The Fear of Witchcraft

I have often wondered why there is so much fear and hatred of witches and witchcraft in general.

For generations there have been negative and misleading interpretations of witches and the path of witchcraft. And it continues to this very day in a society where folks have had ample time to overcome such misunderstandings and fear of such a viable and interesting path.
Witchcraft has been in existence since the beginning of humankind. It came about as a natural progression in an attempt to understand and influence those forces around us, which in many ways are an extension of what we know as life but which often exceeds our ability to fully comprehend.
As such, fear was often an accompanying component of witchcraft due to the unknowns one had to venture into in order to follow this unique path.  Somewhere along the human chain of existence, such fears of the unknown also led to the creation of religions. All religions were/are created by a desire of the few to have in place a structure of understanding the mysteries of life as they, the creators of whatever religion, perceived them.
In order to provide a signature if you will, to their particular brand of beliefs, they also instituted a rigid format we know as dogma. This format spells out the boundaries that one is required to adhere to, in order to identify with that particular religion. Dogma spells out the way one is to think and the beliefs that they are expected to adhere to. There is very little room for questioning the content of such beliefs within a particular religion. To do so is often considered heresy and can lead to the expulsion of one from the religion that is being exposed to such questioning. "Faith" is often the word used to deter folks from seeking to find answers that cannot be satisfactorily explained to those seeking a deeper comprehension of their chosen religion.  While the majority of the 400 plus religions in the world (the vast majority of which were created by men) are content to display their beliefs/dogma and to let those who identify with such beliefs to voluntarily become members of their flock. There are unfortunately some religions which chose to employ apologists to draw members to their beliefs. They also turned to intimidation and in some cases, extreme violence which at times led to death of those who chose a different religion or spiritual path.
As a validation of such means, they chose witchcraft as the antithesis of their beliefs and used this as a means to further validate their unbridled attempts to control the hearts and minds of their fellow humans. And this is where religion and the path of witchcraft splits into divergent mindsets.
As already noted, religions of all types share a common ground. They provide a structured means of thought and action in order to approach the unknowns and the uncertainties of life. In short, religions create a sense of security for those folks who are unable or unwilling to face the unknown.
Witchcraft on the other hand encourages one to actively face the unknown. As humans we are limited in our knowledge of the great scheme of things. But as a witch one is very aware that there are in fact beings, realms and forces that are just beyond our comprehension and at times our awareness. To actively seek an understanding of the great mysteries of life, effectively moves one beyond the control of fellow humans and thus dogma serves as a barrier. By removing such barriers, one becomes free of the fetters of a religion by becoming a free thinker and a true spiritual seeker. 
And the removal of such dogmas is seen as anathema to those religions who see control of the human mind and soul as necessary for the validation of their particular religion. Witchcraft involves embracing one's fear of the unknown and seeking out answers and experiences that are not of the societal norm.  As such, I personally see fear not as a impediment but rather as an initiator, a desire to understand the reason for such fear.
For knowledge is the key to opening the door of wisdom.
This is not to say that religion is wrong for all folks. For those who are content to follow a structured way of approaching life, well, a religion may well be the path for you. But for those that want to expand their consciousness and spiritual experience, then perhaps witchcraft is the path to follow. 
Unfortunately, the mindset of this world that we live in does not allow the freedom of choice for two such divergent approaches to the mysteries of life.  Why do certain religions need to display such hatred and misunderstanding towards a path that seeks to think outside of the box that they have created for their man-made beliefs?
The insecurities that has led to the creation of religions, especially those religions which rely upon and which need absolute control of the mindset of their members, leaves no room for alternative mindsets such as witchcraft. However, it is ironic to note that those who engage in witchcraft are not focused on attacking members of any particular religions. Choosing instead to focus on one's pursuit of metaphysical knowledge, which should not be confused with the propaganda and outright lies that have been proffered by those who oppose the mental and spiritual freedoms that witchcraft offers.
As long as such insecurities by certain religions continue to play a dominant role in their dogma, well, the fear and misunderstanding of witchcraft will continue.
In closing, contrary to popular belief, witchcraft is not for everyone. It is not a path that can or should be engaged in superficially. But for those that devote themselves to the desire to understand mysteries just beyond one's ken, well the spiritual rewards can be many indeed.
But keep in mind as well that such a path can also contain many pitfalls. For a witch is travelling along unknown roads, and it is only through trial and indeed error that one can grow via such a path. Which in turn brings us full circle to the fear factor which lies at the base of the misunderstandings of witchcraft...