Progress or Pagan?

For most, the notion of paganism and idolatry have been relegated to the ancient history of the past, with mainstream society now only producing a false dichotomy between religious and supposedly non-religious people.

Everyone believes something, despite the Enlightened and postmodern attempts to escape religion – no one is without a belief system, whether it be Christianity or otherwise.

Human constructs

What was once accepted as reasonable and absolute such as the value of human life and biological sex, are increasingly being treated as mere social constructs of a chaotic universe that no one can comprehend. All decision making would then become subject to the whims of social forces with biology sidelined into a mere reactionary role.

With many modern progressives having adopted such thought processes seemingly as a point of innovation, such schisms in society are in fact nothing new – but would be a return to an incredibly old way, a pagan way of thinking.

Enlightenment thinking has taught that God is dead at the hands of man, and now even what we once understood to be a man is dead at our own hands. Where are the Judeo-Christian values upholding that there is a masterplan created by God for a unified order and objectivity in standards of morality?

Our Western world in the past century has replaced such with chaos and subjectivity.  We may have won World War Two and the Cold War on the military and economic fronts, but our success has been undermined by our concessions on the socio-cultural predicaments now in the 21st century.

Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci’s often overlooked statement that “man is above all else, consciousness – that is, he is a product of history, not of nature” is an underlying tenet of our current society. Most would not be aware of the recent origins of such philosophical assertions that were first spoken of in 1916.

Unlike the thousands of established years in which the Judeo-Christian worldview finds its roots, our modern populous, being Enlightened, seeks no hesitation to adopt a sense of individualism devoid of real meaning.

Social rebellion

Social rebellion not only took place in philosophical thought and practice but with nearly all aspects of human life, not the least with sex and sexuality. In 1955, Herbert Marcuse penned what is a now forgotten but almost unanimously accepted book titled “Eros and Civilisation”. Even though most of us today would not have read his philosophical inquiries into Marx and Freud, his writings are accepted widely as part of the modern mainstream societal practice.

In advocating against what he perceived as sexual repression of the Victorian era; it was argued that “the body in its entirety would become… a thing to be enjoyed – an instrument of pleasure”. And thus, we have returned to the times of the Ancient Greeks, of Dionysian paganism where rationality and moral standards were formed solely based on sensuality.

Especially in the Western world, there is a declining resemblance of the Judeo-Christian values that once provided stability and order. We used to hold firm to a shared set of principles and absolutes, with civil disagreements able to be resolved by seeing each other as still having virtue.

But as we drift further away from our Judeo-Christian heritage, the “us vs them” mentality that is now manifest in the “privileged vs victimhood” is becoming ever more ingrained to the extent that we forget that all humanity has arisen from the values laid out in the Garden of Eden.

The world is too quick to tear down the guiding principles primarily of the Judeo-Christian ethic in the guise of progress, freedom, and liberation.

But what has been the result? A largely floating life with no anchors or deep meanings beyond the supposedly new schools of philosophy that if we dig deeper are mere reflections of ancient paganism and idolatry in one way or another.

Perhaps our society would be in a much different place if the words of G.K. Chesterton were heeded more often, “if you do not see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it”.

Back to the roots

Although time is of the essence, our striving steps ought not to be merely reactionary in tackling points of difference arising out of the sexual revolution or postmodern schools of thought. But rather, in the pursuit of rebuilding our fractured society, we must first recognise that all men and women were created by God with value in His image, with the capacity to change ourselves and the world around us.

When we realise and accept that each one of us has a value not only to ourselves but to the communal good of our society, our life’s purposes can be guided by a higher meaning.

We are not meaningless or just empty bodies of flesh and bone, but rather have been created for God’s purpose, to be making the most out of our freedoms and to be building upon the Godly foundations set out for us. As human beings made in God’s image, let us not forsake our opportunity and responsibility to be shaping the world more and more with His likeness.

This article was first published at Christian Today Australia on Friday 5 June 2020