Are We Becoming a Pagan Society?

Tree Huggerby Brad Nelson
I’ve started reading G.K. Chesterton’s biography of Francis of Assisi. And thanks to Mr. Kung or whoever recommended that book to me. So far it’s been interesting.

G.K. has a way of framing the question of Francis in a way that I haven’t quite read before. Francis is a difficult character to wrap one’s mind around in the best of circumstances, especially because he lived so long ago in quite different times. And much of the information that we have is, at best, second hand.

But I think that G.K. is making a good attempt at filling in the gaps. Particularly provocative is his idea that the West itself (Christendom) did a bit of necessary “wandering in the desert” in the Dark Ages. His idea (roughly paraphrasing) is that we needed to purge ourselves of something. And then, when purged, we were ready to once again engage nature, and appreciate it (and life) more fully, because we had put our Pagan-centered view of nature as the be-all end-all of life behind us.

Chesterton covers all this in just the first few pages. He believes that we need to understand not just the time of Francis of Assisi, but the context of that time — that is, what led up to Francis’ time. What happened before.

And then — boom — it hits me. We are, I believe, clearly devolving to a Pagan society. Many call it “secular,” but it’s the same thing. We see it in the environmental wacko movement in particular. It’s a love for nature as nature and nothing more. Man thus becomes degraded, as Chesterton said the Greeks and others became degraded (and he said that they realized it at the time) and thus  the pre-Christian age welcomed the change to a transcendent theistic vision of reality.

Are we now not a degraded society with abortion, gay marriage, socialism, “social justice,” and the very corruption of our political systems in the West by “secular” types? Have they not in Europe, in particular, become a “secular” people (as Mark Steyn chronicles in “America Alone”) and are dying out as a civilization? In essence, the churches are empty but the welfare lines and abortion clinics are full.

To Chesterton, Francis represented, in part, a return to a healthy love of nature because nature was not the end thing. It was seen in the context of a creator and thus could be loved even more. You can hug a rock or a tree, as some environmental wackos do, but those are clearly empty calories compared to a view that takes in something larger than nature.

To have a “secular” government as America does is all fine and dandy. That’s a good thing. But many have been propagandized into believing that therefore a “secular” society and people is to be the standard as well. And although I’m not a Christian, I can see where the West is heading right now. And it is not a “secular” world we are building but a bit of a nasty Pagan one.

Food for thought, and I expect more nourishment to come as I work my way through what gives every indication of being a thoughtful biography of Francis of Assisi by G.K. And your comments and thoughts are particularly welcome on what is indeed a large subject.

Some, of course, would say that becoming a Pagan society is a good thing. That’s one issue. One may agree with that or not. The other central issue is, of course, whether or not you think we actually are becoming a Pagan world. To me it is utterly self-evident that we are. And I would argue that for any or all of the excesses of Christendom, we have very little to look forward to in a Pagan world of the socialist “secular” Left (even if that Left is Christian and calls their worldly ways “social justice”). • (2603 views)

Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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29 Responses to Are We Becoming a Pagan Society?

  1. RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

    Actually I’d have nothing against a pagan society. These were religous societies with a very moral outlook. One only needs to study classical Greek and Roman literature, philosophy, art and history to know this.

    And it was the Pagan common man (and woman) who readily accepted what Cristianity had to offer when their elites could only offer corruption. Sounds familiar?

    Its the secularists who I fear the most. Sure religion may be the last refuge of the scoundrel but the secularist doesnt need a refuge because it is they who are rounding up the unbelievers…

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Here’s the main difference I see between the Pagan and Christian society, as least as it applies now.

      The Pagan marches down the street for the snail darter with plenty of foam on his or her lips.

      The Christian, in the meantime, is quietly off helping her fellow man in Calcutta and elsewhere.

      I have no doubt that Pagan man of old had his attributes, as you mentioned about the Greeks. And yet if we look at the Pagan/Leftist (I do merge the two, and I think with good reason) art of today with, say, the Christian art of old (as embodied by Michelangelo), we see an inherent difference.

      I’m of the Dennis Prager mindset that there are good Pagans, ethical atheists, and nice Leftists. The world is more complex than any one political ideology, religious idea, or cultural affectation.

      And yet we can look to today in the West and have a rare chance to glimpse a society (especially in Europe) that is crumbling because of its Paganism/Leftism. Such societies, as Mark Steyn notes, no longer believe enough in themselves to either reproduce themselves or defend their cultures from usurpers (such as Islam).

      I see in both G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis a common spirit, although I haven’t taken the final step that they did. But even so, the Pagan world is, by and large, a world without higher ethics. And what ethics it has are entirely materialistic. That’s why for the Left, all that matters to them is material equality. If material is all you have and can ever have, how can you have any higher ethical position than how material is distributed?

      But for a Christian culture, there are far many more concerns, and ones quite outside whether one is going to live forever. For a Christian, there are ethical concerns that transcend the mere material. This was one of the things that G.K. pointed out about Francis early in his biography. Francis, he said, had the experience of digging to the middle of the world…and he kept digging to the point where he starting climbing and came up the other side. He took off (or lost) everything….and came out the other side with (oddly and unexpectedly) more than he ever had before.

      In other words, Francis had always been a party dude. He was popular among the Assisi yutes as surely as Miley Cyrus is (is she still?) popular among the yutes of today. He was, by all accounts, a nice guy. But I don’t know if you could yet call him good. He really was a party animal of his day. He liked to prance around in the best and brightest clothes. He dreamed of a world of heraldic chivalry. And he went to war for Assisi against a rival city at the drop of a hat — and sat in a dank dungeon for a year as a result.

      He had other travails (including the loss of his health) that finally had him publicly handing over every last stitch of his clothing and telling his father that all he had in this world his father could have back, but that all he owned now belonged to God.

      A Pagan/secular/Leftist world has no way to make sense of a man who doesn’t value popularity, honor, wealth, and prestige. Francis had found a new dimension of things to value and how to value them. These values are closed to the Pagan mindset.

      Mind you, I think most Christians are not Christians. They are either fakers, fraud, or Leftists in disguise. But there is the Christian ideal, an ideal that was also pretty much dead in the day of Francis. There are a great many things in our society today that need awakening and re-invigorating, including our Constitution, the rule of law, and republican ideals. And there are other ideals as well.

      • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

        Brad I know you don’t mean this but you sound the moral relativist here.

        It was classical Pagan civilization which for the most part accepted Judaism and converted to Christianity. Surely you are not attacking them for not being Christians when they existed before Christ?

        Pagan is a broad term. I don’t know what wiccanism is and care not for self claimed devil worshippers. So when I’m talking Paganism I’m talking the classical Greco-Roman Civilization kind. It’s almost blasphemous to decry these peoples akin to the modern secularist ‘pagan’. These people had their gods and were most moral in their devotion to them and each other. They most certainly were capable of valuing honor, if not in an Augustine, Aquinas, Assisi-ian way, but certainly in a Aristotelian way and that matters. For if there was no pagan Aristotle, there would be no Christian Augustine, Aquinas, and possibly Assisi.

        Perhaps we are just misaligned on the semantics here, but I just want to avoid undue maligning of our classical forbears who without, there would be no virtue to even discuss.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          It was classical Pagan civilization which for the most part accepted Judaism and converted to Christianity. Surely you are not attacking them for not being Christians when they existed before Christ?

          I’m not really sure what you mean, Rob. In a rough paraphrasing of G.K. Chesterton from his biography of Francis of Assisi, I noted that Chesterton noted that there was a general idea in the air in Pagan times that something was missing, and thus they welcomed Christianity when they arrived. Whether this is true or not, that’s what G.K. was saying.

          And it’s not that old or new Pagans weren’t/aren’t without their attributes. And in many respects, it doesn’t do to judge the old ones harshly because they had not yet caught onto an idea.

          What I’m saying is that in modern culture we are returning to old, less truly progressive ideas. We are returning to Paganism. And it’s probably fine to quibble about names. I’m not all that informed about old-style Paganism. But I wouldn’t be shocked if it didn’t have attributes of today’s sexualized tree-huggers.

          In fact, the rampant sexualization of society is one thing that Judeo-Christianity tamed. And it has been called an oppressor ever since, especially in our more narcissistic Freudian times which tends to have the naive view of man as naturally perfect, warped only by all that nasty “oppression” of the religious types. Out with the idea of Original Sin and in with the Bacchanalian idea of party-on, Garth.

          If we view the most dysfunctional and dangerous areas of the West (black or white), we will see that it is in large part due to the sexual instinct running wild and untamed, in large part aided and abetted by government welfare and a Pagan-style morality. At least a New Pagan style.

          • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

            I think we have a disagreement on semantics, you are saying pagan but its seems you are mostly referring to secularists and not classical civilization. I will desist.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Well, you may be seeing “Pagan” as an unnecessary slander. That’s fine. If we regard Christendom as an improvement upon Pagan Greece (or other pre-Christian parts of the world), we should at least understand “Pagan” as a less advanced state.

              One may agree or disagree with that, but that’s what I’m outlining. And that’s what G.K. Chesterton is saying in regards to the Christian view of the world (and nature) as opposed to the Pagan view. The Pagan view is inherently tree-hugger-ish. As Dennis Prager says, it’s about people worshipping the created thing and not the creator. And there are ramifications for having a view of reality no larger than one’s personal comforts and lusts.

              And G.K. is stating in his biography of St. Francis that a move beyond a Pagan worldview is a very real and significant leap. Let me quote a bit from the book:

              For there is no way in which a man can earn a star or deserve a sunset. But there is more than this involved, and more indeed than is easily to be expressed in words. It is not only true that the less a man thinks of himself, the more he thinks of his good luck and of all the gifts of God. It is also true that he sees more of the things themselves when he sees more of their origin; for their origin is a part of them and indeed the most important part of them.


              This sense of the great gratitude and the sublime dependence was not a phrase or even a sentiment; it is the whole point that this was the very rock or reality. It was not fancy but a fact; rather it is true that beside it all facts are fancies.

              Whether one agrees or not, what G.K. is describing (as epitomized in St. Francis) is this change of view to the Christian from the Pagan. We live with so many of the remnants of this view (what Dennis Prager would call “cutflower ethics”) that we may not be aware of it. But in the Pagan world — and much of our own world — it is standard to treat life as very cheap. Those who rebel against things such as abortion may well do so for quite reasonable reasons. But it also represents, or is at least consistent with, the Judeo-Christian point of view.

              We don’t quite know what we are throwing away when we discard Christendom and replace it with the “secular” (which I argue is a very good likeness of Paganism). And although it’s true that “Pagan” has been given perhaps more negative connotations than is sometimes deserved, many of those negative connotations are well deserved, including regarding the Greek world. It was Classical Civilization, as we know it. But hardly one we would want to live in today.

              • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

                As I didn’t read the book I’ll defer to your analysis of Chesterton’s contemplations on the classical world.

                Sure I’d rather live today than in ancient Greece, but the same holds true for 1776 Philadelphia or Rome circa 1600.

                But remember in my Light Liberty and the Pursuit of Hemlock essay, I offered that we prefer to live here today because we have assimilated the virtues of Judeo-Christianity, Classical Civilization and the Founders pinnaclization of the Enlightenment.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Yes, the ancients often really believed their myths. There are some interesting examples from the Peloponnesian War. For one thing, we have Thucydides (as an aside from his history) explaining why the Trojan War took 10 years (the Achaeans had to devote most of their effort to securing their food supplies to maintain the siege). For another, we have the Athenians’ trial and execution of the victorious admirals after Arginusae because they failed to provide their dead sailors the appropriate funeral rites.

          • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

            I think it’s a mistake to confuse religiosity with mythology. We believe god (those of us who believe in god) does not want us to murder regardless or not if we believe the bible as fact, metaphor or ‘myth’ god directly gave Moses the10 commandments on Mt Sinai via a burning bush.

            I’ll refer to Sophocles’ Antigone as to the seriousness with which the Greeks took their responsibilities towards burial rights.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I’ve writing this with Rob’s comments in mind about mythology. Good comments.

            I’m not disputing you Timothy as much as I’m just going to clarify where I stand on all this. There is a very real sense that the Judeo-Christian idea of a transcendent God (and not a multiplicity of nature-like Pagan gods of the Greeks and Romans) is a mythology. Just as with the Greek or Roman gods (or various Celtic gods), they are infused with human-like personality. God is said to be motivated to do this or that. The god (or gods) are said to have a particular nature, whether all-wise, all-knowing, and all-good or just the kind of god who likes to sleep around with humans as with the Pagan gods.

            There is this similarity. And there is no doubt that the Judeo-Christian tradition makes specific assertions about the character and nature of this one (and one only….well, forget about the Trinity) transcendent God who created nature and is not just a part of nature.

            But the Judeo-Christian tradition also teaches of the transcendent aspect of God, of the nature of God being, at least in part, unknowable to human beings. This is different from the more primitive God of, say, Islam wherein nothing supposedly happens that isn’t the will of God. There is that vibe to parts of Judeo-Christianity as well, but I would say not excessively so. There is also the idea of freedom and free will. And it’s certainly different from the Pagan gods who are little more than a human imprint put upon the forces of nature.

            And I will also admit that there is not always a clean distinction between the Pagan gods of old and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Christians and Jews also put a somewhat human-like face on god, even if this is just one God and a transcendent God (that is, not just a god of the river, of the sky, of thunder, etc.). And there are similar appeals to these gods as servants of man just as in old. There is the desire to appease the gods. In many ways, you might see that we relate to our God (or gods) the same way we always have if left to our own devices.

            But I think somewhat new to the Judeo-Christian tradition was the idea of God being outside of man’s influence and of nature itself. Rather than simply having to appease god we were to become sort of partners with God. But not so that we could get a powerful buddy to enact our own will. But because it was seen that the very nature of being conscious beings inside of reality meant that created beings had, at least partially as a goal, to make one’s way back to the Divine, or to discover the divine in oneself (which is certainly consistent with many Eastern philosophies and religions, also legitimately expressed as “Christ in me”).

            Unlike Islam, God was not to be a warrior on behalf of some xenophobic tribe. God was to help open ourselves up and transport us beyond the mere animal aspects of our nature.

            But God is an idea or reality, even if a difficult one. Religion, on the other hand, tends to be as arbitrary as it is comprehensible. It’s more of a social product of human beings. It may be the means, and a good means, to join with God. But there is always that aspect of clubbiness to it and having it filled with all the politics, motives, and passions of people for quite worldly pursuits.

            It’s interesting to note about religion that when push came to shove and Francis of Assisi wanted to emulate Christ, he didn’t start a church. He didn’t put out a newsletter. He didn’t spend years in a seminary to become a priest. He simply started living those ideals and beliefs. They do the same thing in Islam to often beastly effect. But St. Francis showed that Christian ideals are not what the Left (and assholes such as Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins) said they are. They are amongst the most beautiful and humanizing influences ever encountered by man.

            And if you look at the clusterfuck of the Obama administration and the people who are as morally obtuse and confused as he is, we must think very hard before jettisoning something that most of us (including many “social justice” Christians) have no idea about. If all that we know about it is that it is a “myth” (which is the stilted and constrained mindset of the Left), we can easily dismiss it. But we gain glimpses of what we are dismissing when we see the horror and vacuousness and what is meant to take its place.

            I’ll grant you that much of what passes for Judeo-Christian doctrine is indeed indistinguishable from myth. I have no quibble with that. But there is another aspect of this wherein the Judeo-Christian doctrine transcends the various constrained, primitive, and worldly mythology of “a god in every force” and, instead, sees a power behind mere natural forces themselves. And this idea alone would make the heads of most atheists explode. They have been quite evangelized into their own preferred myths.

            Because it is surely a myth that nature is the be-all, end-all of existence, for there is nothing even remotely suggestive about nature that it can create itself. Thus a religion or philosophy that connects to the idea of a transcendent Creator is on much more solid ground, even if there are mythical elements that humans always add on.

  2. Jeph says:

    Hey, Brad.

    I was so excited to read in your comments how we are building a Pagan Society (though I would label it closer to Evil or Satanic), but are in need of (or perhaps in) a period of purging. You see, this is why I so enjoy our exchanges on religion. As I believe I’ve mentioned before, we appear so close on so many issues. Close enough that, though you deny it, I often think you are more a Christian than many Christians.

    I’ve been working on a response to some of the comments in the Duke article on Millinneals that expresses some of that which you have stated. Its not that I want to become some fist pounding, finger pointing evangelist determined to convert my friends with whom I discuss online, but (perhaps) to offer a new perspective from which to view the Church.

    Well, this beginning probably ends what I was writing, so I’ll just add it here.
    Again, what you refer to as purging – I call emerging from shadows or shades of grey, and we see its beginning in the TEA Party in politics and the New Evangelization with the Church.

    Duke does a fine job here, even if incomplete (as he stated) due to complexity of the issues. Complexity in solutions, however, is not the answer. Also, we should not confuse the definition of “Conservative” and “Liberal” with their connotations. The definition will not change, but the understanding of the word can, and this is where battles can be won or lost.

    We are a media based and media informed society, and if you control information – you control knowledge; if you control knowledge – you have power. The moral decline of (not just our) society has become so entrenched that it will never be undone, and this is no surprise to the Christian (Revelation). The storing of earthly treasures (physical or emotional, tangible or intangible, and even Spiritual – for if not Spiritually Good, there is only Spiritually Evil) has dominated mankind – again, offering no surprise.

    When I began writing this, I planned on going a totally different direction, but feel compelled to continue on in this vein. Obfuscation has always been the Enemy. Confusion, disbelief, and deception ensnaring us as we walk through life. Clarity is simplicity, and perhaps we are finally emerging from the shadows and shades of grey. Relate it to the Nation or to the Church, but the idea holds.
    Have we compromised so much morally, financially and ideologically that there is no salvation? The entire concept of “Sin” has fallen out of the American lexicon, be it defined as being against God, nature, or mankind. The Church did us no favors over the last decades bending dogmas, nor did Conservatives by bending Constitutionally. Christ did not come to bring Peace, but to divide (Luke 12:49). He brought a sword sharp enough to separate body from spirit….and is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

    Has sin and government finally won? Are we all clamouring for being branded, if not already marked, with the 666 of greed, narcissism, pleasure, and acceptance?

    As always it is my hope and prayer that eventually I am given the Grace to express my meaning to you all, and have you understand that which I believe and feel, and so desperately want to share with you.
    Perhaps the bold moves being taken by Government and Evil (why i am distinguishing between the two I don’t know), will allow the scales to fall from our eyes, to clearly see the choices before us.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Jeph, I appreciate your thoughts on the subject. And what a big subject it is.

      What I do believe is what Dennis Prager says about higher eduction. Colleges and Universities are seminaries of the Left. The point of them is to created committed Leftists.

      What I do know is that most people have absorbed a particular set of ideas from our culture, media, entertainment industry, and education establishment. These ideas are held as dogma. In fact, they are considered “neutral” or “secular” in nature. That means they believe, and have been taught, that what they believe is free of bias because it is based on reason.

      And I could (and others have) write a book on the reams of bullshit that people believe based upon “reason” or what they think is a scientific truth. This is the “secular” mindset which in many ways is now little different from a Pagan one.

      Again, to be fair, there could be some nice aspects to Paganism. Europe has certainly made that choice. It has dispensed with the belief in any kind of higher context to their lives and now sees them as lives devoted to amusement and to be taken care of by the state. And although there can indeed be some short-term amusement from this orientation, their civilization is literally dying.

      And their orientation of amusement and being taken care of by the state, by definition, sounds more like how we used to relate to our own sheep or cattle. It is not, to my mind, the way to go about living a meaningful human life.

      As Mr. Kung has noted, everything is culture. And certainly our culture is a big factor in regards to who we become. And Western culture is now oriented toward amusement, narcissism, grievance, juvenilism, and moral relativism (meaning little or no substantial virtue or morality at all).

      That, of course, doesn’t mean that to have religion is to cure all that. I think there can be a case of too much religion. There can also be a case of religion as an outer trapping but not an inner reality.

      There was no shortage of religion in the time of St. Francis, for instance. It was the easiest thing in the world to acquire. But many who saw Francis actually living that religion, instead of just wearing the outer vestments, were attracted to that. Religion had become alive and relevant. But I would say it is usually dead. That’s just the nature of human beings. We are (or pretend to be) the outer clothing (or words) that we wear and think that is enough.

      But the actual meaning and reality underneath? Well, that’s an entirely different thing.

      Now, regarding Paganism vs. Christendom, we are running that experiment even as we speak. And the Pagan/Leftist/secular culture is creating a dumbed-downed type of human being who is also a moral idiot. What the Christian religion does is to teach us another syntax or language. We are not born learning how to speak any particular language. We must learn it.

      And the Leftist/secular/Pagan language is stilted, unrefined, simplistic, crude, and shallow. Rather than opening the mind and deepening one’s soul, it trivializes everything. It is a language (such as BASIC, Pilot, or Logo) that, while perhaps useful for very simple tasks, has no way to even express, much less think about, the finer or more complex things in life.

      Obviously religion can work against that as well. We’ve all seen that in people. But, generally speaking, the idea of deepening one’s philosophy, of seeing a larger context for one’s life, and delving into complex moral questions is an enriching thing. It’s not religion that makes one shallow and simple. It’s the dogma of the Left that does that. And it’s the dogma of the Left, in fact, that teaches the reverse. The Left is little more than a series of self-congratulatory conceits…conceits that negate the need to go any deeper into anything. Why would you? One is already all-knowing and all-caring by definition if you wear the outer conceits of the Left.

      As I tell people, everything the Left has every taught you has been a lie. And that is so. This modern Paganism is not only shallow but untruthful. Nothing good can come from that combination. And if you consider that we elected a committed anti-American Marxist as president — and re-elected him — you can see the destructive power of this intellectual and moral confusion of modern Paganism.

  3. Kurt NY says:

    I ran across an adage somewhere that when people do not believe in God, they do not believe in nothing, but rather believe anything.

    I also have a hard time accepting that a fully secular society, one which rejects the idea of any supreme being as the font of morality, the ultimate authority on human behavior, right and wrong, can long maintain itself. I think we all know folks who do not believe in any God but who are highly moral individuals, but is that sustainable? Especially since most of those rejecting the deity also reject the idea of natural law. Without either of those concepts, is it logically possible to come up with a moral code that is consistent and defensible?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Wise words again. And I can certainly appreciate a wide diversity of views on this issue because at the end of the day, this is the type of thing where we don’t exactly know. We might have faith. We might have a very good philosophy based in logic and probability. But we don’t know the details even if we have a fair reason to expect a certain broad belief (such as monotheism).

      And, of course, the good Christian would tell you that the “knowing” is in the practicing of the faith. And this seems to me to be a reasonable statement, although not one that makes sense to the materialist mind wherein the only things that are counted as real are things that can be measured by science. (How the atheists account for their own experience of immaterial and quite unmeasurable consciousness is never dealt with.)

      We had a conversation on this subject a while ago in regards to one of Mr. Kung’s posts regarding fundamentalist atheism. And like I said in that thread, I have no problem with atheism, per se, because I have those days of the week when I am an atheist in outlook. But what I try to distinguish between (with not much success) is atheism as a philosophical position (after all, the details of a Creator are indeed scant, if perhaps sure) and the kind of atheism that is more of a political atheism, one commonly associated with the Left.

      There’s also at least a third brand, and it is certainly one consistent with the Left even if one isn’t of that political bent. But it’s one that shares many of the same underpinnings nonetheless. It’s the atheism that is based upon religious bigotry (soft or hard) combined with lofty conceits of being one of the Smarter People (Brites?).

      And that viewpoint is gleaned from the endless mindless books such as those from Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett, which are little more than high school grade (if that) rants wherein one straw man after another is set up and then knocked down. These are neither intellectual rigorous approaches (despite the shared conceit of being among the best and brightest) nor honest approaches. And these books tend to make people even more aggrieved than they already are. Sort of the opposite of the Good News.

      • Kurt NY says:

        Brad, your penultimate paragraph reaches the nub of the matter. Whether or not someone has religious faith is frequently not readily apparent, nor is it necessarily relevant. But there is a growing strain of anti-religious bigotry on the left, feeding off its conceit as being more rational/scientific that opponents, wherein live and let live is not enough. And I strongly suspect that at least a plurality of the most ardent leftists in this country have that propensity.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Thanks, Kurt. And did you get my email regarding needing to find a way to list you as an author in the Author Archives? (It’s that little pop-up menu item at the top right of the page.) I don’t have a Kurt NY registered so I can’t make that option happen behind the scenes. I wonder if you could register as Kurt NY. Or let me know what name you did register under. We could then change the nickname to Kurt NY. And it’s possible you haven’t registered at all, which is okay. But that doesn’t allow me to put your name in the Author Archives. I want to do everything I can to give credit to where credit is due and help you guys in any way I can. Besides writing movie reviews, that’s what I’m here for.

    • faba calculo says:

      Look at Japan. Aside for a few cultural bows to Buddhism and Shinto, they’re pretty secularized. Certainly Christianity does not and has not ever had much of a foothold there. Yet they’ve the longest life expectancy in the world, the lowest crime rate in the industrialized world. Etc. They are aging faster than any other society on Earth, so we’ll see how they work that. But post-war Japan has had a pretty good run.

      blsdaniel (A.K.A. faba calculo…you see, Kurt, I told you I was posting here!)

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        “Aside for a few cultural bows to Buddhism and Shinto, they’re pretty secularized”

        Please advise on what you base this claim. Have you been to Japan and noted the numerous temples which are heavily visited? Do you know there are several major sects including Zen, Amida and Shingon with millions of adherents? I lived a couple of train stops down from the largest Nichiren Temple in all of Japan.

        Do you understand that there is very syncretic relation between Buddhism and Shinto in Japan?

        While the practice of both Buddhism and Shinto differ greatly from that of Christianity, they would both be classified as religions. Something like 70-80% of the population claims to be one or the other.

        “Certainly Christianity does not and has not ever had much of a foothold there.”

        Interestingly, prior to about 1600 when the Tokugawa Shogunate consolidated its power and threw out all foreigners and did its best to eradicate all Western influence in Japan, Christianity had been planted and had gained a surprising number of converts.

        After the only Westerners left in Japan (the Dutch) were restricted to a small island near Nagasaki, the Tokugawa clan began to persecute all Christians. This included the use of crucifixion. As a result, those Japanese Christians who would not recant either fled to places like Macau or were killed.

        The long life expectancy of the Japanese is most likely due to their diet. Part of the historical reason for the nature of their diet is religious, i.e. Buddhist.

        Their low crime rate is probably the result of the very structured society as well as the fact that they are a very homogeneous nation. Aside from a fairly significant group of Koreans, and to a lesser extent Chinese, they are racially and ethically pretty much the same. This certainly has implications in other areas.

        While their great economic success post WWII is to a large extent due to the fact that they are a very industrious people, a good portion of that success can be attributed to the American government’s policies, in light of the Korean War, to hasten Japan’s economic recovery as a counter to Red China and the Soviet Union in Asia.

        The future for Japan does not look very bright in light of the demographics. Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. The country has been in an extended economic malaise since about 1990-95 and has accumulated, in relation to its GDP, a much larger debt than the USA.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I don’t know how significant Christianity is in Japan, but there’s a hardy batch of Southern Baptist missionaries, enough to have an actual organization (JABAS) which has a reunion every year in Mississippi. (My housemate is a member because her father was one of them, and in fact was in Japan when the war came; he came home on the Gripsholm or some similar ship. The school he taught at, in Kokura, became an army HQ during the war and was probably the intended ground zero of the second atomic bomb.)

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    But remember in my Light Liberty and the Pursuit of Hemlock essay, I offered that we prefer to live here today because we have assimilated the virtues of Judeo-Christianity, Classical Civilization and the Founders pinnaclization of the Enlightenment.

    I agree, Rob. We should no more throw out the best of that age then the best of our own age (including the Founding age) as the numbskull Left and “Progressives” are doing in their pursuit of an earthly socialist Utopia.

  5. faba calculo says:

    Here’s my problem with paganism. It’s not that it hugs trees in love of nature. It’s in that it’s a surrender treaty to nature.

    If there’s one overarching characteristic of humans, it’s the urge to control their environment rather than be controlled by it. And paganism is an attempt to manage nature via empty superstition, often leading to some truly barbaric outcomes.

    However, beginning in the West (with some admitted precursors elsewhere), a scientific view of the world began to arise, and with it, Enlightenment. That was what killed paganism, inside and outside the church.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I think there’s a lot of truth in what you say, Faba: “And paganism is an attempt to manage nature via empty superstition, often leading to some truly barbaric outcomes.”

      One could equally call Francis’ love of nature, because it was a reflection of the Creator, a superstition. After all, we can’t know these things for sure. There is some philosophical/artistic interpretation involved.

      What I despise about this new paganism is that it really is just so stupid. I spend a great deal of time out in nature. If anyone is a nature lover, I am. And if someone’s love for nature is truly naive or childlike and ranges into a type of religion, I can’t begrudge him or her that.

      But there is a poison, I think, in much of what passes for “nature lover” or “environmentalist.” And such people have gotten by for far too long on the veneer of their supposed superior caring. Perhaps we could even grant that from their zealousness some good is done, if only in terms of strengthening environmental concerns in the mix of considerations when doing any kind of human activity.

      And if that was the result — and the goal — who could begrudge that? And yet I think it’s completely appropriate to call a vast number of those in the “environmental movement” watermelons: green on the outside and red on the inside. There are many people who have taken up environmentalism as a political/social/religious movement with the goal of little less than a Communist-like society. This isn’t some sentimental love for nature. There is no “off” button for many of these people. The see (and have been taught) that humans are a plague on the planet. Their longterm goal is is the eradication of private property and the return of our planet to a “pristine” state.

      This is sort of what happens when the Left has spent over 50 years demonizing capitalism, demonizing the West, demonizing freedom, and demonizing people. Out of this comes a quasi-religion based not upon brotherly love but ultimately a psychological kookiness that manifests its own hatreds as a “love” for nature.

      So, really, I probably err in calling these New Pagans pagans. I don’t think ancient pagans were this psychologically kooky. If they worshipped a river god, what could seem more natural? Many of the things we see in nature are incredible. Why not a sun god? Why not even a god of war? All these make some kind of rational sense. And all such things could be used for good or ill, but I see no inherent harm in a river god or a forest god or a thunder god.

      But what of this god of the environment who (as with Christianity) sees man in a state of Original Sin but, unlike Christianity, sees the only way for him to atone by eradicating himself? This may sound like an overstatement, but this is the vibe implied in much of what passes for “care for the environment.”

      It is a truly odd (and revealing) thing that many of those who purport to have a love for nature are commonly supporters of such things as abortion, for if you do love nature, you must have a great wonder for the species who can write Hamlet or paint the Mona Lisa. I think much of what passes for “environmentalism” is simply an expression of the Dark Heart of Cultural Marxism, a heart full of stoked grievance and psychological angst as a way of living. And that there are legions of useful idiots or low-information voters who really do just want to clean the bottles off the beach does not change this fact.

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        A lot of nonsense is written about ancient paganism and its love for nature. In fact, at the bottom of ancient paganism is fear of nature and the realization that mankind is unable to control nature and that nature needs to be appeased. It wasn’t all sitting around singing Kumbaya.

        • RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

          that’s a good point fu

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Wouldn’t that make an interesting cable miniseries a la “Rome” regarding other pagans? As far as I’ve heard, “Rome” was a pretty good immersion into Roman life and times. I’d love to see something like that for, say, the German tribes. I think that “The 13th Warrior” may give a glimpse of that. And you have the highly fictional and mystic, but still paganistic, “Game of Thrones.”

          Yes, good point about fear of nature. I’d like to learn more of those times. Was it more palatable to perhaps fear a tree or hug it?

          • Kung Fu Zu says:

            You both feared and hugged a tree. Or hugged it because you feared it. Placate the tree sprite.

            • faba calculo says:

              I’m an agnostic/atheist, but there are still things that one has to appeciate about Christianity: it’s having served as the birthing grounds for the Enlightenment, it’s focus on forgiving each other (a lost art to FAR too many), and it’s emphasis on a God who loves mankind.

              On this latter point, I used to have a Hmoung roommate who was a Christian. Though his parents had converted from the local animism/paganism before he was born, he still knew their stories about what life before that had been like. The local tradition of forrest spirits held that the spirits were vicious, and if you didn’t sacrifice to them, well, you just never knew when your animals could all get sick and die. It wasn’t so much a religion as spirits running a divine protection racket. But when they converted to Christianity, it was a sudden and massive change in their life just to believe that there was someone who was stronger than the spirits and who did was He did out of love, not bribery.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                The local tradition of forrest spirits held that the spirits were vicious, and if you didn’t sacrifice to them, well, you just never knew when your animals could all get sick and die. It wasn’t so much a religion as spirits running a divine protection racket.

                I’m not a kneejerk Christian basher, as I suppose most have figured out by now. But much of this pagan spirit is part and parcel of Christianity, at least as often practiced. There is the idea of buying off the wrath of gods, at least as many people practice the religion.

                Nor am I a kneejerk Catholic basher. But with the trinity and a forest full of saints, how is this not sometimes like a new form of paganism?

                One reason I like reading about St. Francis is because it is arguable that he is the closest reflection of Jesus in history. And G.K. Chesterton makes some wonderful points about this in his biography of Francis.

                And I’ve been reading some of the thoughts of this current Pope. And it’s not particularly heartening. There’s an article at American Thinker called The Pope’s New Talking Points. And there is a link in the comments section that points to a blog by Barnhardt with an article titled On Jibberish, Flattery and Francis in which she says regarding a letter Pope Francis had written to an atheist:

                It’s jibberish.  It is intellectual bluffing.  He is a contra-educated South American Jesuit.  There’s no “there” there.  These guys were taught Marxism and pop psychology in seminary, and then ordained priests.  They were taught to ruthlessly disdain and resent EVERYTHING “old”, including the Church Itself, and instead to stare intently down at their own navels, marvel at the lint, and then build a “newchurch” out of that lint.  Bluffing is all they can do, and edifices built out of lint can only ever collapse – but they are taught that these edifices of lint are vastly superior to anything before, and even to relish in their “nuanced dialogue”, aka jibberish, with the world.

                That’s just one person’s view. But I think we all know the type. And she (or the commentor) then says something like, “Now I understand why some people are atheists.”

                I’m a fan of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.” There is lots and lots of stupid stuff associated with religion. But to be fair, most of this stuff is due to the human element. And I think one reason we had the big burn-out with Ed is that he is of the conceit that he is above such nonsense. But all this stuff is just very human, atheist or theist. “Better than thou” and looking down upon other people crosses all boundaries.

                So I’m not saying, as with the Pope, that right and wrong is just a matter of personal conscience (really, what a dumb thing to say). And I’m certainly not saying that only those who go through the approved religious rituals are “saved” or know god. But I do think there’s an awful lot of bullshit involved in all this. And for the average person, it is terribly difficult to sort it all out. And I consider myself an average person. And I like reading about St. Francis as a means to sort it all out, because this sure ain’t going to happen for me by going to church, especially with so many churches as morally confused as they are.

                Forest spirits seem downright wholesome and simple compared to a lot of this religious crap, especially the Marxist crap that has been infused into so much of Judaism and Christianity. I have great sympathy for agnostics and atheists who, like Brian in “Life of Brian,” look out upon the religious masses and see them doing silly things.

                But what I don’t do is try to set myself above them by claiming to be a “Brite” or smarter than them. Some of the smartest individuals in all of history were religious. And they weren’t necessarily smart despite there religion but often because of it. Religion can deepen one’s wisdom and can certainly mold one’s character into a much better thing.

                But it is also so easy for the masses to zoom right by the message and go straight to the superstition and to thus engage in de facto tree worshipping in a religion that specifically says to make no graven images.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I may do a fuller review of G.K. Chesterton’s biography of Francis of Assisi, but I’ve read enough now to connect further with the subject at hand (Paganism and Progressives).

    Mind you, I’m not for legislating my views. If you want to hug a tree, go hug a tree. If you want to use the word “sustainability” like an incantation, then do so. But don’t legislate me into your religion.

    And yet there are society-wide ramifications to what people believe. Nazi Germany was Nazi Germany for a reason. Ideas have consequences. Knowing that, we do a disservice to ourselves and future generations not to contemplate the implications of our ideas. We should want to spread and cherish good ones and give others the rhetorical back of our hands.

    More difficult still is seeing the unintended consequences of the views we hold on a longer time scale. “Social justice” I’m sure sounded like a great thing back in the 1920’s before we were 11 trillion (or more) in debt and had 100 trillion of unfunded “social justice” entitlement liabilities.

    But a bad idea can be like a small hole in the bottom of the boat. It doesn’t seem so serious at the time. But over time, it can sink even the largest ocean liner.

    So it is with socialism and, I believe, paganism.

    G.K. Chesterton says in the concluding pages of his biography of St. Francis:

    It is perhaps the chief suggestion of this this book that St. Francis walked the world like a Pardon from God. I mean that his appearance marked the moment when men could be reconciled no only to God but to nature and, most difficult of all, to themselves. For it marked the moment when all the stale paganism that had poisoned the ancient world was at least worked out of the social system. He opened the gates of the Dark Ages as of a prison of purgatory, where men had cleansed themselves as hermits in the desert or heroes in the barbarian wars. It was in fact his whole function to tell men to start afresh and, in that sense, to tell them to forget. If they were to turn over a new leaf and begin a fresh page…

    I’m not sure that I’m buying his analysis. I don’t know that history moves like a human mind and is subject to its own kind of psychoanalysis and unraveling of psychoses. But it could, I suppose, especially if you consider the mental illness we are delving into right now because of Obama and Cultural Marxism, which is the poison of our time, drip drip drip. People are quite literally coming out of their minds. And this, I believe, is becoming more and more a society-wide thing.

    So I’m not, in theory, against the idea of mankind (or at least The West) as a whole acting like one single psychological individual, purging himself in the Dark Ages and coming out the other end ready for a fresh start. But I remain unconvinced by Chesterton’s brief arguments in this brief biography of Francis. But like most of this introductory biography of Francis is clearly mean to be, it is food for thought.

    The bane of our own age may be that we don’t see the harm in the narcissistic and self-indulgent ideas, wrapped up in nice-sounding words such “compassion,” that are common today. We hug a tree, and there seems no harm in that. And yet many of the same people who do so are (unknown to most of the low information voters) extremely hostile to the idea of private property and often to humanity itself. In the guise of the tree-hugger who seems to be the very incarnation of a Franciscan character, there actually often lies hidden a rotten interior.

    And that is, of course, the entire story of Cultural Marxism. On the surface, who can be against giving some minority a special boost in terms of getting entrance to college? But then — drip drip drip — we do not see the poison that this is because this idea is not based inwardly on compassion. It is based upon the idea that there is some monolithic power structure keeping people out. And this idea turns people against their own society and their own good judgment. People learn grievance as an advantageous way of being — or learn guilt as a way to justify other people’s grievance.

    But is paganism, proper, wrapped up in all this? Well, arguably, only as an outer affectation, for most of what I am calling “pagan” is really the outer bark of a rotten tree that is Cultural Marxism. We must remember that it is an undeniable truth that those who tend to be political activists for not harming an eagle’s egg are more than willing to snuff unborn human children. Again, we run into the — drip drip drip — poisonous ideas (or small hole in the bottom of the boat) that doesn’t seem like such a big thing at the moment but works its destruction over time.

    And that, really, is what interests me about whatever aspect of paganism truly has returned in our own time. Is it so bad to hug a tree? Well, no. But this pagan love is usually false, masking a heart of darkness — a heart aggrieved (perhaps by some real things) but stuck on escalating self-aggrievement as a way of life.

    As G.K. notes in his biography, Francis was anything but a new type of pagan. He had a reverence for all created things because he saw in them a Creator. This is quite different from those who hug a tree because they hate a capitalist.

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