Christianity’s Role in the Rise of Paganism

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Christian Living

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Christianity’s Role in the Rise of Paganism

A Ciry Essay

I wanted to write an open letter to the Christian community and particularly to Christian clergy, to suggest a significant reason why I think so many people are leaving Christianity for other spiritual paths such as Paganism. (Not necessarily abandoning God or the Son -- there are many people who describe themselves as Pagans who revere Christ -- but abandoning the Christian religion in its evolving form.) I believe that a "new Christianity", which is emerging in the country, bears a great deal of responsibility for the flight of the faithful. I hope you will be patient enough to read this letter, for it may provide insight valuable to you as you assess the changing religious climate in this country and around the world.

A primary reason for the abandonment of Christianity by ever-growing numbers, I believe, is the inexplicable antipathy towards nature, God's grand creation, by powerful Christian factions. I, and countless others I have talked to, have become increasingly alarmed and dismayed at the stance that so many Christian leaders and conservative denominations have taken in recent years towards creation, by treating it with derision, ignoring its plight altogether, or, astonishingly, by trying to demonize it as an object of Pagan worship. There is much condemnation these days of the theory of evolution by Christian leaders, and yet we see little or no concern for the welfare of a world that they insist was created by God in His infinite wisdom. It is no wonder that people of faith who deeply love nature as an exquisite manifestation of God’s glory are turning to other religions or spiritual paths, or are abandoning religion altogether. Many of the faithful are having an increasingly difficult time tolerating a "spiritual" path that promotes unchecked capitalism (a glaring contradiction to Christ's teachings), fosters the unreasonable and sacrilegious glorification of human beings to the detriment of all else, and encourages the complete and absolute subjugation of the (godless) "environment". Those who enthusiastically espouse such aspects of the new Christianity seem to have forgotten Who created the world and what man’s responsibility is as steward of God’s masterwork.

Christianity, it seems to me, is evolving into a form of religious humanism, with a myopic view of mankind as the only important entity on the planet, and all other creations of God, be they animal, plant, or wild place, as nothing more than base fodder, suitable only for man's various uses. The creation itself is considered to be devoid of intrinsic value, certainly no sacred value, and is appreciated only for what men can extract from it, often brutally. There is no true respect for creation in much of Christianity today, no acknowledgment that the Creator may have fashioned its exquisite beauty and complexity for more than the most mundane of purposes. Man-with-a-Capital-M and his narrowly perceived and self-serving wants—the glorification of self, the pursuit of affluence, the importance of private-property rights and the resistance to governmental regulation regardless of consequences to the greater good—have an increasingly high priority in the Christianity of the 21st Century. One only has to turn to the dictionary to realize that the term "humanism" fits the new Christianity like a glove:
"Humanism: a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values."

A short-sighted and self-absorbed humanistic religion is not appealing to many who desire a meaningful spiritual path. It is my belief that the anthropocentrism so integral to Christianity today is a huge reason why Paganism is the fastest growing religion in several countries of the western world, including the United States. People yearn for a faith that acknowledges and appreciates, at a profound level, the value, beauty, and yes, the sacredness, of God's creation, with all its wondrous layers and facets, because they understand intuitively that the Creator is inherent in His lovely world.

Having lived in wild and remote places for much of my adult life, I see God in all of nature, in every exquisite natural thing there is. It's not difficult to see Him in nature, for it is all His art, His expression, His love. If I want to search for Him, all I have to do is walk in the woods and there He is, in every leaf and flower, in every living creature and breath of wind. Why is it considered an abomination to suggest that the living God might exist in the perfection of nature as well as transcend it, just as a human artist exists in his work as well as transcends it? Can we not see Leonardo da Vinci, the man, in his paintings? Is it possible to show respect for an artist without also showing respect for his creations?  In truth, it would not be possible to separate one from the other. No one in his or her right mind would suggest that an intruder who breaks into a museum or art gallery and destroys a masterpiece such as da Vinci’s The Last Supper is in some way showing respect for the artist. And yet many within the confines of the new Christianity, with solemn piety, insist that they respect God the Creator Of All Things even as they condone the whole-sale destruction of a creation almost incomprehensible in its loveliness and complexity, very likely unique in all the universe.

Do we really think that God will be as much with us in a world devoid of deep and silent forests, flower-strewn meadows, and oceans teeming with life? Will we see Him as clearly when Man’s Grand Vision has supplanted God’s, when wild nature has been swept away and replaced in large part by pollution-choked mega-cities, vast mining pits, devastating clear cuts and oil-contaminated estuaries? When we look at the wonder of creation with its unfathomable beauty and mystery, with its myriad forms of life, aren’t we, in fact, glimpsing the face of God? It is my belief that when all of the pristine wild places are gone and the earth is a barren wasteland of asphalt and concrete, disease and despair, overrun by tens of billions of impoverished human beings who have nothing but rage to feed on, we will find that God, so inherent in His lovely creation, has abandoned us to our wretched condition, a fitting punishment for our wanton disregard for every last thing on earth but ourselves. How lonely we will feel when there is nothing left of the rich tapestry of His Great Work but us. And for those who say that the faithful will not see that dark day, remember that good men of faith throughout the ages have confidently anticipated the imminent end of days, and yet the world continues on. As we lie in our beds at night, we must consider the possibility that there WILL be a long and uncertain future, for our children, for our grandchildren and for our great-grandchildren.

If prominent leaders of Christianity truly want to stop the hemorrhaging of followers from the faith, then they need to start showing some respect for God the Creator of All Things. Why is Christianity leaving that to the Pagans, whose most obvious "sin", in the eyes of many Christians, is to show an unabashed reverence for God’s masterpiece of nature? If church leaders are indeed alarmed at the exploding popularity of other spiritual paths, then the Christian religion must begin to embrace wondrous nature, offer humble thanks to God for its glory, work hard to preserve it for those who will surely come after us, and above all, stop demonizing it as some sinister manifestation of the devil. You will find that many estranged followers will gladly return to the faith. (And perhaps God in His infinite mercy will be able to forgive these terrible sins against Him.) But if Christianity continues to condone the total destruction of wild nature, and continues to characterize it as something base and evil, worth-less and expendable, this great religion of the last 2000 years may very well fall by the wayside, perceived by the growing multitudes as a threat to the future, much too costly to a humanity which depends upon a viable planet for survival.

And God saw every thing that he had
Made, and, behold, it was very good.
Genesis 1:31