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As Traditional Religion Goes into Decline, Paganism Is Poised to Take Its Place

July 14 2017

Having traveled to Brooklyn to attend “a shamanic healing conducted in accordance with ‘Inca values,’” Matthew Schmitz considers Americans’ growing attachment to superstitions, belief in the paranormal, and neo-paganism:

What I saw in Brooklyn is happening across the West. Christianity’s decline is leading not to austere secularism, but to a wild flowering of shamanic healers, spirit crystals, and transcendental maharishis. . . . Worship of strange spirits is on the rise in America, often in ways we do not acknowledge. Tarot readers, ghost hunters, UFO abductees, and shamanic healers may not seem to have much in common with the noble pagans of old. But in a society shaped by comics, sci-fi, and multi-culti kitsch, inchoate polytheism manifests itself as paranormal belief. . . .

Rigorous skepticism may work for storybook characters, but it cannot satisfy man. . . . We may be tempted simply to have an urbane laugh at the follies of the superstitious, but that would be a mistake. . . . [V]ery few are capable of sustained and thoroughgoing unbelief. This is why no superstition is more ridiculous than the pretense of secularism, and anyone who thinks Christianity will give way to atheism is a far greater fool than the most credulous ghost hunter.

This winter, I hiked across the lava fields on the south slope of Kilauea. Shortly after we began, the guide bent down over the rock. In hopes that the volcanic goddess Pele would forgive us our trespassing, she made an offering of cocoa beans (organic—she grows them herself and sells them at the farmers’ market), laceleaf, and M&Ms, along with a libation of IPA. Her brand of bourgeois superstition has a bright future in post-Christian America.

Read more at First Things

More about: American Religion, Paganism, Religion & Holidays, Superstition

 

Why Cutting U.S. Funding for Palestinian “Refugees” Is the Right Move

Jan. 22 2018

Last week the Trump administration announced that it is withholding some of America’s annual contribution to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the organization tasked with providing humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees and their descendants. To explain why this decision was correct, Elliott Abrams compares UNRWA with the agency run by the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), which provides humanitarian aid to refugees who are not Palestinian:

One of [UNHCR’s] core missions is “ending statelessness.” [By contrast, UNRWA’s] mission appears to be “never ending statelessness.” A phrase such as “ending statelessness” would be anathema and is found nowhere on its website. Since 1950, UNHCR has tried to place refugees in permanent new situations, while since 1950 UNRWA has with its staff of 30,000 “helped” over 5 million Palestinian “refugees” to remain “refugees.” . . . UNRWA has three times as large a staff as UNHCR—but helps far fewer people than the 17 million refugees UNHCR tries to assist. . . .

The argument for cutting funding to UNRWA is not primarily financial. The United States is an enormously generous donor to UNHCR, providing just under 40 percent of its budget. I hope we maintain that level of funding. . . . The argument for cutting funding to UNRWA instead rests on two pillars. The first is that UNRWA’s activities repeatedly give rise to concern that it has too many connections to Hamas and to rejectionist ideology. . . .

But even if those flaws were corrected, this would not solve the second and more fundamental problem with UNRWA—which is that it will perpetuate the Palestinian “refugee” problem forever rather than helping to solve it. . . . [T]hat the sole group of refugees whom the UN keeps enlarging is Palestinian, and that the only way to remedy this under UN definitions would be to eliminate the state of Israel or have 5 million Palestinian “refugees” move there should simply be unacceptable. . . .

Perpetuating and enlarging the Palestinian “refugee” crisis has harmed Israel and it has certainly harmed Palestinians. Keeping their grievances alive may have served anti-Israel political ends, but it has brought peace no closer and it has helped prevent generations of Palestinians from leading normal lives. That archipelago of displaced-persons and refugee camps that once dotted Europe [in the aftermath of World War II] is long gone now, and the descendants of those who tragically lived in those camps now lead productive and fruitful lives in many countries. One can only wish such a fate for Palestinian refugee camps and for Palestinians. More money for UNRWA won’t solve anything.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Israel & Zionism, Palestinians, Refugees, U.S. Foreign policy, UNRWA