I have just finished reading a fascinating essay about Post-Atheist Spirituality which Phil Johnson flicked my way. There is something for everyone here:
- Eastern Orthodoxy - How apophatic theology primes atheism
- Atheism - Its unconscious religious impulses
- Neo-Paganism - Why the author thinks its a dead end
- Angelism - As the religiosity of post-modernity
So, have we stirred enough pots yet?
No? Ok, here are some excepts to kick start the conversation.
The interest in angels is symptomatic of the contemporary state of culture, simultaneously wanting and not wanting to be religious. The anatomy of the angelesque is at the same time an anatomy of Postmodern spirituality, which has escaped monotheistic religiosity but does not dare return to polytheism. The tortuous temptations of atheism and the tired insipidness of agnosticism having been overcome, Postmodern religiosity has left behind both the belief in the Almighty and the dis-belief in Him. What remains is communion with angels as pure spirits, representing a plurality of supersensible reasons and wills. Angelism is a sort of heavenly pluralism. It is the religion of Postmodernity, which affirms the multiplicity of equally valid and self-valuable spiritual pathways in place of a single truth and a single ruling canon. If the traditional religious outlook subordinated the diversity of the earthly world to the single will of its Creator, and if agnosticism celebrated the diversity of the earthly world as opposed to the presumably unitary and authoritarian Will beyond, the contemporary post-agnostic era has rediscovered the transcendental as the realm of pure difference.
Angelism is a new transcendental adventure of the Western spirit, seeking pluralism not only as an empirical phenomenon of cultural and political life, but as the ultimate revelation of the diversity of spiritual worlds. One could ask: if the idea of pluralism is so crucial to the contemporary West, why does it not return to polytheism, which worships nature's elements in their diversity? The answer is because neopaganism, which is presently making tentative inroads into religious practices, knows the locus and origins of the gods, whereas angelism is profoundly and principally ignorant about them. The difference between gods and angels, despite the grammatical plural which they share, is that angels are transparent and lonely, while gods rule the earth with glee and fury. Paganism sacralizes the originary forces of nature and can act in concert with ecological and neo-fascist movements. But it scarcely touches the nerve of the new religiosity, born of the death of God and not of His transformation into Pan or a Naiad. Polytheism cannot bring true satisfaction to the contemporary mind that quests for a trace of the Divine rather than its fleshy presence. The sumptuously carnal gods of paganism can satisfy only desparate fringe-groups and those who have fallen outside their own times, living in dreams about an 'archaic revolution' that is, of a revolutionary return to the "Great Tradition." To adulate the gods of fire or earth is a bookish project. The direction of neopaganism is thus backwards, into the world of children's book illustrations and the primal polytheism that has long since been thought through and discarded. Paganism does not look ahead, beyond monotheism and atheism.
Angelism, by contrast, is a post-atheistic and post-agnostic phase of religiosity. Angels are not gods, they are merely emissaries, who have forgotten who sent them, or who conceal that knowledge. This mission without a cause endows angels with a certain absent-mindedness and an alienated look. The contemporary individual recognizes himself in angels because he, too, has severed his connection with the ground of tradition and is flying in who-knows-what direction. Having left all points of orientation behind him, seeing the exhausted earth disappearing in industrial fumes, he has no sign-posts to direct forward, toward the fading outline of the One Creator.
You can find Mikhail Epstein’s essay at: