Since for Catholics like me, the Christmas liturgical season is just getting started, I have no need to modify my Christmas wishes to all of you by adding "belated." I can simply wish you a "Merry Christmas" like normal, since there are almost two weeks of Christmas left to go.
This may seem like a strange time to bring up paganism, but I can't think of a more appropriate circumstance given the state of the world today.
Christmas itself has been warped into a retail holiday, something even irreligious people observe by taking time away from work, gathering with friends and family, and of course exchanging gifts.
There was a time within my memory that people who were not Christian (or were part of one of the more obscure heretical sects) pointedly did not celebrate Christmas, and that was why "Christmas Concerts" became "Winter Concerts" or "Holiday Concerts." But I digress.
Driving home from the early Mass yesterday, a new thought occurred to me. For many years I believed that pagans were just superstitious and that when they offered sacrifices, cut upon animals to gaze upon the entrails and approached oracles, it was one giant con by the elites against the rubes. Thanks to The Lord of Spirits Podcast, I now understand that those 'gods' were real insofar as they could influence events and offer advice.
This is why ancient Israel was constantly tempted to break their covenant with God and participate in pagan rituals - they actually worked!
Of course another reason was that the pagan code of ethics was generally more permissive of sin - in fact it regarded some sins as virtues. Some of the pagan philosophers advocated humility, but in practice the bigger the ego, the bigger your following. Yes, they saw a relationship between hubris and nemesis, but so long as you kept sacrificing to the gods, nemesis could be kept at bay.
At least that was the thinking.
In any event, my revelation was this: growing up, I wondered why people would truly become Wiccan in light of the fact that it was mostly made-up and the practitioners I knew didn't seen happy or well off - the two traditional signs of divine favor across almost all cultures.
And then it hit me: their prayers were in fact being answered, and in exactly the way they wanted.
The Wiccans I knew seemed to want three things from their faith. First, they wanted to get back at their traditional (often Dutch Reformed) parents. Wicca was about as bad as they could be.
Second, they wanted absolute sexual license, and this they got. The Goddess (or whoever) absolutely blessed them with frequent and (in theory) very intense erotic encounters.
Finally, they wanted a moral framework that absolved them of guilt while placing their will and desires at the center of what is great and good. This may seem like a repetition of the second point, but every Wiccan I've known (even the "incel losers" for you modern cool kids) was into the 'pansexual' component of their faith.
What these people did not get were stable, wholesome relationships, or inner peace, or a sense of true salvation or prosperity, or any of the markers that I would seek. They got drama, and lots of it and they seemed to feed off of it. I'm not sure how they turned out, though I know a few who 'grew out of it' and returned to Christ.
My point is that while they didn't explicitly articulate those goals, those were their goals and their prayers for those goals were in fact answered. Whether you choose to believe it was through behavioral choices or the offices of a Fallen Angel masquerading as "The Goddess" (or a combination of both, which is my belief), that's fine, but the outcome is unmistakable.
This was yesterday morning. Yesterday evening I got word that one of my relatives had renounced Christianity and become pagan. Right over the holidays! How splendid.
The reason was she placed a premium on approving sexual license. The homosexual and transsexual agendas are very important to her (she is neither, btw), and she felt that Christianity was wrong to condemn these behaviors. Instead, she came up with a theory of reincarnation where people are reborn into the wrong bodies and struggle to reconcile the difference.
I give her points for not doing the Anglican thing and just ignoring the Biblical texts that contradict her views. She's at least being honest in that respect.
But I think one can see what else is going on - that when faced with a conflict between current societal views (which are less than 25 years old) and ancient laws of faith, she throws the faith away.
This is how the Israelites consistently strayed - they wanted to fit in. There was no logic to their actions, just as there is no logic in play here. It's a religion made up on the fly and molded to justify whatever social pressures arise.
This malleability of faith features prominently in the writings of G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh and (in a more veiled form) those of J.R.R. Tolkien. (It's interesting that the great villains of Middle Earth are Fallen Angels - Sauron, Saruman, and the Balrogs.)
Needless to say, we will pray for her and hope to bring her back to Christ. I think many people have to stray and take a hard look at the alternatives to the Church before they appreciate what she has to offer. Certainly I did.