This is a guest post by Eric Steinhart, Professor of Philosophy at William Paterson University.
I’m planning a pretty long series of posts here. Mainly, I’m going to be arguing for several theses. I won’t do posts that present them one by one; each post will typically deal with many theses. Here they are:
The first thesis is that as Christianity declines in America, two communities will be growing: an atheistic community and a neo-pagan community.
The second thesis: Since Wicca is the largest and most coherent neo-pagan community, the neo-paganism will mainly be Wiccan.
The third thesis: As the atheistic community grows larger, social and practical pressures will compel it to begin to develop rituals and ceremonies.
The fourth thesis: The rituals and ceremonies collectively practiced by atheists will become socially recognized as an atheistic religion.
The fifth thesis: As the Wiccan community grows larger, cognitive pressures will compel it to get rid of the woo and to seek greater scientific legitimacy.
The sixth thesis: Underneath all the woo, which is indeed offensive to reason, there are core structures in Wicca which are highly rational.
The seventh thesis: Wicca is neither Christian nor Abrahamic. Wicca is immune to the strategies atheists have developed for attacking Abrahamic religions.
The eighth thesis: As the result of all the pressures, the two main post-Christian communities, that is, the atheists and the Wiccans, are going to be increasingly blended together. This blending will be messy.
The ninth thesis: The common meeting ground of these two communities will be a kind of religious naturalism.
Many of these theses are sociological. And since I’m a philosopher, I’m going to focus on the sixth thesis (I’ll also deal lots with the seventh and ninth theses). My focus on the sixth thesis has two parts: Part one involves stripping away the irrationality of Wicca; part two involves revealing the rational structures underneath.
You might object: but doesn’t this amount to endorsement of Wicca? On the contrary, I reply that it amounts to nothing more than the endorsement of reason. As a philosopher, I am committed to rationality. If something is irrational, I will attack it as such; if something is rational, I will support that rationality. I try my hardest to avoid partisan loyalties: if I find irrationality in atheism, I will condemn that unreason; if I find rationality in Wicca, I will support that rationality. My only loyalty is to the sovereignty of reason.
You might wonder: why should atheists care about this? I reply that atheists should care about the forces operating to shape the future religious landscape of America. Failure to think about those forces entails the risk of being overcome by them.
Other posts in this series: