The New Paganism

 by Dr. Peter Kreeft • July 19, 2011

The most serious challenge for Christianity today isn’t one of the other great religions of the world, such as Islam or Buddhism.

Nor is it simple atheism, which has no depth, no mass appeal, no staying power. Rather, it’s a religion most of us think is dead. That religion is paganism—and it is very much alive.

Paganism is simply the natural gravity of the human spirit, the line of least resistance, religion in its fallen state.

The “old” paganism came from the country. Indeed, the very word “paganism” comes from the Latin pagani, “from the fields” or “country-dwellers.” Country people were the last to be converted to Christianity during the Roman Empire, the last to abandon their ancestral roots in pre-Christian belief. Today, country people are the last to abandon Christianity for the “new” paganism, which flourishes in the cities.

The old paganism was a far greater thing than the new. In fact, Chesterton brilliantly summarized the entire spiritual history of the world in this one sentence: “Paganism was the biggest thing in the world, and Christianity was bigger and everything since has been comparatively small.”

There were at least three elements in the old paganism that made it great. And all three are missing in the new paganism

The first is the sense of piety (pietas), the natural religious instinct to respect something greater than yourself, the humility that instinctively realizes man’s subordinate place in the great scheme of things. “Moderation” or “temperance” went along with this, especially in classical civilization. The motto “nothing too much” was inscribed over every temple to Apollo, along with “know thyself.”

This natural modesty and respect contrast sharply with the arrogant attitude of the new pagan in the modern West. Only Oriental societies still preserve a traditional reverence. The West does not understand this, and thinks it quaint at best and hypocritical at worst.

The new paganism is the virtual divinization of man, the religion of man as the new God. One of its popular slogans, repeated often by Christians, is “the infinite value of the human person.” Its aim is building a heaven on earth, a secular salvation. Another word for the new paganism is humanism, the religion that will not lift up its head to the heavens but stuffs the heavens into its head.

A second ingredient of the old paganism that’s missing in the new is an objective morality, what C.S. Lewis called “the Tao” in his prophetic little classic “The Abolition of Man.” To pre-modern man, pagan as well as Christian, moral rules were absolute: unyielding and unquestionable. They were also objective: discovered rather than created, given in the nature of things.

This has all changed. The new paganism is situational and pragmatic. It says we are the makers of moral values. It not only finds the moral law written in the human heart but also by the human heart. It acknowledges no divine revelation, thus no one’s values can be judged to be wrong.

The new paganism’s favorite Scripture is “judge not.” The only judgment is the judgment against judging. The only thing wrong is the idea that there is a real wrong.

The only thing to feel guilty about is feeling guilty. And, since man rather than God is the origin of values, don’t impose “your” values on me (another favorite line).

This is really polytheism—many gods, many goods, many moralities. No one believes in Zeus and Apollo and Neptune any more. (I wonder why: Has science really refuted them—or is it due to total conformity to fashion, supine submission to newspapers?) But moral relativism is the equivalent of the old polytheism. Each of us has become a god or goddess, a giver of law rather than receiver.

A third ingredient of the old paganism but not of the new is awe at something transcendent, the sense of worship and mystery. What the old pagan worshiped differed widely—almost anything from Zeus to cows—but he worshiped something. In the modern world the very sense of worship is dying, even in our own liturgy, which sounds as if it were invented by a Committee for the Abolition of Poetry.

Our religious sense has dried up. Modern religion is de-mythologized, de-miraclized, de-divinized. God is not the Lord but the All, not transcendent but immanent, not super-natural but natural.

Pantheism is comfortable, and this is the modem summum bonum. The Force of “Star Wars” fame is a pantheistic God, and it is immensely popular, because it’s “like a book on the shelf,” as C.S. Lewis put it: available whenever you want it, but not bothersome when you don’t want it. How convenient to think we are bubbles in a divine froth rather than rebellious children of a righteous divine Father! Pantheism has no sense of sin, for sin means separation, and no one can ever be separated from the All. Thus the third feature, no transcendence, is connected with the second, no absolute morality.

The new paganism is a great triumph of wishful thinking. Without losing the thrill and patina of religion, the terror of religion is removed. The new paganism stoutly rejects “the fear of God.” Nearly all religious educators today, including many supposedly Catholic ones, are agreed that the thing the Bible calls “the beginning of wisdom” is instead the thing we must above all eradicate from the minds of the young with all the softly destructive power of the weapons of modern pop psychology—namely, the fear of the Lord.

“Perfect love casts out fear,” says St. John; but when God has become the Pillsbury Doughboy, there is no fear left to cast out. And when there is no fear to cast out, perfect love lacks its strong roots. It becomes instead mere compassion—something good but dull, or even weak: precisely the idea people have today of religion. The shock is gone. That the God of the Bible should love us is a thunderbolt; that the God of the new paganism should love us is a self-evident platitude.

The new paganism is winning not by opposing but by infiltrating the Church. It is cleverer than the old. It knows that any opposition from without, even by a vastly superior force, has never worked, for “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” When China welcomed Western missionaries, there were 2 million conversions in 60 years; when Mao and communism persecuted the Church, there were 20 million conversions in 20 years. The Church in East Germany is immensely stronger than the Church in West Germany for the same reason. The new paganism understands this, so it uses the soft, suggestive strategy of the serpent. It whispers, in the words of Scripture scholars, the very words of the serpent: “Has God really said…?” (Gen. 3:1).

The new paganism is a joining of forces by three of the enemies of theism: humanism, polytheism and pantheism. The only five possibilities for ultimate meaning and values are: atheism (no God); humanism (man as God); polytheism (many gods); pantheism (one immanent God); and theism (one transcendent God). The Battle of the Five Kings in the Valley of Armageddon might, in our era, be beginning. Predictions are always unwise, but the signs of the times, for some thoughtful observers, point to a fundamental turning point, the end of an age.

The so-called “New Age Movement” combines all the features described under the title of the new paganism. It’s a loosely organized movement, basically a reflowering of ’60s hippiedom, rather than a centralized agenda. But strategies are connected in three places. There may be no conspiracy on earth to unify the enemies of the Church, but the strategy of hell is more than the strategy of earth. Only one thing is more than the strategy of hell: the strategy of heaven.

The gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church; in fact, God uses the devil to defeat the devil, just as He did on Calvary, when the forces of the Hebrew, Greek and Roman worlds united to crucify Christ, as symbolized by the three languages on the accusation sign over the cross.

The very triumph of the devil, the death of God, was the defeat of the devil, the redemption of mankind, “Good Friday” Because God, who spoke the first word, always gets the last word.

About the author:

Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and also at the King’s College (Empire State Building), in New York City. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 55 books including: Back to Virtue; The God Who Loves You; Heaven, The Heart’s Deepest Longing; Everything You wanted to Know About Heaven; Your Questions – God’s Answers; How To Win The Culture War; The Journey; Before I Go – Letters to Our Children About What Really Matters; and Jesus Shock.

Dr. Kreeft is a convert to the Catholic Church from reformed Protestantism. He earned an A.B. degree from Calvin College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, followed by post-doctoral work at Yale University. He has received several honors for achievements in the field of philosophy, including the Woodrow Wilson Award, Yale-Sterling Fellowship, Newman Alumni Scholarship, Danforth Asian Religions Fellowship, and a Weathersfield Homeland Foundation Fellowship.

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64 Responses to The New Paganism

  1. JM says:

    Thank you for an inspiring article.

    Like

  2. golden chersonnese says:

    Jamie, how nice to see you.

    Like

  3. umblepie says:

    Excellent article, thanks.

    Like

  4. JM says:

    Hello, Golden C, I’m glad you’re here. I haven’t been around the wider blogosphere lately and have missed a lot of news.

    This article got my attention as soon as I saw it, for it deals with a most important subject. I believe the New Paganism is one of the more unfortunate manifestations of our scientific age. Not that science is bad, but that it has too narrow a focus. But that will change, I’m sure. Well … I hope!

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  5. toadspittle says:

    .
    “To pre-modern man, pagan as well as Christian, moral rules were absolute: unyielding and unquestionable. They were also objective: discovered rather than created, given in the nature of things.”

    But were these ‘moral rules’ always the same? For everybody? Pagan and Christian? And what exactly were they?

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  6. toadspittle says:

    .
    .
    Science has no “narrow focus”, JM. How could it? It ‘threatens’ (if that is the mot juste) to extend our sphere of knowlege as far as possible, which might be be infinite (the sphere, that is not the knowlege.) Narrow, it is not.

    We cannot put a limit on knowlege, because we’d have to be outside the limit to do it.
    Or so says Wittgenstein.
    Manus will confirm this.

    .

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  7. toadspittle says:

    .
    Damn the bold. Why doesn’t Toad just accept the lousy pagination system and get on with it?

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  8. golden chersonnese says:

    Yes Jamie (JM), delightful to see you here. I do hope you’ll stick around.

    Would I be right in thinking that when you said science has a ‘narrow focus’ you meant that its focus is, by definition actually, on the purely physical universe? Perhaps too that the sort of ‘scientific method’ way of approaching almost anything at all these days is a bit tiresome. Except that you often get a good laugh when overhearing the 30-ish Bretts and Brionies having their serious conversations. (If I’m right there, spare me all adulation. I’ve had enough of that today from a certain Mr Toad, who shall remain nameless.)

    Mathematics seems another kettle of fish, however, as Manus would have had us think yesterday on the ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’ post.

    Do you know Manus? I’m sure you two would get on like a house on fire.

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  9. Katje says:

    Have you ever actually met a Neo-Pagan, or talked to one?

    Actually, don’t answer that. I can tell by your article that you don’t talk to us beyond maybe telling us that if we don’t accept Jesus Christ we’ll burn in hell. Because, you know, that’s a really good way to sell a religion.

    Let me tell you something: we couldn’t care less about infiltrating your church. Most of us, at least — there are assholes in every group, and Paganism is no exception. We’re not a threat to you, but you keep casting that light on us and attacking us first. If anything, we’re practicing self-defense. By and large we just want you to leave us the hell alone.

    As for not really believing in the gods…ha ha ha. I’m a dedicated priestess in Brighid’s service because She called me and demanded my attention. I’m also devoted to Morrigan because She claimed me as Hers and would not take no for an answer. Believe in these Ladies? Believe in them like I believe in the postman — They’re there, and They’re a very real, fundamental part of my life. I believe in the existence of all the Gods, yours included. I actually tried to talk to Him. And He snubbed me, telling me I was not one of His and He wanted nothing to do with me.

    Why don’t you try doing some research before spouting off about other religions? Or, hey, try your hand at an interfaith dialogue? Instead of treating us like the Enemy, treat us like what we are — fellow human beings sharing the planet with you. Just because we have different beliefs does not mean we’re evil or a “threat” to your religion.

    The only threat is your ridiculous paranoia.

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  10. JM says:

    Yes, GC, that is roughly what I mean when I say that science (as it is now done) is too narrowly focused. I think any system that tries to explain the world in purely material terms, and using almost exclusively the language of mathematics is bound to fall short ; and, in the process, be misleading.

    But science, as we do it now, is seductive. I think the mistake people make is that, because science is productive of some really useful technology, then it must embody (latently) all truths, and will eventually lead us to them.

    I remember remarking to a scientist friend that the material sciences cannot tell us everything we need to know right now ; his response was – “That’s just philosophy!” Says it all, really.

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  11. Srdc says:

    Katje,

    Thanks for your insights. I don’t understand how were you snubbed by our God? Maybe you could explain this to us.

    Thanks.

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  12. Funny that the author says that “Nobody believes in Apollo or Zeus or Neptune anymore” when there are Hellenic Polytheist organizations in both Greece and the United States. I guess members of these organizations, like myself, do not exist in the author’s mind DESPITE evidence to the contrary such as websites which actually contain pictures of ceremonies honoring our Gods.

    If the author did not even do the minimal amount of research that it would take to find Hellenion, YSEE or Hellenismos.us I wonder if this is a truly well thought out article. I’m quite sure that people who worship other ancient Gods in the modern day would ALSO be interested in being told that they too, do not exist.

    I like Katje have experienced being “Claimed” by my Gods. And although the term “snubbed” by the God of Christianity would not be the term I would use, I actively TRIED to remain Christian in opposition to the pull of the Gods I now worship. It was the echoing silence within my heart which resulted from this attempt and the feeling of “coming home” when I stopped that showed me more clearly than anything else that the Christian God was NOT my God, and in fact, did not oppose my worship of another.

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  13. @Srdc, stick with me a bit and perhaps I can provide a shade of insight into what Katje is referring to.

    While I can see how you may have come to your conclusions, I don’t feel that it is through true passion of religious study. As Katje pointed out, there are many of us that still believe in the “old gods” And it is far from being a path of least resistance.

    There will always be your loud mouths, and your “bad seeds”, just as in any faith. Just as most people shun the West Borough Baptist group as not being true Christians. We (for the most part) are not without moral, nor fear of god(s), nor do we all believe ourselves to be incarnate divine. We are taught to question, so we better understand the world around us. Our gods (whomever that may be) do not grant our every wish, nor are we rewarded with power or wealth if we follow their orders. Our gods present personal trials for us to overcome so that we may be the best that we can, in order to help our fellow man (or woman). We are tempered, not to be arrogant, but to hopefully be strong in mind, body, and soul. We are taught personal accountability as well as social accountability. We aren’t given direct orders, because it is assumed that we know better and that if we make a mistake we will learn from it and correct it for when it happens again.

    I will also agree with Katje and say that we are not concerned with infiltrating your churches. I have many dear friends that are different denominations of Abrahamic faiths, and am quite content with letting them stay within their church. I will gladly explain any questions they present to me, but I am not threatened by the fact they do not follow what I do. There have been numerous individuals that have been interested that I have guided, that we found through our time together that the best path for them was back to Christianity.

    I was raised Catholic, I attempted to embrace my mother’s faith, and it never embraced me in return. When I acknowledged I was Pagan, it was not out of seeking to rebel or wanting personal power or hubris. I had felt rejected in the church. I would call out to the Catholic god, and to Jesus, and to Mary…and there was never any kind of response. It was like a parent turning their back on an injured child. I tried for many years to call out. I was in a hard situation, a painful situation, and I didn’t want Him to fix anything I just wanted to know that He loved me. I didn’t want bells and whistles, but I was looking for something, even a feeling of love…even a dream would have sufficed. The most I ever felt from Him, was a pushing away like when someone pushes an unwanted puppy away with their foot. When Nebet Het came to me, I was not looking for her, she didn’t give me all the answers, and she sure as hell made my life more complicated. But when I called to her, while she may not have answered or given me a sign I was on the right path, there was a feeling of love. Not approval, not acceptance…but truly unconditional love.

    Through the years, I have learned many things from the Gods that have spoken to me. Part of that learning was the understanding that I had to let go of my anger towards a deity that had snubbed me, and accept that I was just not one of his children and be happy in the fact that I am who I am; but also be happy for the people that have found their place in the Abrahamic faiths. I feel that I live a complete and enriched life, and I feel truly blessed to have such strong forces in my life to help not only shape me to who I am, but to have allowed me to grow in order to bring whatever is needed to those around me; whether healing words or stern guiding. And I will state again, it is not an easy path, and it is not one I would ever actively push on someone because of the hardships that are used to temper those of us that are Pagan.

    I am very saddened and disappointed to read that someone of such a learned standing, as a professor, has such inaccurate assumptions of us. We are willing to speak up, if only you would have asked.

    Like

  14. A. Lynn says:

    Dr. Peter Kreeft, I have looked at your bio and may I say I am extremely disappointed that someone with a Phd in philosophy could not even be bothered to do some basic research on a subject before writing a public piece. Heck, even a google search of ten minutes would have helped you to have written a paper that was more accurate. As Katje wrote above, you have obviously never spoken to a follower of a modern Pagan religion.

    I do in fact believe in Zeus, Apollo, and many other Gods. I belong to a religion that has piety as one of our 9 founding virtues. The 9 also includes moderation, wisdom, vision, courage, integrity, perseverance, hospitality, and fertility. We value education and research. If you really want to know why Paganism is growing so fast, maybe should do some research into what Paganism really is.

    If you wish to know more, then perhaps a quick look into what form of Paganism you want to compare your religion with is in order. Paganism is an umbrella term for a great many religions and faiths; just as Christianity is an umbrella term for Catholics, Protestants, Coptics, and Orthodox Christians; not to mention all the off shoots. There are Wiccans, Druids, various Reconstructionists (including a contemporary Hellenic Reconstructionism, or “Hellenismos” ), and we are not one lump group any more than Christians are.

    I hope you will do further research before speaking on subjects in the future.

    Like

  15. Katje says:

    There is a type of communication that happens between mortals and gods. Sometimes it’s very clear when you’re in contact with a god, and sometimes it’s not so easy to figure out. Depends on the person and the god.

    It has always been very clear to me when a god is talking to me. I’ve been “thwapped” by the gods — They appeared in my life (during meditative trance sessions) and told me I was to follow Them. And I do. (Being thwapped is not common among pagans; it is a minority who feel that calling.)

    When I tried this communication with the Christian god, in order to tell Him “No hard feelings” because I wasn’t one of His followers, He gave me a reply that said, basically, “You’re not one of mine, and I want nothing to do with you. Leave me alone.”

    Which is perfectly within a god’s right to say, but it gets very irritating hearing /constantly/ that it’s the one true path to worship that god and I’m doing it wrong.

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  16. Count me in as another Pagan who does believe in the gods and practices piety. Granted, there are so many Pagans out there with diverse beliefs that a few of them will be as you say here, but do you know any actual Pagans? Can I ask for your sources of information for this article? Or is your definition of Paganism here nothing more than a straw man (or should I say wicker man?) to make you and your coreligionists feel better about yourselves?

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  17. caraschulz says:

    Dr. Kreeft,
    I respectfully suggest you take a look at modern Paganism as it does not appear you are aware that we exist. All around the world, people are turning back to the religion of our ancestors and finding it to be rich, fulfilling, and beautiful. I do worship Zeus, Apollon, Hestia, Hekate, Hermes, the Agathos Diamon, and my ancestors – to name a few of the Gods I owe eusebia to.

    A good (non-scholarly, but there a scholars who write articles) is the Pagan portal at Patheos. Patheos is a site devoted to a balanced view of many religions.

    Cara Schulz

    Like

  18. Srdc says:

    Katje,

    The way we communicate with God is through prayer. We just talk to God like we are talking to a friend.

    Jesus said “Knock and the door shall be opened, ask and you will receive”

    So maybe the you were not communicating with the Christian God to begin with.

    Jesus did say “I am the way, the truth and the life, that no man comes through the Father, except through me.”

    Now, we as Catholics, hold that other religions and people can be saved, you don’t automatically go to hell, because you are not a Christian. We just hold that everyone who is saved is just saved through Jesus. Since, nobody can be saved any other way. How this happens, is known to God alone.

    Now, this is where it get’s interesting. We who know Christ will be held to a higher standard than those who do not know him, which means a good pagan can be saved, but a bad Christian cannot. To whom more is given more is expected.

    If I die in a state of mortal sin, I cannot be saved, provided off course, that I commit a grave sin with full knowledge and consent.

    The point of Kreeft’s article is that not that pagans are bad, but that modern pagans do not believe in an objective right or wrong. The older pagans such as Socrates, Plato etc did.

    I think this relativism holds for our culture in general.

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  19. While thoughtful, Dr. Kreeft shows very little knowledge about modern Paganism.

    I’ll agree that paganism is the natural gravity of the human spirit; that’s a big part of the appeal for many contemporary Pagans. Paganism feels natural because it is; it doesn’t need to be learned and it’s what you’d be left with if every holy book in the world suddenly vanished, a natural respect for the earth, its creator(s), and all of its inhabitants. There’s nothing “fallen” about that.

    Considering “pagan” as something broader than the last coutry-dwelling holdouts of the Roman Empire will reveal the wide and diverse world of paganism from the Greco-Roman mystery cults to Vedic religions, Asian folk practices, to the indigenous traditions of the Americas. In contemporary practice, you’ll find Wiccans, Heathens, Hellenists, Druids, and a variety of other kinds of contemporary Pagans who all take their spirituality and their gods very seriously and with more than a little sense of wonder and awe.

    The three elements claimed to be missing in contemporary Paganism — piety, objective morality, and worship — are wholly present and thriving. The proof is in the pudding with the growing number of organizations, temples, schools, and literature. That’s where our interests are, in the healthy growth and tending of our community, not the infiltrating of another’s church.

    The Roman Catholic Church faces so many challenges — redefining the priesthood, sex abuse scandals, sexuality and marriage, the role of women. I would think those are more pressing issues that are worthier of dialogue than ill-conceived notions about contemporary Paganism and its goals.

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  20. Katje says:

    It is possible the one I was talking to wasn’t the Christian god. But either way it doesn’t matter, because I’m not planning on converting to Christianity, of any stripe.

    Not all pagans hold morality as such a loose thing. Many of us believe in an objective right or wrong. Many of us also believe morality is separate from religion, that we can make ethical decisions based on our own personal compass of justice — not rules from the gods.

    Honestly, if you ask 100 pagans what they believe, you’ll get 101 different answers. My objection here is the amount of generalization going on. Yes, our culture is messed up, but that’s really not the fault of Neo-Paganism.

    Relativism isn’t really a bad thing, if taken in moderation. I believe that some things are objectively right or wrong, and that other things are of more a personal nature. This isn’t morality so much as ethics — I believe in behaving ethically, which means I have to constantly think about my actions. Which means that something that’s right for me may be totally wrong for someone else, and that’s fine if those things don’t infringe upon other peoples’ freedoms or lives.

    And therein lies the rub — you say a good pagan can be saved, but by what standards is a pagan judged good? And what if we pagans don’t want to be saved? In my Druidic belief system, there are nine virtues: wisdom, piety, vision, courage, integrity, perseverance, hospitality, moderation, and fertility. Will I be judged by my adherence to those virtues or by some other, unknown checklist? And the fact that I don’t want to be saved — that I would rather be carried off to the Land that Lies Beyond by Manannan, does that matter at all? Or will my soul be stolen away from my gods?

    Saving me would be infringing upon my life and my choices. My soul belongs to the gods I worship, and it will go with Them when my body stops working. Saying that good pagans can be saved is the equivalent of saying that our beliefs don’t matter.

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  21. manus says:

    Katje,

    It is good of you to visit our website and to respond openly to this article: thank-you. You are the first pagan I’m aware of to comment here, so welcome! Please be patient with me if I explain how your answers illustrate a couple of the points that Kreeft makes.

    The first is the centrality of personal choice in your response. You mention two gods as having claims on you, but object to Christian assertions of our God’s claims on you. In the afterlife, are your two gods going to fight for you (one demanded your attention, the other claimed you as her own), or are you in fact going to determine how you spend your eternity? Conflicts in divine domains can only be resolved peacefully if the only real power is your own right to choose. If all the gods can do is set out their stalls and you choose your mixture of alliances, which they are required to respect, then you are the one with power – you are the true god. We Christians may be tedious in our assertions of the universal dominion of our God, but at least we are consistent about God being far more powerful than any human will. If any true god exists, then surely the afterlife will be decided by the will of the god, not by ourselves. This is another way of putting Kreeft’s first point – the new paganism doesn’t truly ‘respect something greater than yourself’. It doesn’t appear to be about what you must do for your god, but what your god does for you.

    The second point is about morality, which is perhaps the greatest spectator sport on the planet. We all love to think and talk about moral issues thrown up in media stories etc, and we are all armchair experts, concocting our own theoretical schemes. But the same point about choice raises its head: ultimately, are you free to choose whatever morality you like, or is there some higher, external, objective standard that you should conform to? If there is a god, is it likely that his/her view of morality has a higher claim on our duty than our own ideas? This might be because we wish to please the gods, or it might be because we assume they have a better grasp on moral truth. Sure, most of us agree on some basic ideas of morality – the Golden Rule and so on – at least until they conflict with what we want to do right here and right now.

    Now, I choose to do what I actually do – usually. But in the Christian scheme of things I must accept that often I choose to do what I know isn’t right, based on external moral standards. What Kreeft is refering to is that, if we construct our own moral standards, then we can end up with the notion that everything I choose to do is ‘right for me’ at that particular moment, so that ‘to choose’ is exactly the same as ‘to be morally correct’. But surely if there is a god, doesn’t he/she have a say in the matter, especially regarding the afterlife?

    What do you think?

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  22. toadspittle says:

    .
    Pagans!

    We’ll be getting The Quivering Brethren on next! (smiley face)

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  23. Mr Badger says:

    I think this article is written for Catholics who don’t know too sure about their own Religion and Tradition. But not meant as an attack on your practise.

    Well pagans, you’ve been told. And all those Catholics who “don’t know too sure” have something to read. Are the rest of us embarrassed? Who does know?

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  24. Gertrude says:

    As the instigator of this post, it was not my intention in so doing, that it would be read by Catholic’s who did not know their own religion or tradition. I would hope (and pray) that those who read our posts do so with an enquiring mind, sometimes a questioning mind, but always in the sure knowledge of the tenets of our faith, and our fidelity to the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

    What I did not do, was anticipate the number of responses from followers of paganism, and with Manus (who has written a very good, considered response) I would say also, you are welcome.

    And….no Toad, I am not planning a post on ‘the quivering brethren or the ‘holy rollers’ – but God Bless them anyway.

    I hope that our visitors perhaps understand a little more of our faith, and I would also say, we certainly know a little more about yours.

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  25. Mr Badger says:

    Teresa, I agree, no text has meaning without context. — Pragmatical or no –.

    It would be hard to read a technical manual as a novel (but maybe easier to read as modern poetry?)

    I suggest you don’t take offence at the Koran or Talmud, you will gain nothing and risk needless strife.

    Mr. Badger, certainly not. All are free to read anything they want. But as someone who visited some university courses of text analysis, the pragmatical context should be considered in order to understand the text properly.

    I’m relieved that I don’t understand what you mean in the slightest, for a while I was worried my brain had turned to mush.

    🙂

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  26. The Raven says:

    An important point that seems to have been missed here is that Kreeft is not so much discussing the beliefs of people who self-identify as “pagans”, as addressing the general syncretist morass of people who do not self-identify as members of a neo-pagan cult, but consider themselves “spiritual” in some loose, undefined manner.

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  27. Dr. Kreeft seems to be out of touch with the field of religious studies, if he’s referring to “spiritual but not religious” Americans as “pagans.” The term “spiritual but not religious” has been in academic use since at least 2000 if not before, and that group — which seems to be the one that Kreeft is *actually* attacking, not contemporary Paganism — has been studied in depth by Robert C. Fuller, Wade Clark Roof, and others.

    Contemporary Paganism, however, is a distinctive new religious movement characterized by structured, usually polytheist devotional practices and an affirmation of imminent divinity (though as a group with little institutional structure, beliefs and practices are diverse). There is already a significant body of academic and theological literature on contemporary Paganism. It is shocking to me that an apparently tenured philosophy professor is so unfamiliar with current scholarship as to be unaware of contemporary Pagans as a distinct group — Pagans number 1 million and growing in the United States alone, and the American Academy of Religion has recognized Contemporary Pagan Studies as a legitimate research field for several years now.

    It’s clear that Catholicism and contemporary Paganism have many important theological differences, but Dr. Kreeft really should be clear on what those are before including them in his attacks.

    Michael Strmiska (ed.) has an excellent collection of scholarly essays (entitled _Modern Paganism_) on the contemporary Pagan movement that I recommend to any educated reader: http://books.google.com/books?id=qx7Tvd99xVAC&lpg=PP1&dq=strmiska%20modern%20paganism&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Christine Hoff Kraemer, PhD
    Cherry Hill Seminary

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  28. Katje says:

    Manus,

    “In the afterlife, are your two gods going to fight for you (one demanded your attention, the other claimed you as her own), or are you in fact going to determine how you spend your eternity?”

    The gods I worship actually work together, so that’s not really a problem. The two Ladies I follow *often* have followers in common, so I’m sure they’ll be able to work out where my soul goes.

    Personally I believe that after a certain amount of time in the afterlife I’ll be reincarnated, but I’m not really sure what will happen to me after death. It’s honestly not the main focus of my faith, and I trust Morrigan and Brighid have got something awesome planned.

    “It doesn’t appear to be about what you must do for your god, but what your god does for you.”

    My gods do things for me because They love me. I, in turn, do things for Them because I love Them.

    I haven’t talked at all about the things They have actually asked me to do, or what my Work is regarding them, so your assumption is a very big leap.

    “If there is a god, is it likely that his/her view of morality has a higher claim on our duty than our own ideas?”

    My Gods’ ideas of ethics and morality certainly have a higher claim on my duty. I just happen to be lucky in that my idea of ethics and morality and Theirs lines up almost perfectly.

    “What Kreeft is refering to is that, if we construct our own moral standards, then we can end up with the notion that everything I choose to do is ‘right for me’ at that particular moment, so that ‘to choose’ is exactly the same as ‘to be morally correct’.”

    I protest this attitude as well; I think it’s unhealthy.

    One of the biggest things in my faith is to take responsibility for my own actions and the consequences. That means if I make a wrong choice — and I do, quite often — I have to accept what happens as a result.

    I see far too many people in our society not taking responsibility, blaming anyone they can, and generally acting like they’re victims to whom things happen.

    This is not what relative morality is. Relative morality is being able to say “This choice would be very wrong for me, but it may be absolutely right for someone else.” Mind you, I don’t say that about all things; some things are wrong no matter how you look at it (rape, child abuse, etc). But let’s take sex before marriage, for example. Really doesn’t work for me to not have sex before marriage, but for someone else it may be the right choice — and this doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with religion; I had a pagan friend who decided to not have sex before marriage because she wanted commitment before she gave over her virginity. For me, I never planned on getting married (which has changed now, as things do), so it didn’t make sense to me to wait. Now that I do plan on getting married, do I wish I had waited? No, because if I had I wouldn’t be the person I am, I wouldn’t have made the choices I did, and I wouldn’t have met the person I’m going to eventually marry.

    That said, I’ll fully admit that I made some bad choices regarding people I’ve slept with, but that happens, and I live with the consequences (memories of abusive relationships, specifically).

    I’m sure that my gods do have a say in my choices, even if I’m not aware of that influence. I’m sure They have a say in my afterlife, too, but the afterlife is not so important to me that I spend a great deal of time thinking about it. The only thing about the afterlife that really matters to me is that I go to *my* gods, and that my soul doesn’t get taken by another deity (any other deity). I’ve dedicated myself to my gods and therefore bound my soul to them. That’s as far as I think about it, because I’m more concerned with life right now than life after death.

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  29. Katje says:

    “That is why you all left the Christianity and become new pagans.”

    For the record, I was never Christian. I was raised by a Buddhist mother and an Atheist, anti-religion father, and for all intents and purposes considered myself Buddhist until high school, when I discovered Wicca.

    “I think this article is written for Catholics who don’t know too sure about their own Religion and Tradition. But not meant as an attack on your practise.”

    I think some clarity of wording would be really helpful in that case, seeing as it very much reads as an attack — and it’s disappointing that a professor in Philosophy hasn’t done the research on actual Neo-Pagans and is just setting up false arguments and generalizations to make his point.

    If he wants to talk about “spiritual not religious” being a threat to Catholic faith he can use those words. They would be more accurate, as many pagans are actually very religious.

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  30. Teresa, let me see if I’ve got this straight. You say:
    “Christian theology, on the other hand, is built upon the scrutinies of ancient philosophers and is basing on a rational, philosophical structure.”
    and also:
    “So many are thinking out now their own “religion”, how can we be serious with this kind of man made religion?”

    So your religion, which was developed by people, is legitimate, but mine, which was developed by people, cannot be legitimate because of this?

    Yes, our religion is young, even if based on concepts that are old. But I most certainly do take it seriously. I aspire to be one of those “ancient philosophers” – not now, of course, but to future generations of Pagans, who will take what I have learned and build further upon it.

    I’m sure the ancient Romans thought that Christianity wasn’t a serious religion, either, and that was one of their biggest mistakes. Please don’t make the same mistake about us.

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  31. Katje says:

    Mythology simply means story telling. A body of myths is a body of stories that try to explain our place in the world.

    By the anthropological definition, all the stories in the Bible are mythology as well.

    This isn’t an attack — myths can be true. They can also be fiction. They’re stories that have been passed on for so long that no one knows anymore if they’re true or not.

    When we create new stories, we create new myths. Someday archaeologists may dig up the remains of our current culture and think that our gods were the people on American Idol. Who knows.

    “Myth” isn’t a pejorative, though I see you’re trying to use it as one.

    As for paganism being a religion…it’s not one monolithic religion. Paganism is an umbrella term that covers many Neo-Pagan faiths, such as Wicca, Druidry, Hellenismos, Celtic Reconstruction, Religious Non-Wiccan Witchcraft, etc. The list is very large.

    “It would be nice to hear why people who studied element physics and chemistry at high school still find no problem in believing that some pagan gods like Apollo will appear before you, this kind of thought was already rejected by the Ancient philosophers as irrational.”

    Science and faith are not incompatible, and there is a difference between being irrational and non-rational. The former means an inability to be rational; the latter means a choice to put rationality aside in specific cases.

    Furthermore, Neo-Pagans have based our beliefs on the beliefs of old — that doesn’t mean we hold up everything the Ancients said as the word of the gods. They didn’t have it all figured out, and neither do we. Ancient religions don’t fit as neatly into modern living as we’d like, so sometimes we have to improvise and find new answers.

    “So many are thinking out now their own “religion”, how can we be serious with this kind of man made religion?”

    It’s called respect for differences.

    You may believe that religion can only be created by the divine. I do not. I believe religion is, and always has been, a human-made structure, created to put order to the gods and the world. The divine has always been there, whatever shape it takes, but in order to explain it humans create religion.

    However, if you believe that religion is made by god and put here for you, that’s fine. I won’t tell you you’re not serious or just a hobbyist. Those are your beliefs. It would be rude to say they’re just a phase. Your beliefs are just as legitimate as mine.

    You ask if these mythologies are a new past-time that will grow old. For some people, they are. Those are the same people who are going to get bored with every new shiny thing out there, however, and shouldn’t be used as an accurate representation of paganism.

    For me, my devotion to my gods is for life and beyond. I have gone through times when I did not hear Their voices, when I felt alone, and yet I persevered in my faith because I made an oath. And I’m not an oath-breaker. I didn’t drop my gods because all of a sudden it wasn’t easy or fun anymore — I work through the bad times and the good. In many ways faith is like a marriage: in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Actually, till after death. I wouldn’t abandon my partner so easily and I certainly won’t do the same to the gods.

    There are many pagans who feel the same.

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  32. Katje says:

    Congratulations, you’ve just Godwined the conversation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

    Like

  33. Katje says:

    Everything the Pope says is incontrovertible fact?

    So if the Pope said that all pagans are purple monkeys, this would be fact?

    Seriously, can you please apply some critical thinking here? Even if the Nazis were pagans, why should that cast a bad light on modern pagans? There are jerks in every group.

    For example, let’s look at the Crusades, where Christians raped and pillaged their way across Europe.

    Or the murder of abortion-providing doctors in modern-day America. That’s terrorism, you know.

    How about the Westboro Baptist Church?

    Do you want me to paint all Christians with the same brush stroke?

    But, obviously, no, it’s PAGANS we have to worry about because there were Nazis at some point who may have had their fingers in the occult, we’re not really sure. Nevermind the huge population of Christians in the world committing horrible acts in the name of their god, because some Nazis or Neo-Nazis claim a pagan label ALL PAGANS ARE NAZIS.

    Your logic is so shiny it hurts my eyes.

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  34. Katje says:

    Many pagans are actually quite aware of the Neo-Nazis who claim to be pagan. Old Nazis, not so much, but modern day Neo-Nazis don’t really make any secrets about what they believe. And they’re quickly banned if they show up on many pagan forums.

    They’re not representative of the movement as a whole.

    But, in accordance with your logic, I suppose I should be very wary of Christians because of the Westboro Baptist Church. Because they must be representative of Christianity as a whole.

    (By the way, “rude” doesn’t begin to cover it when you compare all of us with Nazis. Seriously.)

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  35. Katje says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westboro_Baptist_Church

    I’ve found that many individual Christians are problematic. Just as I’ve found many individual pagans are problematic. This may or may not have anything to do with the sect or religion they belong to.

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  36. Katje says:

    “Christianity as a whole? There is no such entity. Christianity as used today contains too many denominations and also sects who are really harmful. One should learn to discern and thus be informed of the darker side of every movement.”

    Maybe you should do the same with Paganism, then, as it’s already been stated many times that Paganism is not a monolith and has so many religions under it that finding a definition for the word that all pagans would agree on would be impossible.

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  37. Katje says:

    Just in case there’s any confusion: I take issue with you painting all pagans with the same brush stroke and making generalizations about us, when it’s obvious that all you’re looking at is the darker side of the movement and not bothering at all to pay attention to the good people who are part of it.

    But I can see that nothings I say will make you understand, so I’m done here.

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  38. Srdc says:

    AmberRose of PaganCenteredPodcast,

    You mention the “feeling” of unconditional love. Isn’t this similar to some Christians who “feel” they are born-again. I personally think you were chasing after a feeling, rather than engaged in a study that combines both mind and heart. But, that’s just my take on things.

    Catholicism is not an either/or. It’s a Both/And

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  39. Stephy says:

    The KKK is a Christian movement, too; thus, we should be wary of Christianity. Really, do you honestly think that there are people out there gullible enough to buy that straw-man argument? Furthermore, many leaders at the time regarded Hitler as a Catholic in good standing with the Church. You really should do your research, dear. Here’s a starting point, if you can muddle through it.

    http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/paul_23_4.html

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  40. Srdc says:

    Katje,

    You mentioned that you found it offensive that a good pagan could be saved, because your understanding of good is not the same as ours. This is what we call relativism. You are off course free to disagree with this.

    I think the point of this article is that there are Christians who introduce things into a Christian framework, that does not work well within it , where a person is neither a pagan or a Christian, but tries to be everything.

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  41. Teresa makes the same mistake Dr. Kreeft makes in confusing a growing population of people that identify as “spiritual but not religious” with Paganism. These are not the same. I realize that in the Christian perspective, the term “paganism” has been used historically to encompass all non-Abrahamic religions, but this narrow and ignorant view is long out of fashion especially in scholarship and mature religious discourse.

    “Paganism” in and of itself is not a religion, but rather a blanket term used to describe multiple religious groups that share some characteristics such as animism, polytheism, nature veneration, numinousness, and magic. It is not “a fashion among young people and a kind of pop culture.” Contemporary Paganism is built on the shoulders of historical paganism such as the religions of ancient Greece and Rome and the ethnic folk traditions of Europe that are still alive and well, often syncretized with modern Christianity.

    Teresa denounces practices found in Paganism while upholding the very same in Christianity Communicaton with deities? Superstision? Catholics pray and speak with God, Jesus, Mary and the saints. Many have claimed to see them and the Roman Catholic Church has a rich history of mysticism. What are transfiguration, transubstantiation, miracles, and divine visions if not magic by the hand of God?

    And Nazis? Really? The Roman Catholic Church doesn’t exactly have a stellar record in this area. Let’s stop the hyperbole please.

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  42. Srdc says:

    Cosette,

    I am sure that Teresa, will respond to you. Yes, the Catholic Church has a rich history of mysticism, but they also have a through system of investigation, that investigates these claims, for years, until they decide whether or not it’s a miracle. The Vatican’s commission for miracles, has even atheists on board.

    It’s also not mandatory for Catholics to believe in Marian apparitions, weeping statues etc. Even when the church deems something as authentic. It is not necessary to believe in it, although one certainly can, if they choose to.

    As for the rituals, or sacraments, they each require valid form and valid matter, and right intent. It’s not uncommon to find Catholics debating over whether something is valid form and matter, such whether only natural water should be used for baptism, or any other kind of water can be used, etc or whether the communion host is valid, because it does not have the right matter in place etc.

    There are off course people who do not understand all this, and try to understand things based on their worldview. And there are Catholics who think we should just do away with all the ritual or change form and matter or just stick to spirituality, which is what Dr. Kreeft is referring to , because they do not understand why these things exist in the first place.

    So, yes this article would have been better titled ” spiritual without being religious” and why that would not work for us.

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  43. Sdrc,
    Your comments go straight to the heart of what I believe many contemporary Pagans find so infuriariting about dialogue with Christians. I am well aware that the Roman Catholic has (and has had for a very long time) an evolving system for investigating claims of miracles, for examining theology, doctrine, liturgy and so forth. I am aware somewhat of the challenges and debates facing the Church today and that there are many different views about a variety of hot topics. I think what many Pagans find offensive is the notion that we don’t have these as well. It’s been suggested here more than once that we just make stuff up as we go along and that’s just not true. We too struggle with our history and science and modernity and a number of other issues.

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  44. Teresa, you have it backwards. Christianity, particular Roman Catholicism, is syncretized with paganism.

    Like

  45. Katje says:

    “You mentioned that you found it offensive that a good pagan could be saved, because your understanding of good is not the same as ours. This is what we call relativism. ”

    I found it offensive because it was denying the agency of pagans with this belief that no matter what our religion is we’ll still be saved by your god. It’s basically saying that our beliefs, our faith, don’t matter because they’re not what you believe.

    Having agency erased is always offensive.

    To turn it around, this would be the same thing as my saying “Even good Christians will be taken to the Land that Lies Beyond by Manannan Mac Lir.” I’m sure you don’t like the idea of you being taken to another religion’s afterlife after spending your whole life as a good Christian — that is my issue with the idea of “good pagans being saved”.

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  46. Srdc says:

    Katje,

    If there is only one God, we are all saved through this one God. This is what I am trying to say. I don’t think there are multiple gods, you do, so this is an issue that you have to grapple with.

    I don’t have issues with being taken to another religion’s afterlife, because If I spent my life as a good Christian, I would not be going there anyways, so why worry about it.

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  47. The Raven says:

    Cossette,

    The plain truth is that claims that Christianity certainly absorbed local folk customs and feast days, but we have a pretty good picture of first century belief and practice – things really haven’t changed that much – and we also have contemporary accounts of the old paganism and can see quite how thoroughly it was expunged.

    Many of the “ancient” practices highlighted by Victorian authors as survivals from pagan times have been subsequently shown to be inventions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (or later).

    I am particularly interested in one point that you made: that there is a debate within the “neo-pagan” community about doxis and praxis. How is this debate conducted? How are decisions made?

    Like

  48. The Raven says:

    Katje

    It is a function of our monotheism that we deny agency to other “gods”.

    Like

  49. (Gods, this really did get Godwined, didn’t it? And I didn’t even see it coming.)

    Raven – As with most decisions made by Pagans, the doxis/praxis decision is made by whoever feels like making it. We’re unlikely to come to any Pagan-wide agreement on this one. My own church has established itself as solely orthopraxic, and that we make no claims as to the nature of deity, nor demand that people conform to one. If you’re willing to do the rituals in the form we use, you’re welcome to be a member. (I’m in ADF, if anyone’s feeling the need to ask: http://www.adf.org/)

    Like

  50. The Raven says:

    Rob,

    But doesn’t that play right into the argument that neo-paganism is the creation of each individual adherent (I’m trying not to give the impression that I think that “it’s all made up” by each individual, so forgive me if I’m being a little clumsy here).

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  51. To an extent, I’d say that that’s true. There are some common elements that most of us share, and when we get involved with a particular church or other organization then we’re sharing those common practices (and beliefs, for orgs that go orthodoxic), but ultimately it’s up to each individual to make up their own mind about what they believe and what they do. I don’t see that as a bad thing. Should I?

    Like

  52. The Raven says:

    Rob

    I couldn’t tell you that, like most Catholics I personally take the view that the Truth is not a plurality, but Cossette seemed keen to make the opposite argument.

    Like

  53. Once again showing how often we Pagans disagree with each other. >8)

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  54. Popping back up to read Cosette’s earlier entry: Many of us (myself included) do make efforts to research the ancient ways as best we can, but there’s no governing body to say exactly what those ways must have been, or to tell us which of those ways we must or must not follow ourselves in order to be proper Pagans. If that clarifies things.

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  55. A. Lynn says:

    @Raven:
    Does the Catholic church’s doctrine speak for the whole of Christianity? Does the doctrine of purgatory apply in Protestant circles as well as Catholic? The obvious answer is no. Who decides what theology applies in each denomination of Christianity? People do. Even with Catholicism there are branches that do not accept Vatican 2, and who still recite the mass in Latin. People decide these things in the Christian churches, so why is it so evil for Pagans to decide doctrine and practice that applies to their individual and separate group faiths? ADF groves follow one way of doing things, just as an Asatru clans will do it differently. This is not so different from the practice differences that can be found between various sects of Christianity. Does this make Christianity a product of individual adherents, as they make choices about which form of Christianity to follow?

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  56. Brother Burrito says:

    All religions have the same purpose: to explain the meaning and destination of life, to provide the best tools for their attainment, and to provide for fellowship on the journey.

    The Catholic Faith addresses all these best. It is like a truly unsinkable cruise liner, with its course firmly plotted, an excellent crew and capabilities, and plenty of room for all of the various types who wish to be aboard. Tickets are free, joining is voluntary, and you can jump overboard anytime, though it is foolish to do so!

    All other religions are less seaworthy for various reasons. Paganism is the least of all, though it once provided the urge to build boats, before the great shipwright and chandler appeared.

    Pagan brothers and sisters, I appeal to you to not set to sea in your home made coracles, unless it is to board HMS Christ.

    Boarders are welcome, pirates are not.

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  57. Jacquelyn Taylor Baumberg says:

    Brother Burrito, Thank you for your clear and simple description of the Catholic faith, and its place among all others. This is how I have thought of it since I entered it as an adult convert many years ago, and it has seen me through all kinds of difficulties.
    God bless you.

    Like

  58. “All religions have the same purpose: to explain the meaning and destination of life, to provide the best tools for their attainment, and to provide for fellowship on the journey.”

    Sure, I can agree with that. Paganism offers this to me and many others.

    “The Catholic Faith addresses all these best. It is like a truly unsinkable cruise liner, with its course firmly plotted, an excellent crew and capabilities, and plenty of room for all of the various types who wish to be aboard. Tickets are free, joining is voluntary, and you can jump overboard anytime, though it is foolish to do so!

    All other religions are less seaworthy for various reasons. Paganism is the least of all, though it once provided the urge to build boats, before the great shipwright and chandler appeared.

    Pagan brothers and sisters, I appeal to you to not set to sea in your home made coracles, unless it is to board HMS Christ. ”

    Mr. Burrito, a vague and threatening nautical metaphor may work well when describing a theme park ride or a seafood restaurant, but I doubt you’re going to convince many of us to leave our faiths with this. “All other religions are less seaworthy”? You’re going with the equivalent of a sports fan saying “my team rules, your team stinks” and expecting the fans of the other team to agree? My religion is plenty seaworthy, thanks, and sailing on a brisk wind to a grand adventure.

    “Boarders are welcome, pirates are not.”

    Don’t worry, matey, there’s nothing on your vessel I”d deem worth the effort to plunder.

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  59. toadspittle says:

    .
    “The torch bearers of European Enlightenment like Voltaire would be surprised.” (at the revival of Paganism)

    Says Teresa, hours ago yesterday.

    Well, Toad doubts that. He doubts that Voltaire and Co. would have been even mildly surprised at yet another manifestation of the unsinkability of superstition and the flight from reason.

    Saddened a bit, maybe.

    Like

  60. toadspittle says:

    .
    In the same comment as mentioned above, at 16.25 yesterday, Teresa also says:

    It would be nice to hear why people who studied element physics and chemistry at high school still find no problem in believing that some pagan gods like Apollo will appear before you, this kind of thought was already rejected by the Ancient philosophers as irrational.

    Toad suggests it would also be nice to hear how people who “have studied element physics and chemistry at high school” still find no problem in believing in transubstantiation and the Assumption of Christ’s mother.

    (This all reminds Toad of the Da Vinci Code fiasco, where frothing Catholics denounced the book as nonsense. So it was, just different nonsense to Catholic nonsense.
    Toad is not on the side of the Pagans here, in case anyone is wondering.).

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  61. The Raven says:

    A. Lynn

    You’ve highlighted a key area on which Catholics and Orthodox criticise Protestantism: it is a form of Christianity that is essentially formed by each individual Protestant.

    Catholic doctrine is the product of many centuries of debate on the singular events of Our Lord’s life – it is not personal to the believer in the way that it is in Protestantism and seems to be in some forms of neo-paganism.

    Like

  62. golden chersonnese says:

    It was Protestantism which formalized taking the decision-making process about Truth out of the hands of the Church and placed it in the individual’s own thinking process—for the “free interpretation” of Scripture was nothing other than the application of private opinions to standard understanding. (Rama P. Coomaraswamy)

    In fact, this thread and virtually all its comments reminds me of an article by Coomaraswamy (a married sedevacantist priest), including JM’s reference to ‘scientism, although Jamie didn’t use that word exactly. Coomaraswamy calls it ‘the Cartesian outlook’ and attributes to it not only today’s scientism but also new age spirituality.

    The Problems that result from locating Spirituality in the Psyche

    http://www.sacredweb.com/online_articles/sw9_coomaraswamy.html

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  63. manus says:

    Blimey, you take a night off and look what happens! What an amazing discussion.

    A few brief points:

    1) Katje, thank-you for a very full and interesting response to my comments. It would be great to keep the dialogue going, but with so many participants on this thread that would be difficult. Do you have your own blog? I don’t, by the way, I can barely keep up with reading this one!

    2) The business of myth is fascinating, and I think you’ll find in general that Catholics (and other High Churchers) are far more sympathetic to the notion of truth through myth than many Protestants, who inherit suspicion of idolatry and have a particular reverence for rationality. But the great claim of (orthodox) Christianity is that it perfectly unites rationality and myth – we have philosophers and mystics aplenty – how could the true God not satisfy both? This was a hot topic in the early 20th Century: CS Lewis was converted to Christianity on the grounds that it was the great myth that happened to be true, and of course Tolkien, who constructed one of the greatest myths in literature, was a devout Catholic. Their pal Charles Williams was an occultist before his conversion to Christianity, and his series of novels (All Hallows Eve, Descent into Hell, etc) portray the interaction between the natural and the supernatural with, it is said, a certain amount of inside knowledge.

    3) The Catholic Church is looking pretty disgraceful right now – understood. On some of the issues it is indisputably culpable – the child abuse scandal most obviously – and we are getting our house in order. On others, such as abortion, I believe the Church is taking the correct moral stand in the face of huge opposition. I would expect that is an issue that divides Pagan opinion, with some at least appreciating our absolute reverence of human life. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church is truly remarkable. It has survived the millenia, preserving ancient wisdom and presenting it ever new. Where the Church has split, it is the Protestant chunk that shattered into tens of thousands of pieces, while over half of all Christians – over a billion souls – stay united as Catholics. Its very size and longevity present endless targets for its critics, and yet it must be doing something deeply right to earn the freely given loyalty of so many human hearts over so many centuries.

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  64. Gertrude says:

    I would like to thank all our visitors to this thread for their contribution to this discussion. We have learnt much about your beliefs, and I hope you have learnt something of ours. There is much that divides us, but there are also things that we share.

    The comments thread to this particular discussion will now be closed, and may God bless you all.

    Like

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