“All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for Her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity.” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 2117)
While the dangers of dabbling with demons should seem obvious regardless of whether someone is Catholic or not, the recreational exploration of spiritualities, witchcraft, and the occult is on the rise. Teenagers and young adults who don’t have a strong connection to the Faith are searching for something to fill the God-shaped void in their soul, and unfortunately, they’re attempting to fill it with new-age, post-modern, pseudo-spiritual practices like witchcraft and godless superstitions.
Why? According to studies from the Pew Research Center, only 36% (2014) of people attend religious services at least once a week. Only 35% of Catholic parents consider it “very important” that their children share their religious beliefs. And in a 2020 Gallup poll, it was discovered that only 47% of U.S. adults belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque. That’s down from almost 70% in 2000. Granted, religious service attendance is only a symptom of the problem, but it’s highly indicative of the type of views Americans have of religion.
People’s ties to religion are being loosened. Many parents no longer find it important to impart to their children a foundation of truth and morals that’s centered in God. Some other thing has become their God: wealth, fame, prestige, lust, food, illicit substances, entertainment. As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” You will become a product of that which you consume, and as a species, we have become altogether too focused on consuming the natural in lieu of the supernatural.
In past generations, departures from traditional religion were much more overt. The general population was more likely to be affiliated with and practicing members of a religion, specifically a monotheistic one. If you weren’t, it was usually more obvious. But as time has gone on, the line between religion and godless spirituality has been blurred. Modern proponents of new-age devotional practices want certain ethereal, abstract aspects and traditions of religion but with God removed from the picture.
Meditation, while it can be a beautiful and useful tool when used in conjunction with prayer, has simply replaced prayer altogether. Gemstones, crystals, and incense have replaced sacramentals. Mantras and adages have replaced devotionals and litanies. Depictions of Buddha or Hindu gods have replaced images and statues of Jesus and the saints. Instead of praying for the intercession of Our Lady, the saints, and the souls in purgatory, people interact with tarot cards and Ouija boards. Post-modern spiritualists base their personality traits on fictional superstitions like astrology rather than working on the virtues and vices that they’ve adopted.
In recent generations, an epidemic of disillusionment has attempted to blanket the United States. The diversion from religion and God has given way to a record number of individuals who are depressed, anxious, and/or lonely. And instead of seeking fulfillment in service to others and God, pseudo-spiritualities ask people to retreat further into themselves to find the answers. Because there is a tremendous amount of darkness and evil in this world, many will see that as an excuse to abandon the truth and the way in search of alternative paths to satisfaction and happiness. But those who are searching inside themselves for that path should know that there is only one that can provide what they seek, and that path is through the Lord. People have a deep, innate, insatiable desire for God even if they deny His existence.
God not only provides us with a purpose, but He gave us every necessary tool and method by which we can achieve that purpose. He gave us free will, intellect, the necessary wisdom and knowledge to know, love, and serve Him, and most importantly, He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, we received the sacraments and redemption, a second chance at salvation, something post-modern spirituality could never give us.
So, why is it dangerous? It’s evident that spirituality without God is pointless and shallow, but what dangers does it pose to our souls?
Non-religious spirituality that dips into the occult is merely a bridge between deistic beliefs and the demonic. When you adopt the appearance of religion but remove God, what are you left with? You are left without a divine influence and foundation, merely a shell of a belief system; a supernatural vacuum that wants to be filled. But without God, there’s only one voice that will fill it: the devil.
The six tactics of the devil are doubt, discouragement, self-deprecation, projected deprecation, disobedience, and despair. And the six lies of the devil are: 1. You are a terrible person. 2. There is no hope for you. 3. God doesn’t care about you. 4. You’re mine and I will never leave. 5. You’re going to hell. 6. You should take your own life.
The progression from deism to spirituality to godlessness follows this course exactly.
Doubt is the first phase. Someone makes a mistake, or something tragic happens to them; something that shakes their worldview or religious beliefs. There is a disconnect between what that person thought they believed and what they experienced. Because of that, they begin to question their beliefs. They question their own decency as a human being, their religious teaching, and the authorities that handed it down. Instead of seeking answers or clarification from others, they give in to their doubts. Or worse yet, they do seek clarity and are met with disdain or ignorance.
Then, we find the second and third phases: discouragement and loss of hope, and self-deprecation out of disbelief in God’s love for them. The devil has successfully planted a seed of doubt. From there, it’s a slippery slope. Without guidance, it’s easy for discouragement to feed itself. And once one arrives at that breaking point, they believe there is no longer hope for them. A lost cause. How could God love a wretch like me? I’m such a prolific sinner that I am beyond saving.
That tragic self-image gradually transforms into an outward hatred, a projected deprecation, and an embrace of formerly taboo practices. Why would God implement this system that’s designed for me to fail? Does He want me to go to hell? Why would God allow me to suffer like this? Surely, this cannot be the truth or the path to salvation. And so, they turn away from religion altogether. “I’m spiritual, not religious,” say 27% of Americans, according to a 2017 study from the Pew Research Center. They find solace in superstitions, astrology, tarot cards, and recreational drug use, rather than in the God they think has abandoned them.
But slowly, the practices escalate, becoming more extreme. That innate yearning for God has drawn one to the supernatural, but unfortunately, the malevolent side. This is the penultimate phase characterized by disobedience and the acceptance that “You are going to hell”. If I am doomed, why shouldn’t I do what I want? Dalliance with the demonic, fascination with utilizing the devil as an accessory, and the full investment of oneself into a godless existence. Contrary to what one may think, the devil doesn’t want us to believe in him. In fact, he wants us to believe that he doesn’t even exist: One can’t defend against what one doesn’t believe in. If someone has become comfortable with the demonic, they will cease to fear it and thus, unknowingly acquiesce to it.
The final phase is despair. This is the point at which the devil believes that he can convince someone to take their own life. When one has become so disconnected from God, they become vulnerable to such intrusive, depraved thoughts. They may believe that they are beyond saving…but that is false.
God is always ready and willing to welcome back a lost soul. He loves us unconditionally.
None of this needs to happen. Nobody needs to sever their ties to God out of anger or confusion or hopelessness. Suffering and pain will always be part of our lives, but what matters is how we choose to respond to it. Do we choose the path of despair by rejecting God’s help in our times of need? Do we reject the truth that, as His creatures, we are asked to cooperate with God’s divine will to achieve salvation? Or do we embrace it? Embrace the trials and tribulations. As imperfect creatures, embrace the truth that has been revealed to us even through uncertainty and doubt. Yes, seek the truth, but don’t ever abandon our Lord because of humanity’s shortcomings and imperfections.
Every person suffers. That is the one common, human experience. That suffering can make us hateful, bitter, resentful, disillusioned, apathetic, or lukewarm. Or, we can unite our pain to Jesus Christ on the cross and turn it into redemptive suffering, offering it up.
No post-modern spirituality will lead you to the fulfillment that you can find in Jesus Christ. Only He can answer life’s greatest questions, fill life’s greatest voids, and heal life’s greatest suffering. He will never give up on you, so don’t ever give up on Him, even in your darkest hour.
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