Neopaganism and No Starch

This article is another reason why I must remember to send my dues to the Mark-Shea-John-Wright Mutual Admiration Society, aside from the fact that I am one of two members and founders.

What puzzles me about neo-paganism is why it wastes all this time inventing a fake synthetic paganism based on some suburbanites’ supposings about what esoteric sects did centuries ago, when there are lots of real pagans running around in Asia and the global south they could just go join without all this laborious re-inventing of an almost entirely fictional wheel. The focus of the neo-pagans is on pretend recreations of ancient euro-paganism, based on fictionalized history , coupled with modern notions of relativism and libertinism that would have often baffled and horrified many ancient pagans (who were by no means a monolith). So when you consult an actual pagan rooted in an actual historic pagan tradition like, say, the Dalai Lama on things like sexual mores, he sounds disappointingly more like Pope Benedict than like some sexually liberated votress of a goddess from a Joss Whedon fantasy universe dressed like a Frank Frazetta heroine.

Mr Shea agrees with Mr Chesterton and Mr Lewis about paganism, and about how what is called “Paganism” in these days is a sacramentalized liberalism. I have an example as well. Let me quote from Chesterton and Lewis before offering my example.

This poem I have quoted many times from Lewis before, and shall no doubt many times again.

Cliche Came Out of its Cage

by C.S. Lewis

1

You said ‘The world is going back to Paganism’.
Oh bright Vision! I saw our dynasty in the bar of the House
Spill from their tumblers a libation to the Erinyes,
And Leavis with Lord Russell wreathed in flowers, heralded with flutes,
Leading white bulls to the cathedral of the solemn Muses
To pay where due the glory of their latest theorem.
Hestia’s fire in every flat, rekindled, burned before
The Lardergods. Unmarried daughters with obedient hands
Tended it By the hearth the white-armd venerable mother
Domum servabat, lanam faciebat. at the hour
Of sacrifice their brothers came, silent, corrected, grave
Before their elders; on their downy cheeks easily the blush
Arose (it is the mark of freemen’s children) as they trooped,
Gleaming with oil, demurely home from the palaestra or the dance.
Walk carefully, do not wake the envy of the happy gods,
Shun Hubris. The middle of the road, the middle sort of men,
Are best. Aidos surpasses gold. Reverence for the aged
Is wholesome as seasonable rain, and for a man to die
Defending the city in battle is a harmonious thing.
Thus with magistral hand the Puritan Sophrosune
Cooled and schooled and tempered our uneasy motions;
Heathendom came again, the circumspection and the holy fears …
You said it. Did you mean it? Oh inordinate liar, stop.

2

Or did you mean another kind of heathenry?
Think, then, that under heaven-roof the little disc of the earth,
Fortified Midgard, lies encircled by the ravening Worm.
Over its icy bastions faces of giant and troll
Look in, ready to invade it. The Wolf, admittedly, is bound;
But the bond wil1 break, the Beast run free. The weary gods,
Scarred with old wounds the one-eyed Odin, Tyr who has lost a hand,
Will limp to their stations for the Last defence. Make it your hope
To be counted worthy on that day to stand beside them;
For the end of man is to partake of their defeat and die
His second, final death in good company. The stupid, strong
Unteachable monsters are certain to be victorious at last,
And every man of decent blood is on the losing side.
Take as your model the tall women with yellow hair in plaits
Who walked back into burning houses to die with men,
Or him who as the death spear entered into his vitals
Made critical comments on its workmanship and aim.
Are these the Pagans you spoke of? Know your betters and crouch, dogs;
You that have Vichy water in your veins and worship the event
Your goddess History (whom your fathers called the strumpet Fortune).

And now for GK Chesterton. These were men who lived in civilized times, when gentlemen of letter still wrote poems, and sometimes even rhymes.

THE SONG OF THE STRANGE ASCETIC
G.K. Chesterton

If I had been a Heathen,
I’d have praised the purple vine,
My slaves should dig the vineyards,
And I would drink the wine.
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And his slaves grow lean and grey,
That he may drink some tepid milk
Exactly twice a day.

If I had been a Heathen,
I’d have crowned Neaera’s curls*,
And filled my life with love affairs,
My house with dancing girls;
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And to lecture rooms is forced,
Where his aunts, who are not married,
Demand to be divorced.

If I had been a Heathen,
I’d have sent my armies forth,
And dragged behind my chariots
The Chieftains of the North.
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And he drives the dreary quill,
To lend the poor that funny cash
That makes them poorer still.

If I had been a Heathen,
I’d have piled my pyre on high,
And in a great red whirlwind
Gone roaring to the sky;
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And a richer man than I:
And they put him in an oven,
Just as if he were a pie.

Now who that runs can read it,
The riddle that I write,
Of why this poor old sinner,
Should sin without delight-
But I, I cannot read it
(Although I run and run),
Of them that do not have the faith,
And will not have the fun.

Both Lewis and Chesterton were unimpressed with modern paganism for reasons that the poems above make abundantly clear.

(*Note: For those of you who do not know who Neaera is, she is not the slavegirl from HISPANIA, a Spanish-made program about the cruel reign of the Roman Empire in Spain, as portrayed by Ana de Armas. Neaera is instead the traditional name for a nymph or for a rustic maiden appearing in Virgil’s Eclogues and Milton’s Lycidas. However, there is no point in posting a picture of Virgil, when I have an excuse to post a gratuitous picture of Ana de Armis, portraying Neaera, who is, after all, a pagan.)

Myself, I have the greatest respect for paganism, and slightly less respect for neopaganism, but respect them both more than I respect atheism, of which I was once a prime practitioner.

Because a neopagan might perhaps, if his spiritual strength does not wane with age, one day come to be a pagan and an honorable one like Trajan or Socrates; and an honorable pagan might perhaps, if heaven smiles, receive the free gift of holy baptism and become a Christian like Justin Martyr or Augustine; and one day, even if heaven and earth must pass away before all is accomplished, the Christian may one day become a human being.

Let me give you an example of when neopaganism least impressed me.

But first a long digression: for I must say before I say more that my example of disappointment with neopaganism comes not from any real life witches I know, all of whom I honor and love as friends (even when they call on fertility goddesses to bless their lesbian handfasting, unaware of the several ironies involved — come now: friends can smile at each other’s flaws, can they not?) but only from their stories they tell about themselves. Naturally the reality is more complex than the stories.

That I bear them no enmity no honest man can doubt: I also pray for the salvation of their Witchy souls to the Virgin, whom my Protestant friends, or one of them, solemnly tell me is a pagan goddess. If my Protestant friends are right, then who better to act as intercessor?

But one way to tell whether my Protestant friends are right is to ask whether any of my witch friends have drawn a magic circle or raised a sacred athame and chanted to Diana for the salvation of my soul, or my reincarnation into higher-energy astral plane? Has my close friend William the Witch sacrificed even one coney to Freyja that I might ascend to Folkvangr, or sacrificed a war-captive to Odin Bolverk, that I might die in battle and be wafted to Valhalla by the Choosers of the Slain?

For I have said many rounds of rosaries for the conversion of the heathens, and ask the Blessed Queen of Heaven for her aid. (I think that is the difference between pagans and Christians. We pray for them; they don’t pray for us.)

So, no, no real life neopagan has ever struck me as anything other than fairly decent right-thinking left-leaning folk no better nor worse than other natural men, who are toying with something dangerous and infinitely evil.

They fit into the zeitgeist of modernity much better than do I.

I think dabblers in neopagan rites have very little notion of how horrific the real pagan rites could be. We don’t see the Thor of Marvel Comics performing the sacrifice called the blood eagle, mentioned in Norse sagas, where ribs of the victim were cut by the spine, the ribcage opened so the ribs looked like blood-stained wings, and the lungs pulled out through the dripping gaps in the back.

This is a good excuse to post a picture of Thor. I do have ladies in my audience, after all.

We do not hear from Gore Vidal or Edward Gibbon how their darling, Julian the Apostate, had a slavegirl (like Neaera, see above) slaughtered and hung above an alter in the Temple of the Moon at Carra, in Syria. Afterward he had the Temple doors sealed and a guard placed so no one could enter until his return. However, courtesy of the Persians, he did not return and when his successor, Jovian, sent men into the Temple they found a woman hanging by her hair with her liver torn out.  The philosophical emperor had wanted haruspices to read her warm entrails and liver for omens of the Imperator’s coming battle with the Persians.

Which is as good an excuse as any to post another picture of Nerea:

And, likewise, when I hear my witch friends speak of “their ancient traditions” I point out, if they will hear me, that their ancient traditions reach back to the Romantic movement in the Eighteenth Century.

I feel about neopagans the way I feel about children playing dress-up in their parent’s old clothes …

ANimeNazi

… if their parents were Nazis, that is.

The above picture perfectly sums up the frisson of disquiet I feel seeing fairly decent right-thinking left-leaning folk paying homages to the Powers of the Air, whose real nature the ancients made little attempt to hide.

Now, before my readers in umbrage shout to the umpires to call “Goodwin’s Law!” on me, I am not calling neopagans members of the national socialist worker’s part of Germany. I am calling them natural, the most natural thing in the world. And the most natural thing for the Sons of Adam to be is unnatural.

Picture your average Phoenician, hard working, honest, true to his family and good to his friends, and picture him going on sacred days to the Town Square in Carthage. Diodorus of Sicily (20.14) describes this scene:

There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.

It is not so different from the picture of an honest and hardworking college girl, unexpectedly pregnant, pressured by her live-in boyfriend to visit an abortionist, and if the baby (or “product of conception”) is accidentally born alive, having it smothered in chloroform and put out with the medical waste.

Such is the way humans naturally act. Are postmodern Americans better than the Carthaginians? Really?

(And before eager internet scholars call into question the historical accuracy of the Viking or Carthaginian human sacrifices, let me point out as an attorney that you judge the evidence on the witnesses and exhibits as presented, not based on what fits your postmodern postrational historical revisionism. The combination of paucity of evidence and plenitude of imaginative partisanship in such claims threatens to bring historians into that same degree of respect with which modern journalism is regarded. )

End of the long digression. Take it as given that I have not found my neopagan friends to be disappointing, and, indeed in many a way they are able to tread water and keep their heads a little ways above the moral level of the sewage of surrounding popular culture.

Being a bookish fellow, my example of being disappointed with neopaganism comes from a book.

I remember reading a novel by an author both well respected and whom I respect. I will not call it an “urban fantasy” because that term usually means someone following BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER or ANITA BLAKE. This was someone following LITTLE, BIG by John Crowley (but not as well as Crowley, who is a genius).  I won’t mention the book or the author, lest I embarrass him or display my impudence in criticizing a superior in my own chosen field.

But….

But there was a scene in one of his books where the heroine summons up a thinly-disguised version of the Earth Mother, Demeter or Rhea or Gaea, to confront her sister who had been keeping herself unnaturally young by slaying the unicorns found in a dreamworld not far from earth’s plane of existence, and bathing in their sacred blood.

The slayer scoffed and mocked at the goddess, and I, a fan since my youth up of Greek and Roman mythology looked forward with terror, awe and dread about to be visited on the poor mortal for her hubris (a Greek remark!) — not just because of the pollution of the crime but because of the lack of honor shown the dread and august Divine Power.

But, no, the great and terrible Earth Mother, instead of transforming the upstart instantly into a nightingale or poplar tree to placate divine wrath, or cloaking the world in everlasting winter, or summoning up hundred-handed giants and prodigies from her prodigious womb to fall upon the miscreant and drag her screaming to Tartarus, there to spin on Ixion’s wheel forever or starve in Tantalus’s garden or  push the stone of Sisyphus, no, no, nothing like that happened.

It seems the miscreant had suffered one of the stereotypically favorite tragedies of postmodern writers, namely, she had been sexually abused as a child, and being the victim means that no moral opprobrium could be assigned her acts. So the wise Earth Goddess merely clucked her tongue and looked sorrowful and talked a bunch of boilerplate saccharine psychobabble nonsense  about “healing” and giving the miscreant “time to find herself” — and the whole scene was to shallow you could thrust your hand into it and only your fingernails would get wet.

It retroactively made the unicorn slaying no longer seem like a dreadful and blasphemous affront against the majesty, purity and sanctity of nature. Instead it left me hungry for unicorn venison.

What was missing from the scene was the pagan sense of the world as a dreadful and divine thing.

What was missing was awe.

And that is the main difference between the neopagans and the pagans. The pagans are pre-Christian, men who, by force of imagination alone, attempt to plumb the depth of the mystery of the divine, and who, in addition to many vile and terrible practices and grotesque superstitions, from time to time also illume with striking clarity the sorrow of this world and the joyous and terrible weight of awe which reaches beyond the world.

You see, the neopagans are not pagans. Neopagans believe in the modern therapeutic view of the world, as if life’s problems are merely an illness which can be solved, perhaps with help from the divine nurses and physicians of the mystic Otherworld, by meditating or by dancing naked among the trees, either in this life or some hither cycle of reincarnation.  This is a modern and optimistic view, and deeply shallow.

There are no Vestal Virgins among the neopagans, and I would delight in the irony of seeing neopagans indulging in ancestor worship, paying divine honors to their Christian great-grandfathers and mothers.

The pagans, in contrast, think life tragic, and they preach resignation to what cannot be solved. Those who are shocked that I and other Christians list Buddhists among the pagans underestimate the resignation and self-abnegation and Stoic despair that pervades the thinking of the Enlightened One.  It is a profoundly pessimistic view.

Buddhism is not as pessimistic as materialism, however, which preaches that all human thought is matter in motion, which stops when the motion stops, and all human accomplishment ends in obliteration, and all worlds end in entropy. There is not even a re-absorption of an illusion of “self” back into the world-soul of Nirvana for the materialist.  For at least the Buddha hoped for freedom from the illusion of self with the extinction of selfhood. The materialist preaches that the illusion that you exist and have free will and think cannot be broken, cannot end save in death, which is perfect extinction. Atheism is subpagan, and even subneopagan.

Christianity is outrageously pessimistic about this world and this life, and outrageously optimistic about the next. Christians do not believe heaven on earth is possible, and that attempts to create it lead to hell on earth; but we believe in heaven in heaven is possible for those who are saved from hell in hell.

The main metaphysical difference between pagans and neopagans is that neopagans — at least the ones of my personal acquaintance, and I do not know if they are typical — think they get to choose their gods.

They think — at least if I understand them, which perhaps I do not — that the act of worship activates and awakens and shapes the god or his manifestations. The divine energy is like a river, and whatever pantheon you select is like the vessels of different shapes which the sacred fluid of divinity fills, so that the god will come in the shape you select.

For the modern witch, the only truth is that there is no truth, merely narratives, including a pagan narrative that you have selected for yourself on aesthetic or therapeutic grounds. You believe in Isis on Friday and Odin on Wednesday and Cernunnos the Horned Man on Monday because you want to and it helps you. And on the Sabbath you believe in a combination of Theosophy and Taoism and Tantric magic.

This view implies a metaphysical theory, and, as is typical and unique to modernity, this theory places the will of the observer as the paramount determiner of the nature of reality: you make your own life and you make your own reality. Why not make your own gods?

The belief that nothing exists except for the willpower of man to make what he wishes of the chaos of the cosmos is nihilism, the absence of belief in ultimate reality. I do not mean the word as an insult; I am using it in a technical sense, for no other word will do. It is the defining belief of postmodern and ultra-relativistic thought.

The neopagans are post-Christians who are attempting to baptize their postmodern and metaphysically nihilist world view in the sacred images and names of the Old Gods so as to leave them with the indulgent and avuncular gods who are more like Santa Claus than Odin, and goddesses who, unlike Vesta, never insist upon virginity.

The neopagans believe in “live and let live” not because any real pagans ever believed that, but because Christendom, believing in the unique worth of the individual and the voluntary nature of obedience to God, believe in a private conscience beyond the reach of secular power, and made that belief popular.

And now the the neopagans, raised in a largely Christian society with Christian philosophical assumptions in their intellectual background, want the tasty pudding of the Christendom without eating the meat of the Church’s strictly rational  theology, the potatoes of her spiritual discipline of its contemplative life, and the vegetables of its strict morality.

Neopaganism is Christianity without the starch. It is lax Christianity for a relaxed generation.

They sit at the shining feast table of the Christian intellectual universe, and, ravenous with spiritual starvation, dare not eat the substance, lest their eyes be opened, and so they feast on scented shadows, echoes, and dim reflections.

 

148 Comments

  1. Comment by Tom Simon:

    They think — at least if I understand them, which perhaps I do not — that the act of worship activates and awakens and shapes the god or his manifestations.

    I am afraid this is exactly the case, though a lot of them hide it from themselves for what you might call dramaturgical reasons. The neopagan I know best has what she calls a god, and also claims, in her more intellectually honest moments, to be an atheist.

    Here is the trouble about making your own gods: You can make them only out of the material of yourself. Being your own creation, they are less than you, and cannot bring you anything that was not yours already. They cannot help you. Such gods are not even a frail reed to lean upon; for a man who leans upon a reed uses a real reed, and adds its small strength to his own, because it is other than him, and outer to him.

    • Comment by Mary:

      Real pagans would have called them atheists, too. Then, the Christians got into a lot of trouble as atheists.

    • Comment by WolfShadow:

      Back when I practiced witchcraft (I cant say wicca, because I did not practice wicca. I still held the Judeo-Christin God (The one and only God) to be, if you will allow me, my patron Deity), this was my understanding of wicca. That it was reall a more fluffy version of atheism wherein the deity you worshipped was moreso one of many shadow aspects of your subconscious, and the magic worked by said deity is more your own cosmic self reaching out to the universe to complete to your ends that which your subconscious, or maybe superconscious, has set into motion.

  2. Comment by Mary:

    One thing you will never see in any neopagan approach is any discussion of what rites are necessary, or how to determine which god is annoyed, or what to do to appease said god once you’ve determined it.

    • Comment by Vision_From_Afar:

      1) Depends on the God/Goddess/Spirit
      2) Usually it’s due to something stupid or offensive we’ve done, and if we think hard enough, we’ll figure it out
      3) Again, depends on the God/Goddess/Spirit

      Prime example from personal history:
      1) Weekly, I make offerings to various dieties in my pantheon and to the local spirits at a very specific location using a method and means developed from trial and error and archeological record of what was traditionally offered.
      2) At this particular place one fine day, I accidently dumped some dirty old water from my car, and subsequently had one of the most frustrating days of my career (repeated computer crashes, phone dying from full charge for unknowable reasons, programs suddenly not opening). When I got home, I realized my faux pas was the reason for my lousy day. I had offended the local spirits by dumping dirty, backwash-filled water in a place I had set aside as sacred to them (kind of akin to spitting back into the communion cup, I suppose would be the equivalent level of offense).
      3) Dashing into the house, I retrieved some spirits (ironic and amusing, yes, but local earth spirits usually enjoy alcohol of some kind, i.e. ale/whiskey/wine/mead) and quickly went back to the location and begged forgiveness and made a specific offering then and there.
      My day got considerably better after that, and the following day I encountered none of the problems that had plagued me so the day before.

      • Comment by Mary:

        You would be prosecuted for impiety among actual pagans.

        • Comment by Vision_From_Afar:

          But I’m not prosecuted. You, however, seem more than willing to prosecute me for it. Are you pagan, or just a know-it-all happily passing out her own labels of what is “actually” pagan?

          • Comment by Mary:

            Truth hurts, apparently.

            That actual, honest-to-goodess pagans would have slammed you into court and prosecuted you for your crime of impiety — and probably executed you — is not open to dispute as we have plentiful records of the sorts of antics you are describing being actually prosecuted as impiety in the time of, and by, the actual honest-to-goodess pagans.

            Ad hominem attacks do not alter facts.

        • Comment by indorri:

          Unlikely. Impiety trials were rare and tended to involve political infighting in Greece or show of disdain towards the state in Rome. Roman expansion did not tend to harry local religious customs, and hundreds of mystery cults took root in both cultures without persecution.

          You stated that “live-and-let-live” was taken from Christianity, yet the Roman Empire, though it required adherence to the state cult, let countless religions do their own thing, while the adoption of Christianity as the state religion resulted in the outlawing of all other religions.

          • Comment by Foxfier:

            So you don’t actually have any more of an argument than the first guy?

            Hint: forcing everyone to follow your cult isn’t live-and-let-live.

            • Comment by Vision_From_Afar:

              Looking at it through modern eyes, yes “forcing” someone to follow the state cult isn’t “live-and-let-live”.

              And yet… Before the Christians, pluralism was the most common worldview, not primacy. Romans visiting the Norse tried to tie Thor to Jupiter, etc. For most of the Empire, it was the same deity in a different guise, a common enough occurrence in lore and legend.

              As the “first guy”, why should I need a better reason than the Supreme Law of the Land? As that doesn’t seem to satisfy you, let’s try the fact that it was the Christians, not the Heathens, in Iceland who demanded “my way or the highway” when tensions came to a head. There is quite a bit of historical and archaeological evidence for a “live-and-let-live” mindset for Heathens with Christian neighbors. The reverse, not so much.

              • Comment by Foxfier:

                Re-writing the local religions, at the point of a sword, so that they’re “really” all the same god is not “live and let live.” Modern eyes, or otherwise. Forcing everyone to worship your gods as greater than theirs is not “live and let live,” modern eyes or otherwise.

                You’re trying to change the subject in the rest of it– is your point not worthy of defense?

                • Comment by Vision_From_Afar:

                  I’m not changing any subject. I said it’s based on the Constitution, why should I need a religious basis? You said that indorri “[doesn’t] actually have any more of an argument than the first guy”, which somehow implies that both our arguments are inadequate.
                  I turned around and gave you a further historical & religious basis, and now you’re claiming I’m changing the subject? What’s your aim here?

                  • Comment by Foxfier:

                    Yes, you are changing the subject. You claimed something, didn’t support it, and then tried to move on. This is a common tactic, especially online, when someone makes a statement they don’t want to defend, and someone that uses it will keep on using it every time they are challenged. So it’s useless to try to talk to them until they show that they are willing to do more than throw out scatter-shot claims and rush down a different rabbit hole.

                • Comment by indorri:

                  “Re-writing the local religions, at the point of a sword”

                  Which did not happen. Interpretatio romana was a heuristic employed by the Romans. The Germanic people probably did the same thing the other way.

                  The point wasn’t that everything was honky-dory and you could do whatever you wanted religiously. The point was that religious pluralism and freedom was more prominent in pagan societies compared to Christian societies until a bunch of Anabaptists collectively told Europe to go take a flying leap, with a good mix of Jews and Deists taking up the same helm, trickling down into the traditional denoms until Vatican II decided 70 years ago to finally recognize the right of religious freedom.

                  In trying to talk about trying to change the subject, you fail to realise Mary “bait-and-switched” herself as well. She asked what the rites were, someone responded, she said they would’ve been prosecuted for impiety (so therefore pagans are a nasty bunch, why are you following their ways, oh me oh my!) ignoring a) like I said, unlikely because impiety didn’t tend to get brought in for following your own rites and traditions and b) the implication the pagans were oh so horrible ignores that the Christians who came after them were worse and continued to be worse until around the 16th century, so if that’s supposed to be an argument against pagan practice and philosophy, it fails miserably.

                  • Comment by Foxfier:

                    Which did not happen.

                    Argue with Vision_From_Afar, then, and split whatever hairs you like about it.

                    I’m sure you’ll find some way to insist that forcing others to worship your gods as the highest is true religious freedom. Your little rant fails to appreciate that prosecution for impiety is a rather extreme lack of religious freedom, and far from being a switch is an answer you didn’t like.

                  • Comment by John C Wright:

                    “religious pluralism” was only more “prominent” in pagan societies because paganism is not a religion. It is set of state-sponsored rites and rituals. There is nothing like a theology or a moral code attached to it. There were also, in the Empire, private devotional societies, mystery religions, and cults, which did not conflict with the state cult because they also were not “religions” any more than Theosophy is religion. When the cult practices offended the Powers that Be, as with Dionysus, Cybele, or Christianity, they were outlawed and stamped out insofar as possible. There were also poets who make up songs, some more earnest than others, about the imaginative penumbra of the state rites and the private cults. A religion properly so called is something like what the Brahmin of India have, a combination and sublimation of rite, cult, imagination and philosophy, devotional and theology: a Church.

                    You are comparing two unalike things. Christianity, up until the modern age, was one and the same as The Church, which was a unique social organism unlike anything before or since. Which Church was the true one and which was the schismatic, there were as many opinions as there were honest contenders for the title (Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, Nestorian) — and Protestantism was not an attempt to create national churches, although that was the effect, it was an attempt at protest and reform (hence the name Protestant and Reformation).

                    Attempting to compare how much “religious pluralism” existed in postchristian, Christian, and prechristian societies is nothing but your narrow and absurd temporal parochialism, where you fail to place yourself imaginatively in the viewpoint of societies whose fundamental assumptions and values differ from your own. No one insisted on theological uniformity in the ancient world because theology, the marriage of philosophy to public devotion, did not exist AT ALL.

  3. Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

    They think — at least if I understand them, which perhaps I do not — that the act of worship activates and awakens and shapes the god or his manifestations. The divine energy is like a river, and whatever pantheon you select is like the vessels of different shapes which the sacred fluid of divinity fills, so that the god will come in the shape you select.

    I think both you and the neopagans are being led astray by terminology in this matter. If I understand correctly, your critique that neopagans are actually atheists is correct; what they have is a psychological, not theological, theory of how to influence human minds, not the outside universe. Thus, when they engage in a ritual to, say, “cleanse the mind of bad feelings by invoking the power of Freya”, they do not believe in an outside divinity that can be manipulated by ritual. Indeed it is a mistake to speak of ‘divinity’ at all in this context. Rather they are trying to make use of particular workings of the human mind, which tends to think in terms of archetypes, stories, and anthropomorphic personifications. The ritual is not intended to invoke Freya, an outside force, but “Freya”, an archetype of the fertility goddess that exists only inside human minds. This is assumed to be more effective in cheering up the melancholy than saying “Chin up, you’ve got a lot to be thankful for”. Who knows, perhaps it’s so; certainly it can’t be much worse than talk therapy. Similarly, if you want to stop smoking, you might do so by pure willpower; or you might help yourself along by inventing a malevolent spirit that wants you to smoke, and howls in pain every time you resist the temptation. Even knowing that the spirit is unreal, it might be a very real help to visualise its torment when you reach for the pack of gum instead.

    The problem is, of course, that it’s hard to deliberately fool yourself – although by no means impossible. Presumably, the more you believe that Freya is an outside force, the more effective is “Freya”, the internal archetype that you are actually invoking! It’s a bit like taking a pill that you know is placebo: The less you think about your knowledge, the more effective is the pill. (Infuriatingly, the placebo effect appears to exist even when the subjects are told they are being given placebos. So it’s not impossible to fool yourself; just counterintuitive.) So you find, as with many other religions, that there is a folk and a formal theology. The formal theologians, the theorists of neopaganism, give the explanation I outlined above, and discuss ways to make their rituals more effective by appealing to archetypes that are strong in the local culture, or well-known stories, or whatever. The folk theologians, meanwhile, think that Freya is real.

    For example, Eric Raymond says in this blog post (on the ritual that is alleged to have started the Haitian uprising against French rule):

    I am a third-degree Wiccan, which means that I’m pretty experienced at designing rituals that invoke god-forms for specified purposes. Part of the art is choosing a god-form with attributes appropriate to the purpose of the rite. And I have to say that Ezilie Dantor is just not a very plausible choice here — not for a ritual intended to consecrate the participants to acts of bloody revolutionary mayhem.

    It’s true that she’s “petwo”, one of the “hard” gods associated with aggression and violence, but she’s mainly associated with motherhood and fertility. But if I had been the houngan in charge, I’d have chosen either Baron Samedi (more or less the god of death) or Ogun (god of war, politics, fire, and smithing). And I won’t believe (well, not without evidence anyway) that the houngans were less capable ritual artists than I am.

    My emphasis. Note the appeal to associations, ie what humans think of the gods, rather than implicit traits; and the assumption that a ritual is an art form, ie intended to have an effect on human minds, rather than a magical or scientific procedure intended to affect outside forces. Also note that the author elsewhere refers to himself as an “atheistic neopagan”.

    • Comment by deiseach:

      Argh. That comment right there is what I personally call the “Learned it all out of a book” school of neo-paganism. The natives who grew up with the rites in their culture and in their blood are the ones who know whether or not it’s Ezilie they want to invoke, not a “third-degree Wiccan” (and what is that, by the way? I thought degrees were in Freemasonry, and if he means ‘third generation’, why not say that?). It’s the same thing that makes me roll my eyes when I read chatter about Bridget the pagan goddess, when I know dang well none of the people posting grew up hanging the brat Bríde on their front door.

      Anyway, a sample of pagan traditions through a Christian prism; the episode in the life of St. Patrick often called “the Questions of Eithne”:

      “But St. Patrick then came, before sunrise, to the well which is called Clebach, on the eastern side of Crochan, and they seated themselves near the well. And behold the two daughters of King Laoghaire, Eithne the Fair and Fedelm the Ruddy came in the morning to the well to bathe, as women are wont to do; and they found the holy assembly of bishops and priests at the well.

      “And the maidens said to them: ‘Who are you, and whence do you come?’ And Patrick said to them: ‘It were better for you to confess our True God than to enquire about our race.’

      “The maiden said: ‘Who is God? And where is God? And of whom is God? And where is His dwelling? Has your God sons and daughters, gold and silver? Is He everliving? Is He beautiful? Did many foster His Son? Are His daughters dear and lovely to the men of the world? Is He in the heaven or on earth? In the sea? In the rivers? In mountains? Make Him known to us. How is He to be seen? How is He to be loved? How is He to be found? Is it in youth? Is it in old age that He is to be found?’

      “But St. Patrick, filled with the Holy Ghost, answered and said: ‘Our God is the God of all men; the God of heaven and earth, of the sea and rivers; the God of the sun, the moon, and the stars; He has a dwelling in heaven and earth, and the sea and all therein; He gives breath to all; He gives life to all; He is over all; He has a Son co-eternal and co-equal with Himself; the Son is not younger than the Father; and the Father is not older than the Son; and the Holy Ghost breathes into them; the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost are undivided; but I wish to unite you to the Heavenly King, as you are daughters of an earthly king, by believing.’

      “And the maidens, as if with one voice and with one heart, said ‘Teach us most exactly how we may believe in the Heavenly King; show us how we may behold Him face to face, and we will do whatever you shall say to us.’

      “And they were baptized and were clothed with a white garment on their head. And they besought that they might behold the face of Christ. And the Saint said to them: ‘You cannot see the face of Christ unless you taste death, and unless you receive the Sacrifice.’

      “And they answered: ‘Give us the Sacrifice, so that we may be able to behold the Son, our Spouse.’ And they received the Eucharist of God, and they slept in death. And they placed them on one bed clad with white garments, and their friends made great lamentation and weeping, and the druid Caplait, who had fostered the younger of them, came and wept, and Patrick preached to him; and he believed.”

      • Comment by Vision_From_Afar:

        The natives who grew up with the rites in their culture and in their blood are the ones who know whether or not it’s Ezilie they want to invoke, not a “third-degree Wiccan” (and what is that, by the way? I thought degrees were in Freemasonry, and if he means ‘third generation’, why not say that?).

        It simply means he was probably a Gardenarian or Alexandrian Wiccan. Both Gardner and Alexander (who borrowed a lot from Gardner) borrowed heavily from Freemasonry and the Golden Dawn. Saying he’s a third degree Wiccan means he’s had at least 5 years of training and is allowed to lead rituals in his tradition.

      • Comment by WolfShadow:

        Third degree wiccan doesn’t mean third generation. It is a ritualistic practice that means nothing. Anyone can call themselves a third degree wiccan. Of course those who are part of larger covens will take offense at it, since they do have to study mythologies and prove themselves, just like passing from one grade to the next in school. There are also, in some schools of witchcraft (I don’t mean schools as in buildings that you learn it in, its not Hogwarts. Although, there is at least one such school that I know of) an outer and an inner circle, both of which have differing degrees, though usually 3 outer and 3 inner circles. Correllian wicca is one such school of wicca/witchcraft. Since the person doesn’t say if there is any outer or inner circles, it can only be assumed that either his specific school of wicca has no lines differencing the learner from the learned, or that he simply fails to state which. If the latter is the case, it may be that he wishes to sound more authoritative on the subject by not making any clear indication than by stating that he is a third degree wiccan of the outer circle. Outer circle is essentially those who are still students. Inner are those who are the teachers. Though, the outer circle students are still considered priests and priestesses in some schools of wiccan thought. There are, after all, students that are not members of the outer circle. Think of it more like high school and college being like the outer circle. You are not a teacher, but it cant be said that a high school student is not qualified to teach an elementary student basic addition and subtraction, not as a teacher but more as a tutor. The inner circle is more like getting your masters, doctorate and post-graduate. A 1st level inner circle member would be like the doctor-professor, or something similar.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “If I understand correctly, your critique that neopagans are actually atheists is correct”

      Myself, I never would say neopagans were atheists. I specifically said that their world view is more coherent and beautiful and factual than atheism.

      I called them nihilists, by which I meant not someone who thinks nothing is worth doing, but rather someone who hold that there is no objective metaphysical truth. There is a slight distinction.

      If their philosophy were rigorous and logical, nihilists and postmodern thinkers all should be atheists. But then again, logical rigor is not their forte. The neopagans are Romantics in the poetical sense of the word: someone who thinks that the scientific world view is too colorless and cold to be true, or to be a good “narrative.”

      My experience with several conversations with my witch friends leads me to believe that you are mis-categorizing their belief (I will not speak to the beliefs of the other neopagans–lacking a magisterium, they have no final authority we can ask for a list of their beliefs) — it is not that they have a psychological view of how to influence the mind, rather, they have a theory that the surrounding universe act according to the laws of psychology, not just the laws of physics.
      Their theory is that the same way a human can form an emotional association between two concepts, the magician can by “sympathy and contagion” use symbolic objects, knives and candles and mockeries of Catholic mysteries, to influence the real world.

      • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

        I called them nihilists, by which I meant not someone who thinks nothing is worth doing, but rather someone who hold that there is no objective metaphysical truth. There is a slight distinction.

        Beg pardon; I somehow confused your comment with that of Tom Simon, above. That said, I suggest nonetheless that my point remains valid: Neopagans (in their formal, not their folk, theology) are not asserting the absence of a metaphysical truth (indeed you would likely find Eric Raymond, whom I quoted, congenial on many metaphysical issues) but are rather propounding an unusual psychological toolkit.

        Neopaganism is, of course, a diverse movement with, as you say, no formal head to which we can apply for official doctrine; no doubt there are more folk theologians than formal ones, just as is the case for Catholicism.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          I would submit that the use of the psychological toolkit of which you speak, if the witch thinks that any real effects take place outside the human mind, is impossible without the metaphysical nihilism, the belief that truth is optional, of which I speak. The belief that you “make your own reality” implies the belief that reality is not really real.

          If you are saying witches think no real effects take place outside the human mind, then you are saying witchcraft is all dramaturgy and no thaumaturgy.

          No witch I know would agree. You may ask Sean the Sorcerer, our village mountebank, for his testimony.

          • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

            If you are saying witches think no real effects take place outside the human mind, then you are saying witchcraft is all dramaturgy and no thaumaturgy.

            Yes, precisely – with a caveat for the existence of folk witchcraft, just as there is folk Mormonism and folk Catholicism. I’ll admit that the folk version is perhaps rather more common than the formal one.

            As for comrade Sean, I think I would put him in a third category altogether, namely troll witchcraft. :)

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              All I can say is that all the real witches I have ever met or whose works I have ever read would be offended by the theory that they indulge in nothing but psychological self-medication and play-pretend. Among Catholics, the laity may be ignorant of the niceties of professional theologians, but our formal leadership does not repudiate the core beliefs of the laity.

              Since, to be frank, I have never heard of the writer you named, and since he does not seem to agree with Alastair Crowley or Paracelsus, I am not inclined to accept his word as magisterium.

              • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                How fleeting is fame! I would suggest that Eric S Raymond is rather better known than John C Wright; he is among other things the author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar. It is true that he is not known as an authority on witchcraft, but then, who is? The writings of any given witch have as much weight as those of Crowley, who is not famous because he had any authority to define neopagan doctrine, but because he was one of the first to write anything that came to public attention.

                As for the offense of your witches, oh well. If I were to worry about causing offense, I would never say anything about religion at all. To the extent that they believe Freya is an actual being outside the human mind, to be invoked and compelled by ritual and propitiation, I must consider them even stupider than the average Christian; they have all the same problems of lack of evidence, failing to consider base rates, and wishful thinking, with the additional issue that the founding documents are not too far from living memory and their claims easily dismissed.

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  Aha! Another point where you and I think alike! I was beginning to fear there were none.

                  It was the realization that there existed a group even stupider than the Christians which first cracked my otherwise perfect armor of atheism. I actually had to give them credit for some reasonable thing they had done right, which is to formulate their theology and moral theology.

                  But at the time, I thought the same problem with evidence was less for the witches than for the Christians, because it was conceivable that Freyr exists somewhere in an Asgard somewhere in this cosmos or the next one over, and could be a powerful being it was wise to placate. But (or so I reasoned then) it was impossible for an all-powerful and omnipresent and omnipotent being to co-exist in the universe I saw around me, full of evil and suffering as it was; and there could not be an all-powerful being by definition, not if any other beings, including myself, existed and had even the limited power called free will. Jehovah is too big to fit into Asgard hidden out of sight. Were He real everything would be His doing, or done by His permission.

                • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                  Rolf: Thanks for that link. The Cathedral and the Bazaar was a fantastic little read.

        • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

          “…formal theologians… folk theologians…”
          There is no such thing as “formal” theologians outside Christianity even if some people might pretend to. “Folk theologian” is a contradiction in terms and it certainly does not exist in Catholicism. However, I admit that there may be people who use these terms without any idea of their meaning: I once saw “metaphysician” in a book about esoterism and the sense was completely foreign to the real thing.

    • Comment by deiseach:

      I also recommend to the gentleman the goddess, whether known as Inanna, Ishtar, or Astarte, whose domain extended over both fertility and war. Ezilie Dantor could quite easily be invoked under her aspect as war goddess and still be a mother goddess in other spheres.

      (Darn it, what do they teach them in school nowadays? Tsk!)

      • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

        I suggest that the goddess you mention would not likely be well known to Haitian slaves of the early nineteenth century; if we are to take ritual design seriously as a means of self-manipulation, it must rely on archetypes that resonate with its targets. Inanna might have some effect on a well-read scholar of ancient times; she is quite unlikely to do anything for the Haitians of 1804.

        • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

          Were the Haitians of 1804 pagans? Or was their paganism constructed?

          • Comment by joetexx:

            Voudon and the invocation of loas, includind Erzulie, are genuinely African and were certainly present in 1804.  Before that and since it has been heavily mixed with Catholic elements, especially veneration of saints. Joan of Arc, for example, is invoked in some voudon rites. For that matter,she is worshipped by the Cao Dai sect in Viet Nam. 

            I don’t think present day voudon can be considered neopagan in the European-american sense. Among a people still largely illiterate, it comes out of genuine folk traditions of the people, not books. 

            Of course my knowledge comes almost completely from The Magic Island and The Divine Horsemen, two sensational popular books now 60 years old. But they seem to have been backed up by a fair amount of scholarship. 

            And that reminds me, need to rewatch I Walked With a Zombie. 

        • Comment by deiseach:

          Ah, your pardon, Dr. Andreassen, you took me up wrong. What I was doing by mentioning Inanna was taking a goddess from another pantheon who was associated, as Mr. Raymond mentioned about Erzuli, with fertility, love and sex, and demonstrating that this was not incompatible with also being a goddess of war.

          I don’t know whether or not 19th century Haitians would be familiar with Bablylonian/Assyrian mythology, but I’m fairly sure they would be more familiar with their own folk practices than a late 20th century “third-degree Wiccan”. If Erzuli is “petwo” , this is not unprecedented (and though making no pretensions myself to being houngan or mamalo, I would have thought Baron Samedi would be better invoked for either devoting the death of the enemies, or one’s own forces killed in battle, to the gods of the underworld/otherworld, rather than seeking victory in battle and encouraging bravery and martial prowess in an army).

          • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

            Ah, now I see your point. It is fair enough; but note that the attribution to Ezilie is from a different modern commentator (an anonymous Wiki contributor, to be specific), one that Mr Raymond disagrees with:

            [This account] smells of apologism by a modern Voudun practitioner trying to sound unthreatening and New-Agey. For starters, “kill all the white Frenchmen” sounds like a more plausible objective for a bunch of illiterate, pissed-off black slaves to have chosen than the more abstract “fight for freedom”, especially in view of the fact that actually did massacre the white population pretty comprehensively (not that I’m objecting; under the circumstances, doing so was arguably justice).

            It is not as though he is disagreeing with a primary document that states Ezilie was the focus of the ritual. In a different article, la Wik states that it was Ogun who was “said to have given power” to the Haitian revolution.

  4. Comment by Mrmandias:

    I am not one who can comment on neo-paganism, because the only neo-pagans I have met were uncommonly silly people doing uncommonly silly things and it would be uncharitable to judge the whole by that part.

    But I can comment on paganism. When I was 10 or 11 and knew nothing much about antiquity or classical myth, I went picnicking with my family up a wooded mountain canyon. And for an indescribable moment I was filled with Panic and knew that the wood was filled with presence.

    I am a Mormon Christian and have good reason to be so, including mystical experience of the Father and Son. But I cannot wholly discount paganism as delusion or devils or decayed remnants of revelation.

    • Comment by Foxfier:

      The first time I walked into St. Pat’s and really saw it– my mom’s childhood parish– I felt a sort of awe.

      If something made by a bunch of ranchers and lumbejacks can bring that kind of feeling, how much more power might the handicraft of God impart?

      I don’t see it as a decayed remain– more like a soul forged by God vibrating at the same speed, like a tuning fork. A cousin to the God-shaped hole in our hearts.

  5. Comment by Owain_Glyndwr:

    I’ve been reading some Pagan legends recently- of the Norse kind. A big collection of the main myths (creation of the world, death of Baldur at the hands of Loki and Ragnarok) as well as the tale of Sigurd and Gudrun (Tolkien’s translation).
    I thought it was intoxicating stuff- really brilliant. Such a wonderful and vibrant world, and such awe-inspiring adventures! It actually made me a little sad that we don’t have these sorts of stories anymore, and that there are no Frost Giants or Dwarfs hiding out there somewhere.
    All the same, it does have this extremely dark, brutal underside to it. The Gods don’t really care for human beings, and in fact use them as playthings freely. To die peacefully is looked upon as a contemptible way to die – a “straw death” will lead to hell; to die in battle is the best way to go out (but even then you’re not guaranteed salvation).
    And it’s a world where human sacrifice is looked upon as a slightly regrettable but necessary solution to serious problems.
    And there’s the problem of how on earth you’re meant to do scientific research in a culture where the world is thought to be composed of the corpse of a murdered god.
    Paganism of this sort is best kept confined to history- a nice place to visit, but definitely not a system to live in.

  6. Comment by Sean the Sorcerer:

    John, your description of pagans is very good:

    “The pagans are pre-Christian, men who, by force of imagination alone, attempt to plumb the depth of the mystery of the divine, and who, in addition to many vile and terrible practices and grotesque superstitions, from time to time also illume with striking clarity the sorrow of this world and the joyous and terrible weight of awe which reaches beyond the world.”

    And isn’t this exactly where Christianity came from? From pagan magi conjuring up a new metaphysical solution to the tragedy of life? Isn’t Christianity in fact the most powerful act of pagan thaumaturgy of all time?

    Or consider another religion which originated not so long ago, founded by a known occultist trickster who used his magic to create a mythology based on the purported writings of Israelites who migrated to America thousands of years ago. This absurd story, which if it occurred in our more cynical age would surely be laughed off as pure fabrication, is now a global religious phenomenon with a decent shot of putting one of its own on the most powerful throne in the world early next year. Then there is Moses and Mohammed, whose pagan invocations of demonic spirits from Beyond led to ferocious holy conquests whose closest modern parallel was the blitzkrieg cult of Adolf Hitler.

    What is my point in injecting these sorcerous memes into your blogospheric kingdom? Merely to suggest that if you want to better understand your own religion, or any religion, it is most illuminating to study the occult technologies and techniques upon which they are based. If you do, you may start to realize that those black-robed men you call priests are themselves sorcerers engaged in ancient occult arts which are not nearly as distinct from pagan magic as they would have you believe!

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Sean, you misunderstand me completely. The reason why I am a Catholic is that our magic is stronger than your magic. We can heal the sick and raise the dead, and our baptism actually does wash the stains of sin away. Our exorcists can cast out your demons.

      Your demons ruled the classical world. There was a time when men worshiped Hercules and Thor. Christ toppled them from their high seats, and now they are cartoon characters to entertain our children.

      No, I think I understand my religion well enough, thanks.

      • Comment by Sean the Sorcerer:

        Yes your magic is strong, you weltanschauung is coherent and I respect your religion. However, just as all objects cast a shadow and all life ends in death, there is and will always be a shadow magisterium — which I call the Sith Imperium, or the Black Sun Empire — which worships at the altar of the true Lord of this World: the god of power.

        I also wanted to mention that if anyone is interested in learning more about the origins of religion in tribal demonic magic, there’s a very interesting book called “Magic: History, Theory, Practice” by Ernst Schertel which was apparently in Adolf Hitler’s personal library and shows which passages he highlighted. Here’s a favorite highlighted quote:

        “He who does not carry demonic seeds within him will never give birth to a magical world.”

        I don’t know how many Western people today realize just how powerful the magical energy Hitler unleashed was, and how similar it was to previous prophetic incarnations. Interestingly, the Chinese apparently do to some degree and are hoping to improve on his National Socialism, at least if we are to believe this speech by a Chinese general is real and not a hoax: http://rense.com/general85/China%27sPlanToConquer.htm

        Anyway, now I’m getting way off-topic. The only thing I question is your claim that your magic is stronger than the pagans *in this world*. Does this world really seem to be moving closer to a Christian kingdom, or further away?

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          I became a Christian because I saw a miracle in action. Our magic is plenty strong enough. The classical pagans saw it, and were converted, the North and South American Indians saw it and were converted, and in Africa today the only hope most poor souls have to escape from witchcraft and witch-doctoring and the filth and abominations of real paganism is the Christian Church.

          The Church is weak in the First World because we are rich and fat and happy. Christ walks among the poor, the outcast, the Third World. That is also where most of the witchcraft is. The comfortable middle class life of most West dabblers in neopaganism who have access to the Internet, alas, is not where the real wonder and horror of the real spiritual battles are taking place.

          Do you want to see real paganism, what it looks like, and real sanctity, what it looks like? The World slits the throats of babies and dumps them in the trash. Heaven is in the little old lady who rescues them. Read this article:
          http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2181017/Lou-Xiaoying-Story-Chinese-woman-saved-30-abandoned-babies-dumped-street-trash.html

          That old granny may or may not be a Christian, but what she does is in the spirit of we are called to do, and puts any Christian who does less to shame. Hers is the exact opposite of Nietzsche and the Hitlerian worship of satanic power. She is not one of yours, but one of ours. The infantile power fantasies and pompous neoclassical romanticism of the neopagans has nothing to do with her.

          • Comment by Sean the Sorcerer:

            Maybe, but what does it say for your religion if it only appeals to the poor and the wretched, and is rejected by the wealthy and the comfortable? Does the world need to choose between prosperity and Christianity?

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              Ah, you should know better than to ask a Christian such an easy leading question. It is like tossing the batter a slow, high ball.

              And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

              and

              Marvel not at the works of sinners; but trust in the Lord, and abide in thy labor: for it is an easy thing in the sight of the Lord on the sudden to make a poor man rich.

              In case you have trouble translated King James’ English, Both in the New Testament and Old, both Jesus and Solomon here are saying that God rewards the just with plenty, but not those who seek only after wealth, and not those who seek riches through sin. The world needs to chose between unjust and ill-gotten gains and Christ, yes.

      • Comment by Boggy Man:

        I love Sean.

    • Comment by John Hutchins:

      “global religious phenomenon with a decent shot of putting one of its own on the most powerful throne in the world early next year.”

      Ignoring the characterization of Joseph Smith and etc. that has been common since the beginning, could you please explain to me how Latter-Day Saints are in anyway enough of a force or even a voting bloc to sway an election one way or another outside of the inter-mountain west or Polynesia? If Mitt Romney gets elected or not will not be caused by or the fault of Latter-Day Saints, and he would probably have a much easier time if he weren’t LDS.

    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

      This absurd story, which if it occurred in our more cynical age would surely be laughed off as pure fabrication

      Just like the story that Earth is a prison colony for the spirits of intergalactic criminals, killed ten million years ago in a disaster involving a volcano, a DC-50 jet aircraft, and twenty tons of gold. Oh wait…

    • Comment by The OFloinn:

      Isn’t Christianity in fact the most powerful act of pagan thaumaturgy of all time?

      No, there was nothing pagan about it. To the Greeks, Poseidon was not a merman living under the sea. Poseidon was the sea and the sea was Poseidon. To the Christians, as to their Jewish cousins, the sea was simply a big body of water.

      BTW, nice association of Jews with Nazis. But then it is customary among Late Moderns to project their own categories of thought onto other times and places.

      • Comment by Mary:

        If Poseidon was the sea, how then could he and Zeus and Hades have thrown lots and chosen their kingdoms in order? He could have ended up with the underworld instead.

        Hmmmm. . . though, to be sure, the pagans didn’t take their myths too serious. Plato can calmly suggest censoring them without causing anyone to object.

        • Comment by Boggy Man:

          To paraphrase one of the MST3K writers; probably only the thick ones. I reckon to the rest of them it was just an elaborate in-joke to pass the time between gorging and purging.

          (Reminds me, I need to finish that story where Xenu, Cthulhu and the Flying Spaghetti Monster play Yu-Gi-Oh on weekends and it winds up being the cause of Global Warming.)

          • Comment by Mary:

            You are confusing the myths with the gods. The Homeric Hymns to Ares would disabuse you of the notion that the Ares they worshiped was the same character we read about as children in a children’s book about Greek gods.

            Not to mention an example of Greek rhetoric cited by Aristotle: not to go into politics because if you told the truth, men hated you, and if you lied, the gods hated you. Not perhaps views the myths would lead you to attribute to the gods.

  7. Comment by The OFloinn:

    One correction: Julian imp. did not conduct the extispicy in Alexandria, but at the Temple of the Moon at Carra, in Syria. Afterward he had the Temple doors sealed and a guard placed so no one could enter until his return. However, courtesy of the Persians, he did not return and when his successor sent men into the Temple they found a woman hanging by her hair with her liver torn out. [Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History, Book III, ch. 21]
    According to Dio Cassius, Epitomes LXXIII.16.5, Didius Julianus imp. “also killed many boys as a magic rite, believing that he could avert some future misfortunes if he learned of them beforehand.” Likewise, in the long ago, Menelaus was said to have sacrificed two boys he kidnapped in Egypt to ensure fair winds for his return to Hellas, as his brother had sacrificed his own daughter on the departure to Troy.

  8. Comment by rustymason:

    What wonderful article. This is almost exactly what I would have written if I could think as clearly. I have tried to discuss this very issue with my Christian and pagan friends, but none of them understood what I was talking about. Modern pagans, including the writers venerated by the New/Alt Right don’t seem to get it, either. The closest they come to understanding ancient spirits independent of their own minds is to say that they were simply natural forces for which we now have names such as gravity, spring, magnetism, electricity, etc.

    • Comment by Tom Simon:

      The closest they come to understanding ancient spirits independent of their own minds is to say that they were simply natural forces

      Alas, it looks like Uncle Screwtape was on the right track after all:

      ‘If once we can produce our perfect work — the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while denying the existence of “spirits” — then the end of the war will be in sight.’

  9. Comment by John Hutchins:

    Then you have mixtures of Catholicism and Paganism, such as:

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

    Many of the Catholics I knew were heavily influenced in their beliefs by the Afro-Brazil religions. As Rolf says about the neopagans, and in my experience was true of Catholics in Brazil, there are the formal theologians and the folk theologians and sometime the two never come close to coming in contact with each other.

    • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

      If by mixture you mean “combining doctrines contrary to the authority of the successors of the apostles” then what you have is not Catholic but some other quisling thing in Catholic flavoring.

      Belloc wrote something like: There has never been any such religion as Christianity; there has only been the Church.

    • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

      Syncretism is not even Christian, let alone Catholic. Superstition is a sin against the First Commandment, thus is violently against the core of Christianity. People in the quagmire of magic and superstition are like people on drugs: they don’t have much bearing on reality. They usually need an exorcism just to be able to make a free choice.

      • Comment by John Hutchins:

        ” let alone Catholic.”

        When someone calls themselves Catholic and believes similar to most other people they know that call themselves Catholic (or that studies show the vast majority of those calling themselves Catholic believe) then what else are they if not Catholic?

        “People in the quagmire of magic and superstition are like people on drugs: they don’t have much bearing on reality”

        While there is some truth to this, I also think that anyone that believes in a dead man rising from the dead, the forgiveness of sin, a virgin birth, and etc. needs to be careful about judging others in such a way.

        • Comment by Mary:

          Liars or mistaken.

          • Comment by John Hutchins:

            So then how many *actual* Catholics are there?

            • Comment by howling_wolf:

              All of them.

              But see, what you’re trying to do is tie Catholicism with the remnant fruits of the vast syncretism that naturally occurs when one very different religious system is absorbed by a very different greater one.

              The products of syncretism are not superior to the core; they are in fact, inferior. Santeria, for example, while practiced by many misguided Catholics, is condemned by the Vatican. But sometimes, the hierarchy looks the other way. Why is that?

              Because these new believers come to the Church as children. They still cling to their tooth fairies and voodoo dolls because that’s what people in a spiritual infancy do. Clovis, the first Christian king of the Franks, once thought Jesus was simply the world’s greatest medicine man. Charlemagne reduced the number of his wives to one, but kept the rest close to him because he could not bear to part with them. It took centuries before these people could produce a St. Bernard of Clairvaux, or a King St. Louis IX.

              You do not scold the children for their tooth fairies. You patiently instruct them, knowing that someday these childish things will fall away.

        • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

          Please note that I qualified syncretism as not Catholic, not people who are syncretist. Everyone who is baptized Catholic have the right to call themselves Catholics, even if only nominally. Like Mary said, if they are in grave sin, including heresy or superstition and do not repent, they are in fact mistaken or liars, but as baptism is an indelible mark, they remain entitled to receive the sacraments and forgiveness is offered to them up to the last moment. Grace will be efficient only if they are in good disposition, though.

          I just learned that you do not believe in the Resurrection and the forgiveness of sin when these truths are in the Bible in multiple occurrences and very precise terms: it makes me wonder… Do you pretend to be a Christian?

          • Comment by John Hutchins:

            “I just learned that you do not believe in the Resurrection…”

            You misunderstood completely what I was saying, Christians, including me, have beliefs that others see as “magic and superstition” so we need to be very careful about what we see in others beliefs as being “magic and superstition”. Everything I listed were common beliefs between us, not things I was saying Catholics are odd for believing or anything like that, sorry if you got that impression.

            • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

              I am reassured, but what you wrote sounded like if you made no difference between good doctrine and superstition and the manner was similar to the usual accusations coming from anti-Catholics.

        • Comment by Foxfier:

          When someone calls themselves Catholic and believes similar to most other people they know that call themselves Catholic (or that studies show the vast majority of those calling themselves Catholic believe) then what else are they if not Catholic?

          That might work… if you weren’t talking about something that actually has objective standards. I can call myself a ham sandwich, but if there’s no pork, it’s obviously not true.

          And I think you mean “surveys,” not “studies.” Generally, they’re called “Cultural Catholics”– those whose background is Catholic, but who are not believers and practitioners of the Catholic Faith.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          “When someone calls themselves Catholic and believes similar to most other people they [sic] know that call themselves Catholic then what else are they if not Catholic? ”

          The technical term is heretics. You see the Church is not like any other institution in history. We have a magisterium which actually defines what core dogmas one must believe to be one of us. We don’t have a vote on what we believe. Even the Pope does not get a vote. We believe the truth, which is not subject to human will.

          Someone who is born in a Catholic culture and has Catholic-flavored folk beliefs which are not taught by the successors of the Apostles fall into one of two groups

          (1) if the matter is one on which Rome is silent, and the believer is free to make up his own mind, then it is somewhere between a personal devotional practice and a quaint local superstition or habit;

          (2) if it is a matter on which Rome has spoken, the believer is a disbeliever. Depending on the depth and severity of the disbelief, he is somewhere between a man struggling with disloyalty, to a heretic, to a schismatic.

          So, for example, a Catholic in good conscience can believe in monarchy or democracy or socialism, in global warming or in evolution or in Steady State Theory or Phlogiston, because these are not matters where dogma has been defined.

          But if he believes in torture or abortion, no matter what he says, he is not in communion with the Church. If he believes that Jesus is not one of the Three Persons of the Godhead, he is not in communion. If he believes that the Holy Ghost is a literary expression, or Mary was not a lifelong virgin, or that saints are asleep in the Earth awaiting the general resurrection, or that circumcision is necessary for salvation, of that the God of the Old Testament is the evil enemy of the God of the New Testament, or that Jesus substituted a wrongdoer on the cross to die in His place, or that the Eucharist is nothing more than a symbol, or that ordination is not a sacrament, et cetera, et cetera.

          Practicing witchcraft, serving the Loa, and so on, likewise. To call such people “Catholic” is misleading. Technically, they might still be in the Church and attend mass and so on, or struggling with their consciences, or unable to believe what their teachers teach, but they are not doing what Catholics are supposed to do to be Catholic.

          • Comment by Mary:

            Technically, practicing witchcraft merely means you are committing the sin of witchcraft, and the heresy arises when you say that this is compatible with being a Catholic.

            Serving the Loa, OTOH, is worshiping a false god and so apostasy in itself.

          • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

            The technical term is heretics. You see the Church is not like any other institution in history. We have a magisterium which actually defines what core dogmas one must believe to be one of us. We don’t have a vote on what we believe. Even the Pope does not get a vote. We believe the truth, which is not subject to human will.

            Very well said.
            It also answers the opposition formal-folk theologian: the Magisterium defines core dogmas – and, I would add, affirms natural moral standards – previously thoroughly analyzed and rationally buttressed by the best theologians and discussed by the Apostolic College as needed. “Folk” theologians, whatever that means, do not exist in the Catholic Church. Even bad theologians cannot be called such because they are formally trained too.

            • Comment by John Hutchins:

              Folk theologians being those that spread beliefs that are common among the laity but not among the leadership, and has perhaps been repudiated by the leadership. I don’t know much about the controversy but the nun’s in America might be a type of folk theologian.

              • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

                You should refer to these people as catechists (we don’t have to be theologians to teach catechism), if Catholics, and as popular preachers, if they are Protestants who did not study theology.
                I don’t know if this term “folk theologian” is really used, but it should not be: it is a corruption of meaning.

          • Comment by John Hutchins:

            Ok, so then how many Catholics are in communion with the Church?

            • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

              We’ll find out at the end.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              Is this a serious question? Why not ask me how many are in mortal sin?

              • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                At least as many as are not in communion with the Church.

              • Comment by John Hutchins:

                I have met many Catholics both here and in other countries. The vast majority of those I have met go to mass maybe a few times a year, if that often, and what the Catholic church teaches has very little influence on what they believe. Of those that go to mass regularly or semi-regularly that I have met the vast majority have some beliefs that are very different from the official beliefs. Of the nine remaining people that I have met in real life 2 of them in Brazil had not always held the official beliefs, one of whom later got baptized, 6 of whom were in a single family in Brazil and most of them were small children, leaving only one of my wife’s best friends who does not know that many other Catholics that according to what you said would be in communion with the Church which makes dating very hard for her. When we talk with others both that have served LDS missions in other majority Catholic countries, or even other Catholics we have met, we have to clarify that my wife’s friend is actually Catholic, which always surprises whoever we are speaking to as those that have served missions have had experiences similar or worse than me and then everyone thinks she is an old lady until we explain otherwise.

                Hence, the question. Obviously, I have met more Catholics online that appear to be in communion with the church but that isn’t saying much.

                • Comment by Mary:

                  What were you expecting?

                  What did you think Jesus meant when he spoke of letting the wheat and tares grow together until harvest? Or that the net contained both the valuable to saved and the garbage to be burnt? Or that both the wise and foolish virgins were waiting for the bridegroom?

                  Did you think He was lying?

                  For that matter, are you surprised when you go to the hospital and find it chock-full of sick people?

                • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                  Gentlemen and ladies of the Catholic Church: That the Church has not made clear the faith to any of her members is a grave scandal, to Christians and non-Christians alike, to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Though we live in the West, certainly we see the similar things going on within the visible body in our areas.

                  This very reason is the last excuse of most non-Catholics, the last refuge for someone trying to hide from the Church; this very reason is also the very same reason folks can conscientiously object. In addition to arguing the reasons why this exists, it’s time to show them that it shouldn’t.

                  It’s time for a renewal, as it always is. If you are physically capable of talking to people, there’s a way you can help — it’s called “evangelization.” If you can’t, there’s always the cop-out of mere financial support.

              • Comment by jtherry:

                The answer to this question, which does come up in one’s mind from time to time, is “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.”

            • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

              Mr. Hutchins,
              Like Mr. Wright implied, the secret of hearts is known only to God. Angels themselves can only guess at it — fallen angels that is, for the good angels would not seek to know what they need not.

              If you are interested to meet real life faithful Catholics, don’t look outside regular churchgoers who are not at odds with the Church’s teachings as summarized in the Catechism (a very short summary can suffice for the inquiry.)

        • Comment by Darrell:

          This always becomes a touchy subject because Roman Catholics are so commonly identified as Catholics, at least in the West, that anyone who identifies themselves as Catholics are subject to a level of disbelief.

          I, for example, am a Catholic but in common discourse would be better described as an Eastern Orthodox Christian so as not to be confused as a Roman Catholic.

  10. Comment by PNG_pyro:

    This seems to be the viewpoint that Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett show in their fiction; at least, in the books I have read. In their afterlife, you get what you believe is coming to you. As if what you believe controls reality, or God. I always found it profoundly disappointing that two authors I like so much in every other respect had such weak philosophy.

    I would also like to point out that thinkgeek dawt com sells canned unicorn meat.

    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

      They choke on it when it comes up in their fiction, for all that they preen. See, for example, Pratchett’s “The Truth”, where both of the villains get very nasty afterlifes….

      • Comment by Mary:

        Hmm. Well, both technically believed. It’s clearer in Small Gods where the villain of the piece stays on the side of the desert for fear of who he will meet on the way — not those he believes, but those who believe in his existence.

        • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

          Who was not a villain in his thoughts. He was certain what he was doing was RIGHT!, and so, according to the “viewpoint”, should have gone straight to his well earned reward. But for all their hopes of cheap grace, the Storyteller in them will not let them write that story….

          • Comment by Boggy Man:

            Right, both Gaiman and Pratchett may have humanist leanings but their worlds have sharp teeth and none of that weak-spined sop that passes for fantasy these days. I think in a hundred years they’ll be among the handful of authors still read. (Along with our gracious host of course.)

            Think about it; all the ‘serious’ authors from a generation or two ago are forgotten or laughably dated; it’s the fantastic, purple noir and phantasmagorical pulp authors (Chandler, Lovecraft, Howard) whose stuff still commands discussion.

            • Comment by PNG_pyro:

              @ Robert: Pratchett, at least, does mete out poetic justice to his villains in their afterlife. You’re right, he does have some concept of justice at work in his stories. In The Truth, though, it comes down to the potato in the end, so I would still say that the relativism shines through.

              @Boggy: This, I agree with. The fact that Pratchett can deal with very serious issues in such a lighthearted way is one of the reasons he’s been on the top of my fantasy author list for quite a while.

              • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                As I said, both of them choke. They make noises about getting the afterlife you believe you deserve, but in “The Truth”, our lead bad guy does not believe in Reincarnation at all, and has only thought about Religion for a few days at best. Nothing in his “beliefs” would have led him to want to burn alive and be turned into a potato chip. “Lenny” had his metaphorical potato and still had to do penance, when nothing in his well stated beliefs (simple though they were) suggested that. Gaiman chokes as well. He shows us Hell in his “Sandman” series, and yes, states that the souls are there because they believe they deserve to be punished. But he only shows sinners. If he really believed the TBTDTBP thing, hell would be filled with Saints, but he shows us none…..

                • Comment by Vision_From_Afar:

                  I think that Gaiman shows us the fatalistic trouble with self-delusion, rather than “choking”.
                  Is it not more plausible that at death, all self-delusion is stripped away by God, and one sees everything in unbiased clarity (similar to the Jewish belief, I think), thus those who were in Gaiman’s hell truely believed they belonged there, as they were now devoid of any delusion they might have had during life?

                  • Comment by Beadgirl:

                    That’s an interesting take on it, especially given that the Sandman’s “punishment” of the men at the serial killer convention was to strip them of their delusions, causing them to truly see themselves for what they were.

                  • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                    You are trying to write a story Gaiman didn’t tell. His was a nihilistic vision, one where God leaves Creation, disappointed that Lucifer (5 billion years past the Fall) would not take over. No, your story only adds a new level of self-delusion to the soul…..

                    • Comment by Vision_From_Afar:

                      I forget the literary theory (the Mrs. has the English degree, not me), but you’re arguing that the story the author meant to put out is the only valid one, right?
                      It doesn’t track for me, but eh, it’s a good yarn either way. Cheers.

                    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

                      Actually, “strike that, reverse it”. I am arguing that Gaiman failed to tell the story he meant to put out, that his need to tell a great story trumped his desire to put out a (very silly) message.

                • Comment by wlinden:

                  Actually, Gaiman’s depiction of Hell is strongly influenced by Cabell’s in JURGEN (the series is full of Cabell references), where Hell was created by “Koshchei” to humor the pride of Jurgen’s ancestors (since “pride is one of the two things impossible to Koshchei”), and the devils are groaning at the drudgery imposed on them by the humans who insist that their piddling sins are worth constant punishment.”

                  • Comment by jtherry:

                    JURGEN is one of a kind, almost as impossible to read as TRISTRAM SHANDY. When it was publishe dit caused a sensation, banned, etc. Hard to see today what the fuss was. Hard to read.

                    • Comment by joetexx:

                      Hm.   I thought Jurgen, which I read in one afternoon at 17, was as accessible as  Candide or Gulliver’s Travels. Forty years later I have yet to finish Tristram Shandy.

  11. Comment by Gian:

    Mr Wright,
    Wasn’t Trajan baptized?
    Didn’t Pope Gregory the Great prayed for him and wasn’t he resurrected and then baptized and thus died a Christian and went to Heaven?.

    His story is found in Paradiso of Dante.

    “Diodorus of Sicily (20.14) describes this scene”
    Should we believe him?. This could be an enemy propaganda.

    This sacrificing of one’s children is very anti-logical by the Evolutionary logic.

    • Comment by joetexx:

      I never read the Paradiso, but I have heard two versions of Trajan:

      1. A Christian slave gave him baptism on his deathbed, and after Purgatory je was admitted to Paradise.

      2. He went to Limbo,the place of righteous pagans, but was offered the referigum, a vacation in Paradise, where pagan souls had the option of accepting Christ and staying. He was admitted to the company of noble warriors such as Charlemagne, Judas Maccabeus, and Godfrey of Bouillion.

      The second version is mentioned in Lewis’s Great Divorce.

    • Comment by The OFloinn:

      It might be enemy propaganda IF the ancients had thought sacrificing children was bad. But one of Tacitus’ criticism of the Jews was that they did not kill their children for any reason. The Greeks and others routinely exposed unwanted children to the elements. The Spartans threw them in a ravine; modern Americans throw them in clinic dumpsters. If this is contrary to evolutionary logic, so much the worse for evolutionary logic. (Besides, a good evolutionary logician can come up with a great story why sacrificing one’s children is good, survival-of-the-fittest-wise. Just assume that they sacrificed the puny and weak.)

      • Comment by Gian:

        Per Chesterton, the Roman paganism was of the good sort while the Carthaginian was the bad one. The Rome-Carthage war he calls the War of Gods and Demons.
        So perhaps the Romans were much not into sacrificing children?

        Chesterton deems Roman paganism superior even to the Greek one, since the Roman gods were more moral, specifically referring to the Ganymede story.

      • Comment by Mary:

        It’s one thing to not think that killing children is bad. It’s another to not think that sacrificing children is bad. It was, in fact, a stock argument of early Christian writers that they would not, of course, ritually murder children at their secret rites because they did not kill their children, that was a pagan thing, but that they needed a stock argument shows that the pagans who exposed their children did charge them with sacrificing children as if it were a bad thing. And they were scathing about Carthage’s practices.

        Consistency? What’s that?

  12. Comment by Malcolm Smith:

    The whole concept of Neopaganism has always sounded a bit ridiculous to me. After all, if there is one thing we can be reasonably sure of in religion it is that a god that fails is no god worth considering. If the worship of the deity has ceased for at least 1000 years, what damned (and I mean it) good it is to reintroduce it?

    • Comment by Mary:

      You should see some of the stories they tell about pagan survival.

      Ronald Hutton reports that when pressed, they will admit that the stories are just stories. Me, I’ve never seen that. (Hutton’s pretty good about how it came about.)

    • Comment by Stephen J.:

      “After all, if there is one thing we can be reasonably sure of in religion it is that a god that fails is no god worth considering.”

      Ehhhh, for certain values of “fail”, perhaps. Too many atheists I’ve read define “failing” as “not answering every prayer with ‘yes, here you go’ instantly”. For me, a God whose power and mercy I could take for granted to be at my beck and call would not be a God worth worshipping — indeed, worship would be the technical and exact opposite term for my attitude towards such an entity in practice.

      Postmodern neopaganism thus finds itself to be in something of a bind, in that it wishes to lay claim to the authority of divine power in its own practitioners without giving up the capacity to put inconsistency in its results down to greater principles being at play — another form of the “I want to eat my cake and have it too” impulse I see in so much of this ilk of philosophy.

      (To be fair, I have known neopagans who would remark of a failed working, “Well, if it didn’t get you what you wanted, maybe there’s a level on which you didn’t want it after all, or didn’t want it badly enough? Look at your own motives and try again.” Which is at the least consistent, but is often resented because it appears to be exactly the kind of “it’s your own fault” sentiment that most people get into neopaganism to try to get away from.)

  13. Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

    Very good essay, Mr. Wright. I agree entirely.

    “…a neopagan might perhaps, if his spiritual strength does not wane with age, one day come to be a pagan and an honorable one…”

    There is only a slight chance of that happening, but it might be preferable to believe in something otherworldly, however incoherent, than in nothing at all. At least, it is natural to humans because there is a supernatural world and we are made for it.

    The key to it, and the difficulty at the same time, is to know, believe, and live by, the truth. It was possible for the overwhelming majority of honest pagans in Antiquity to recognize the truth and become Christians, but what we have now is no honest paganism…

  14. Comment by Boggy Man:

    I was just reading this Monday; a lovely pottporri of bad comics, strawman X-tianity and inane fluffy-bunny “paganism”.

    Part 1: http://www.misterkitty.org/extras/stupidcovers/stupidcomics266.html
    Part 2: http://www.misterkitty.org/extras/stupidcovers/stupidcomics267.html

  15. Ping from Fantastic and Perceptive Post by John C. Wright:

    […] Win!!!! Fantastic and Perceptive Post by John C. WrightAugust 2, 2012 By Mark Shea Leave a Comment…on what he admires about paganism and neopaganism–and where the fatal flaws are, partic…And that is the main difference between the neopagans and the pagans. The pagans are pre-Christian, […]

  16. Comment by red:

    a quote from a forum poster in a discussion on neopaganism [that I believe about sums it up]:

    “… typical SWPL religion that is all image and no substance – believe whatever you want as long as it doesn’t keep you from holding degenerate modern values and tolerating everything except for intolerance.”

  17. Ping from John C. Wright on Paganism and Neo-Paganism:

    […] missed it at the time it was posted (or else I am getting senile and have forgotten it) but anyway, John offers his inimitable reflections on paganism and on the pretend game of dress-up that is silly…. Makes me proud to be a member of the extremely exclusive Wright/Shea Mutual Admiration Society. […]

Leave a Reply