Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

The Ghost of Christianity: How Abrahamic Decline in the West Can Help Us Understand Pagan History

Posted by on in Culture Blogs


Dyspeptic right-wing alarmists like Rod Dreher notwithstanding, Christianity isn't really dying in the West.

Changing, yes. Losing market share, yes.

Dying, no.

But, to a not-unsympathetic outside observer such as myself, the slow ebb of its unquestioned spiritual monopoly here in the West offers an opportunity to understand an outstanding problem of human religious history: how did the old paganisms of Europe manage to die off so quickly?

Again and again, in region after region, the pattern emerges: within a few generations of conversion, cultic paganism has all but disappeared, leaving behind it little but a tide-wrack of half-remembered lore and behaviors. Where once religion was, only folklore remains.

Nor was this pattern unique to the West. The last bastion of Indo-European-speaking paganism was in the Hindu Kush mountains, the northeastern region of Afghanistan then called Kafiristan, “land of unbelievers.” Here the ancient ways persisted into the 1890s.

The emir of Kabul's jihad against the infidels changed all that. A decade of fire and sword, genocide and forced conversion, later, the land of unbelievers came to be known (as it is today) as Nuristan, “land of light.” 100 years on, sociologists have found that contemporary Nuristanis remember virtually nothing about the old ways of their great-grandparents: a few old god-names, perhaps, but little more.

All too often, historians have viewed this pattern, in effect, through spiritual Darwinist spectacles: as the product of some inherent qualitative superiority of the new ways over the old. That this is simply not so is proven by the emergence of the same pattern, but reversed, in our own day.

(Fueled by the inherent spiritual defficiencies of Abrahamic worldviews, the same reemergence of the Old Ways that here in the West we call “paganism” is simultaneously taking place among peoples all over the world.)

From our own experience, we can easily see how, and how quickly, such culture-loss can happen. Despite the cultural omnipresence of the various Christianities in contemporary America, the children of pagans, or of the non-religious, grow up knowing very little about Jesus, the Bible, or the Church. Once the chain is broken, the Forgetting sets in quickly. One generation is all it takes.

The ghost of the old paganisms has haunted Christianity throughout its existence. Realistically, with an eye to the pagan future, we can expect the ghost of Christianity to return the favor.

As they say, turnabout is foreplay.




Last modified on
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


Additional information