I’ve talked before about the importance of religion to a successful society and to speculation as to whether Christianity should be abandoned as a lost cause and some kind of alternative sought. I’ve also talked about the extreme difficulties such an option would face and the dubious chances of success.
There are those on the dissident right who see a revival of paganism as a viable alternative. For a whole series of reasons I think the idea is a complete non-starter. The one thing in its favour is that paganism lacks the universalism of Christianity. That universalism was at one time an asset but it’s now a serious weakness. Paganism is parochial rather than universalistic so it’s certainly has some appeal to those who want to promote nationalism.
To me it seems that the big problem with paganism is morality. Paganism is essentially ritual-based religion. What matters is that the rituals should be performed correctly. Whether an individual is virtuous or not, whether a society is virtuous is not, is pretty much unimportant. If the rituals are carried out in the correct manner then one’s obligation to the gods has been fulfilled.
That’s not to say that the pagans of the ancient world were oblivious to the importance of morality, but morality was more of a social obligation than a religious obligation. In that sense the pagan approach was very similar to our modern approach and to the modern secular religion of liberalism.
That’s a less than ideal basis for morality. There’s a definite danger that moral behaviour will end up being whatever you manage to convince yourself it is or even worse, whatever you think you can get away with.
In pagan religions even the gods seem to approach the matter in this manner.
Paganism probably worked quite well for societies at a low level of civilisational advancement in which most people lived in small close-knit communities and social pressures were strong enough to maintain the social order. Once pagan societies started to reach a high civilisational level decadence seemed to set in disturbingly quickly and disturbingly completely. The Romans achieved levels of decadence that even we were unable to aspire to until the 20th century.
Which raises an interesting question. Is full-blown decadence something to which only pagan or completely secular societies are prone to? And it raises a related question – is decadence inevitable in a pagan or completely secular society?