Is Paganism Doomed?
No, this is not the judgment of one of the usual (Pagan) suspects.
It is a tangent spun off a column by Rod Dreher, who comments frequently on ecclesiastical matters. He was raised a southern Protestant, converted to Roman Catholicism, left that church over the sex-abuse scandals, and is now an Orthodox Christian — although he is aware that the Orthodox churches are not scandal-free either.
Although Dreher and I are a little different theologically, I think that he would pass the next-door-neighbor test, especially as he loves to cook and appreciates the cuisine of his native Louisiana. Maybe he would invite me over now and then.
Like many members of the chattering classes, Dreher has been looping back again and again to the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. What does it mean for the future? and all that sort of thing. (Me, I wonder if the prophecy-falsely-attributed-to-St.-Malachy is right, and the next guy will indeed be the last pope. Then we can ask some questions.)
So in the course of musing on the future of Christianity and religion in general, he quotes some Brazilian who says that interest in Brazil’s established Afro-Brazilian traditions is diminishing.
[Quoting the Brazilian:] As I said in other topics, christianity in America and Europe is not the only faith that is hemorraging people: as follower of the so called ‘african paganism’ (macumba), here in Brazil, it’s baffling to see the temples devoid of young people: of the dozens of young man and woman I know only three (including me) are active. In my mother’s generation, almost everyone in Brazil was macumbeiro (follower of the macumba), today temples are closing, the priests are spiritually weak, and one rarely see the offerings to the spirits in the crossroads, beaches and graveyards.
And he decides that paganism [sic] is preferable to atheism, even if it is not the Real Thing.
Personally, I find paganism far more attractive than atheism, because pagans, however mistaken their understanding (from a Christian point of view) nevertheless share with Christians a recognition that there is Something There beyond ourselves, and the material world. I can have (have had) a fruitful, engaging discussion with my friend and commenter Franklin Evans, a pagan, in a way that I just can’t with friends who have no spiritual or religious beliefs, or a sense of the numinous.
My guess, and it’s only that, is that some pagans will fall away from the practice of their faith for the same reason many Christians are: because it doesn’t make sense in our scientistic, materialistic, consumerist world. At the same time, I think that paganism stands to gain overall from the unchristening of the West. If you look at the Asatru site, this neopagan religion speaks to longings that are deep within all of us, and cannot be suppressed forever.