The Paradox of the Postchristian

A reader with the alphanumeric name of dgg3565 remarks, in regard to a conversation, or, perhaps, conflagration, held in this space over recent days with certain romantics of the neo-monarchist school:

“Still further, they disdain the history and traditions of the land into which they were born, so their claim of a return to tradition is doubly false.”

The are not the only persons who take a romantic view of the past and from it draw doubly false conclusions. Neopagans share this shortcoming with neomonarchists.

In my student days, my roommate was a witch, and the master of a coven of witches. At that time in my life, I knew more pagans than Christians. Being an atheist, and being cool and unsympathetic of mind, but also being armed with a classical education, I found to my surprise that I knew as much or more about real pagans than my pagan friends — or so it seemed to me at the time.

Two major paradoxes loomed in their worship. The first was that real pagans honored and obeyed their fathers, and revered the household gods, and worshipped the gods of the city and the marketplace, and respected their ancestors and founders. The poor neopagans were the children of evangelicals, so the gods of city and agora were Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and the ancestors and founders of THIS nation were monotheists, all stout Christians with an odd Deist, Jew, or Freemason thrown in for flavor.

This places the diligent neopagan in the odd position of being obligated by ritual and tradition to offer due reverence and worship to the altars of his fathers and the temples of his gods, but those altars are Christian, and those temples are cathedrals.

Related to this was the problem of the Asatru — the True Men — who were allegedly worshippers of Odin and Thor, but only one of them volunteered for service in the military, which, alas, he survived intact. Those not falling in battle were doomed to the “straw death” and an afterlife in Folkvangr rather than Valhalla, hence not to stand with the gods at the Last Battle.

The second paradox was that the Old Gods were actually quite strict about sexual morality. A Vestal Virgin caught coupling with a man was buried alive. To the North, the adulterers were sent to Nastrond at death, not Valhalla. If I may quote from the Volospá: “I saw in Hell the beguilers of others’ wives.” To the south, in the negative confessions of the Book of the Dead, the prayer to the gods of Egypt to allow the righteous soul to pass the judgement included these words: “Hail, Qerrti, who comest forth from Amentet, I have not committed adultery, I have not lain with men.”

But the neopagans, as best I could tell, wanted to promulgate and be ruled by the basic Christian morals of returning love for evil — a stance no pagan in the history of the world ever imagined — but also wanted lesbians, and so invented a view of pagan religion less realistic than what one might find in a Robert E. Howard story, or the 3.5 edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

Let us note that I have met Asatru who, as stout followers of Thor, were staunch and uncompromising defenders of the Second Amendment — moreso that some national organizations I might name. The robust pagan reasoned that the folk law allowed, nay, demanded that a freeborn man bear his weapons to the folkmoot to debate the issues of the day, even if prudence demanded he leave his iron with the doorwarden.

Pagans who take paganism seriously have my respect, because their road leads eventually to Christ, who is the culmination of hints and foreshadowing found in pagan dreams no less than in Old Testament prophecies.

A cursory glance at history shows that honest pagans crave the same divine things Christians find solid and real in Christ, and will convert in droves, given the chance. We’ve been down this road before.

But there is Phariseeism to be found among the pagans as well as among the Pharisees. Neopagans, more often than not, are not followers and worshippers of the Old Gods, but are witches, diviners, sorcerers, and others who seek merely to use whatever diabolic power they can find in old myths for themselves. They imagine themselves summoners and masters of these ancient inhibitors of the middle air rather than messengers and votaries. And they rewrite their ancient lore and traditions to suit themselves, complete with a fresh coating of modern sentiment, utterly alien to real paganism.

The witches — at least those I saw and spoke to — just wanted a form of religion offering the comforts of Christ without the cost.

I do not remember of one of them who favored the institutions of slavery or serfdom, even though there is a hierarchy established by the three adulteries of Heimdall, establishing the separate races of thralls, churls, and jarls, that is, peasantry, gentry, nobility.

Other paganisms, especially among the Near and Far East, have their gods explicitly establish “maat” or “me” which is the cosmic order placing royalty, born of divine blood, firmly above the commoners, and untouchables firmly below (Untouchables are called dalit in India, eta in Japan, and, in China, depending on the region, called dan-hu, si-min, to-min, duo-min, yu-min, yoh-hu.) The Greeks and Romans, to the best of my knowledge, only preached that the founders and kings of their cities were of divine blood, as Aeneas was born of Venus, or Theseus of Poseidon.

It was not, to say the least, self-evident to the ancients that all men were created equal. However, not a single neopagan of my acquaintance was anything other than an ardent believer in equality, which, ironically, they used to justify political support for homosex and other unrelated issues.

It is a testament to Christianity that even those in the West who oppose the worldview cannot step entirely outside it to do so.