Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Pagan Idolatry in the Age of Reason

Remember the Enlightenment. Which Enlightenment, its proponents rarely make clear, but we all know that during the eighteenth century a new age of Reason dawned. It freed us from religious dogma and superstition, thus opening us to a world where, as the Beatles so aptly put it: “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time.”

If you are intellectually sophisticated you do not stoop to quote the Beatles but attribute that thought to eminent Harvard psychologist, Steven Pinker, our own Dr. Pangloss. His recent book Enlightenment Now predicted a New Age where religion would be consigned to the waste basket of history and where things would continually get better.

Apparently, being a good atheist means having prophetic powers. There is no God, but He speaks directly to Steven Pinker.

Of course, it’s all a fiction. And it’s not even a very good fiction. Today’s progressive left, Tara Isabella Burton argues persuasively in an essay in The American Interest is really recycled pagan idolatry. It is one part New Age nostrums and one part anti-Christian religious engagement. We will add, for our part, that the decisive Biblical break with polytheism came when Moses led his people out of Egypt. Thus, this recycled paganism is also stealth anti-Semitism. It is useful to keep in mind, while inveighing against the patriarchy, that the first patriarchs in Western civilization were named Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Whether with magic crystals or astrological charts or Tarot cards or witchcraft or shamanism, the New Age of paganism has captured the oh-so-rational minds of today’s woke atheists.

Beginning, Burton tells us, with America’s most pathetic Congressional imbecile, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Back in March 2019, an elected government representative shared something personal about her spiritual identity. Not a preferred Bible verse or a conversion story. Rather, progressive New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared her birth-time with a self-described psychic and astrologer, Arthur Lipp-Bonewits, who in turn shared her entire birth chart with what can only be described as Astrology Twitter.

This matters because:

More importantly, however, AOC’s gambit taps into the way in which progressive millennials have appropriated the rhetoric, imagery, and rituals of what was once called the “New Age”—from astrology to witchcraft—as both a political and spiritual statement of identity.

For those who believe in using New Age methods to enhance their spiritual well being, they can turn to notable neo-pagan, Carl Jung, a man whose psycho theorizing has everything to do with idolatry and nothing to do with monotheistic religions.

For those who avoid therapy, the new spirituality has a political edge. It allows people to fight Western civilization in the culture wars. After all, didn’t monotheistic cultures prevail over their pagan antecedents. The New Age is payback, or perhaps a throwback recycled to make it appear to be rational:

For an increasing number of left-leaning millennials—more and more of whom do not belong to any organized religion—occult spirituality isn’t just a form of personal practice, self-care with more sage. Rather, it’s a metaphysical canvas for the American culture wars in the post-Trump era: pitting the self-identified Davids of seemingly secular progressivism against the Goliath of nationalist evangelical Christianity.

Some millennials are drawn to witchcraft. How better to control the natural world and even the political world? They believe that its practices will bring down the Trump administration and will even prevent Brett Kavanaugh from being confirmed as a justice of the Supreme Court:

As an aesthetic, as a spiritual practice, and as a communal ideology, contemporary millennial “witch culture” defines itself as the cosmic counterbalance to Trumpian evangelicalism. It’s at once progressive and transgressive, using the language of the chaotic, the spiritually dangerous, and (at times) the diabolical to chip at the edifices of what it sees as a white, patriarchal Christianity that has become a de facto state religion.

But it is also a religion, for the irreligious:

Progressive occultism—the language of witches and demons, of spells and sage, of cleansing and bad energy, of star and signs—has become the de facto religion of millennial progressives: the metaphysical symbol set threaded through the worldly ethos of modern social justice activism. Its rise parallels the rise of the religious “nones,” and with them a model of spiritual and religious practice that’s at once intuitional and atomized.

Burton makes the salient point, that enlightened secularists are really not all that secular. They are wallowing in pagan idolatry:

But the rhetorical and spiritual popularization of “resistance magic” in the age of Trump reveals the degree to which one of America’s supposedly most “secular” demographics—urbane, progressive millennials—aren’t quite so secular after all. From Tarot readings to spell craft, meditation to cursing, they’re actively seeking out religious and spiritual traditions defined by their marginality—traditions that at once offer a sense of cosmic purpose and political justice against what they see as hegemonic power. These practices may be less established, and far more diffuse, than those offered by organized religion, but they offer adherents some of the same psychological effects: a committed and ideologically cohesive community, a sense of purpose both on a political battlefield and a mythic one.

Underscore Burton’s point, these forms of paganism are transgressive. Surely, they want us to transgress the cultural norms that derive from Scripture. But, they also imply behavioral license. Pagan divinities, whether Aphrodite, the goddess of sensual love, or Dionysus, the god of spring break… allow far more licentious behavior than did the One God of the Old and New Testaments.


whitney said...

It's just a way for white women to become the victims of the witch hunts that they think are still going on. The salient point though is they're not going on. These women can believe they are witches all they want without repercussions because the culture at large does not believe that such a thing is possible anymore. Back in the day everyone believed it. The persecutors believed witchcraft was real and the women practicing in the woods who got hung or burned also believe what they were doing was real. Today's witches should pray that widespread acceptance of their practice doesn't happen

B. said...

This also why Native American/tribal superstitions are treated with such delicacy.10,000 year old bones are sacred!

David Foster said...

"Spiritual but not religious" is the self-identification of a high % of people under 45 or so, especially women.

In Goethe's Faust, the protagonist's seduction of Gretchen hits a potential roadblock when she (being a devout believer) asks him, "Do you believe in God?" His response, somewhat shortened, is:

Who may name Him,
And who declare:
I believe in Him.
Who can feel
And dare
To say: I do not believe in Him!
The all-embracing one,
The all-preserving one,
Does He not embrace and preserve
You, me, (and) Himself?
Does the sky not arch above us up there?
Does the earth not lie firm down here?
And do not with kind glance
The eternal stars rise?
Do I not look at you eye to eye,
And does not everything press
Upon your head and heart
And weave in eternal mystery
Invisible and visible around you?
Fill your heart, as big as it is, from that
And when you are completely blissful in the feeling,
Then call it what you like:
Call it happiness! Heart! Love! God!
I have no name
For it! Feeling is everything;
(The) name is sound and smoke,
Enshrouding heaven's glow.

Spiritual but not religous!

Worked, too....wanting very much to be convinced, Gretchen responds:

That is all quite fine and good;
Much the same thing says the pastor, too
Only with slightly different words.

...and she is very soon in bed with him.

UbuMaccabee said...

The thing that is kept in the cellar, chained to the ground with heavy iron, is very eager that the world should embrace paganism once again, for we are larger and stronger and bloodier, and they are smaller and weaker. It's going to end with our lot living behind motte and bailey, and their lot getting whipped on a whim. Paganism emancipates all of us from judgement.

trigger warning said...

Quote You Will Never Find in a Public School or Hear on NPR:

Arno Penzias, co-discoverer of the isotropic cosmic background radiation, Nobel Prize - Physics 1978

"The best data we have [concerning the 'Big Bang'] are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the bible as a whole."
--- NYT, 1978