Wednesday, 9 November 2011

What's wrong with (real) paganism? Three (main) things


Paganism is much better than nothing, as we are beginning to recognize, but requires completion by Christianity.

From a Christian perspective, I venture to suggest three main things wrong with paganism: pride, cruelty and meaninglessness.


1. Pride

Pride is the worst of sins for Christians, it is to prefer oneself to God. But for pagans, pride is a virtue - it is, indeed, the only thing holding life together and providing some kind of motivation.

2. Cruelty

Cruelty is not a virtue for paganism, but it is an endemic feature because there is no prohibition of cruelty - therefore when cruelty is expedient or pleasurable there is no compelling reason to refrain.

(Christians are also cruel, obviously - but this is against the core imperative of Love: so by being cruel they are not being Christian; whereas cruelty is compatible with paganism.)

3. Meaninglessness

Paganism offers no meaning for life - or more exactly no human meaning for human life - or the human soul.

Paganism offers only a spark of life in an infinite universe of darkness, or the 'hope' of being extinguished or absorbed into nature, or recycled - at any rate there is no human meaning, no preservation of the essential self.

The pagan soul may be eternal but is not individual.

Pagan immortality is merely an indefinite extension of human life, perhaps more focused on pleasurable things.

(The Christian hope for salvation and eternal life is of the human life made God-like - individuality preserved but enhanced, eternity made not merely bearable but wonderful. Indeed, I am convinced by Pascal that properly-considered *only* Christianity offers a meaningful life - and that no other religion or philosophy does so.)



JohnH said...

Perhaps it is just my way of viewing things that is different, but I see little difference in the way most people actually act and believe and the way of pagans.

Almost everyone creates idols of their own design that they worship through acts of piety of their own choosing. They may not have the complexity or philosophy, or conscious knowledge of what they are doing, but in actual actions and beliefs there is no difference between the pagan and the unbeliever (and, unfortunately, many believers).

Power, money, fame, entertainment, looks, the environment, science, and countless more things are placed before God and thus become gods themselves. When they are become gods then they develop sets of actions that should rightly be viewed as ceremony and worship and sets of beliefs that become orthodoxy and is not to be questioned.

It is the natural state of man to believe in a God or gods. If one set of gods is taken away then a new set will arise to take its place.

The dangerous difference is that the beliefs in these gods is not recognized as belief but is seen as the way the world actually is. Worship is not seen as worship, but as necessary actions according to how the world actually is. This despite any evidence that the worship is pointless (or counter productive) and the belief false. This is dangerous as it allows the new pagans to use the machinery of state to impose some of their beliefs and worship procedures on others. It is also dangerous as the orthodoxy of beliefs means that research that questions the beliefs is dangerous and doing it, or even thinking it should be done, can ruin careers.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JH - "I see little difference in the way most [modern - I presume] people actually act and believe and the way of pagans."

I see a vast difference. I think we are in uncharted waters - people have *never before* behaved like they do now. e.g. many people live is a state of contiual and permanent distraction... People deny the reality of good and evil, beauty and ugliness, deny the reality of truth...

JohnH said...

It is my understanding that Socrates was arguing against those that said that there is no truth. Even Pilate was perhaps influenced by Solipsism with his "What is truth?".

As for continual distraction, I think the difference to day is a quantitative one rather than a qualitative one. The Romans anxiously hoped for only two things, bread and circuses, food and continual distraction.

There is very little that is new under the sun. How it is presented and the scale may, perhaps, be different but the motivating desires, ideas, and purposes remain the same as always. We have known since the time of the Gospels that society would return to as it was in the days of Noah. It should be no surprise then that "every imagination of the thoughts of mans heart is only evil continually".

Considering as how the earth has not yet received its baptism by fire with the Second Coming of the Lord then it is safe to assume that society at large will continue to get worse, and that the days of Noah were worse than currently.