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April 2, 2024

In Brief: America’s Stunning Embrace of Paganism

The future of the post-Christian West isn’t some secular liberal utopia, it’s a pagan empire in which might makes right.

Transgender Day of Visibility overtook Easter this past weekend, and it’s a sign of what author John Daniel Davidson sees as a greater trend toward paganism in his new book: Pagan America: The Decline of Christianity and the Dark Age to Come.

It’s hard to survey the state of our country and not conclude that something is very wrong in America. I don’t just mean with our economy or the border or rampant crime in our cities, but with our basic grasp on reality itself.

Our cultural and political elite now insist that men can become women, and vice versa, and that even children can consent to what they euphemistically call “gender-affirming care.” In a perfect inversion of reason and common sense, some Democratic lawmakers now want laws on the books forcing parents to affirm their child’s “gender identity” on the pain of having the child taken from them by the state for abuse.

Abortion, which was once reluctantly defended only on the basis that it should be “safe, legal, and rare,” is now championed as a positive good, even at later stages of pregnancy. Abortion advocates now insist the only difference between an unborn child with rights and one without them is the mother’s desire, or not, to carry the pregnancy to term.

Those are just two issues where such relativism is evident.

What is happening? Put bluntly, America is becoming pagan. That doesn’t necessarily mean a sudden surge in people worshipping Zeus or Apollo (although modern forms of witchcraft are on the rise). Rather it means an embrace of a fundamentally pagan worldview that rejects both transcendent moral truth and objective reality, and insists instead that truth is relative and reality is what we will it to be.

Recall that ancient pagans ascribed sacred or divine status to the here and now, to things or activities, even to human beings if they were powerful enough (like a pharaoh or a Roman emperor). They rejected the notion of an omnipotent, transcendent God — and all that the existence of God would imply. Hasan i-Sabbah, the ninth-century Arab warlord whose group gave us the word “assassins,” summed up the pagan ethos in his famous last words: Nothing is true, everything is permitted.

In other words, the radical moral relativism we see everywhere today represents a thoroughly post-Christian worldview that is best understood as the return of paganism, which, as the Romans well understood, is fundamentally incompatible with the Christian faith. Christianity after all does not allow for such relativism but insists on hard definitions of truth and what is — and is not — sacred and divine.

This all will have profound consequences for our Republic. He adds:

America was founded not just on certain ideals but on a certain kind of people, a predominantly Christian people, and it depends for its survival on their moral virtue, without which the entire experiment in self-government will unravel. As Christianity fades in America, so too will our system of government, our civil society, and all our rights and freedoms.

Davidson argues his case at length before concluding with a bit of hope:

The task for Americans today, Christian and non-Christian alike, is to see the decline, understand what it portends, and prepare accordingly. This is not a counsel of despair. …

As Christians, we repose our hope in a God who can, and indeed already has, conquered sin and death. So we await the dawn, and in the meantime, we fight the long defeat.

Read the whole thing here.

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