The end of the Christian world in the 21st century… Will the West become pagan again?

In her recently published book “The End of the Christian World”, the French author and philosopher Chantal Delsol says that the civilization that relies on its customs and laws on Christian beliefs has withered since the end of the 20th century, as Christianity retreated as a central reference for laws, customs and morals, at a time when modernity triumphed after Christianity’s dominance for nearly 16 centuries.

Delsol – founder of the Hannah Arendt Institute for Research – believes that what she calls “the signs of the collapse of Christian civilization” have begun to form a long time ago, specifically since the rebellion against church customs and laws in the Renaissance, and then during the Enlightenment, when Christianity entered a difficult stage when modernity required recognition Freedom of conscience, which was rejected by Catholicism, which remained hostile to liberalism and individualism. Thus, for two centuries, Christianity tried to maintain its influence and influence, but it collided with the demands of modernization and the release of personal freedoms.

A passing fad or a trend for the 21st century?

Last year, 2021, a survey conducted by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) showed (Ifop) recently – for the first time – that more than half of the French no longer believe in God. At the height of this so-called Christmas season, another survey by the Pew Research Center on Religion found that slightly more Americans described themselves as Roman Catholic (21%) than believers in “nothing in particular” (20). %). Millennials, which include most American adults under the age of forty, became the first generation in which Christians were a minority.

and in Article In the American newspaper “The New York Times”, writer Christopher Caldwell says that many Americans feel that their country has become less religious than it was before.

Perhaps we are dealing with a deeper process, and this is the argument of the French political theorist Chantal Delsol’s book that we are experiencing the end of Christian civilization, a civilization that began (roughly) with the defeat of the strongholds of Roman paganism in the late fourth century, and ended (probably) with the embrace of Pope John the 23 (1881). -1963) Religious pluralism and the call to reform the Catholic Church in line with the requirements of the modern era and the legalization of abortion by the West.

However, Delsall’s book provides clear indications that what ends is not the Christian faith with its rites and beliefs, but only Christian culture, that is, the way Christian societies and the arts are run, and also the philosophy and ideas that arose under the influence of Christianity.

Delsol acknowledged that faith has diminished but still exists, and there will always be believers, while “authoritative Christianity”, the social organization it produces and the civilization it embodies, contests “influential heroic sugars”, according to Dessole. a report Le Point, a French newspaper.

But the writer Caldwell, who has written 3 books on the history of religions and culture, sees that it is still too early; In the West, the writer continues, “Christian society is the source of our cultural norms and moral taboos, not to mention the arena of our current culture wars, with heated debates about consciences, statues, homosexual marriage, and priests who have sex with children.”

Photographic revolution

The writer, author of The Age of Merit… America since the Sixties, says that Mrs. Delsall’s genius approach is to examine the current civilizational change in the light of its historical counterpart 1,600 years ago (that is, in the fourth century AD when Christianity was declared the official religion in the ancient Roman Empire in the year 330). AD by decree of Emperor Constantine I).

Christians then did what might be called a “reversal of standards” in pagan Rome, that is, they valued much of what the Romans considered despicable and condemned much of what the Romans respected, especially in matters related to sex and family.

The writer says that what is happening today can be compared to that moment, as the Christian character is being removed from Western cultural life, which reveals many of the pagan motives hidden in it.

A pagan celebration (end of 2020) at the famous Stonehenge monument in England to commemorate the most important event in the ancient pagan calendar (Getty Images)

To illustrate the argument of the author Delsol, the writer says that what is currently happening in the West is a retreat from that transformation or a re-“reversal of standards” to restore the old state (pre-Christian paganism).

However, paganism did not have a precise definition, the word was inclusive of those who rejected the Christian revelation, whether they were polytheists (worshipping multiple gods), nature worshipers or agnostics, and it was a kind of pejorative.

Of course, adds author Caldwell, author of Reflections on the Revolution in Europe… Immigration, Islam and the West, the pagan culture of Rome was not a simple feat; It had its own artists and thinkers, along with its powerful “natural” religions, and could not simply be ignored or banished from existence. For example, with the rediscovery of Epicurus and Lucretius.

Epicurus is an ancient Greek philosopher, who lived south of Izmir, today, between 341 BC and 270 BC. His philosophical school had a great influence on the entire Mediterranean basin, especially Antioch, Alexandria, Rome and Naples.

But it disappeared in the first and second centuries AD with the expansion of Christian culture, and it was revived again in the first half of the 17th century in the context of reviving modern humanist philosophical doctrines, while Titus Lucretius Carus (about 99-55 BC) is a Roman philosopher and poet who sought – in his poem The Latin “In the Nature of Things” – to deny the gods and free man from his fears, calling – like Epicurus – to consider pleasure the purpose of life.

Combo of ancient Greek characters Epicurus- Lucretius - HippocratesAncient Greek figures from right: physician Hippocrates of Alcusi, philosopher Epicurus, and poet Titus Lucretius Carus (Getty Images)

Like pagans believing that the collapse of their beliefs would mean the collapse of ancient Rome, many conservatives in the 21st century believe something similar about the erosion of Christian values: “The freedoms of our open society intrude on our Christian inheritance, and that when that inheritance collapses, so does civilization.”

According to a previous report by Al-Jazeera Net, “modern pagan” movements are described as one of the most prominent religious currents in the West in recent decades, and some researchers have seen its rise as a natural transformation in light of the pervasiveness of secularism and the rejection of the traditional Christian system.

European and American Christians believe that modern paganism is nothing but another aspect of Western materialism that rejects religion and rejects any role it has in human life.

Christian Ethics

Yet Delsol doesn’t see it quite that way; Noting that the ethics of the Christian era borrowed and borrowed (without acknowledgment) the pagan values ​​that Christianity replaced (such as Stoic philosophy or the Hippocratic oath of medicine), and in the same way progressive post-Christian ideology today rests on the great help of Christianity.

Why do progressive currents use the concept of Christian marriage to unite homosexual couples, for example, instead of creating a new institution less influenced by Christian values ​​(other than marriage)? The answer is that this is the “gradual way” (bit by bit) in which cultural change takes place.

Philosopher Chantal Delsol describes herself as a “conservative liberal” and founded the Hannah Research Institute in 1993 (Getty Images)

Delsol asserts, in a dialogue With the French newspaper “Le Figaro”, that Western civilization, which was born with the end of the Roman Empire, is a mixture of Greek, Roman, Jewish and Christian civilizations, and therefore there is no doubt that the disappearance of Christianity shakes the pillars of Western civilization and changes its features, but it does not lead to its disappearance.

The French philosopher believes that “humanism” as the reference that took the place of the Christian faith in contemporary societies is a revival of Christian values ​​such as mercy, tolerance, repentance, forgiveness and equality for all, but these values ​​are no longer linked to religion, but are based only on custom and secular applications.

Western rivalry

So, if another civilization comes to replace Christianity, it will not be a mere denial, such as atheism or nihilism, but a competing civilization, with its own logic or at least its different style of moral interpretation.

The writer Caldwell says that Christianity, as a religion, has teachings about neighborly love and tolerance (he who hits you on the cheek, offer the other to him, and who takes your cloak, do not withhold your garment) clearly and impressively. But for Christianity as a culture, on the other hand, it can cause duplication and contradiction. Christianity has produced some staunch preachers, to put it mildly, but there has always been a tension between its teaching (theory) and its quest for political power.

The writer adds that the author Delsol is concerned that the new converts have no hesitation towards Christianity, in some ways the general Western system has become similar to the pagan system of Rome, where religion and morals were separated, where religion was a matter of the family while morals were determined and imposed by the elites of society , which led to bleak consequences for freedom of thought.

Source : The island + French press + The New York Times

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