Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Church and the Black Swan

This was a grim week here at Secret Sun Central- a friend of my sons died in an accident and we attended his wake Thursday and my sons attended his funeral yesterday. He was one of the first friends my younger son made in this neighborhood. 

His family are the salt in the salt of the earth, a large and close-knit unit that I've always greatly admired. The kids all went to college, all got good jobs, all were active in sports and the community. People living the American Dream.

The turnout for the wake was astonishing. The parking lot for a large local church was filled- we had to improvise a spot. The receiving line wrapped around the enormous sanctuary. 

True to form, the family were solid, in good spirits, strong, gracious, warm and personable in their time of tragedy. I wasn't so much myself. I felt ashamed because I had a very hard time concealing my grief when talking to the family. But again, there they were; understanding, smiling, accommodating, stolid.

The family are devout Catholics, active in their local church. It appeared that a lot of the turnout for the wake were parishoners, coming to support a woman whom they love and value as an important member of the community. I couldn't help but think of the Roman era and how we are reliving it now, and how the love and support in a time of grief was such a powerful tool of persuasion in the spread of Chrisitianity.

Christianity wasn't alone in building bonds of community, of course. There was Judaism, which was an influential and widespread religion in Roman times. And you had a number of other religions, most notably that of the Mother Goddess Isis, which the Roman Church of today so resembles. 

But it struck me that in Roman times you had a powerful and evangelizing faith which atomized, rather than gathered. And that was the religion of cosmopolitanism, an umbrella under which all of the systems of disbelief such as Epicureanism and Stoicism coalesced. And of course, like today you also have Nü Atheism.

Nü Atheism is an adolescent movement. The adults who follow it have adolescent (or pre-adolescent) temperaments and personalities (Maher, Dawkins, Gervais, Myers etc) and it's grown in popularity since you have a large generational cohort reaching young adulthood and seeking to set themselves apart from their parents. But it's reactionary and petulant. A pose, not a philosophy.

The Christian churches helped it along by cynically allying themselves with partisan political interests of post-Cold War conservatism, ignoring that the so-called Mainline churches thought they too were surfing the crest of a wave by allying themselves with 60s liberalism. Didn't work out that way.

There are many in the Church who see this as a time of exile, many who see the current mood as a millennial shift, that the Church faces the same abyss the state cults of Rome did when Constantine began the process that brought the Church to power. This is absurd. Christianity is rising like wildfire in Africa and China, is reviving in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe and remains powerful in Latin America. 

It's in the graying, dying, shrinking precincts of Western Europe and North America where religion is in decline. 

Gee, you think there's a connection?

Many very conservative Christians (conservative theologically, that is) see this as a time of discipline for the Church, that God is punishing the Church for submitting itself to partisan and economic powers and neglecting its calling to evangelize and to serve the poor.

I don't know, it's no longer my fight. I left the Church for very complex and powerful reasons. Part of this was my disgust with the politics, with the aggressive partisanship of the 90s Southern Baptist and nondenominational ascendancy. I disdain Nü Atheism and its tributaries for the same reason, though in this case the politics are a mirror image. Same aggressive polarity, different party.

But I'm not one of those who are writing the Church's obituary. I think when the Millennials hit middle age they'll remember how nice it felt to be part of a community and will want to return to some kind of church. And to see the power of an institution that can provide such solace and support during the worst time of your life; well, what do the atheists have to counter that

Inevitably, the priest scandals come up, curiously often by the same people who ally themselves politically with people trying to mainstream pedophilia such as the BBC, and The Guardian. The priest abuse scandals were a total disgrace, there are no two ways about it. But at the same time the lion's share of the cases were decades old. Not that the damage is, however. The damage is often forever.

Yet he same people calling for the abolition of the Catholic Church because of the scandals and the cover-ups go suddenly silent when you point out that the worst of the Church's scandals are nothing in comparison to the sexual abuse of students committed by public school teachers. 

We are hearing cases seeming to pop up on a weekly -sometimes daily- basis from the public schools, and yet we don't see any movement from the Atheist movement to abolish the public schools. Why? Why the double standard? 

Science and math teachers especially commit rape, statutory rape and other forms of sexual abuse at alarming rates and yet the media seem to look the other way. 


It's a funny thing for me- I could never join the Catholic Church for reasons both personal and historical. But I respect it in many ways, as much as I decry its abuse of power. I'm not a joiner, I value my position as an outsider. But I do wonder if we're working backwards in a way, reliving late Rome but in reverse.  

I've written about the New Age, and how its power and influence is often unnoticed because it presents such a nebulous target. But it continues to grow and influence the mainstream religions in ways people don't quite yet understand. There are yoga cults most people have never heard of that have tens of thousands of followers.

And I do believe that without the monopoly of the churches -especially the intimidation and repression we often saw from the Southern churches towards any competition- that we will see interesting new religious movements flower once this adolescent rebellion burns itself out. 

We can't really guess at what they are yet. These things tend to follow larger streams of environment and event, meaning they arise in reaction to what is happening in the world and respond to the needs that present themselves to be filled. Social media may well be the medium in which the contagion may take root.

Whether or not they take the symbols of religion literally, people find meaning in them and the will to overcome adversity. They find community, fellowship, and support in time of trial. As our overclass becomes more antihuman and more psychopathic, those are needs I can only see increasing. Who will fill the void?

As powerful as the Church is I just don't think its symbols still resonate with people today. In that way it is like paganism in the Fourth Century, finding its neolithic vocabulary no longer resonating with a modern audience. The Bible was written for a time when families were companies and most of the population were slaves. You had limited technology and most people worked in menial labor until dying sometime in their 30s or 40s. 

Maybe the Church can reinvent itself. Maybe Islam will take hold, fueled by a disgust and utter fatigue with modernity and cosmopolitanism. But it's just as likely a black swan may arise, something we can't even imagine yet. Something that will fly under the radar, fueled by the technology of today. 

Aggressive atheism pops up from time to time and breeds itself out of the gene pool (I keep meaning to create a graphic using an old man mourning at a grave and write "Atheist Family Reunion"). It may be how Gaia or the Overmind cleans out certain social maladaptations in the body politic, I don't know. But already many- if not most- of the articles we see from atheists in the mainstream media are protests about how the author isn't like those atheists, the jerks. 

Heaven forbid.

Religion predates America and will exist long after America has disintegrated into a Balkanized collection of corporate serfdoms (which is to say 'in 30 years or so'). It serves a basic human need and has done so for millennia.  I see nothing of any real value or permanence filling that need in its absence. The only question in my mind is whether the old religions will revive or that black swan will take flight.


  1. Your points sound much like those the Archdruid raises over at his blog The Archdruid's Report. Good stuff, many years now.
    Ol' Bab

    1. We do have some crossover on certain issues for sure. Thanks, Bab.

  2. Sorry for the loss, Chris; probably quite a life changer for your boys, so it's probably good that they saw you struggling with your emotions. Maybe that will help validate their own.

    As for Christianity and these times, that's the question. As someone who was an "unlucky" altar boy, a former cleric, and an activist on clergy abuse issues, I too have many questions, boy howdy. But I'm not here to be bitter or rant, just to share some observations.

    I've been obsessed by the Catholic Church all my life, but never became an atheist -- as it's obviously a religion in its own right, and no more an improvement on Christianity than satanism is, IMHO. One reason is that I've met a lot of good people who are believers, and anything that helps face one the void with hope is is a comfort not to be scorned.

    Another reason is that as I study the Bible in depth, I see more and more connections between it and my other great obsession, UFOs. Betty Andreason Lucas' has proven key in that regard. Both the Bible and abductees provide accounts of humans dealing with non-human, immensely powerful agencies with their own agendas. I'm getting the feeling more often that they are talking about the same thing.

    Sadly, most of those Christians dealing with UFOs think they're all demonic. I disagree. I finally saw one on New Years -- just a brief, but undeniable sighting. And for the next two months, more real, valuable insights popped into my head about God and Scripture than I ever had before. And usually at 3 AM.

    I think that was somehow a result of the sighting. That there's a mental dampening field of some kind that blocks our innate psychic ability, spiritual consciousness, and memories of other lives which somehow the mere presence of flying saucers reduces. Which is another reason that the steadily growing number of sightings around the world is highly significant.

    It's all coming together, and soon. I often joke that when Jesus steps off the flying saucer with Elvis, everybody, no matter what they believe, is going to be confused. Me too, I expect.

    Keep looking up, Chris. And keep writing. You're an honest thoughtful seeker in a world a braying asses, and we need more like you. Thanks!

    1. Well, I am familiar with the Andreason Lucas case. What is very interesting to me is the many avenues the Vatican has taken exploring the UFO issue. Of course, you're given to wonder what their motivation is but the Jesuits especially have done a lot of interesting work on the topic. And of course the current pope is a Jesuit...

    2. Jay...

      ...puts a whole new spin on the Return of the King!

  3. Excellent work here, other than your estimate of 30 years till the Balkanization of America; I give it 10 tops.
    Lets have as many black swans as can fit through the window, and let not any of them relate to any of the Abrahamic religions, all of which have discredited themselves over 3000 years, in my opinion. I hope there is no future for religions like the fundamentalist version of Christianity in America, which has attached itself to the Empire and absorbed everlasting warfare, limitless corporate greed, and an all-powerful police state as core beliefs, along with a contempt for life and nature to the point of death wish.

    1. Maybe I'm the eternal optimist but I think fundamentalism is played out and that even if we see Christian revival it will take a much, much different form than previous. I actually have a friend who's Charismatic and there are some STRANGE things going in that community, believe me!

    2. You can't leave us hanging like that. What kinds of things?

      (Btw I've been reading your site for a while now and finally worked up the nerve to post. It's one of my absolute favorites.)

    3. Strange things that I can't really describe. Weird beliefs and liturgies are taking hold in some of these churches. Do some searches, you may see what I mean.

  4. Wow, great post. Rome in reverse? That’s a disturbing concept. Back to the Black Iron Prison? It does feel like that doesn’t it – like a prison is being constructed around us, by people who insist that it’s “progress”.

    When our new atheist would-be masters spend so much time warning about the dangers of artificial intelligence, the impending replacement of most jobs by machines, transhumanism, etc., you have to wonder how long they will be influential. What hope do these folks offer to anyone? If the Star Trek future on the final frontier is a non-starter, are we supposed to follow them into the Matrix or Skynet? Their worldview seems totally uninspiring and bankrupt to me – and I speak as someone who once thought very much like them.

    In a lot of ways these new atheist lords are more annoying than the older aristocracy, because as you say they just seem like overgrown adolescents with better toys. Spirituality and religion get their strength from suffering and loss; what kind of spirituality are you going to get from these "bourgeois bohemians"?

    There’s a rather crazy occultist named David Myatt who nailed our overclass; he calls them “homo hubriati”: the elite who control the modern West through the management of grandiose abstractions like “law”, “democracy”, “the State”, “progress”, “the Singularity”, etc. and who are characterized by their sheer hubris. He calls this the “Magian” ethos:

    The Magian ethos expresses the fundamental materialistic belief, the idea, of the Hubriati that the individual self (and thus self identity) is the most important, the most fundamental, thing, and that the individual – either alone or collectively (and especially in the form of a nation/State) – can master and control everything (including themselves), if they have the right techniques, the right tools, the right method, the right ideas, the money, the power, the influence, the words. That human beings have nothing to fear, because they are or can be in control.

    Magians (as a breed) are a specific type of human being – they are the natural exploiters of others, possessed of an instinctive type of human cunning and an avaricious personal nature. Over the past millennia they have developed a talent for manipulating other human beings, especially Western mundanes, by means of abstractions – such as usury and "freedom" and marxian/capitalist "social engineering/planning" – and by hoaxes/illusions, such as that of "democracy". The easily manipulated nature of Western mundanes, and the Magian talent for such things as usury and litigation/spiel, their ability to cunningly manipulate, and their underlying charlatanesque (and almost always cowardly nature), have given them wealth, power and influence.

    Myatt’s organization, Order of the Nine Angles, is working to overthrow the Magians’ “New World Order” by bringing about a “Sinister Aeon” – an age when the enervating Magian abstractions of state, law, religion, democracy, etc. will lose their hold upon human minds, and an ethos of kindred honor, direct experience and warrior virtues will once again prevail. “Niners” are pursuing a long-term campaign of attacks upon the Magians symbols and magic, disseminating their memes widely, creating tribal “Nexions”, invoking dark gods and opening portals via ritual through which sinister, acausal energies may enter our reality.

    Anyway, as crazy as that may sound, this is one brand of spirituality that could spread virally, being a true counterculture to the “bourgeois bohemian”, techno-progressive atheist prison planet that is being constructed all around us.

    1. I love the term "homo hubriati".

      But I think the game Nine Angles is playing is a dangerous one, summoning devils to fight devils.

      More on ONA:

    2. I don't know if there's much hope in an approach like that myself but give the guy credit for refusing to lay down and be bulldozed by Skynet. I think we've lived under the assumptions of Globalism for so long we don't realize it was just a construction, one that seems to be coming apart as major powers no longer want to play. Things were great as long as China agreed to be a labor farm but now China wants to make their own stuff and now there are going to be problems. Your friend may find he won't need to summon any spirits to bring down the current system- Russia and China and India are going to do it for him. I wonder what happens to all the clever plans once the Internet is being knocked out for 36 hours at a time by Russian hackers.

    3. They call that atheist prison built around us the MORG: Magian Occupied Regime & Government.

    4. @Sean the Mystic: All good points, but I have to wonder if the people living in older times (Rome or contemporary China or Persia) felt their overlords behaved like intemperate adolescents with weapons as well. No one who knew anything would have said Nero or Maximian were wise and statesmanlike.

      I never thought there was anything remotely admirable about Rome. It was a vicious society based on slave labor and constant war. Christianity just was a kind of Herbert West formula that made it live, Zombie Jesus fashion, forever. A virus with a long incubation...

  5. Mammon is our current god. Conspicuous consumption is the reason for living in the First World, with economies fueled by consumption. Bankrupt economies like Greece are a perfect example. We're all headed that way.
    "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Matthew 6:24

    1. Chrit this is the third time I am putting this in. I never forget to keep you and your family in my heart. My internet connection croaked and I am 4g and that stinks. Beams of true friendship and a deeper connection than is even allowed on planet buy and sell will be both protected and revealed in the long run and big picture. You are more than can be understood momentarily. I have had some cider tonight and am freer in my expressivness than usual but I mean what I say. Also I have a church coffee circle that is an Important friendship nexus . Love is where you find it. My point-
      You are loved and valued.
      Don't give up.
      Many love your family too.
      You are a nexus.
      You are my friend and I am glad to say so.
      Be brave cause this place is hard.
      Have fun cause it is amazing here too with surprises around corners you don't even see coming.
      Love Delorus

    2. Delorus, it's so wonderful to hear from you. I tried to contact you via FB but I guess you (wisely) got off there. You speak words of wisdom, simple, hard-earned wisdom that I think we all should listen to well.
      Sometimes it's easy to miss these kinds of truths while chasing after capital T Truths. But they're all part of the web that gives life meaning.

  6. Here in Brasilia there is a very curious phenomenon afoot that's possibly a proto black swan, if you will. There had been multiple efforts to study parapsychology and related things at the public university, but they all went nowhere. My astrology professor tried to open a course for the scientific study of astrology 15 years ago, but it was shut down by our friends at the Physics department (the Physics students at the university are generally, in my experience, creepy as balls).

    Anyway, over the past decade things have changed drastically, in large part due to easier access to the university for those from the lower strata of society. Now many kids are going to college with the son of their housekeeper. These poorer students inherited their parents' distrust of the upper classes and the ideas related to them - such as atheism - but at the same time they're getting too smart to be seduced by the siren's song of the Evangelical churches. So many college-aged people are now at a total spiritual loss: the Catholic church is seen as retrograde; the Spiritists are sometimes too dogmatic (although many people are open to their concepts); there is too much distance for any familiarity with the African religions (though these are rising nonetheless). So they are wanderers, understanding spirituality but at the same time lacking a uniting movement. They cling onto many yogis and channelers, but that never lasts long.

    So last year, a group of students founded the Study Group on Alternative Therapies and Parapsychology, and it was probably allowed because it was seen as harmless. However, presentations that would have struggled to fill a classroom a few years ago are now packing auditoriums. I myself gave a talk there about astrology, and was interviewed by the university's TV channel. Back in my college days, I couldn't imagine ever even being allowed to talk about that at a public university, and yet here we are.

    Anyway, the point is, there are many faithful without a parish. A growing economy was keeping the tide at bay, since it was super easy to get a comfy government job, but now that everything's going to shit the disillusionment with the system has never been higher - especially due to social media. Fortunately this disillusionment seems to have gobbled up atheism as well, for the most part. It's only a matter of time until things are bad enough that people need something other than empty ideology to keep them together. Now it's up to us to find a way to fill the void.

    - Bruno

    1. Do you know of anybody who has a very large electronic dataset of horoscopes with reasonably complete annotations? If so, do you know anybody who is subjecting it to statistical analysis? If not, this would be an interesting project (and one that I could help with, if I did it in a clandestine manner).

    2. This is an amazing report, Bruno. I'll tell you one thing- Our Gods Wear Spandex keeps selling in Brazil. I get nice royalty checks, mostly from sales there. I think Brazil is going to be the focus point of a new kind of consciousness, the changeover that people once thought would emerge here in America. America has been too Europeanized at the elite level and that has stifled any kind of higher consciousness. There is a struggle to reboot the psychedelic movement but it faces the kind of empty contempt that anything that isn't based in mindless consumerism does by the elites here (and the not-so-elites, the mediocritons who think watching Jon Stewart makes them intellectuals). America has never been more stifling and inert- I'm holding out hope for countries like Brazil.

    3. Andreas - this is exactly what I'm doing now. The professor I mentioned was able to open the course at a private university after the dean had a consultation with him, and now we're using that space to conduct research. I mostly use the database at the website, though we've also collected a bunch of charts manually. At the moment he's focusing on finishing up a specialized software, and soon we'll be able to process data much more efficiently. Naturally, I'll share any results we come across (:

      Chris - I once heard a story that the spiritual center of the Earth, which had for millennia been in Southeast Asia, near Tibet, is now in the process of "migrating" to South America. Maybe not literally, but at least metaphorically it seems to be. I myself thought very hard about moving to North America a few years ago, but I've come to realize that I would just be boarding a sinking ship. It's all still mostly formless, but there is hope

      - Bruno

    4. Btw, have you seen this, Chris?

    5. Bruno, thanks. Very interesting... How sophisticated is your project in terms of data mining techniques? What is your sample size? (I didn't know had a data set, I imagine you have to be a paying member to access it?)

  7. Great post, and comments, as usual.

    Is it really true that STEM teachers are more likely to sexually assault? Do you have a credible statistic for that? I ask because it is consistent with a hypothesis I have (developed from years of operating in a STEM field).

    1. I don't know about STEM so much, but you definitely see science and math come up a lot in the news reports. Try doing searches and see what kinds of results you get. I'd be interested in seeing what you find.

  8. Chris, I am sorry for this loss to you and your loved ones.

    I left my faith almost 3 years ago. I now consider myself atheist, in that I do not believe in any gods, but I am *not* "Atheist" Nu- or otherwise, and the behavior of the "movement" is a cult of personality, and it seems we are supposed to be worshipful towards some of the most awful people I have ever seen, mainly arrogant White cis-males that seem to think they are the font of all wisdom. Nu-Atheism and Freethinking (ha!) are at this moment dissolving in internecine warfare, and I don't see any of it lasting much longer in the scheme of things. I sent an eMail the other day, to the self-proclaimed "Thought Leaders" of Secularism (ha!) informing them that I do not consider them to be anything but my enemies.
    I also wonder if we might not be seeing the final death-knell of Fundamentalists with these stupid religious freedom laws being passed just now?

    Finding myself hungering for community and belonging in a world that hates those that are different, while calling that hate love, I'm finding my answers in building a new family.

    1. Well, seeing as how these people would be attacking innocent people if they weren't attacking each other I can't exactly worry myself over their civil wars. But I can say that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

    2. Oh totally agreed. It's just that - they *are* attacking people that I say are innocent: many LGBTQA+ folks find ourselves thrown away by family and friends, and many of us fall in with the "Skeptical/Atheist/Freethought" because they *say* we are welcome.
      Then we find out that they are just nasty, cruel, fundamentalists of their own warped beliefs. Sexual cruelty and rape, abusive attitudes, disdain for those that don't get with the program...they are no different from the religion I walked away from.

      I do think a new religion that offered - and actually gave - acceptance and community could really catch on.

  9. Christianity is catching like wildfire in Asia and Africa because those populations see it as an entre to the West. The Western and Europeans churches sponsor thousands of immigrants. The Church continues to destroy and defile western civilization and white people.


    1. I don't think this is true. The African Churches look down on the Western Churches as being decadent and corrupt. The Chinese churches are a whole different phenomenon altogether. China is going its own way regardless of what we do.

  10. Excellent column

  11. I think we are all on a spiritual journey, with or without the aid of an established religion. I like to look at what religions have in common and the internet is great for that. I still don't get the costumes that orthodox types wear they creep me out. I'm sorry you've been having a tough time of it, it's hard to find any sense with that kind of lose.

  12. It certainly makes you wonder- they harken back to ancient, ancient times. Things are seldom what they appear...

  13. Chris...

    Thought provoking post and comments! Although there is a lot of deadwood surrounding organized religions... Especially the desert religions... there is still life at the heart. Strip away the rot, politics and dogma... and at the core, there remains a living root of love. For in the words of the great Punk adept (& tekgnostic saint), Frater Nick Lowe... "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?"

  14. Ditto Sensei, What good is in us will always find a way to shine forth. Not sure religion is a conduit to peace, love or understanding. Too many veils to sort out. Shine forth brave souls. Dennis

  15. I wonder if we are seeing the first, crude elements of the Black Swan in social media. I can envision, not without concern, a technology-driven social connectivity somewhere between Facebook and The Borg that enables a kind of constant, or at least on-demand, communion with the greater user base that, coupled with the proper positive reinforcement, would at least simulate of not create a feeling in the user base of belonging and illumination that so many derive from structured religion. Symbols and stories might be a user option derived from varied sources or made up by the user or group, as long as they fit with the generally positive, do-unto-others vibe.

    No more need for little phones and tablets to stare in, we would doubtless have to endure some kind of implant. You wouldn't even need to have negative Nothing between you and the Body, to borrow a phrase. Add to this some kind of emotional reinforcement, a feeling of bliss for participating. reinforcement, the lack of good vibes would be enough to send those suddenly in withdrawal running back to the welcome arms of the community.

    Would it allow us to know God, or merely create a reasonable simulation of the divine experience? Would the general populace care? The boost might be so overwhelming as to override critical thinking - just like some "real" religious experiences. So, the difference might be irrelevant.

    Shades of several New Twilight Zone or Star Trek episodes, all of which cautioned us against such networking, but there you go.

  16. In agreement with everything you said about the New Atheists. Over in the UK, I find it's mostly them who are the real problem (Christian fundamentalism isn't really *that* much of an issue in Britain.) It's Dawkins and his fan club who are throwing their weight about and advocating for the persecution of anyone who's different to them. There are a few in my life at present, and it's not possible for me to cut myself loose from them at the moment, and the absolute hatred and nastiness they spout makes me really miserable.

    Anna Elizabeth: I'm sorry to hear about your negative experiences with these people, though I can't say I'm surprised. Although you may no longer believe in any gods, I get the impression that you're open to a general spirituality? All I can say is, if you ever wanted to hunt around New Age or occult or pagan circles, I'm sure you'd be most welcome. :)