There’s a reformation going on around everyone here. Can you see it? Sense it? Maybe you can, maybe you can’t. But it’s happening! Religion is changing again. The focus? Shifting. The emphasis? Different for the first time since the fall of the Roman gods. And amidst all these, we can have our cake and eat it too.
Faiths which make few if any scientific claims and revolve almost 100% around the individual’s spiritual journey will likely be the ones to stand the test of time the best in this brave new (old) world. Those that are non-violent by their nature, focused on an individual and local community level (and therefore non-expansionist; as a generalized example, only people who want to be Wiccan tend to be Wiccan), only having an expansionist effect via community service and similar concepts.
Faiths which condemn others, are violently expansionist, and have traditionally spread by conversion of others and natal indoctrination will fare the same as all empires do: they will each have their time, and then they will die. They also possess the added threat of scientific irrelevance; even though no claim is made in the Bible that the Earth is 6,000 years old, there are still pockets of Christianity that claim it is, and as evidence against such claims mount, such pockets in any faith will slowly dwindle and vanish, unable to change or adapt to an expanded view of reality.
“If science proves some aspect of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.”
~The 14th Dalai Lama
As for Hellenic/Roman/Norse/Kemetic faiths, these were each by and large completely phased out or destroyed over time (and significant efforts by enemies of those faiths). However, they are reemerging in newer, more modern forms via the neopagan movement, though these reconstructionist versions differ greatly from their original forms. The reasoning is two fold. One, not much of these older faiths remains practically– most systems we neopagans use derive from faiths that were violently cast down, or dwindled into their end by the slow effects of entropy. The second reason for these differences is that cultural values have changed siginificantly in the intervening years while these older faiths “slept”. It is not inconceivable that the same could happen for Christianity or Islam in the future. They may yet perish and rise again much the same way, with many of the same kinds of changes for the same reasons. Just because a religion is down does not mean it’s out forever… but it does mean it will never be the same again. But then again, change is the way of the world: the Christianity of today is markedly different from the Christianity of 1,900 years ago, to the point where a Christian from 100 AD would likely not recognize the myriad forms of Christianity that exist today, except only in the broadest and most general terms.
The general atmosphere for religion, at least in the western world, is one undergoing a reformation. Dogma and scripture have steadily been giving way over the last two centuries towards a more focused and individual spiritual perspective, as this is what we in the West have begun to desire from our faiths– it’s very different from how it has been traditionally.
Yet we now realize that we can have our cake and eat it too– the neopagan movement is just as fragmented (if not more so) than Christianity in terms of beliefs, yet it tends to be just as tightly knit, if not more so, as a community. This is what I believe is driving the reformation in the West– a realization that we can have spiritual fulfillment tailored to our every single heart, and lose none of the community (especially with the Internet serving as yet another “tie that binds”). The community aspect of Christianity has long been one of the great contributors to both its sheer numbers and staying power, but in cultures that once thrived on that sense of community, a new emphasis has emerged on personal fulfillment, and slowly, almost imperceptibly (from the inside at least), Christianity is starting to change along the lines of those shifting societal values. Islam too, at least among Western practicioners, who tend to convert for the fulfilment, rather than the communal aspect.
You’ll notice that I name-dropped the Internet as “a tie that binds”. If you know me at all, you know I’m going to explain that one. Well, you’re in luck.
The countries in which reformations tend not to occur (or fail when they do) are those countries in which dictators or oligarchies can dictate the free flow of information on the internet and control it. This isn’t a coincidence. When free discourse is allowed to flourish, change happens, and can happen quite rapidly.
That is why this reformation is centered on countries with relatively free internet– those are where freedom of information and discourse flourish, and these are predominantly western culture-based countries. The Lutheran reformation was similarly driven by technology that enabled mass communication and dissemination of ideas. That age’s world-altering technology was the printing press, and like the internet today, that technology enabled people to challenge the prevailing notions of their contemperary culture, which was integral to that reformation. Without the priniting press, there would likely have been no Lutheran Reformation, or it would have failed without ever really taking wing.
Society had become tolerant enough by the time of Gerald Gardner that Wicca likely would have survived, but without the internet, it would have remained a small cult, and not the powerhouse of spiritual reformation it became– when Wicca began to stick around, Asatru, Kemetism, Romano-Hellenism, Goddess Worship, and the other great driving forces of the neopagan movement began to rise as well. And it was through the internet that the movement has solidified itself.
Might Christianity rise again in this way? It may yet. Islam too. If they vanish and reemerge in this way, they are likely to be similarly changed, and given historical trends, it’s likely that their rebirth will be driven by a technological advance. Maybe a version of the Internet that can connect not just countries, but Earth with colonies on other planets?
Holy crap guys, my blog just went sci-fi.