Paganism: The Step-Child of Secularism

  Paganism, the Step-Child of Secularism

 

    by

     Peter Jones, Ph.D.

 

NOTE: This paper was delivered in the Netherlands at a conference sponsored by the European Regional Board of the World Reformed Fellowship, October 30 - November 1, 2007.

 

I. Introduction

 
Preparing for this lecture, the title of an article caught my attention because it contains within it the very thesis of this paper:
ACan Darwin Save Dartmouth from Derrida?@
[1] Dartmouth was formed with a charter from the Dutchman, King William, as a Christian institution for the preparation of young men to convert the American Indian. Only recently the student president was reprimanded for mentioning Jesus in his speech to the incoming freshmen.

 

According to the article,  this secular humanist school, now wallowing in ideological fragmentation by Derridian deconstruction, will be brought back to some semblance of a university by the integrating power of a neo-pagan reprise of Darwinian evolution. My own title also requires some explanation. A stepchild represents the next generation, though without any obvious organic relationship with its parents and their generation. A stepchild is a seemingly unrelated and often quite unexpected progeny. That is perhaps a useful way of describing the relationship between secular humanism and neo-paganism. What were we expecting as the progeny of the Enlightenment Project?

 

II.  The Life and Death of Secularism

 

A.  Life

 

Humanism emerged in Europe between 1200 and 1400 as the studia humanitatis, or Ahumanistic studies.@ It came to represent an established intellectual and cultural curriculum focused on grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy. From the 18th to the 20th centuries we have observed the great success of secular humanism. The Enlightenment project, based on faith in human reason as the norm of truth and the source of salvation began with Descartes=s (1596-1650) cogito. Its victory is for ever associated with the French revolution, when the Paris revolutionaries in 1789 built an altar to the AGoddess Reason@ right in the middle of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, and declared in Article 10 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man that "No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law." The Alaw@ was Secularism, which legally was set in French institutions with the law of 9 December 1905, when the Socialist Deputy Aristide Briand, got the Assembly to vote in favor of the separation of Church and State, placing the political powers above the Catholic Church specifically in issues of public education.

 

Such an enthusiastic faith in humanity brought a great sense of optimism to human affairs and produced all the wonders of modern, technological Western civilization. This state of affairs hardly needs documentation. Secularism represented the advance of humanism to ideological autonomy, a radical shift of psychological allegiance from God to man, from dependence to independence, from otherworldliness to this world, from the transcendent to the empirical, from myth and belief to reason. Man, human reason, became the measure of all things. Its dominance in modern culture is to be seen in a series of victorious mega movements that produce the demise of Christendom: Darwinianism, biblical criticism, laicization, psycho-analysis[2] and pluralism. Christendom contributed to its own demise by its almost complete identification with power. In America, as the beginning of the 20th century, according to J. Gresham Machen, AChristianity was becoming a means to an end of Americanization and social improvement.@[3] 

 

Indeed the measure of secular humanism=s self-confidence is to be seen in the prediction by serious social observers and philosophers of the final victory of secularism and the disappearance of religion altogether. The philosophe Voltaire, delivered the bone-chilling statement about Christianity, AEcrasez l=infame,@ literally, Acrush that vile, unspeakable thing.@ Ludwig Feuerbach (b.1804), called Christianity a Adelusion@ and God Aa human projection.@[4]

 

 Karl Marx, in the middle of the nineteenth century, dismissed religion as the Aopiate of the people,@ and his contemporary, the French philosopher, Auguste Comte (1798-1857) argued that secularization was the inevitable result of human maturity and that mankind would progress toward a superior state of civilization by means of the science of sociology. Ivan Petrovitch Pavlov of APavlovian conditioned reflex@ fame, was a true son of the nineteenth century, believing in the omni-competence of science as an expression of the truth of 19th century materialistic philosophy. Born in 1849, he trained for the priesthood but was disaffected with Christianity under the influence of Darwin.  He came to believe that science would answer all questions pertaining to life and would replace religion.[5]

 

Sigmund Freud, in his book, The Future of an Illusion (1927), saw in secularism the tool in the new age of scientific enquiry to bring about the demise of a primitive illusion. Freud, who referred to himself as a AGodless Jew@, went on to argue that religion is a Amass delusion@ which formally enshrines our Ainfantile@ longing for an all-powerful protective (but also threatening) father figure. For Freudian psychology, religion was a pathological condition, the great obstacle to mental health, from which the future utopian world would be healed.

 

These predictions have come true in the demise of the Christian religion as the dominant social force in Western civilization.[6] In 1967 the sociologist Peter Berger noted the Aoverall decline in the plausibility of Christianity,@ due, in his opinion, to the rise of the Aage of revolution.@ No longer submission to the will of God but Ahistory and human action@ serve to explain the great questions of theodicy.[7] He sees the great effect of secularism as creating Aa crisis of credibility@ for religion in general and Christianity in particular.[8] What few saw, including Berger,[9] was the demise of secular humanism.

 

B. Death

 

The Ainevitable@ triumph of atheistic secularism and demise of religion did not happen. Andre Malraux in the middle of the twentieth century, at the high-point of the achievements of secularism, predicted that the 21st century would be religious. The Postmodern deconstructionist, Mark C. Taylor, professor at Williams College, observes that the 21st century will be dominated by religion in ways that were inconceivable just a few years ago.@[10] Just a few years ago it was difficult to think that a movement whose triumphant success began with the fall of the Bastille in 1789 would effectively end 200 years later with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. 

 

The fact is, secular humanism is dying, much to the disgust of Harvard geneticist, Richard Lewontin. Lewontin believes that Athe reason for opposition to scientific accounts of our origins, is not that people are ignorant of facts, but that they have not learned to think from the right starting pointY[that] science [is] the only begetter of truth." [11]  What the public needs to learn is that, like it or not, "We exist as material beings in a material world, all of whose phenomena are the consequences of material relations among material entities."[12]

 

British sociologist Steve Bruce predicts the continuous victorious march of secularism. He sees no valid religious alternative on the horizon. He dismisses the increasing presence of Eastern religious ideas in the West as no evidence against secularization, since Amost of it is shallow.@[13] He believes that the New Age movement Ais eclectic to an unprecedented degreeY[thus] I cannot see how a shared faith can be created from aYworld of pick-and-mix religion.@ Another critic dismisses this spirituality as an exotic egotistical focus on the spiritual well-being of the self and asks pointedly: Awhere are the New Age schools, nurseries, communes, colleges, ecological housing associations, subsistence farming centers, criminal resettlement houses, women=s refuges, practical anti-racism projects and urban renewal programs?@[14]

 

 Much of the contemporary rejection of religion is still the Christian religion. Richard M. Price, who was once a born-again Christian argues that the notion of a personal God conflicts with our morally neutral universe, creating an unhealthy, superstitious approach to life. The God of the Bible, according to Price, is a Frankenstein Monster, a divine bully, and an obsessive stalker.[15] The endorsements on the back include those of John Shelby Spong, Don Cupitt, and Clark H. Pinnock.

 

Much of the present visibility of atheism attacks the God of the Bible. The well-known Oxford evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (London: Houghton Mifflin, 2006 also has Christianity in his sights. For him, the biblical Yahweh is psychotic, Aquinas's proofs of God's existence fatuous and religion generally nonsense. Faith is a form of irrationality, a "virus of the mind." [16] Daniel Dennett, Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy Tufts University, compares belief in God to belief in the Easter Bunny.[17] Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason and Letter to a Christian Nation, is amazed that hundreds of millions of people worldwide profess religious beliefs when there is no rational evidence for any of those beliefs.[18]

 

If religion was supposed to disappear, why, asks Alister McGrath, is Richard Dawkins=s four hundred page book, The God Delusion, still necessary?[19] Turkish philosopher Harun Yahya believes that "Atheism, which people have tried to for hundreds of years as 'the ways of reason and science,' is proving to be mere irrationality and ignorance."[20] Wolfhart Pannenberg states: "Atheism as a theoretical position is in decline worldwide.@[21] McGrath says that atheism is now seen by many as an embarrassing link with a largely discredited past. He believes atheism's "future seems increasingly to lie in the private beliefs of individuals rather than in the great public domain it once regarded as its habitat."[22]

 

As proof of the cracking foundations, the greatest atheist of the twentieth century, philosopher Anthony Flew, recently rejected atheism. In January 2004, Flew informed the Christian apologist, Gary Habermas that he had indeed become a theist. While still rejecting the concept of special revelation, whether Christian, Jewish or Islamic, he had concluded that theism was true. He embraced the notion of intelligent design, believing it impossible for evolution to account for the fact than one single cell can carry more data than all the volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica put together. In Flew=s words, he simply Ahad to go where the evidence leads.@[23]

 

Mark Driscoll, a young Emergent pastor of a 6000 member church, mentioned a church that thirty years ago had 9000 members but today has 100 because they are answering yesterday=s questions. As proof, for an outreach, they organized at great expense a debate between an atheist and a Christian. No one from the community attended. Why?

 

Ythe church did not know that atheism, popular a generation ago, is virtually dead today. This church believed that people are either Christians or atheistsYactually their neighbors were very spiritual people who spent great amounts of time praying but had no idea to whom.

 

In the political realm, the cracking foundations can be seen in the fall of so many Marxist regimes, the political form of secular humanism. Presidential candidate, Barack Obama, in a speech in 2006 criticized liberals Awho dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant.@[24] In academia, the title of a secular literature conference in 2006 suggests something is afoot:  God is Undead: Post-Secular Notions in Contemporary Literature and Theory. In this conference a professor of comparative religions gives a course entitled AThe End of the Modern World.@[25] Jacques Berlinerblau, associate professor at Georgetown University, and author of The Secular Bible: Why Non-Believers Must Take Religion Seriously (Cambridge, 2005), writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education (June, 2007) a provocative article entitled, ASecularism in the Elimination Round,@ where he denounces the embarrassingly offensive and simplistic arguments of the new atheists.

 

 

C.  Factors Producing the Demise of Secular Humanism

 

i. The Social and Ideological  Dominance of Contemporary Evangelicalism

 

There is reason to believe that the demise of secularism is not a passing fad, but its passing cannot be laid at the feet of dynamic Christian witness, as the atheist Sam Harris=s Letter to a Christian Nation, seems to think. AAs long as science and rational thought are under attack by the misguided yet pious majority, our nation is in jeopardy. I=m scared.@ [26]

 

Boston University sociologist Alan Wolfe calms Harris=s fears: ADear fellow secular Americans,Yfear not, for on the basis of my studies, I have found that while evangelicals Aclaim@ to believe in absolute truth and an authoritative Bible which governs all of life, they do not Alive@ like they say they believeYIn sum, democracy is safe from religious zealots, because such people don=t really exist in large numbers. So relax, evangelical Christianity in America is as safe as milkYIn every aspect of the religious life, American faith has met American cultureBand American culture has triumphed.@

 

ii. The Critique of Secular Humanism=s Failures

The optimistic belief that the world=s dilemmas could be solved simply by scientific advance and social engineering have been confounded. According to Rocco Buttiglione, a theologian close to the Pope, the Pope >does not attack Marxism or liberal secularism because they are the wave of the future,= but because the >philosophies of the twentieth century have lost their appeal, their time has already passed.= Though Hitchens, Dawkins and  Sam Harris try to argue that religion is the cause of violence they fail to explain the atrocities of the atheistic French Revolutionaries, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and Kim Jong-Il. More generally, secularism has produced two devastating world wars; industrialization has created a series of mounting ecological disasters, and the West has begun to lose its faith, not now in religion, but in science and the autonomous human reason. The moral crisis of our time, says David Harvey, is a crisis of Enlightenment thought.[27] 


A Christian philosopher, Crystal Downing, observes that
APostmodernism undermined absolutist explanations of reality, like Marxism.@
[28] The proof of this is to be found a scheduled lecture for tourists at the esteemed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing:

One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world (Y) but in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don=t have any doubt about this.@[29]

 

AIt is significant that Christianity is emerging in China at a time when there is a massive ideological vacuum left in society by the nationwide collapse of belief in Marxism-Leninism,@ wrote author, David Aikman=s Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power.  He continued, AIt is hard to find anyone in China today who truly believes in the theoretical truth of China=s official political ideologyY Marxism (the political form of Secular Humanism) was tried in the extreme form during Mao=s nearly two decades of utopian economic and social tinkering (1958-1976) and it was found to be irremediably destructive.@ [30]

 

 For some, the crisis is not only moral but ontological. Secular Humanism has produced a disenchantment of the cosmos, a profound sense of ontological and epistemological alienation or separation between self and world leaving the human ego isolated.  Secular Humanism accepts this ontological isolation as normative, and it then becomes Athe legitimated interpretive principle of the modern mind, giving us the subject/object split of modern rationalism.@[31]  

 

Some believe that the most fundamental critique of Secular Humanism comes from the distaff side of modern thinking, namely the feminist hermeneutic, the significance and power of which Ais only beginning to be realized by the contemporary mind.@[32]  Secularism has become identified with Aa [chauvinistic and] patriarchal conception of nature B as a mindless, passive feminine object, to be penetrated, controlled, dominated, and exploited.@[33]  This perspective Ahas brought forth perhaps the mostYradically critical analysis of conventional intellectual and cultural assumptions in all of contemporary scholarship, permitting the contemporary mind to consider less-dichotomized alternative perspectives that could not have been envisioned within previous interpretive frameworks.@[34] 

 

iii.   The Anti-intellectualism of the Sixties

In the Sixties the drop-outs were dropping out from both Christianity and secular humanism. Many turned to Zen Buddhism which opposes both biblical Christianity and humanistic rationalism. The Buddhist guru, Linchi Rinzai, warned: AOnly keep the Mind from being stirred up.@[35] A Zen adept said:

 

While the majority of the people living in the West do not consciously feel as if they were living through a crisis of Western cultureYthere is an agreement at least among a number of critical observers, as to the existence and the nature of the crisisY.Man has followed rationalism to the point where rationalism has transformed itself into utter irrationality.  Since Descartes, man has increasingly split thought from effect.[36]

 

Since the Sixties we have observed the intrusion of this Anew@ spirituality into the popular culture, especially in North America. We are used to the Moral Majority but what is Athe Religious Left@? Martha Stewart, the diva of all things practical and material, is a faithful reader of the old New Age Journal, now Body and Soul, and learned yoga during her time in jail. Al Gore=s Current TV hires Gotham Chopra (the Hindu guru, Deepak Chopra=s son) to be on his staff to Abring progressive spiritual themes into the mass media.@[37] In December, 2006 a BBC poll of young people ages 16-19, in ten major cities in the world, found that a whopping 89% believed in God or some higher powerCnot exactly a promising pool for the future of secularism. Liberal Christianity, now calling itself Aprogressive Christianity@ is shedding its rationalistic habits. This drop-out generation may well be the maturing stepchild of  yesterday=s secularist orthodoxy

 

iv. The Critique of Postmodern Deconstruction, Stepchild #1


Postmodernism has undermined the assumptions of secular humanism.
@
[38] The atheists and secularists should be scared not of the Evangelicals but of their own Aatheistic@ children. AThe irony is delicious,@ says theologian Don Carson. AThe modernity which has arrogantly insisted that human reason is the final arbiter of truth has spawned a stepchild that has arisen to slay it.@[39]

 

In the Sixties a number of Apostmodern@ philosophers began to argue that all truth and all ideologiesCincluding atheistic secular humanismCare merely subjective points of view, with no objective grounding in actual fact. A classic example of the way the recent history of philosophy has progressed is the postmodern, philosopher, Michel Foucault. In the Fifties he was a paying member of the French Communist Party, that is, a convinced secularist. He left it when his suspicion grew that Marxism was just one more ideology of power with no relationship with the way things actually are.

 

In 1959 Foucault received his doctoral degree, with the thesis, published two years later, Madness and Unreason: History of Madness in the Classical Age, 1961). Foucault does a reading of Descartes as one of the early founding fathers of secularism, who based the proof of his existence on the fact that he could think. Foucault accuses him of being able to doubt everything except his own sanity. In other words, Descartes held on to his reason as his chosen anchor to reality, only by denying a very real possibility, namely, his own insanity. Descartes was not as Aobjective@ as he thought himself to be.

 

This postmodern way of thinking is surely here to stay, since it is taught in the vast majority of philosophy departments throughout the world as Agospel truth.@ One writer speaks of Athe embarrassing intolerance of atheism.@[40] Atheistic secularism=s complete dismissal of the value of religion is embarrassing to postmodern intellectuals who have become convince of subjective character of all world views. For them, tolerance has become one of the great values to be respected, even the tolerance of religion and spirituality.

 

Sociologists [41] also note the same movement, identifying the Sixties as the beginning of Postmodernism and the breakdown of Agrand narratives.@ In their place is skepticism toward universal truths, a belief in relative, personal truth and the growth of pluralism in the religious sphere. Popular novelist and Christian convert, Ann Rice, came to realize that: AAtheism is a mystical decisionY.I lost faith in atheism.@ The so called Apostmodern hermeneutics of suspicion@ is leveled against all proponents of world views or overarching descriptions of realityCincluding secular humanism. The withering barrel of the postmodern laser gun was first and foremost aimed not at Christianity but at the ideology of Enlightenment secularism, the belief that reason could deliver objective truth. An informed observer called this Postmodern critique Aa rage against humanism and the Enlightenment legacy.@[42] The passion and rage comes through with the following apology for postmodern intellectual surgery:

 

Post-modern signals the death of such >metanarratives= whose secretly terroristic function was to ground and legitimate the illusion of a >universal= human history.  We are now in the process of wakening from the nightmare of modernity, with its manipulative reason and fetish of the totality, into the laid-back pluralism of the post-modern, that heterogeneous range of life-styles and language games which has renounced the nostalgic urge to totalize and legitimate itselfYScience and philosophy must jettison their grandiose metaphysical claims and view themselves more modestly as just another set of narratives.[43]

 

The conclusion stares us in the face: Postmodernism has brought an end to secularism, but it raises a serious question: where does Postmodernism lead us? The Reformed thinker, Lydia Jaeger, notes that AL=irrationalisme postmoderne est, en fait, ultramodernite: La modernite poussee jusqu=a ses consequences logiques extremes.@[44] The ultimate contribution of autonomous reasonCthat reason has no reasonable grounds. There is perhaps a further level of irrationalism to discover.

 

III.       What Comes After the Postmodern?

If Postmodernism is really the ultimate expression of rationalistic modernity, what will be secular humanism=s next re-incarnation? Some see Postmodernism as the Acelebration of an ending, but not clearly the making of anything new.@[45] Obviously it is the ending of the self-confident period of Enlightenment thinking, but what will come in its place. Philosophically, we are at an impasse. If this rational critique offered by Postmodernism is true, the irony is great, for then that critique must also apply to Postmodernism itself. It claims to know certainly one thingCthat there is no objective truth! Postmodern thus slays itself. So we are caught in an impossible impasse. Carson is led to observe: AYat the moment there is no pattern on the horizon to replace postmodernismY@[46] Alister McGrath, in his study on the demise of atheism, is equally non-plussed. He observes: AIt is far from clear what the future of atheism will be, or what will replace it.@[47] We cannot go on like this! A breakthrough has to be found.

 

Postmodern deconstruction has produced a precarious intellectual situation, at its best, a passageway to something else. Many deconstructionists would say what Nietzsche said: AWe would not let ourselves be burned to death for our opinions: we are not sure enough of them for that."[48] Today's buzz words are tolerance and pluralism, but the English theologian E.R.Norman once said: "Pluralism is a word society employs during the transition from one orthodoxy to another."[49] Pluralism is a socially and philosophically unstable state, because people cannot live without some kind of coherent orthodoxy or world view.

 


IV. Our Religious Future: Religious Paganism, Stepchild #2

The thesis of this lecture attempts to provide the answer to McGrath=s question: AWhat will replace atheism?@ Atheism will be replaced by pantheism. Thirty years ago the Christian theologian, Francis Schaeffer predicted the massive invasion of Eastern spirituality. "Pantheism will be pressed as the only answer to ecological problems and will be one more influence in the West's becoming increasingly Eastern in its thinkingYthe Eastern religions will be to Christianity a new, dangerous, Gnosticism."[50]  Contemporary sociologist Christopher Partridge, while recognizing what he calls Athe collapse of the Christian milieu,@ adds tellingly that such a collapse Adoes not mean that the West has become fundamentally secular.@[51]

 

He continues: AThe whole thrust of Enlightenment secularism, in oppositionYto dogma and revealed religion can be considered to have acted in such a way as to prepare the ground for spiritual and mystical religion.@[52] Note what he is saying. In a negative way, secularism, by banishing the spirituality of biblical faith as untenable for intelligent human beings, prepares the ground for a non-theistic spiritualityCbecause people cannot live without some form of spirituality. The AEmergent@ mystic, Phyllis Tickle, makes this very point in her book, Rediscovering  the Sacred: Spirituality in America, which won a 1996 Catholic Press Association Book Award in Spirituality.[53] The ANew Age@ popularizer of a few years back, Marianne Williamson, known as the Aguru to the stars,@ declared that we are in the midst of a Arevolution that will usher in a mystical age.@[54]

 

According to Johannes van Oort, Professor of church history and the history of dogma at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands: "YGnosis in one form or another is expected to become the main expression of secular religion in the new millennium. In order to equip the Church for this new age, the scientific study of Gnosticism is vital."[55]

 

Of course, on the present global scene, we are experiencing a clash of civilizations, more ethnic and tribal than religious, specifically that between the Islamic world and the secular, pluralistic West.[56] The proximity and juxtapositioning of these opposing ways of life, now a matter of everyday experience, especially in Europe, by the technological advances of the planetary village, gives to the question of the religious nature of the coming world civilization an added sense of urgency.

 

A contemporary philosopher, author of a major book on Postmodernism, ends his magisterial study with the following observation:

The cracks in the mirror may not be too wide, and the fusions at the edges may not be too striking, but the fact that they are all there suggests that the condition of Postmodernity is undergoing a subtle evolution, perhaps reaching a point of self-dissolution into something different.  But what?[57]

 

Lutheran scholar Frederic Baue asks the same question: AWhat comes after the Postmodern?@ He answers: Aa phase of Western or world civilization that is innately religious [emphasis mine] but hostile to ChristianityYor worse, a dominant but false church that brings all of its forces to bear against the truth of God=s Word.@[58] Interestingly, Baue does not predict the further secularization of society but a spiritualization of it. In other words, the deconstructed world, dissected and left in pieces by Postmodernism, will be put back together again, not by reason but by Amyth@ or Aunreason,@ as the title of a recent book on modern philosophy describes it.[59]  The British sociologist, Christopher  Partridge in total independence from Baue, is documenting a most interesting phenomenon in modern culture. He states:

 

There is some evidence to suggest that >a rising tide of spiritualityYis producing a re-enchantment of the world=Y, there seems to be a gradual, yet ubiquitous growth of >spirituality= in the West.YIn a sense, we are witnessing a return to a form of magical culture B what I will call >occulture=.  Although it is perhaps a little silly to speak of an occultural reformation or revolution, there is nevertheless a significant religio-cultural shift happening in the >real world.=[60] 

 

This Ashift@ in the West means that Athe centre of spiritual gravity is moving away from Judaeo-Christian theology to the eclecticism of occulture. Y@[61] Partridge agrees with the Dutch historian of esoteric Western religion, Wouter Hanegraaff who speaks of the >profound transformation of religion= in the West, away from traditional Christianity and towards what he describes as >magic.=[62] Others, like one of the world's most distinguished sociologists of religion, Paul M. Zulehner, dean of Vienna University's divinity school, is also seeing this. He notes that while atheism continues apace in the former East Germany and the Czech Republic, in the rest of Europe, and in every major European city except Paris, spirituality is booming, not of revived Christianity but the spirituality of paganism.[63]

 

Jean Houston, a Aseer,@ and guru to ex-first lady Hillary Clinton=s during the Nineties, saw what was happening and had the right word. She observed in 1995: Awe are living in a state both of breakdown and breakthroughYa whole system transition, Yrequir[ing] a new alignment that only myth can bring[emphasis mine]."[64] Philosopher Richard Tarnas shares this opinion. He believes that Awe are living in one of those rare ages, like the end of classical antiquity or the beginning of the modern era, that bring forth, through great stress and struggle, a genuinely fundamental transformation in the underlying assumptions and principles of the cultural world view.@[65]  Tarnas 394.  AThe Western mindYhad largely dissolved the foundations of the modern world view, leaving the contemporary mind increasingly bereft of established certainties, yet also fundamentally open in ways it had never been before.@ Did the popular Sixties bards have it right?

 

When the moon is in the seventh house

And Jupiter aligns with Mars,

Then peace will guide the planets,

And love will steer the stars.

Is this the dawning of the Age of Aquarius?

 

V. Reasons Why Religious Paganism May Well Supercede Secular Humanism

 

A. The Spiritual Hunger of the Human Soul


The neo-pagan accusation against secular humanism for having produced a sense of human alienation and a disenchanted cosmos goes to the heart of the weakness of materialism, noted throughout history. The pagan neo-platonist, Plotinus opposed the materialism of the Epicureans and Stoics by arguing that their materialism could not explain thought and thus their own true selves as thinking subjects. And as Plato had said, the most real beings are immaterial, including the human soul. All these objections are still true, and neo-pagans make them with great force. From the Christian side David Wells states:
AWhile we now bask in relative plenty, the means of amassing that plentyCthe reorganization of the world by the processes of modernizationChas diminished our soul.@
[66] The pagan spiritualist Thomas Berry agrees. He lowers the boom on the scientific community which has insisted A...until recently that the universe can only be understood as the random act of minute particles with neither direction or meaning." In so doing secular scientists have "desouled the Earth.@[67]

 

B.  The Rational/Irrational Dance of the Autonomous Mind

 

Reformed thinkers like Dooyeveerd, Van Til, Schaefer and Frame have long described the odd alliance in apostate, autonomous thinking between rationalism and irrationalism: Plato incorporates rationalism and irrationalism. For him, reason is totally competent to understand the Forms, incompetent to make sense of the changing world of experience. The ancient Greeks affirmed the autonomy of their own reason, yet they knew their reason was fallible, not omnicompetent. They recognized areas of reality that defy rational analysis (change to Parmenides, the world of sense to Plato, prime matter for Aristotle, etc.) The Greek response to these mysteries is to say that part of the world is essentially unknowable, essentially irrational. We can=t know it, because it can=t be known.[68] It is the chaos of the Ashapeless stream.@ It is illusion (Parmenides), nonbeing, or nothingness.

Aristotle endorses the mystery religions to say that ultimately mathein (understanding) comes through pathein (mystical experience).

 

Rationalist/secular humanists today are likewise destined to become irrationalists because, since they cannot account for the totality of existence, because their rational claim has no ultimate basis, as Postmodernism rightly points out. Equally, Postmodern irrationalists, in order to affirm the >truth@ of unreason, must use reason to affirm it.

 

C. Pagan Evangelism/Charm Campaign for Secular Humanists

The essential approach of modern pagan thinkers, as they address the Secular Humanist is one of flattery, charm and utopian hope. The reassuring line goes something like: We are brothers and fellow-travelers, playing our different parts on the road to utopian human transformation. In a final brilliant move, Tarnas wraps his arms around the boogey-man of materialistic reason by arguing that Athe Enlightenment [was]Y.a necessary stage in the evolution of the human mind.@[69] This Postmodern pagan reaches back to integrate the pagan rationalist/modernist in his history of human redemptionCin the name of an evolving universe. As it has evolved, the universe has brought forth Anew stages of human knowledge.@[70] A[T]he growingly autonomous human intellectYhas itself been an authentic expression of nature=s unfolding,@ a processYnow reaching a highly critical stage of transfiguration.@[71] 

 

Autonomous from what, Tarnas does not say but obviously implies a necessary liberation from the chains of traditional theism and the notion of a Creator God. Ken Wilber also sees the union of Enlightenment liberalism and spirituality. Liberalism was Aa profound move@ away from the Mythic-Order/Theism.[72] Why so profound? In his nine stages of AThe Human Consciousness Project@ which traces the spiritual evolution of humanity, he marginalizes theism by placing it fourth in his ascending order

 

9.  Integral-Holonic

8.  Universal Holistic

7.  Integrative

Second-tier consciousness

 

6. The Sensitive Self (Green egalitarianism)

5. Scientific Achievement (Enlightenment Rationalism)

4.  Mythic Order (determined by an All-powerful Other = Theism)

3.  Power Gods (Magical-mythical)

2.  Magical-Animistic

1.  Archaic-Instinctual

First-tier consciousness

 

One of Wilber=s disciples, an Aintegral@ geo-politician, employs Wilber=s transformational scheme to make recommendations for Sub-Sahara Africa. Since they are still locked in level 3, Power Gods, plus Atribalism,@ he conscendingly proposes that they use some of level four=s moral teaching, before evolving to higher planes where level four=s Evangelical AChristianity@ shows itself problematic.[73] He fails to see that Christianity=s moral teaching derives from the theism he rejects as primitive.

 

In Tarnas= history of Western thinking, he manages to eliminate Christian theism as a moribund system that began to die in the early days of the Enlightenment. For him the really serious struggle of Western thinking in the last two centuries was between Secular rationalism and spiritual romanticism, represented by figures such as Schiller, Schelling, Hegel, ColeridgeYRudolph SteinerYfor whom Athe relation of the human mind to the world was ultimately not dualistic but participatory.@[74]  The dynamic of Western history waiting to be resolved is the integration of Romanticism, Athe West=s >inner= culture@Cits art and literature, its religious and metaphysical vision, its moral ideals and [secular] science, its Aouter@ cosmologyY,@ claiming to define Athe character of nature, man=s place in the universe, and the limits of his real knowledge.@[75] This conflict, however, is manageable, and Tarnas will seek to develop an over-arching synthesis of the outer and the inner for a wholistic unity.

 

D.  From the Ashes of Deconstruction the Promise of the Rediscovery of Significance

 

From the gloom of the apparent demise of SH there arises light at the end of the tunnel. Enlightenment Liberalism, predicts Wilber, is now ready to embrace deep spirituality.[76] The human mind is now reaching that moment of transcendence. Tarnas senses a Apowerful crescendo@[77] as many movements gather now on the intellectual stage as if for some kind of climatic synthesis [emphasis mine]@[78] This synthesis incorporates the postmodern understanding of knowledge and yet goes beyond it.[79]  It will happen when Athe human mind actively brings forth from within itself the full powers of a disciplined imagination and saturates its empirical observation with archetypal insight that the deeper reality of the world emerges.@[80] 

 

This is a sort of conversion experience of the secular mind. AThe human spirit does not merely prescribe nature=s phenomenal order; rather the spirit of nature brings forth its own order through the human mind when that mind is employing its full complement of faculties B intellectual, volitional, emotional, sensory, imaginative, aesthetic, epiphanic.@[81] Human language needs to reconceive of itself as rooted in a deeper reality, that of the universe=s unfolding meaning. Hence Athe imaginal intuition is not a subjective distortion but is the human fulfillment of that reality=s essential wholeness, which had been rent asunder by the dualistic perception.@  

 

E.  Reason=s Salvation by Scientific Unreason 

The synthesis of Secularism and Romanticism is brought about by the Depth Psychology of Freud and Jung (1875-1961). Romanticism is vindicated by the human sciences.[82] AJung found evidence of a collective unconscious common to all human beings and structured according to powerful archetypal principals@[83] Here is the pagan character of this philosophical synthesis. It is firmly based on irrational experience, Athe subconscious.@[84] Help comes not through reason but unreason. In light of the universal crisis of religious faith in a secular age, Jung=s Depth Psychology takes on more and more the characteristics of a redemptive religion.

 

One should note the highly significant work of the Czech neo-Jungian scholar, Stanislav Grof as Athe most epistemologically significant development in the recent history of depth psychologyY@[85] In the first place, Grof has continued to experiment with methodologies that produce the shamanic,[86] unitive, mystical experiences of contact with the transpersonal spiritual world. In the second place, Grof=s work on the importance of the unconscious in the pre-birth and birth processes really solves the crisis that for millennia has plagued the Western mind. In his words:

the fundamental subject-object dichotomy Ythat has constituted modern consciousnessY.appears to be rooted in a specific archetypal condition associated with the unresolved trauma of human birth, in which an original consciousness of undifferentiated organismic unity with the mother, a participation mystique with nature, had been outgrown, disrupted, and lost.  HereYthe source of the profound dualism of the modern mindY.Here is the painful separation from the timeless all-encompassing womb of natureY.(430)Yhere is the profound sense of ontological and epistemological separation between self and worldY.This fundamental sense of separation is then structured into the legitimated interpretive principles of the modern mind (431).

 

People initiated into unitive, mystical experiences via the age-old Asacred technologies@ listed by Grof (mysticism, drugs and various other altered states of consciousness) are Aable to access memories of prenatal intra-uterine existence.@ Such memories Aemerged in association with archetypal experiences of paradise, mystical union with nature or with the divine or with the Great Mother GoddessY@ (427). Et voila! AThe individual and the universal are reconciled@ (433). This, of course, is not new. It is time-honored experience of ancient pagans.[87]

 

This has begun to produce a new optimistic vision of the future. In Delhi in 2008 the Association of Transpersonal Personal Psychology, where Grof is a leading light, will sponsor a AWorld Congress on Psychology and Spirituality[88],@ seeking to join the insights of gurus from the mystical East and scholars from the scientific West (200 in all) to chart a future course for the unique marriage of worldviews with a view to global union. Truth is possible again!

 

A new Ahumanistic@ project for the world is under construction, a worldview for the planetary era, joining the East and the West.

 

F.  A Common Metanarrative - Evolution, Scientific and Spiritual


At least one metanarrative survives the postmodern deconstruction
Cevolution, the origins myth that will put Humpty Dumpty back together again. This is the point of the article I mentioned at the beginning regarding Dartmouth. Biologist David Sloan Wilson seeks in evolutionary theory Aa common languageYfor all things humanY.in which biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, social scientists and those in the arts can apply evolutionary principles across the board in an academic context. All assume that Aevolution has produced a universal landscape of the human mind,@ thereby escaping Athe dehumanizing mercies of post modern literary theory@ to rediscover as a welcome relief some sort of Auniversal perspective.@
[89]

 

This fits with the latest statement of the Council of Europe. AThe Parliamentary Assembly is worried about the possible ill-effects of the spread of creationist ideas within our education systems and about the consequences for our democracies. If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights which are a key concern of the Council of Europe." We are witnessing a growth of modes of thought whichYare attacking the very core of the knowledge that we have patiently built up on nature, evolution, our origins and our place in the universe.[90]

 

Such a position hides or woefully ignores the growth of Aevolutionary spirituality,@ and thus the radical infringement of Achurch@ on the state. The neo-pagan reconstruction is thoroughly committed to evolution, and grants that the secular humanist discovery of evolution was right. It simply does not go far enough. This Anew@ origin story incorporates the biological explanation of origins, and brings the world back together with a spiritualized complement. Alan Sasha Lithmum states:

 

Evolution proceeds simultaneously on two interwoven tracks, one of form, the other of consciousness.Yprogressively leads to a new terrestrial species, emerging like our amphibious ancestors into a new milieu of consciousness. We are at a transitional momentYsweeping us in the inrushing evolutionary tide toward a new principle of Being.Ythe perilous choice of transformation or extinction.[91]

 

If James Lovelock, the inventor of the Gaia hypothesis, speculated that humanity is the evolving nervous system and brain of the planet, the instrumentality through which Gaia becomes self-aware,[92] Lithmum, this later luminary begs to disagree. As a true pagan prophet, he warns that this source of revelation, that is, EvolutionY is a direct threat to all fixed forms, ideas, answers, truthsYand the human mind,[93] for Athere is no reason to believe that evolution arbitrarily stops with usYit is this subversive implication, I believe, which subconsciously pricks not only the raw nerve of our biblical-based realities but of Mind itself as Reality=s final arbiterY[paganism=s notion of the] mutation of consciousness [ultimately] threatensYthe Empire of Mind itself as evolution=s last word.@[94] We have been warned!

 

On the other hand, this requires no sacrifice of the intellect because cutting edge AQuantum physics may support some of the old magical and shamanistic teachings that were once dismissed as nonsense.@[95] Just as good and evil are part of the same spiritual unity, so on physical level there is no ultimate distinction between particles and waves. This leads Thomas Berry to conclude that science corroborates what mystics have known for millennia, that life is one.

 

G.  A Strategic Alliance of Paganism with Ecology

 

Already in 1984, David Spangler, an ex-Pentecostal New Ager saw the fruitful connection between concern for the earth and the worship of it. He predicted the emergence of a holistic world view that joins a newly discovered mysticism of universal oneness with contemporary science, particularly ecology. AAt its highest, ecology is a resacralization of science, a new vision of the relationship of the unique part with the Universal Whole.@[96] This opportunity for the popularization, even normalization of neo-paganism has only increased since that time. Ecology has recently become the pen with which many write theology in our time. This is why neo-pagan, ex-Jesuit Thomas Berry has ditched the term Atheologian@ and now calls himself a Ageologian,@ a student of the earth, convinced that we are living in the Aecological age@ of cosmic history. That is to say, our immediate and pressing concerns can no longer be the esoteric issues about God and metaphysics, personal sin and otherworldly salvation. Theology can only be done via the pressing questions concerning the meaning and survival of the planet. ATom=s [Berry] values, says an admirative disciple, the well-known Acreation spirituality@ theologian, Matthew Fox, Aare the ecological valuesYwhich give us a comprehensive cosmology for the twenty-first century.@[97]

 

H.    The Religious Commitment of Radical Feminism

 

The massively influential modern feminist movement has more often than not ended up with a spirituality that favors the worship of the Goddess and the basic notions of paganism in one form or another. A conference at Syracuse University entitled AFeminism, Sexuality and the Return of Religion,@ took place in April 26-28, 2007. A constellation of internationally prominent philosophers and theologians (Helene Cixous, Gianno Vattimo, bell hooks, Judith butler, Catherine Keller, Sarah Coakley, Mark Jordan, Saba Mahmood) gathered to ask:

 

What does the return of religion mean for women and for human sexuality. What new opening for feminism and gender theory are being made by the renewed interest of intellectuals in religion? How can we re-imagine God and the divine beyond patriarchy and homophobia?

 

A number of things stand out: intellectuals are associated with Athe return of religion@; radical feminism and homosexuality occupy a dominant place in the re-imagining of God; they similarly lead the way in the deconstruction of God as Father and the rejection of biblical theism; they thus lead the way in reconstructing religion in some form of monistic spirituality. The latter is explicitly proposed by a group of contemporary Dutch biblical scholars at Utrecht University, in their book, Only One God?  Monotheism in Ancient Israel and the Veneration of the Goddess Asherah (2001).[98] This book argues for Asherah as the consort of Yahweh. It focuses on Awomen=s religions@ in the Hebrew Bible and from there makes the case for the relevance of folk [read pagan] religion for theology today. Professor of Archeology at the University of Arizona, William Denver, in his book, Did God Have A Wife?(2005) writes on the rediscovery of the Goddess and of women=s popular cults in ancient Israel as useful for our time, by Abringing the divine mystery closer to the heart of human experience.@[99] He quotes a Lutheran scholar, Erhard Grestenberger, who states:

 

The question of God is a problem for mankindY.If we want to preserve civilization on this planet, we shall have to change the way we think about God.[100]

Again, re-thinking about God in this time of renewed interest in spirituality can only mean a god who is the very antithesis of the God of biblical theism. There are no other viable options today.

 

I.  A Seamless Integration of Rising Homo and Pan-Sexual Ideology

 

The power of homosexuality is evident everywhere in the West. The connection with religious paganism is not always seen for the leading arguments are massively political and sociological. Gay authors do make this connection very clearly. Homosexual apologist Toby Johnson says:

 

. . . gay attraction to and development of emotional relationships with members of our same sex results in our seeing the world with the harmonious, non-dualistic vision that is the traditional goal of mystical religion. We don't see the world polarized in the "battle between the sexes" that, in turn, generates the dualistic belief in good and evil. Gay consciousness is "pre-Edenic," fundamentally innocent, free of "original sin."[101]

 

The Jungian Gnostic June Singer declared in 1977 that the Age of Aquarius was the Age of Androgyny.[102] AThe archetype of androgyny appears in us as an innate sense of ..and witness to Ythe primordial comic unity = that is, it is the sacrament of monism, functioning to erase distinctionY@[103]

 

J.   A Revived Christian Liberal Syncretism

 

The popularity of paganism is showing up everywhere. AChristian@ Liberals, once attached to rationalist non-supernatural forms of Christianity are now finding their spiritual home in the new or integral spirituality of neo-paganism. Now called Aprogressive@ or Aevolutionary@ spirituality, the mystical, supra-rational state is what is desirable, liberated from the mythological sky God of out-dated theism. The Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, San Francisco Grace Cathedral's Canon for Special Ministry [popularizing the labyrinth], tells her story of awakening to enlightenment in a similar vein: AWe mistakenly thought that the intellect was the avenue to experiencing the Sacred, to nourishing the soul.  We discounted the imagination and our other faculties of knowing mystery.[104]

Such experience is found in all the religions, thus leading to a revived and growing religious syncretism, which itself fits into the growing interest in globalism. Anecdotally, I have a German student who told me that the most influential theologian among German students today is Schleiermacher. The way to God is through our Afeelings@Cand this is the point of contact between Schleiermacher and other world religions.  He mentioned one brilliant woman who told him she was a Buddhist, but also a disciple of Schleiermacher.

 

K.  A Common Deontology - Monism

 

It should be said, however, that the great Asynthetic@ achievement proposed by neo-pagan eschatology, namely the joining of the Enlightenment project and the essence of Romanticism in an evolved human consciousness for the twenty first century, is less impressive than first appears.

 

Michael York, Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion (New York and London: New York University Press, 2003) argues that there are two basic kinds of religion, either pagan (Wicca and Druidism, and some expressions of eastern religion like Confucianism and some early forms of Hinduism), that is, world-affirming or Gnostic, (Buddhism, Hinduism, ancient Gnosticism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity),[105] world denying. 

 

The fact is, these categories are confusing and do not hold up, as York himself seems to admit in other places. He has to grant, without explaining it, a major oddity that Apaganism and Gnosticism have become natural allies,@ and also notes that AJudaism, Christianity, and IslamYare difficult to situate accurately between the Gnostic-pagan theological divide.@[106] In other words, he offers the fundamental difference between the two types of religions and then states that some of the major religions do not fit. The difficulty, which is not explained, arises, I would argue, from the fact that these religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, are in some sense Atheistic,@ that is, they distinguish between the nature of God and the nature of everything else.

 

Another weakness in this religious classification of world-affirming and world-denying is the fact that they obviously co-exist in some of the great religions:

 

. . . in Hinduism these two basic tendencies are to be foundCthe world affirming and this world denying spirituality, cosmism and acosmismCin the specific Gods of Shiva (the acosmic destroyer) and Vishnu (the cosmic preserver). Most tantrists say there can be no enlightenment without sexual practice.  Most celibates (brahmacharya), on the other hand, say there is no chance of enlightenment without giving up sex all together.  Is sex really a path to enlightenment?  Or is it essential to renounce our sexuality to attain the highest spiritual states?[107] 

 

. . . in Gnosticism which has both its ascetic and libertine forms, but as Kurt Rudolf (The Gnostic Religion) correctly states, Gnosticism is a form of dualism on a monistic background since it eliminates the Creator/creature distinction.

 

. . . Surya Das, a Hindu guru, speaks of the Amonistic materialistic worldview of Western science.@[108]

 

. . .  Buddhism which is atheistic is nevertheless monistic. A Buddhist teacher explains: "Buddhism since its inception inspiredYthe most radical form of inclusivity. This is the realization that all beings in all realmsYhave a mind ground that isYnot separate from the mind ground of any other being."[109] Buddhism can be atheistic, but it is still monistic. Worship of created reality, however one wishes to conceive it, is monistic and pagan. Western atheism is equally monistic, since all of existence is composed of the same, non-religious material reality.

 

If the deontology of York is inadequate, so is the eschatology of Tarnas and Wilber. There is every reason to think that autonomous rationalism and Romanticism are different but parallel expressions of the same way of conceiving of the world.

 

The synthesis, bringing Enlightenment reason into the fulfillment of pagan mysticism, though socially significant, is merely between various forms of apples, materialistic/philosophical monism and spiritual monism. While true reality can be seen as material or spiritual, real or illusory, sexual or asexual, these approaches, which at various times have dominated, are not in their deepest essence, contradictory.

 

How difficult is the transition? Mikhail Gorbachev, a pure product of Stalinist atheism became a very spiritual theosophist. Matter was already Lord. It is just a matter of giving it a more noble title, God. As pagan evolutionary theorist Sasha Lithman argues, the notion of a ADivine CreatorYprojects our own present schizophrenic level of perception [that is, dualism]Yif there is a Divine Being, then there is only the DivineYwhat we call AMatter@Yis the Body of GodY@Evolution@ isYthe progressive manifestation of this Divinity.[110]

 

On the popular level, this kind of pagan monism is everywhere. The new Christian@ liberalism, called Aprogressive Christianity,@ accepts the religious movement of the Sixties: AWhat happened in the >50=s and >60=s is a gradual turn back towards the body and the worldYseeing God not as outside the universe but in the universe.@[111] AI encourage fellow liberal Christians to Acast a wider net and include non-dualistic interpretations of Jesus, the kingdom of God, incarnation, evil and salvationYreligious dualism is a major root-cause of violence and war.@[112]

 

Diana Chapman Walsh is the quintessential sophisticated American secular humanist academic. She is the retiring president of Wellesley College, from which graduated Hillary Clinton, Madame Chiang kai-Shek, Jackie Kennedy, Margaret Mead, Katharine Hepburn, Gertrude Stein, Julia Child, Emily Dickinson, Madeleine Albright, and my wife. To Wellesley whose official motto is derived from Mark 10:45, Ato serve rather than be served,@ now is proposed a different orientation. Walsh=s retirement speech indicates how much a religiously monistic view of existence has penetrated the soul of America:

 

Opposites do not negate each otherYthey cohere in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. If we can accept the paradox of darkness and light, if we can hold the polar concepts together in their tension, then we can see beneath them the underlying health in all living thingsCthe cycles, the rhythms, the season that give life its beauty and zest, the >hidden wholeness,= described by Thomas Merton.

 

Neo-paganism is alive and well in once AChristian@ America. Ellul warned us almost thirty years ago. He speaks of a theological trend which embraces Athe error of regarding the good as unitary, of identifying all division, fracture and separation as the bad, and seeing it as a duty to seek metaphysical unityYin the oneYThis entails a complete misunderstanding of revelation and its replacementY[by some form] of Gnosticism.@[113]

 

VI.  The Real Struggle - Monism and Theism

 

The two definitions of God and religion that are strictly and genuinely irreconcilable, monism and theism, Tarnas declares off-limits, and with a large yawn, dismisses as philosophically and historically uninteresting, as, ever since the rise of the Enlightenment, Christianity is in decline as a serious social and religious system. Another brilliant neo-pagan philosopher, Ken Wilber, in his book A Theory of Everything, independently achieves the same result.

Autonomous human beings will fight over whether to be rationalistic or irrationalistic, whereas the true struggle is between monism and theism. Monism, the common orientation of all forms of paganisms, is in radical conflict only with theism. There was only one absentee at the POWRCbiblical theism. Though Tarnas slips the real conflict under the religious rug, some pagan theorists do understand monism as the great divide. For instance, the Gnostic theologian, Stephan Hoeller speaks of two kinds of religion:

 

1. the Ainternalist@ religion [he means by this esoteric, or inward going] which was transmitted underground in the West, Aknown to the Gnostics, mystics and alchemists throughout the centuries@ and was declared heretical by the other form of religion, what he calls

 

2. the Aexternalist@ [or exoteric, outward reaching] religion, by which he refers to theistic biblical faith.[114]

 

J Gresham Machen, a stalwart defender of Christian orthodoxy, writing in the 1920s, saw the beginning of the radical, apostate movement. Machen saw liberalism as paganism in Christian dress,[115] entering the mainline churches, and he adeptly put his finger on the essence of this apostasy at a time when it was not so obvious.

 

The truth is that liberalism has lost sight of the very centre and core of the Christian teaching. Yone attribute of God is absolutely fundamental in the BibleY in order to render intelligible all the rest. That attribute is the awful transcendence of God. It is true, indeed, that Not a sparrow falls to the ground without Him. But He is immanent in the world not because He is identified with the world, but because He is the free Creator and upholder of it.  Between the creature and the Creator a great gulf is fixed.[116]

 

In his Stone Lectures of 1898 regarding the deep antithesis within human history, Abraham Kuyper said: "Do not forget that the fundamental contrast has always been, is still, and always will be until the end: Christianity and Paganism, the idols or the living God".[117]

 

The last word goes to the apostle Paul who under the inspiration of the Spirit described the only two possible religious approaches to life:

 

they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1:25

 

 

APPENDIX: HOW DOES THIS CONCERN EUROPE?

 

A hundred years ago Europe, in 1907, was a political powder keg, bristling with jealous, fearful Great Powers teetering on the brink of total war. Europe today in 2007 may be shaping up for another kind of conflict, serious religious conflict.

 

In the main, the new Europe rejects its Christian past, as the project of the European Constitution clearly indicates. At the same time, the glue of secular humanism is no longer holding, incapable of providing spiritual succor at a time of spiritual thirst. This would suggest that Europe stands before two religious options, Islam and Neo-paganism, neither of them friendly towards orthodox Christianity, which nevertheless must find ways of being faithful to the Gospel and speaking in and to the culture.

 

In that the Western Caucasian once Christian now humanistic core is committing what demographers are calling Ademographic suicide,@ which is a phenomenon virtually unknown in biological history, Islam stands to succeed by virtue of Europe=s democratic and demographic realities, not by the power of its philosophical and religious ideas but by its sheer reproductive numbers. (known as the total fertility rate, or TFR) must be stable at 2.1 just to maintain the size of a nation's population. The baby bust is evident in the fact that the TFR is just 1.89 in France. In Spain the TFR is just 1.1 -- a birth rate the editors describe as in a "free fall." Taken together, Europe's total TFR is just 1.38.

"Rome died from a lack of imperial vigor; Europe may die on its own soil, of its own barrenness." 


People do not have children because they do not want them: As a result of the Sixties, things have changed. They find the curtailment of personal freedom and the assumption of the decades-long obligation inherent in parenthood unattractive, and they do not want to accept the basic restructuring of life that having a family requires.

 

Azure is a serious journal of ideas that states its mission as providing "ideas for the Jewish nation." In the Summer 2007 edition [Jewish year 5767], assistant editor Noah Pollak deals with the reality of the European baby bust.

 

On the other hand, religious neo-paganism, which includes an apostate paganized church, offers to spiritually thirsty Europe a sophisticated high octane potion. This Molotov cocktail of the spirit astutely mixes the glorious achievements of the Enlightenment project with the tempting neo-pagan notion of the transformation of human consciousness, whose goal is the spiritual and political unity not just of Europe but of the entire globe.

The Conversion from Materialism to Spirituality is not difficult.  Atheistic Marxism claimed to be free of religion but its spiritual barrenness probably contributed more than anything else to the general collapse of the Soviet system in Russia and elsewhere. So appropriately, the anti-religious have recently Agot religion,@ the materialists have discovered spirituality. The new religious consciousness does not call for massive metanoia. Men and Matter, already the reigning monarchs of Marxism, do not repent. They simply accept divine epithets. Watch how they do it. The American Humanist Association, a classic bastion of atheism, now states, without the least hint of embarrassment:

 

the battle for humankind=s future must be waged and won in the classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark ofYdivinity in every human being. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the newCthe rotting corpse of ChristianityYand the new faith of humanismY[118]

 

The humanistic prose now throbs with spirituality. The same has happened to Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Empire, and a pure product of the atheistic Marxist system. He now preaches a certain form of religious conversion:

 

We need a new synthesis that incorporatesYdemocratic, Christian and Buddhist values, Ywhich affirms such moral principles asYthe sense of oneness with nature and each otherYYa kind of Ten Commandments that provides a guide for human behaviorYin the next century and beyond.@ [119]

 

The materialist has become a mystic! Former Marxist, Vaclev Havel, president of the Czech Republic now wants to Alift the Iron Curtain of the Spirit,@ by discovering what all the religions have in common. In this way, through Athe divine revolution,@ we will save the planet.[120]

 

 



[1] Rosas Robertson, ACan Darwin Save Darmouth from Derrida?@ What Is Enlightement (July/September, 2007), 25.

 

[2] G P. Glynn, God, The Evidence : The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason in a Post-Secular World (Roseville, CA.: Crown Publishing Group, 1999), 57, writes: "After Darwin and the random universe, the second great challenge to religious belief in the twentieth century came from Sigmund Freud and the Psycho-analysists.  Psycho-analysis was a major force for secularization in twentieth-century societies, inspiring a virtual revolution in manner and morals."

[3] D. G. Hart, J. Gresham Machen: Selected Shorter Writings (Phillipsburg, NJ.: P&R, 2004), 108.

[4] Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity (1841), cited in Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (New York: Doubleday, 2004), 57.

[5] B.P Babkin, Pavlov, A Biography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 85.

[6] See chapters 3-6 of James Herrick=s The Making of The New Spirituality: The Eclipse of The Western Religious Tradition (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 2003) for a full-scale account of the effects of rationalism on Christianity from the Enlightenment to the Modern period.

[7] Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of A Sociological Theory of Religion (New York: Doubleday, 1967), 79.

[8] Berger, The Sacred Canopy, 127.

[9] Berger, The Sacred Canopy, 171.

[10] Mark C. Taylor, AThe Devoted Student,@ New York Times (December 21, 2006)

[11] These are the words of Phillip Johnson, AThe Unraveling of Scientific Materialism,@ First Things 77 (November 1997), 23.

[12] Art.cit.

[13] Steve Bruce, God is Dead: Secularization in the West (Oxford: Blackwell 2002), 156.

[14] Christopher Partridge, The Re-Enchantment of the West: Alternative Spiritualities, Sacralization, Popular Culture, and Occulture, Volume I  (London, New York: T & T Clark International, 2004), 35ff.

[15] Richard M. Price, The Reason-Driven Life: What Am I Here on Earth For? (Prometheus Books, 2006)

[16] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (London: Houghton Mifflin, 2006).

[17] Daniel Dennett, Freedom Evolves (London: Viking Penguin, 2003). See www.the-brights.net, July, 2003.

[18] Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason (New York : W.W. Norton & Co., 2004) and Letter to a Christian Nation (New York : Knopf, 2006).

[19] Alister McGrath, The Darwin Delusion: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 8.

[20] Uwe Siemon-Netto, AAnalysis: Atheism worldwide in decline,@  UPI March 1, 2005

[21] Uwe Siemon-Netto, art.cit.

[22] Alister McGrath, Athe Twilight of Atheism,@ Christianity Today ( March 2005). See also Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in The Modern World (New York : Doubleday, 2004), 230f.; Phillip Johnson, AThe Unraveling of Scientific Materialism,@First Things 77 (November 1997), 22-25.; Michael Novak, AThe Godlessness that Failed,@ First Things 104 (June/July 2000), 35-39; Dale Fincher, ADying Under Its Own Irrelevance,@ RZIM (April 21, 2005).

[23] See www.biola.edu/philchristi).

[24] E. J. Dionne Jr., AFaith & Politics: After the Religious Right,@ Commonweal Magazine (February 15, 2008).

[25] Michael C. Kalton, professor of comparative religion at the University of Washington, Tocoma. See his article, AExtending the Neo-Confucian Tradition: Questions and Reconceptualizations for the Twenty-First Century,@ Confucianism and Ecology: The Interrelation of Heaven, Earth and Humans, ed. by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Berthrong (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions, 1998), 78.

[26] See www.SamHarris.org.

[27] David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity  (Cambridge and Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), 41.

[28] Crystal L. Downing, How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith (Downers Grove, IL.: IVP Academic, 2006), 36.

[29] Mary Kapp, ABorn Again Beijing,@ campusreportonline.net  (August 10, 2007).

[30] Cited in Mary Kapp.

[31] Tarnas, Passion, 431.

[32] Tarnas, Passion, 407.

[33] Tarnas, Passion, 408.

[34] Tarnas, Passion, 408.

[35] Lit-sen Chang, 149.

[36] Lit-sen Chang, 151.

[37] What Is Enlightenment: Redefining Spirituality for an Evolving World (WIE) 31 (Dec/Feb 2005-2006), 29.

[38] Downing, How Postmodernism, 26.

[39] D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 100.

[40] Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism, 230.

[41] Robert S. Ellwood. Jr., The 60s Spiritual Awakening (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1994), 4; Anthony Giddens, the consequences of Modernity (Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 1990); James Beckford, AReligion and Modernity, Post-Modernity,@ Religion: Contemporary Issues, ed. Bryan Wilson (London: Bellew, 1992).

[42] R. Bernstein, ed., Habermas and Modernity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 225.

[43] T. Eagleton, AAwakening from Modernity,@ Times Literary Supplement (February 20, 1987), cited in David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity  (Cambridge and Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), 9.

[44] Lydia Jaeger, AEntre modernite et post modernite: faut-il reinventer l=eglise?@, La Revue Reformee 243-2007/4 (July, 2007), 39.

[45] Solomon, Robert C.; Higgins, Kathleen Marie Reading Nietzsche: A Short History of Philosophy (New York : Oxford University Press, 1996), 173.

[46] D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God, 79.

[47] Alister McGrathm, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief  in The Modern World (New York: Doubleday, 2004), xii.

[48].Cited in Ben Macintyre, Forgotten Fatherland, 17.

[49] Source unknown.

[50] Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (Downers Grove: IVP, 1968), 70. and Pollution and the Death of Man (Downers Grove: IVP, 1970). See also Os Guinness, Dust of Death (Downers Grove: IVP, 1973), 229, 281.

[51]Christopher Partridge, The Re-Enchantment of the West: Alternative Spiritualities, Sacralization, Popular Culture, and Occulture, Volume I  (London, New York: T & T Clark International, 2004), 4.

[52] Partridge, 53.

[53] Phyllis Tickle, Rediscovering the Sacred: Spirituality in America (New York : Crossroad Pub. Co, 1995).

[54] Marianne Williamson, Healing the Soul of America: Reclaiming Our Voices as Spiritual Citizens (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000), p. 254.

[55] Johannes van Oort, ANew light on Christian Gnosis,@ Louvain Studies 24 (1999). 39.

[56]

 See Samuel P. Huntingdon, AThe Clash of Civilizations,@ Foreign Affairs 72:3 (Summer, 1993), 22-49. See also his The Clash of Civilizations and the  Remaking of the World Order (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1996). See also Max L. Stackhouse, et al., God and Globalization, 3 vols (Harrisburg, PA.: Trinity Press International, 2000-2002). My thoughts on Islam will have to wait a later publication.

[57] David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change

(Malden, MA.: Blackwell Publishers Inc.,1990), 358.

[58] Frederic Baue , The Spiritual Society: What Lurks beyond The Postmodern (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 16.

[59] Richard Wolin, The Seduction of Unreason: the Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism (Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press, 2004). See also Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason (New York: Pantheon, 2008).

[60] Christopher Partridge , The Re-Enchantment of the West: Alternative Spiritualities, Sacralization, Popular Culture, and Occulture, Volume I  (London, New York: T & T Clark International, 2004), 38-40.

[61] Partridge, 128.

[62] Partridge, ibid.

[63] Uwe Siemon-Netto, AAnalysis: Atheism worldwide in decline,@  UPI (March 1, 2005).

[64] Jean Houston is clear about the myth we need, the myth of Isis, ancient Egyptian goddess of Magic and the underworld, as her book indicates: The Passion of Isis and Osiris: A Gateway to Transcendent Love (New York: Ballantine, 1995), 2.

[65] Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World (New York: Penguin, 2006), xiii.

[66] David Wells, God in The Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1994), 13.

[67] Berry, The Great Work, 78.

[68] We recall the slogan, AWhat my net can=t catch isn=t fish.@ See Cornelius Van Til=s pamphlet AWhy I Believe in God@ (Philadelphia: Orthodox Presbyterian Church, undated).

[69] Tarnas, 436.

[70] Tarnas, 435.

[71] Tarnas, 435.

[72] Wilber, A Theory of Everything, 80-82.

[73] Steve McIntosh, AIntegral Politics Comes of Age,@ What Is enlightenment (October/December, 2007

[74] Tarnas, Passion, 433.

[75] Tarnas, Passion, 272.

[76] Wilber, A Theory of Everything, 80-82.

[77] Tarnas, Passion, 411.

[78] Tarnas, Passion, 403.

[79] Tarnas, Passion,434.

[80] Tarnas, Passion, 434.

[81] Tarnas, Passion, 435.

[82] Tarnas, Passion, 384.

[83] Tarnas, Passion, 385.

[84] Tarnas, Passion, 385

[85]Tarnas, Passion, 425.

[86] For the acceptance of the specifically shamanic experiences, see Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of  New World View (New York: Viking, 2006), 31.

[87] George Otis, 49-50. The builders of the ancient Maltese temple complex at Tarxien evidently saw things much the same way.  In the view of feminist art historian Elinor Gadon, a labyrinthine, underground sanctuary known as the Hypogeum served as Athe womb and the place of burial where the dead returned to the Mother@. Similar interpretations have been found at sites from Central America to Siberia, from ancient Roman, Celtic and Asian settings. The Hopi Indians have womb-like sanctuaries that symbolize their birth through the body of the Earth Mother.

[88] See the website: AWorld Congress on Psychology and Spirituality, New Dehli, 2008.@

[89] Ross Robertson, ACan Darwin Save Dartmouth from Derrida?,@ 26.

[90] Cited in Al Mohler=s Blog (October 07, 2007).

[91] Alan Sasha Lithman, An Evolutionary Agenda for the Third Millennium: A primer for the Mutation of Consciousness (Ashland, OR.: White Cloud Press, 2003).p. 5,

[92] Cited in David Spangler, Emergence: The Rebirth of the Sacred (Dell Publishing, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., New York, NY, 1984), 45.

[93] Lithman, An Evolutionary Agenda, 11.

[94] LIthman, An Evolutioary agenda, 13.

[95] Jeffrey J. Kripal, ATPC Interviews,@ 19.

[96] David Spangler, Emergence: The Rebirth of the Sacred, 42-43.

[97] Matthew Fox, AA Profile of Thomas Berry, Scholar and Lover of the Earth

EarthLight Magazine #34 (University of Creation Spirituality, Oakland, California, USA: Summer, 1999).

[98] B. Becking, et al., Only One God?  Monotheism in Ancient Israel and the Veneration of the Goddess Asherah (New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001).

[99] William D. Dever, Did God Have A Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 206ff.

[100] E.S. Gerstenburger, Theologies in the Old Testament (New York: T&T Clark, 2002), 331.

[101] See the website TheOoze.com.

[102] June Singer, Androgyny: Towards a New Theory of Sexuality (London: Routledge and Kegan, 1977), 18.

[103] Singer, 20.

[104] Lauren Artress, Walking A Sacred Path:  Rediscovering The Labyrinth As A Spiritual Tool (New York: Riverhead Books, 1995), 8.

[105] York, 159.

[106] York, 161.

[107] The Editors AWhat is the Relationship Between Sex and Spirituality?@  WIE Issue 13, 62.

[108] Surya Das, 293.

[109] Roshi Joan Halifax, "Excerpts from Buddhist Peacework: Creating Cultures of Peace," Boston Research Center for the Twenty-First Century: Newsletter 14 (Winter, 2000), 10-11.

[110] Lithman, 16.

[111] Jeffrey J. Kripal, ATPC Interviews,@ 18.

[112] Peter Schneider, AThe Times Require a Non-Dualistic View of Jesus,@ The Progressive Christian 181/4 (July/August, 2007), 4.

[113] Jacques Ellul, Interpretive Essays, ed. C. G. Christians and J.M. Van Hook (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 302.

[114] Hoeller, ibid., 3, 8-9.

[115] He used the synonym "naturalism."

[116] J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1923), 62-63.

[117].  Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1931), 199.

[118] The Humanist (1983), the journal of the American Humanist Association.

[119] Mikhail Gorbachev, The Search for a New Beginning: Developing a New Civilization, (HarperSan Francisco), cited on the State of the World Forum web page,  info@worldforum.org.

[120] Vaclav Havel, AThe Divine Revolution,@ Utne Reader (July-August, 1998), 56-7.