Joan Didion on the radio talking about her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, a detached yet heart-breaking account of grief following her husband's death. Denials, disbelief, talismans, dreams of miracles, even writing as a way to cope, all elements of the magical thinking that sustained her. Everyone turns to magical thinking at times, or perhaps all human thinking is partly or wholly magical.
On my study table is a box six inches high a foot and a half square always kept clear for Nero, my cat, who likes to sleep on it while I'm working. It's his place. But if I mistakenly pile it with books, he finds some other spot to curl up in. A human would be surprised, and indignant. Why have you occupied my space? But Nero accepts. He asks no questions, needs no magic. Humans, who seek reasons and ask questions, do. Who are we, who made us, and why? Our answers, whether drawn from religion or science, are magical too.
Albert Schweitzer, thinker and physician, developed "Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben" - awe of the mystery of life, or Reverence for Life. He wrote: "Ethics is nothing other than Reverence for Life. Reverence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm or to hinder life is evil." I have never found any guiding principle more compelling, yet it can be hard to apply or use to tell evil from good.
Tyrants who hold power through fear and murder are evil. Other examples are less clear.
Alfred Nobel invented dynamite that was adapted for war and killed millions. He also established a peace prize won by such as Nelson Mandela, Doctors Without Borders, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama.
Michele Bachmann justifies missionaries in Uganda whose preaching led others to enact death penalties for homosexuals.
Some who fight for rights of the unborn justify murder of opponents, and some presume to decide between the life of the fetus and the life of the mother.
Most people grow up accepting whatever form of magical thinking they were taught, seldom wondering if those opposed and with just as deep a faith in their own magic, have an equal right to it. Playing God, or claiming to speak for God, is a perilous game for mere human beings.