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

The Temple Mount Terrorist Attack Exposes the Real Reasons behind Palestinian “Rage”

July 20 2017

After the terrorist attack at the Temple Mount last week, Israeli police found a large cache of weapons hidden in the al-Aqsa complex. Eli Lake comments on Palestinian reactions, and what they suggest about the persistent canard that “al-Aqsa is in danger” from alleged Jewish infiltration:

The real threat to the mosque on Friday did not come from Jewish settlers, [as Palestinian propaganda would have it], but from the Israeli Arabs [who did the shooting]. So it’s important to examine the response from Palestinian leaders. Let’s start with Abbas. He was forceful in his condemnation of the act, noting that there is no room for violence in such a holy place. . . . But by Monday the old patterns emerged. [His] Fatah party called this week for a “day of rage.” Was this to protest the gunmen who entered the “noble sanctuary,” or those mourning their deaths? No. This protest is aimed at Israel for erecting metal detectors at the entrance of the Temple Mount compound after the shootings.

The most telling response, however, came from Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated group that rules Gaza. A spokesman for the group, Sami Abu Zuhi, said on Friday the attack “was a natural response to Israeli terrorism and their defilement of the al-Aqsa mosque.” . . . [But] how can any thinking person take the professed pieties of Hamas leaders seriously if they rail against “defilement” of the site yet praise gunmen who fled to it in a shooting spree?

As Martin Kramer, a historian at Shalem College in Jerusalem, told me this week, the attack at the Temple Mount broke a taboo. “The usual Islamist claim is that the danger to the mosque and the shrine is from Jews,” he said. “Here there was an actual conspiracy to smuggle weapons into this holy place and Hamas does not condemn it, they praise it. Who poses the greater danger to al-Aqsa?”

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians, Temple Mount, Terrorism