The New Anti-Paganism

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 10, 2008 — 5 Comments

Now that the Democratic party is rushing to publicly embrace God and close the “religion gap” with rival Republicans, and with secularism seemingly on the run (or at least out of fashion), some Christian conservatives are looking towards a new scapegoat that will appeal to their audience: Paganism. While certain segments of Christianity have always been a bit obsessed with “the occult” and other “dark forces” that could imperil one’s soul, this new anti-Pagan alignment casts Christians as caring individuals wanting to cure a religious “sickness” caused by an irreligious secular age.

“If you think that secular humanism has become biblical Christianity’s most threatening opponent in contemporary society, Peter Jones wants you to think again. He will tell you – politely but emphatically – that you’re at least a decade or two behind the curve … Jones calls it neo-paganism. Around the world, in dozens of shapes, names, and forms, it is winning the allegiance and hearts especially of young people who are already disillusioned with the empty promises of secularism and materialism. The idea of the supernatural no longer bothers or embarrasses them. They want to know there is something more “out there,” and they are willing to explore bizarre realities to find whatever it might be.”

Much like the evangelical crusade against homosexuality, adherence to a Pagan faith is starting to be seen as a “confusion”, a tragic illness caused by a lack of knowledge concerning the “truth” of Christianity. To be cured, one must only hear the truth. So just as yesterday’s “vicious sodomites” have become today’s young men and women in need of intensive therapy to realize what is “normative”, so too have Pagans morphed from Satanic helpers to a collection of over-earnest environmentalists, frustrated feminists, and misguided teens. As this re-alignment has happened, several Christian authors have cast themselves as champions of empathy working to help Christians “understand” Paganism and in turn, guide these poor “spiritually hungry” souls back towards the righteous path.

“Wicca is here and we need to face that,” said Sanders, a speechwriter for the U.S. Department of Justice. “We can be threatened by these trends or we can see all of this as a sign that people are hunting for something that is greater than themselves, yearning for spiritual experiences they can call their own. They want to rebel against the secular culture and find a way to get back to nature.”

While this emerging anti-Paganism has hardly replaced the vehement anti-secularism you still see within most conservative circles, fringe organizations like WorldNetDaily have devoted quite a bit of time and attention to the matter. Their special anti-Witchcraft publication was handed out freely at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, gaining some mocking mentions from the press.

“The magazine Whistleblower examines ‘Why So Many Americans Are Embracing Witchcraft,’ and subsequently ‘sexing each other in the moonlight while summoning spirits and casting spells.’ The magazine’s publisher concludes that Christians must never practice yoga, but instead ‘serve like an occupying army of love and peace until Jesus comes back to reign as king.'”

This still-nascent trend will only enlarge as modern Paganism continues to make inroads towards the mainstream. As outreach groups try to re-tool their methods in an attempt to stop alienating the younger generations, you can expect more and more attention will be given to the “problem” of modern Paganism’s growth. Some of the more dramatic Pagans out there might envision a new “Burning Times”, but I think the truth is that you’ll instead see loads of propaganda, hand-wringing editorials (won’t anyone think of the children), and further attempts to legislate us back underground. In the meantime, I suppose it is something of a compliment to be ranked up there with secularism in the “dangers to Christianity” department.

Jason Pitzl-Waters