A Pagan's Blog

A Pagan's Blog

The Failure of Religion and the Rise of Nihilism

Chris hedges, who wrote my favorite book on the nature of war, has a great short essay over at Truthdig.  He discusses the gifts and failures of mainstream religion in our society, and the risk of nihilism that accompanies its growing failure.  I could not agree more.  I think the rise of what I call feminine immanent spirituality, nowhere better expressed than among Pagans, is the only corrective with hope of diverting the US from its descent into secular and spiritual nihilism.

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Helen in CA

posted May 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Assuming that “Deity w/in” doesn’t lead to more narcicism (sorry about the spelling).
This is something I’ve noticed in Pagans recently. Not sure if it’s a recent phenomena or whether I’ve just noticed it. But it’s sure something I see.

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posted May 12, 2010 at 3:03 pm

A depressing read on a cold gray Chicago afternoon, but I can’t really dispute any of it. Turning it around is an awfully big burden to hang on pagan consciousness. I hope we’re up to it and wonder how we can even convey what we seek to the larger society. We’re not exactly the evangelical sort, and I think we would corrupt everything worthwhile about our paths if we did the whole missionary bit. Do we just work hard at building communities that others wish to emulate? Do we need to get pagans elected to Congress? How do you fight ugly predatory nihilism when the folks profiting from that have all the advantages in maintaining it? How do we reach a populace which has had critical thinking and introspection almost entirely bred out of it? People who seem to want nothing more than easy credit, the latest I-gadget and reality shows?

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posted May 12, 2010 at 3:52 pm

In times gone by, when Neo-Paganism was clearly and confidently an alternative and pretty much underground outlook, I optimistically imagined changes–for the collective and common good–if and when it became more assuredly part of “mainstream” spirituality.
These days, I continue to imagine Neo-Paganism changing the world as it enters the mainstream. But not so cheerfully as before. One reason an alternative remains strong and vigorous, after all, is that is offers alternatives. Ways to live different. To know deities and powers and guardians and such differently. It’s much harder to find a way through consumerism and commodification and all the rest when the outllok that you prize has assimilated into the mainstream that debilitates us all.

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Robert Mathiesen

posted May 12, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Thanks for the link, Gus! This essay hits the bull’s eye. It expresses so well the narcissism tat I saw becoming ever more prevalent among undergraduates during my last two decades of university teaching.

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Apuleius Platonicus

posted May 12, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Hedges has his heart more or less in the right place. But he appears to know less than nothing about non-monotheistic religions.
He claims that Confucius “championed this radical individualism”, and also that the violent suppression of ancient Paganism by the Triumphant Church “set free the critical powers of humankind.” I mean seriously — that kind of malarky is just plain disinformation.

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Apuleius Platonicus

posted May 12, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Oh — and replacing the Bible with Thus Spoke Zarathustra would be a huge improvement. It is a big step in the right direction — although it doesn’t make a good stopping point.

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Gus diZerega

posted May 12, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I’m with you on your first post, but not so much your second.

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