Pagan vs Post-Christian

C.S. Lewis asks, “Are there any Pagans in England for me to write to? I know that people keep on telling us that this country is relapsing into Paganism. But they only mean that it is ceasing to be Christian. And is that at all the same thing?

He thinks not. They’re very different things.

To say that modern people who have drifted away from Christianity are Pagans is to suggest that a post-Christian man is the same as a pre-Christian man. And that is like thinking . . . a street where the houses have been knocked down is the same as a field where no house has yet been built. . . . Rubble, dust, broken bottles, old bedsteads and stray cats are very different from grass, thyme, clover, buttercups and a lark singing overhead.

Because it’s Lewis, you know there will be a pitch for Christianity. It’s what he’s known for. And here it is. Pagans and Christians have in common religiosity, a belief in objective right and wrong, and a sense that it impossible to be perfect.

Post-Christians have lost it all. If you start as post-Christian, you must go through paganism to Christianity. “All that Christianity adds to paganism is the cure.”

It is hard to have patience with those Jeremiahs, in Press or pulpit, who warn us that we are “lapsing into Paganism.” It might be rather fun if we were. It would be pleasant to see some future Prime Minister trying to kill a large and lively milk-white bull in Westminster Hall. But we shan’t. What lurks behind such idle prophecies, if they are anything but careless language, is the false idea that the historical process allows mere reversal; that Europe can come out of Christianity “by the same door as in she went” and find herself back where she was. It is not what happens. A post-Christian man is not a Pagan; you might as well think that a married woman recovers her virginity by divorce. The post-Christian is cut off from the Christian past and therefore doubly from the Pagan past.

It looks to me, neighbours, as though we shall have to set about becoming true Pagans if only as a preliminary to becoming Christians.

It’s always a pleasure to read C.S. Lewis. He organizes his thoughts so cogently that even if you don’t agree, he sets you to thinking.

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