Our Pagan Revolution and What to Do About It

By August Meyrat, originally published May 11, 2024, The Catholic Thing

It’s no secret that Christianity is on the wane across America. Even before the COVID-19 lockdowns, church attendance was steadily decreasing and the religiously unaffiliated ‘Nones’ were becoming the largest “denomination” in America. After COVID, this decline has been even more precipitous.

Many believe that this is simply a consequence of social progress. As society dispenses with religious traditions and superstitions about the afterlife, it will become more rational, practical, and tolerant. Even if sentimentalists like Richard Dawkins lament the loss of Christmas carols and pretty churches, it will allow more cultural inclusivity, material abundance, and scientific development.

John Daniel Davidson, an editor for The Federalist and a devout Catholic, debunks this myth in Pagan America: The Decline of Christianity and the Dark Age to Come. Far from ushering in a futuristic DEI utopia, a post-Christian America will come to resemble pre-Christian dystopias – that is: backward, brutal, and barbaric.

As Davidson reminds us, nature abhors a vacuum, and this applies to religion most of all. Not only does all of history show this time and time again, but current trends also confirm the resurgence of paganism in modern America. Left unaddressed, Christian culture and Christians themselves will face persecution and erasure, which will end modern liberal democracy and its many blessings.

Davidson begins by describing a few of the pagan civilizations preceding the arrival of the Christian gospel, specifically the Vikings, Aztecs, tribes in Western Africa, and the Romans. Without exception, human sacrifice, torture, sexual exploitation, and slavery were widespread. Because of its insistence that all men are created in the image of God, Christianity largely purged these communities of these evils.

In this way, Christian doctrine laid the foundation for the rise of democracies in the modern era. Davidson explains how America was indeed founded on Christian principles, not just Enlightenment ideals: “Reason alone, in the Founders’ view, would not be sufficient for the great mass of citizens to choose virtue over vice, or to maintain public morality. . . .A pagan or atheist neighbor, or too many of them, might endanger the liberties of a nation.”

America’s gradual separation from Christian morality in the twentieth century has resulted in an equally gradual encroachment of pagan morality. This happened through a series of pivotal court cases, which effectively removed Christianity from the public square on the misguided notion of separating church and state. Over the years, neopagan leftists unleashed a host of deeply immoral policies poisoning American culture: abortion, euthanasia, transgenderism, and pedophilia.

As paganism grows, Americans are increasingly experiencing loss of community, friendship, and fulfillment. The things that inspired virtue and action from Americans no longer exist because they are treated as limits on personal freedom. Davidson concludes, “Americans are increasingly living alone and dying alone, and their civilization could very easily die with them.”

Politically speaking, the decline of Christianity spells disaster for American democracy. As Davidson shows, the freedom and security that most Americans once enjoyed were the direct fruits of Christian morality: “respect for individual and religious liberty, freedom of speech, constraints on government power, were all part of America’s Christian inheritance, and would lose legitimacy – as they are losing it now – in the eyes of a people without Christian faith.”

In practice, this leads to persecution of minorities, unchecked propaganda and censorship, elimination of vulnerable populations, and the establishment of a totalitarian state. As Davidson ominously puts it, “if you want a picture of the future, to paraphrase George Orwell, imagine a boot stamping on [Christian cake-maker] Jack Phillips’s face – forever.”

The substance of neo-pagan religion is less clear. Davidson surveys what non-Christians believe these days, ranging from Satanism to occultism to scientism. All these new religions foster subjectivism, relativism, and narcissism, and promise absolute ruin for anyone who adopts such creeds: “it eventually leads ‘into the void,’ where there is no objective truth apart from the self, whose emotions and brute desires rule the mind of man and all sense of transcendent reality (to say nothing of beauty or goodness) is destroyed.”

Davidson offers a way out at this dire situation: the Boniface Option. In contrast to Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option, which calls for Christians to make tactical retreats from the world and establish Christian communities, in the style of St. Benedict, Davidson’s Boniface Option emphasizes the responsibility of Christians to “defend the faith” and to fight back against today’s pagan forces, in the style of St. Boniface.

Most of this would happen at the local level, which is under attack from neo-pagans embedded in bureaucracies across the country and working to undermine Christian values. It’s completely unrealistic and unhelpful simply to tell those under threat to retreat ever further into the American hinterland. Rather, they need to take a stand, protest, and elect people who will faithfully represent their interests.

Davidson knows that this is easier said than done and expects a rough road ahead. In his final pages, he cites Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (a different Benedict) who once predicted a global contraction of the Catholic Church. In the short run, Christian culture will continue its decline, and life will be hard for the shrinking number of faithful Christians.

Overall, the book is a fine articulation of the spiritual crisis afflicting the developed world. Where it falls short is in not sufficiently taking into account progressive non-Christians who are so insulated from the issues brought up in the book that they will likely dismiss Davidson’s heavily documented argument as mere “Christian nationalist” claptrap.

Except it’s not claptrap. Davidson speaks the truth and does so forcefully and directly. He’s not simply preaching to the choir, but to everyone – whether they want to hear it or not. Christians wanting to join the struggle to recapture the culture and save souls would do well to read Pagan America. Everyone else, should read the book – and reconsider which side will allow them to flourish, and which one will, ultimately, destroy them.

Auguste Meyrat is an English teacher in the Dallas area with an MA in Humanities and an MEd in Educational Leadership. He is the senior editor of The Everyman.