Recently, John C. Wright posted a quote of Bruce Charlton expressing that a return to Antiquity pagan morals and philosophy would be more likely to lessen the divide between our modern pagans and Christianity than direct Christian preaching. Dr Charlton was calling (half-seriously, of course) for pagan missionaries. Here is my take on the subject (in three different posts, slightly edited):

1. Interesting, but we have no need of pagan missionaries. We already have them anyway and they only wreak havoc: from the 18th and 19th centuries we had the Enlightenment prophets and the Progress worshippers. We still have many of those, but for half a century it has been much worse with the New Age missionaries. Absolutely nothing good can come from this church of the velvet-gloved Satan. And they are almost all impossible to convert without much fast and prayer and exorcisms.

Belloc made the following comparison between the modern pagans and the old while explaining why the “Modern Attack”, as he calls the new paganism, is so very dangerous to the Faith: “A man going uphill may be at the same level as another man going down hill; but they are facing different ways and have different destinies. Our world, passing out of the old Paganism of Greece and Rome towards the consummation of Christendom and a Catholic civilization from which we all derive, is the very negation of the same world leaving the light of its ancestral religion and sliding back into the dark.” (Hilaire Belloc, The Great Heresies, 1938)

2. Answer to another blogger who worried if my concerns could be mollified with a return to Antiquity values:

Belloc’s point and mine is that the old paganism cannot return. It is irremediably past, along with the conditions of its existence. We don’t have to be sorry, for most of the good in old paganism was kept by Christian civilization and became part of it. Our host (John C. Wright) pointed out a couple of times recently that Christianity is the only civilization interested in preserving the cultures it overtakes.

Our modern paganisms are very different from the old one. They don’t have the sort of innocence towards the Revelation that antique paganism had: it was not their fault if the ancient heathens were so. Most of them were able to recognize the moral and doctrinal, and even social, superiority of Christianity and converted willingly. They were in the dark or dim light and most of them came into the light. Our modern pagans avert themselves at all costs from light, because they can’t admit they do evil. So they are sliding into the dark on a large, slippery and ego-flattering slope. See John 3:19-21 and revise Plato’s Allegory of the Cave : what do the cave inhabitants do when they are told about the light but don’t want to leave their comfort and games?

This is for the moral part. On the intellectual side, it is even worse. The ancient Greeks were taught in philosophy by reality, by the things that are. As we know, this philosophy was transformed, baptized, and kept in Christianity. The reversal was brought about by the nominalists, Descartes and Kant, who put their efforts to divorce reason from being, from reality. Maritain wrote that Kant didn’t have the intuition of being and I believe he was right. I think the overwhelming majority of modern philosophers who are not classical theists don’t have this intuition of being either, and it is the obliged basis of any philosophy worthy of that name.

As you see, my concerns won’t be mollified except for a large movement of conversion to Catholicism and Catholic traditional education, particularly in religion, languages, history and philosophy. There are signs of it, but not as much as I would like. I should have added to my sentence about prayer, fasting and exorcisms that there are not many Christians prepared for that and willing to do it. There are not even enough of them prepared to stand their ground against political correctness.

But, as the proverb says, the good doesn’t make noise. Besides, God’s ways are not ours and he has a knack for working marvels with only a small number of people. There is always hope for a Christian.

3. Answer to Dr Charlton, who insisted that ancient paganism would return naturally, as it is the “spontaneous religion of thoughtful humans in the absence of divine revelation”:

Old style paganism cannot, and will not, return. It was NOT the spontaneous religion of humanity, it was a decayed form of the natural religion, which was monotheism. Because of the Fall, monotheism could only decay over time and paganism was the result.

But the craving for truth always remained and elements of truth survived. Why is monotheism so firmly anchored in about a third of humanity? Why did the most thoughtful and intelligent man of Antiquity, Aristotle, come to the conclusion that there was only one God? Because monotheism is the natural religion and human reason responds spontaneously (but not easily, because of sin) to truth.

There were also many primitive tribes who had some sort of monotheism, among them our North American natives and their Great Spirit. Evidently, it is also a decayed form. This is particularly obvious in shamanism, which is magic, that is, a technique pretending to harness spiritual forces and use them at the practitioners’ service. Magic and superstition are also contrary to natural religion.

[…] Whether our pagans are Old style or Neo-pagans, the problem would still be to get them to see the light and change their ways, more so if they dismiss the very existence of truth.


Indifference to truth

Modern pagans will not be more willing to convert to the truths of ancient paganism than they are willing to convert to Christ, the Truth in person. They are indifferent to truth. It is one of the three main characters of the “Modern Attack” that Belloc described in The Great Heresies:

1. In morals, cruelty and indifference to cruelty (abortion is the main example)

2. In the social sphere, a return to slavery in various forms (Communism and any totalitarianism inherently generate slavery)

3. In the intellectual domain, the abandonment of reason (political correctness is presently the achieved form)

Indifference to truth, which is a sign of the weakness of reason and the accompanying absence of logic, is what makes people so gullible. Chesterton said that if men stop believing in God, instead of believing in nothing they will believe in anything (1). I know from experience that he was completely right because I was one of those modern pagans who, after thinking she was believing in nothing, came to believe in bosh.

(1) The phrase is not a direct quote, it is a comment from Emile Cammaerts (The Laughing Prophet: The Seven Virtues and G.K. Chesterton. 1937) on a couple of remarks by Chesterton in his “Father Brown” series.


Dr Bruce G. Charlton comment and my answer

Comment submitted on 2011/11/13 at 03:47

bgc (charltonteaching.blogspot.com/)

I certainly respect this line of argument – however, its validity depends on the very large scale prophecies, which are true; but my feeling is that within these large and inevitable movements there is scope for periods of stasis, renewal and back-eddies.

It was a fact (so far as I can tell) that the best known 20th century Christian convert, CS Lewis, went from Christianity to atheism to paganism to theism to Christianity.

I myself went (more or less) from pagan animism (as a young child) to atheism to neo-paganism to something which was moving towards real paganism to Christianity.

You seem to say that 18th and 19th century enlightenment and progress worshippers were pagans – this seems to be an error. The pagans of those eras were the ‘romantics’ such as Wordsworth and Coleridge, Emerson and Thoreau.

However, these were all ex-Christian and moving away from Christianity; whereas modern Romantics are more likely to be ex-atheists – and moving in this direction paganism can lead to Christianity.

A questioning pagan, even if a Neo-pagan – can find themselves recapitulating the history of human thought up to Christianity.


Dr. Charlton,

Thanks very much for your comments.

I understand that you are from a real pagan background and coming towards Christianity, thus yours is the ascending path. I invite you to refer to my post featuring a few pages of De Lubac’s book on atheist humanism for a good comparison of the psychological state and circumstances of the ascending and descending pagans.

Being on the ascending path yourself, it is understandable that you do not grasp exactly the mode of thought of those who are on the descending path from a Christian culture, which I was for a time. It also applies to those who never were practicing Christians (practical atheists), provided they were raised in a Christian culture. Those Neo-pagans act in a very different way than “ascending” pagans would and, as hinted by the title of your book, you are clearly seeing where they are heading: in a prison.

You said the Enlightenment philosophers were not pagans and the Romantics were, citing only British names. [It seems the] British [had] a milder form [of Enlightenment] than in France, but it is pagan nevertheless. Even if they were not pagans in practical life, Enlightenment philosophers adopted a system which is pagan at its core. It kept many Christian values and presents itself as not contrary to Christianity, but in fact it is. Voltaire and the Encyclopedists (Enlightenment), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Romanticism), the French revolutionaries (heinous idolaters), and Auguste Comte (founder of Positivism and high priest of the religion of Progress), were full-fledged pagans. The French and Germans influenced each other and both influenced the British and Americans.

The French were more vicious because they were opposing the Catholic Church, who always denounced them for what they really were and fought them seriously. Enlightenment supporters were not successful in introducing their ideas in the Church except in a scattered way, called modernism and explicitly condemned. They did damage, for sure, but the Church survived without mortal harm as she always did. It was not so in Germany and Britain because, Protestantism being already a sort of political correctness (it was controlled by the State), their Enlightenment types had no staunch opposition and they had all desired help from the Freemasonry everywhere present in the governing class and intellectual elites. They were the false prophets who are always welcome except by those who know the real truth.

It is not for nothing that the politically correct only method is flinging insults and false accusations against the supporters of really good things — issues generally related to Christian values advocated by conservatives or, above all, teachings of the Catholic Church. The politically correct self-righteous behavior is that of fanatical religious believers and they learned it from the anti-Catholic movement pervasive in Protestantism from the beginning. Anti-Catholicism may have disappeared from many streams of Protestantism but is still very much alive in many fundamentalist groups. It is always present, if not always obvious, in aggressive atheists and secularists who seem to think the very existence of the Church is a threat for them, in which case they are perfectly right.

Political correctness is the magisterium and judicial power of a Neo-pagan religion whose avowed idol is Man in all his basest desires, thus governed by Satan himself under disguise. Its destiny is hell, for it is a homicide death cult (abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide) like Carthage was. This is why, when persons of goodwill become conscious of what the politically correct really advocates, or of how it burns the icons it was exalting the day before, they have the chills. Let us hope that, like Carthage, Neo-paganism will “fall as nothing has fallen since Satan” (G.K. Chesterton, Everlasting Man). The Catholic Church is our only rampart against it and, even if she looks trampled underfoot and weak, we must remember the Romans looked like that too, just before they wiped Carthage out.