Thursday, December 13, 2018


Ross Douthat is here to run theocon Routine 12 on us -- that you heathens who don't go to his Church are not the free-thinkers you think you are, for you are merely worshiping the Golden Calf of penicillin, soap and toothpaste rather than his True God. At the top he pretends to wonder whether we've all really gone secular rather than alt-religious, and seems to dismiss the idea, because everybody needs a creed:
But the secularization narrative is insufficient, because even with America’s churches in decline, the religious impulse has hardly disappeared. In the early 2000s, over 40 percent of Americans answered with an emphatic “yes” when Gallup asked them if “a profound religious experience or awakening” had redirected their lives; that number had doubled since the 1960s, when institutional religion was more vigorous.
I have not been to an Ivy, but feel nonetheless I can explain: "when institutional religion was more vigorous" you didn't talk about having “a profound religious experience or awakening” because people would think you'd gone nuts. But once Americans started to take more drugs, travel more by camper van, and generally loosen up their sphincters, you had people describing their acid trips or bungee jumps as religious rather than sensual experiences. That did not mean they now considered rubber ropes or purple barrel to be sacraments of a New Church -- they merely had no better language to describe their experiences.  I mean if these hippie effusions were actually religious, Burning Man would have catacombs by now.

Still, Douthat thinks that at least some of the unchurched have drifted into a new pagan religions, and you will know them by their eccentric behaviors:
...ritual and observance, augury and prayer, that do promise that in some form gods or spirits really might exist and might offer succor or help if appropriately invoked. I have in mind the countless New Age practices that promise health and well-being and good fortune, the psychics and mediums who promise communication with the spirit world, and also the world of explicit neo-paganism, Wiccan and otherwise. 
Sounds like someone just got back from the Ren Faire, or Santa Fe! But why should he, I, or anyone care if some sliver of the godless go in for Tarot and Enya? Ahh, but danger and darkness for us all lie in these heresies! Hear Douthat say the sooth:
To get a fully revived paganism in contemporary America... the philosophers of pantheism and civil religion would need to build a religious bridge to the New Agers and neo-pagans, and together they would need to create a more fully realized cult of the immanent divine, an actual way to worship, not just to appreciate, the pantheistic order they discern.
It seems like we’re some distance from that happening — from the intellectuals whom [Steven D.] Smith describes as pagan actually donning druidic robes, or from Jeff Bezos playing pontifex maximus for a post-Christian civic cult. 
You assume, or at least hope, that Douthat finds these images as ridiculous as you do -- but then:
The 1970s, when a D.C. establishment figure like Sally Quinn was hexing her enemies, were a high-water mark for those kinds of experiments among elites. 
Maybe they don't have editors at the Times anymore -- I shouldn't wonder -- but why didn't anyone ask Douthat what evidence he had that Sally Quinn's voodoo dolls were not just proof that Sally Quinn is a daffy as hell old rich lady, but also part of real Satanic activity among the elites? Who else was working the Ouija boards and magic wands? And has it only gotten worse? Maybe after a couple of queries Douthat would have cracked and cried out PIZZAGATE IS REAL!
Now, occasional experiments in woke witchcraft and astrology notwithstanding, there’s a more elite embarrassment about the popular side of post-Christian spirituality. 
That embarrassment may not last forever; perhaps a prophet of a new harmonized paganism is waiting in the wings. 
Until then, those of us who still believe in a divine that made the universe rather than just pervading it — and who have a certain fear of what more immanent spirits have to offer us — should be able to recognize the outlines of a possible successor to our world-picture, while taking comfort that it is not yet fully formed.
The words "certain fear" link to a story about exorcism. Wait -- now I get it -- Douthat finally saw The Exorcist! And he knows that poor little girl wasn't randomly chosen by Pazuzu -- he was guided to her by Sally Quinn and her Georgetown coven! Who knows what other black mischief these harpies have summoned -- why, theirs may be the force that invaded and ruined the Republican Party, causing it to reject Douthat's neo-communitarian ideas and turn into the Trump mob! Finally, an explanation that makes sense!

If you see Douthat outside Comet Ping Pong with a long parcel, call the cops.

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