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

 

President Biden Should Learn the Lessons of Past U.S. Attempts to Solve the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Sept. 21 2023

In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Joe Biden addressed a host of international issues, mentioning, inter alia, the “positive and practical impacts” resulting from “Israel’s greater normalization and economic connection with its neighbors.” He then added that the U.S. will “continue to work tirelessly to support a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians—two states for two peoples.” Zach Kessel experiences some déjà vu:

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and review how past U.S.-brokered talks between Jerusalem and [Palestinian leaders] have gone down, starting with 1991’s Madrid Conference, organized by then-President George H.W. Bush. . . . Though the talks, which continued through the next year, didn’t get anywhere concrete, many U.S. officials and observers across the world were heartened by the fact that Madrid was the first time representatives of both sides had met face to face. And then Palestinian militants carried out the first suicide bombing in the history of the conflict.

Then, in 1993, Bill Clinton tried his hand with the Oslo Accords:

In the period of time directly after the Oslo Accords . . . suicide bombings on buses and in crowded public spaces became par for the course. Clinton invited then-Palestinian Authority chairman Yasir Arafat and then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to Camp David in 2000, hoping finally to put the conflict to rest. Arafat, who quite clearly aimed to extract as many concessions as possible from the Israelis without ever intending to agree to any deal—without even putting a counteroffer on the table—scuttled any possibility of peace. Of course, that’s not the most consequential event for the conflict that occurred in 2000. Soon after the Camp David Summit fell apart, the second intifada began.

Since Clinton, each U.S. president has entered office hoping to put together the puzzle that is an outcome acceptable to both sides, and each has failed. . . . Every time a deal has seemed to have legs, something happens—usually terrorist violence—and potential bargains are scrapped. What, then, makes Biden think this time will be any different?

Read more at National Review

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Joe Biden, Palestinian terror, Peace Process