Mandeville, LA – [Editor’s note: Historian Hilaire Belloc penned this essay at the dawn of the civil-religion heresy we call Americanism that has now completely enveloped the United States and whose errors have spread to the remainder of the Western World, this revelation was written in 1931. – Ed. – MC] 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 deserters. 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. I mean by “larger areas” both larger moral and larger physical areas, but especially larger moral areas. 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, not 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 will probably be, for we are going to come under the influence of those effects 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.
There are two ways in which this is happening; according to whether the New Paganism is at work in a Catholic or a non-Catholic country. It is happening in Catholic countries by the separation of a Pagan set from the rest of the citizens. In those countries the full body of Christian doctrine, that is, Catholicism, puts up a permanent and successful resistance. Its consequences in morals are accepted by masses of people who do not practice the Catholic religion or who are indifferent to its doctrines, and this resistance shows no sign of weakening; not everywhere are the governments of Catholic countries in sympathy with Catholic tradition, however vague, but in these countries the laws defending morals and the general habits of people outside the Pagan set may properly be called anti-Pagan.
But though the way in which the New Paganism is establishing itself differs according to whether the society in which it takes root was originally Catholic or Protestant, it is everywhere of much the same tone, and its effects are very similar, whether you find them in Italy or in Berlin, in an English novel or a French one; and the marks peculiar to Paganism are very clearly apparent in all.
Of these marks the two most prominent are, first, the postulate that man is sufficient to himself—–that is, the omission of the idea of Grace; the second [a consequence of this], despair. [emphasis added] Taken from ESSAYS OF A CATHOLIC, TAN Books, originally published in 1931.