The only thing surprising about it is how unsurprising it is.
In an era when atheism is all the rage, when God has gone out of style and when organized religion has become an all-purpose whipping boy, hip people are beginning to flock to occult ceremonies. They are dabbling in witchcraft, tarot readings and astrology. The world of the spirits, to say nothing of the world of pagan deities, is making a comeback.
Katie Baker reports on the cultural phenomenon for Newsweek:
Until recently, I wouldn’t have been able to listen to Osborn detail the kinetic energy running through my body without cracking up, but chilled-out multitasking hipster psychics don’t seem so eccentric anymore. Upwardly mobile millennials are often accused of being self-obsessed and afflicted with “special snowflake” syndrome, but that’s not the only reason more and more smart, savvy and usually cynical 18-to-30-year-olds are dabbling in the occult, from astrological natal charts and tarot to séances and full-moon ceremonies.
Somehow, full-moon ceremonies sound mildly pornographic. Nevertheless, in a culture where young people have been accused of being chronically narcissistic, where all mental health issues are medicated, and where everyone trusts science to solve all problems, young adults have glommed on to the supernatural.
God might be dead, but the gods and goddesses are alive and well. And so, by the by, is reactionary thought.
Apparently, these young people are rejecting both organized religion and science. They want nothing to do with Judeo-Christianity, but prefer to seek out metaphysical realities in the stars and in magic. Next stop, alchemy: the prescientific version of chemistry.
To give them their due, it is perfectly reasonable to believe in metaphysical entities. Take ideas, for example. Have you ever seen, heard, tasted, touched or smelled an idea? Likely you have not. Since ideas cannot be reduced to the brain’s thinking them—after all, ideas do not cease to exist when you stop thinking them—it makes good sense to believe that they are metaphysical entities. If so, science has limitations.
Normally, those who believe in science’s limits turn to organized religions. Not today’s young hipsters.
Baker explains it well:
Millennials are the least religious generation in history; according to a 2012 Pew study, one third of adults under the age of 30 are unaffiliated with any particular faith. At the same time, a 2001 Gallup poll found that Americans’ belief in psychic and paranormal phenomena — particularly psychic healing and extrasensory perception — significantly increased during the 1990s and has held steadfast ever since. Some 20-somethings told Newsweek they appreciate the supernatural because it’s a nondenominational method of self-exploration that reminds them that the world is both older and bigger than they are. “It’s embarrassing to admit you’re religious,” says Hilary Pollack, a 27-year-old who recently moved to Brooklyn. “But I think a lot of people my age are sick of being nihilistic. Spirituality is a lot cooler.”
Living in a culture that has profited from its Judeo-Christian heritage, to say nothing of science and the Industrial Revolution, young hipsters have a right to indulge their folly. After all, they have indoor plumbing, heating and air conditioning, sanitation, antibiotics and plentiful food.
Young people have learned how to critique Western Civilization but one doubts that they would ever want to go back to the time before modern science and technology, like the Middle Ages or the Hundred Years War.
One suspects that they would not want to have lived in Germany at a time when Heinrich Himmler, a great champion of all things occult, was running the SS.
If young people want to transform their book club into a coven, be my guest. If they want to reverse the Industrial Revolution, to the point where they will be producing blackouts, famines and epidemics, their beliefs are not so spiritual and not so innocent, either.
One suspects that Baker is correct to see the phenomenon as a diversion, a form of amusement, a costume party qua meet-up. And yet, once a set of ideas enters the cultural bloodstream no individual can control the effects they produce.
Obviously, it's all a form of pagan idolatry. Obviously, it is antiscientific. But it is also, unabashedly opposed to the great tradition of Judeo-Christianity.
Western civilization was founded on a rejection of idolatry. It’s written into the Second Commandment: thou shalt have no other gods before me.
The new atheism has garnered far more publicity than the new occultism. Its adherents and apologists are far more prominent and more rational. Yet, both groups are joined together by what they oppose. They are against the civilization that was built on Judeo-Christianity.
It may not seem obvious that the Industrial Revolution, liberal democratic values and the larger part of modern scientific advances were produced in countries that practice Judeo-Christianity, but such is the case.
No one is denying that Western Civilization has produced many bad things, but when you compare them to its contributions you will probably agree that it has produced a lot more good than bad. This is especially true if you compare its record to that of pagan cultures and to cultures that practice materialistic atheism.
Today’s atheists do not much like the association, but the nations that have built political and economic systems on atheist beliefs have not produced very much good. The Soviet Union and Communist China were built by atheists who abhorred the superstitious beliefs that founded Judeo-Christianity.For the most part they have only excelled at destruction.
Were we to compare and contrast the good and the bad of Western civilization with the good and the bad of atheist political and economic systems, we would be forced to conclude that Communist has produced nothing of real value.
Today’s atheists are certainly not communists. They will tell you that the Soviet Union and Maoist China and Castro’s Cuba and the rest have nothing to do with their values. The results produced by those regimes are not at all what they have in mind. Of course, it was not what Marx had in mind either.
I suspect that today’s atheists are not as materialistic as Marx. Most of them hold to core Judeo-Christian values—like free will and charity. They set themselves apart from the dominant Western cultural tradition by believing that these values can be proved scientifically.
And yet, if you cannot prove scientifically that an idea exists and if you reject God because you cannot prove His existence scientifically, it does not make sense to say that you can prove the existence of free will scientifically.
It’s no accident that the dialectical materialism of Marx never produced a culture where anyone was allowed to exercise freedom.