers for evil reasons) may be similar to ways that some people are characterized today. Can you think of any contemporary examples? Why have such accusations happened historically and why do they happen today?

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Stephen Holliday | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Examples of the persecution of witches in modern times is surprisingly  close at hand.  For example, according to one well-known source, in Saudia Arabia in   2006, a woman accused of witchcraft was executed--despite the fact that Saudia Arabia has no legal definition of witchcraft.  In 2009, another Saudi woman was accused of witchcraft and beheaded.  Since 2003, approximately 730 people have been killed in witch hunts across the Indian continent.  In Africa, specifically, in the Congo as of 2006, between 25,000-50,000 children were accused of witchcraft and ejected from their homes.  I do not use these examples to cast aspersions on these governments but to point out that belief in witchcraft as an evil force in the world is alive and well in certain cultures.

In most industrialized countries, belief in witchcraft, and especially the physical presence of Satan as its guiding force, disappeared from most belief systems that prevailed from the Middle Ages through the 17thC in Europe and America.  But before these beliefs disappeared, they had horrible results.   Clearly, the witch hysteria that gripped the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 1690's, which resulted in nineteen executions and many more jail sentences (often fatal), was created by the Puritan belief that Satan is an ever-present force in the daily lives of individuals, constantly tempting them to explore evil.  Even worse, the concept of spectral evidence, that is, the belief that a person can be in two places at once, helped convict several people of harming others while those charged were not even close to those they were accused of harming.  Given the legitimacy of spectral evidence, there was often no escape from a witchcraft accusation.

The reality of modern witchcraft persecutions is clear evidence that some cultures and belief systems still hold that Satan or some other evil force colludes with mankind to create evil.  At the same time, however, most such persecutions seem to occur in cultures with long-standing fundamental belief systems that have not been susceptible to changes created by a modern sensibility or technological advances and education within those societies.

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