Wednesday, 04 September 2019

“Pagan Pride Day” in Our Fractured, Post-Christian America

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Satanic invocations, pentagrams, and “Festivus” poles at Christmastime — and now the fourth annual “Pagan Pride Day” in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That’s life in fractured, confused, post-Christian America where, with people awash in relativism and driven by emotion, there soon may be as many “faiths” as feelings.

Ann Arbor’s pagan day will be celebrated at Washtenaw Community College’s Community Park on Saturday, September 14 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you miss it, though, there are at least three other such days scheduled this month, in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York (with the latter being our nation’s Wicca capital). For that matter, the “Pagan Pride Project” (PPP) has a list of literally scores of events taking place across the United States.

“Paganism tends to have a wide definition, said the Rev. Rob Henderson, the [Ann Arbor] event’s coordinator,” reports “The term can describe a wide variety of religious beliefs, though different faiths often involve polytheistic or magical beliefs and a focus on nature, Henderson said.”

“Henderson is a clergy member of A Druid Fellowship, a church basing its beliefs on ancient Indo-European practices, he said,” the site continues.

Interestingly, ancient pagans didn’t call themselves “pagans”; it was originally a derogatory term, derived from the Latin paganus, applied to them by others. So their embracing the word is a bit like Catholics calling themselves “mackerel snappers.”

Whatever you call them (confused comes to mind), their numbers are growing as American Christianity declines; in fact, it was reported last year that there are now more wiccans and pagans than Presbyterians in the United States.

Of course, this is a bit deceptive because the “pagan” umbrella encompasses a plethora of non-Christian, un-Christian, and anti-Christian beliefs. Among these are, the PPP tells us, “worshipping a Deity or Deities found in pre-Christian, classical, aboriginal, or tribal mythology; and/or” practicing spirituality “based upon shamanism, shamanic, or magickal practices; and/or” exalting the “Divine Feminine” and/or engaging in Earth worship.

While pagans claim their beliefs are innocuous, sometimes they do tip their hand. Just consider how New York City witches had vowed to get together in October 2018 to put a “hex” on then-new Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, along with “all rapists” and “the patriarchy.” Then there were the #MagicResistance witches, who, last we heard, were e-gathering every month in the Internet ether to cast a spell on President Trump. 

As for the more blatantly demonic, there was a pentagram next to a Nativity scene and a menorah in Boca Raton, Florida, in 2016 that read, “May the children hail Satan.” Moreover, a pole for “Festivus,” a fictional holiday created by the television program Seinfeld, made headlines in nearby Deerfield. There are also “Satan Clubs” in schools and an Alaska locality that allowed a Satanist to open a 2016 assembly meeting with a satanic invocation.

Such religious splintering is what happens when people cease believing in Truth, objective by definition; their feelings then take its place and become their ultimate arbiter, and everything becomes relative to oneself.

Many may suppose that this is just so much nonsense, a flavor of the day; they may agree with Thomas Jefferson, who said 200 years ago that it “does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Yet “First Things” (philosophy, theology) are called just that because if they’re gotten wrong, secondary things and beyond (e.g., politics) will also be wrong, just as a bad foundation will yield an unsafe building.

I addressed this in my 2013 essay “The Acceptance Con.” Citing a thoroughly morally relativistic man I once knew who said, “Murder isn’t wrong; it’s just that society says it is,” I explained (note: “Truth” implies God):

So what is the source of that characteristic mistake of moderns, moral relativism, with its familiar refrains “That’s your truth; someone else’s may be different” and “Everything is a matter of perspective”? It’s clear it is atheism, which absolutely has the corollary that there is no morality. (Note: This isn’t to say, as atheists usually assume, that only the faithful can be moral; the godless cannot. The point is that if divine will isn’t real, no one can be “moral” because you cannot conform to a non-existent standard. “Moral” is as incomprehensible a term in a universe without Truth as “physical” is in one without matter.) … Just as people wouldn’t abide by the “laws” of physics if they didn’t believe they existed (the idea jumping off a building and flying sounds like fun) and there weren’t obvious and immediate consequences for their violation (splat!), they won’t be likely to abide by morality if they believe its laws don’t exist; this is especially true since the personal consequences — the spiritual and emotional harm you may suffer — aren’t as obvious.

Turning to paganism, I continued:

A similar problem can arise when enough neighbors believe in 20 gods. Pagan gods were not only ascribed human frailties and fierce wrath and thus set poor examples, but, more to the point, what is man to make of their inter-theistic squabbles? If they disagree on even one minor point, it follows that they cannot all be infallible and truly godly, as then one, many, or all must be wrong. And then how can we trust what they may say about morality? At best, we may then pick whatever god’s standard is convenient, or, quite likely, we will view morality as some nebulous thing and paint our own shade of gray. Of course, they could all be on the same page soup to nuts, but then they start to seem more like constituent parts of one corporate mind, much like the Holy Trinity. Or you could draw Aristotle’s conclusion that there must be an “Immovable Mover” that is above all, but then your gods seem more like gray angels than deities. Either way, you’re ultimately brought back to monotheism.

And when you’re not brought there, in an authentic way, you’re usually brought to leftism in our time. For “First Things” orientation is perhaps the best voting-patterns predictor. For example, Christians who attend church regularly overwhelmingly support Republicans, whereas non-Christian groups are reliably Democrat (e.g., 90 percent of Hindus voted for Barack Obama).

The bottom line is that we’re über fractious politically because we’re fractured spiritually. You can’t be united on any level when you’re divided on the deepest one.

Photo: fotocelia / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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