A great sage of our time, Hilaire Belloc, foresaw what was coming upon our civilization. He saw its approach half a century ago more clearly than most people today see it now that it is here. The intellectual giant called it “paganism” and he prophesied that it would degenerate into Satanism. We doubt that even Belloc could have anticipated the proportions it has reached since his death in 1953. But he did name the cause, calling it the “dethronement of the Faith.” And he would have laughed to scorn any remedy that fell short of the complete restoration of the dethroned Faith.
Says Hilaire Belloc in Essays of a Catholic (Macmillan Co., New York, 1931): “We call Paganism and absence of the Christian revelation. That is why we distinguish between Paganism and the different heresies; that is why we give the name of Christian to imperfect and distorted Christians, who only possess a part of Catholic truth. . . . Moreover, the word ‘Christian,’ though so vague as to be dangerous, has this much reality about it, that there is something different between the general atmosphere or savour of any society or person or literature which can be called Christian at all and those which are wholly lacking in any part of Christian doctrine. For a Christian man or society is one that has some part of Catholicism left in him. . . .
“Now, it must be evident to everybody by this time that, with the attack on Faith and the Church at the Reformation, the successful rebellion of so many and their secession from United Christendom, there began a process which could only end in the complete loss of all Catholic doctrine and morals by the deserts. That consummation we are today reaching. It took a long time to come about, but come about it has. We have but to look around us to see that there are, spreading over what used to be the Christian world, larger and larger areas over which the Christian spirit has wholly failed; is absent. . . . There are now whole groups of books, whole bodies of men, which are definitely Pagan, and these are beginning to join up into larger groups. It is like the freezing over of a pond, which begins in patches of ice; the patches unite to form wide sheets, till at last the whole is one solid surface. There are considerable masses of literature in the modern world, of philosophy and history (and especially of fiction), which are Pagan and they are coalescing-to form a corpus of anti-Christian influence. It is not so much that they deny the Incarnation and the Resurrection, nor even that they ignore doctrine. It is rather that they contradict and oppose the old inherited Christian system of morals to which people used to adhere long after they had given up definite doctrine.
“This New Paganism is already a world of its own. It bulks large, and it is certainly going to spread and occupy more and more of modern life. It is exceedingly important that we should judge rightly and in good time of what its effects are to some extent, and our children will come very strongly under their influence. Those effects are already impressing themselves profoundly upon the Press, conversation, laws, building, and intimate habits of our time. . . .
“New Paganism, should it ever become universal, or cover whatever districts or societies it may become general, will never be what the Old Paganism was. It will be other, because it will be a corruption. . . .
“The Old Paganism worshipped human things, but the noblest human things, particularly reason and the sense of beauty. In these it rose to heights greater than have since been reached, perhaps, and certainly to heights as great as were ever reached by mere reason or in the mere production of beauty during the Christian centuries.
“But the New Paganism despises reason, and boasts that it is attacking beauty. It presents with pride music that is discordant, building that is repellent, pictures that are a mere chaos, and it ridicules the logical process. . . .
“The Old Paganism was of a sort that would be open, when due time came, to the authority of the Catholic Church. It had ears that at least would hear. . . .
“The Old Paganism had a strong sense of the supernatural. This was often turned to the wrong objects and always to sufficient objects, but it was keen and unfailing; all the poetry of the Old Paganism, even where it despairs, has this sense. . . .The New Paganism delights in superficiality, and conceives that it is rid of the evil as well as the good in what it believes to have been superstitions and illusions.
“There it is quite wrong. . . . Men do not live long without gods; but when the gods of the New Paganism come they will not be merely insufficient, as were the gods of Greece, nor merely false; they will be evil. One might put it in a sentence and say that the New Paganism, foolishly expecting satisfaction, will fall, before it knows where it is, into Satanism.”