The last decade has seen a noticeable deterioration in the level of public discourse about God. (Thanks a lot, new atheists.) For a great example of this, consider the fact that appealing to God as an explanation is commonly derided as appealing to “magic”. Consider this instance of the charge which comes from the podcast “The Thinking Atheist” on an episode titled Counter-Apologetics Part 1:
Note that the host (who sounds kind of like a slightly less resonant version of Paul Harvey) asks about the cosmological argument, namely the argument (more correctly, the family of arguments) that reasons from the existence of a contingent universe to a necessary agent cause as the best explanation for its existence or its origin.
The guest replies to the host by claiming that the cosmological argument is “very much a belief in magic”. And what is “magic”? According to the definition provided, it is “the evocation of supernatural forces or entities to forecast or control natural events.”
Note first that cosmological arguments seek to explain either the past origination of the universe or the contingent existence of the universe. Cosmological arguments do not seek to “forecast” or “control” natural events. Thus, by the guest’s own definition, the cosmological argument does not qualify as an appeal to magic.
In fact, the “magic” label is little more than a rhetorical slight, an attempt to marginalize appeals to God within metaphysics as philosophically illegitimate in principle. It’s an attempt to control the conversation by excluding particular positions by definition.
Folks who want to wield this insulting label ought to devote some time to reading analytic metaphysics. As far as metaphysical postulates go, “God” is no less “magical” (where “magical” is something like “apt to invoke an astonished and perplexed expression in those unfamiliar with the concept”) than countless other well established metaphysical concepts from Plato’s universals to the mythical snowdiscall to David Lewis’s concrete theory of possible worlds that is best known for inviting astonished gazes in those who first learn of it.
And yet, God is the one metaphysical postulate that is consistently derided as “magic”. It’s very difficult to evaluate this kind of behavior as anything other than a thinly veiled anti-theistic prejudice.