I feel that Jason has pointed out something really important here. As Pagans, I think we really are caught in another faith’s crisis. I think we are witnessing the death of Christianity, the long slow death of Christianity.
It may be my prejudice. I was brought up in the Deep South. As a part of my religious search, I involved myself in Protestant fundamentalist evangelical Christianity. This is something some of you may know about already because I’ve blogged about it before elsewhere. I am sure that there are people who are tired of hearing me write about it, but I still haven’t been able to process it all out. One thing I do know is that I could never go back, once I had been free of Christianity.
One of the bloggers that I follow, Mictlantecuhtli, says that when people point out positives in Christianity, her response is that many of these things are borrowed from other cultures wholesale. I certainly find this to be true; many of these elements are not present in the original. This, of course, assumes that there is anything in Christianity that is original, which I do not believe there is. My master’s is in counseling and not theology or history, I admit. But even a reasonably well-read person can see the obvious influences of Zoroaster and Mithraism, Gnosticism and Greek mysticism, on Christianity.
Modern Christians deny this, particularly the Protestant Evangelical type. They claim that their book is absolute, literal truth from cover to cover, when it cannot possibly be. Rabbits don’t chew their cud. There are no four-legged insects. The sun cannot stand still in the sky, because it does not move; the earth moves around it, which the Biblical authors did not know, and Moses could neither make the sun stop moving nor make the earth stop moving around the sun, for all life would have become extinct immediately if that happened. And bats are not birds.
Just as it is not literally true, the Bible is not without its influences. Paul and Pseudo-Paul lift mightily from Greek philosophers and John’s Gospel is more Gnostic than anything else. Borrowings from Pagan religion abound in the Bible. In modern American Christianity, the “prosperity gospel” is a maudlinization and bowdlerization of the ideas in the Kybalion, a work itself drawn from Gnostic and Greek philosophy. Any Charismatic service where there is speaking in tongues and prophecy and healing is not original, as I once thought; all these things happen in Vodoun ceremony, as they do in many shamanistic and indigenous traditions across the face of the world.
This information is out. People know it. It cannot be hidden, and more and more it is being heard. The Bible is not inerrant, and it is not literally true, and no one can truthfully say that it is unless they are sublimely ill-informed. (Worst of all the pastors and preachers who preach its infallibility; they learn in theology school, if they went, that the Bible is full of errors and contradictions, and so they stand in front of their congregations and lie in the face of their own God, preaching that a book made by men has no errors. ) Why should anyone regard the Bible as the Word of God, any more than the Bhagavad-Gita, or the Dhammapada, or the Book of the Law, or the Book of Urantia ,or Aradia, or the Quran or, for that matter, the Silmarillion or The Tale of Peter Rabbit?
The other disease that is killing Christianity is raw hypocrisy. They demand that the world adhere to standards that they themselves are unable to live up to. They demand an end to abortion while sending their daughters out of state to abortion clinics. They fetishize fetuses while letting mentally disabled adults rot in jail or wander the streets without medicine or shelter. They demand that no one have sex unless they are male and female, in a state-and-church sanctioned marriage, and yet their pastors are found rolling in more mistresses (and misters) than a Roman emperor.
The unification of evangelical Christianity and far-right politics has been happening since the 1960s, but the fever pitch it has reached at this point is exactly that; a fever that has led to dementia. Ignorant politicians pass laws that treat women as cattle and deny ethnic groups the right to even talk about their heritage. They ban medical procedures but are not doctors themselves. They preach the sickness of homosexuality while having sad, quick, furtive encounters in toilet stalls.
There are certainly enough fools in this country, as proved by the election of George W. Bush, a man who may be, apart from Warren G. Harding (another Republican), the most fatuous idiot to ever hold the office of President. But there are also enough people whose common sense dictates that when the Religious Right starts taking away their rights, it’s time to look hard at the people who are telling you how to live your life. Americans, at one time anyway, were not real big on letting people tell them how they should live, which is proper in a country that was settled by dreamers and outcasts. Even the Puritans were eventually overthrown when their madness became bloody and all-too-apparent. Perhaps Americans are more sheeplike now; perhaps they are not. But I note that many people who are capable of critical thinking see the connection between evangelical Christianity and the right-wing Republican party, and they are choosing to disassociate themselves from both. Polls show that Obama, no matter how unpopular the right-wing press says he is, outpaces all the Republican candidates, and no wonder; they offer us a robot who changes his opinions with the wind, a sweater-vested madman who fetishizes fetuses and believes women should be happy to be raped, and a nonsensical mad hatter/space cadet who would be better off as a bad science fiction author than a statesman.
And the blame for this insanity is laid by many people right at the door of Christianity. Protestant fundamentalist evangelical Christianity, to be specific; but many people, more each day, are starting not to care about the distinctions. People are beginning to realize that a religion whose key symbol is a man who has been tortured to death in order to please a bloodthirsty demiurge might not be the best religion to build your life around. Moreover, it makes no sense to build a nation’s statecraft on “commandments” written for wandering tribes of Iron Age nomads who had to be specifically told by God not to fuck their sheep. (Leviticus 18:23)