Does The End Of Christendom Mean The Rise Of Neo-Paganism?

This year, at the height of what used to be called the Christmas season, a Pew Research Center poll on religion revealed that only slightly more Americans described themselves as Roman Catholics (21 percent) than as believers in “nothing in particular” (20 percent). The millennial generation, which includes most adult Americans under 40, is the first one in which Christians are a minority.

Many Americans have a sense that their country is less religious than it used to be. But is it really? The interplay among institutions, behaviors and beliefs is notoriously hard to chart. Even if we could determine that religious sentiment was in flux, it would be hard to say whether we were talking about this year’s fad or this century’s trend.

Or perhaps we are dealing with an even deeper process. That is the argument of a much-discussed book published in Paris this fall. In it, the French political theorist Chantal Delsol contends that we are living through the end of Christian civilization — a civilization that began (roughly) with the Roman rout of pagan holdouts in the late fourth century and ended (roughly) with Pope John XXIII’s embrace of religious pluralism and the West’s legalization of abortion.

…Ms. Delsol’s ingenious approach is to examine the civilizational change underway in light of that last one 1,600 years ago. Christians brought what she calls a “normative inversion” to pagan Rome. That is, they prized much that the Romans held in contempt and condemned much that the Romans prized, particularly in matters related to sex and family. Today the Christian overlay on Western cultural life is being removed, revealing a lot of pagan urges that it covered up.

To state Ms. Delsol’s argument crudely, what is happening today is an undoing, but it is also a redoing. We are inverting the normative inversion. We are repaganizing. Read more»

Christopher Caldwell | “Is the West Becoming Pagan Again?” | December 29, 2021 (HT: M. J. Denning)


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One comment

  1. I learned in a history class that there’s a statistic for the demise of cultures and empires. Their fall is comparable to their rise, or something like that. It was originally about the Roman Empire, that the ages it took to disintegrate were about the same as it took to build the thing. Maybe that’s applicable here.
    But the trees in the forest have never all been fully Christian – more pagan with a Christian facade. So how do we know it’s not just steady-state with some fluctuations in which is more visible.
    I’m not a historian (not even a decent wannabe historian), but reading history tells me that the most apparent theme seems to ignore the thing that has always been in the background. Empires rise and fall, but the dark world persists, mundane and ordinary.

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