“What we are told there is how wonderfully and how providentially the world is ordered by the gods, how they care for us human beings, and that we should not wait to express our respect and gratefulness to them until we have set our eyes on their actual shape and form, but worship and honour them anyway. The gods themselves suggest this. For the gods other than the god who orders and keeps the world together do not show themselves in providing us with their gifts, and the cosmic god who administers the world remains invisible to us. We are reminded that even the sun does not allow us to look at it.” – Michael Frede “The Case for Pagan Monotheism” in One God.
‘What the gods specifically desire from mortals via sacrifice is “honor, prerogatives, and gratitude.” Thus those priests and seers who attempt to bind the gods practice a perversion of religion, and in his Laws Plato specifies the death penalty as the punishment for an mantis who attempts to harm someone through spells and incantations. Plato’s formulation is problematic, however, because his religious beliefs were not necessarily those of the average Greek, or even Athenian, and his distinction between religion and magic is surely far more narrow than the popular one, insofar as most Greeks even thought about the distinction at all.
In actual experience, the distinction between magic and religion is fluid, and both can coexist within the same body of ritual acts. Both religion and magic rely on prayer, sacrifice, and incantation to achieve their ends. But whereas religious practices tend to be under control of the polis, magical practices are beyond public control and therefore are perceived as being dangerous. Yet the difference between magic and religion is also one of context and social approval. Magic is activity meant to achieve the goals of prevailing religion in ways disapproved of by that religion. Thus both magic and religion are goal-oriented, but the relationship of each to the supernatural, at least in Greek eyes, was different.’
– Michael Attyah Flower, The Seer in Ancient Greece