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Despair, Detachment, and the West

Can anything be done to stop Europe and the United States from becoming Third World countries?  Is the West doomed?  Considering that it doesn’t look as if things are going to get better any time soon, it is tempting for conservatives to write finis on Christendom and view the fall from a place of cynical detachment, while obituaries for the West flow from pens and laptops.

This is, at its core, a neopagan temptation, whose lineage can be traced back to the age of Augustine and whose ethos the bishop of Hippo opposed when he wrote his famous work On the City of God.  (The full title included the prepositional phrase contra paganos.)  Then as now, the pagan critic sees the fall of the great city (Rome, Constantinople, New York) and fingers Christian “universalism” as the agitating force that cracked the city walls.  Intellectual neopagan social and cultural criticisms—precisely because they are perceptive—tap into Christians’ deepest fears and hatreds.  Blistering denunciations of Western decadence then sow the seeds of cynical detachment that will reach full flower as a form of idolatry.

For example, the tendency to connect certain symptoms of Western decadence—individual isolation, rootlessness—to the presence of Jews or Jewish ideas seems always to lurk beneath the surface of the right.  Today’s neopagan intellectuals simply give a philosophical...

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