Return of the Pagans

No, not these volk.

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As society retreats from Christian influence, not even bothering to pay the homage of hypocrisy to virtue, the people most surprised by the result will be (and already are) those who have been clamoring for the suppression of religion as an offence against their delicate feelings.

The widespread effect of Christianity on the West is too well documented to be challenged, save only by those partisans who like to make up facts to fit their narratives.

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization

How the Irish Saved Civilization

Where the West has faltered has not been due to Christianity, but the failure to follow through on the official beliefs.

In actual fact, the effect of Christianity has been to palliate the many ills human beings are prone to inflict on themselves and others, and where Christianity has been explicitly rejected, as in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia, the foundation of a society based on theoretical nonsense has been proven quicksand.

The New Pagans are not a majority, and will most likely remain a minority within the culture, but a most influential minority. I say this because they are already an influential minority, under the flag of so-called political correctness.   (Their latest faddish slogan, “Woke” is too reminiscent of the Nazi “Deutschland erwache” –Germany Wake Up — to make me happy, but as they go along, the alleged progressives seem to be aping ever more the arc of fascism.)

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This triumph of certain professional social activists also strips the human conscience of any restraint or need for even a pretended civility. Blinded by chronological bigotry and historical myopia, they rest smug in the fond belief they are the crown of humanity and the epitome of sophistication. Having a half-baked notion of superiority to their ancestors and other less aware contemporaries, they believe their technological doo-dads (which they use, but do not understand how to make) are the finest proof of their supremacy.

They did not intend to bring about a revival of paganism, but brought nothing to replace the Christianity they sought to destroy. Coasting on the last tide of Christian civility, they are astonished that norms for behavior are being abandoned. When the manners of civil society are dismissed, brute force and ignorance come into their own. For, as Nietzsche observed, absent God, anything is permissible.

Torture your enemies? OK

Starve people? OK

Wage war and extort for profit? OK

Imprison journalists? OK

Ruin small businesses who decline to violate their conscience for the sake of your agenda? OK

Kill anyone who offends you? OK

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But, we have been here before. There are some people like the estimable Rod Dreher, who has made a cottage industry of declaring the sky to be falling. (And, in honesty, he may not be wrong, but I think he is.) Rod’s solution is The Benedict Option, which he has been working on for several years, and with the publication of his book, is gaining traction, or at least attention, even from secularists who can’t disagree with his program.

Basically he calls for the creation of intentional communities of the like-minded, who will tend to their own knitting, and preserve and pas on he essentials of faith and practice. It is a worthy notion, even in the best of times, and reminiscent of the efforts of the Mennonites and Amish, and Orthodox Jews. But that last is the rub.

In times past, European Jews voluntarily segregated themselves from gentile society in order to accomplish Rod’s goals, preserving their faith and transmitting it unsullied to the next generation. The first ghettos were not imposed, but self-selected. After some time, they became imposed, as States found it was convenient to have all their eggs in one basket, for taxing, or pogroms, or, under the Nazis, extermination. But that is a worse-case scenario, if however plausible.

The question rises, dripping with irony, is this scenario, of Aztecs sacrificing Christians on the top of the Empire State Building, realistic. The answer is, no. Even in a “post-Christian” West, such things are not going to happen. Discrimination against those whose lifestyle choices affect the Holy Bottom Line, yes. But not altars built to Moloch where infants are sacrificed to appease the God of Materialism. (Pre-natal abortion works quite well toward that end already.)

The Old Pagans (not to be confused with those who are trying to bring back Norse or Celtic or Druid religions or such in a Society for Creative Anachronism type affair), had a hardscrabble life, and a long history of working out the rules of their societies. The New Pagans are not even trying to link up with the recreationists, but are winging it on their own, serenely confident they know what they are doing.

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Unfortunately, the New Pagans not only have rejected Christianity and all things “Church”, but have contempt for their intellectual ancestors. The problem is that  outrage porn, commercial hedonism, militarism, and drowning in the ocean of social media leaves no room for discovery of pagan thinkers of the past. A very little bit of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Sophocles, Thucydides, Virgil, Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Cicero, Plutarch, would do wonders for demonstrating to the new breed there is a whole world beyond “Wow” or “Ouch” or “Yum”.

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But that is wishful thinking. The Sages of the West are strictly TL;DR for this bunch rising. They have skipped the Golden Age, and gone directly to decadence.

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And so, we will go through a dark age, the denizens of which will be deluded into thinking its gadgets are proof of superiority (more even than the chronological bigotry of the “modern” temperament.) But dark ages do not last forever. Shockingly, the world will go on even after my demise.

The last “Enlightenment” merely substituted an (allegedly) ancient and venerable superstition with a (regrettably) modern and shallow one. Perhaps the one coming along in a few centuries will be better.

Maybe.

Meanwhile, the Pagans are back. I hope they have heard of the Gods of the Copybook Headings (courtesy Rudyard Kipling.)

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,

I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.

Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

 

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn

That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:

But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,

So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

 

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,

Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,

But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come

That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

 

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,

They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;

They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;

So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

 

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.

They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.

But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

 

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life

(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)

Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

 

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,

By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;

But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

 

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew

And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true

That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

 

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man

There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.

That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,

And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

 

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins

When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,

As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,

The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

 

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(No, it’s not Congress. But it might be, someday.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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