Rethinking Traditional Religion in the Postmodern Condition: There is any Axiological Validity of New Religiosity in the 21st Century?
Transformation is one of the current social realities. Climates and conditions change, as well as the symbolic structures that accompany them. Religion, as a segment of society and contributing significantly to its configuration, is no exception to the dynamics of change, of transformation, of progress. Indeed, the new religious expressions, embedded in the new religious phenomenon that includes the New Religious Movements and New-Paganism, appear constantly and some of them claim to be the new religion, adequate to the 21st century. Ideologically, the new religiosity aims to revisit everything that has been previously thought about man. We are interested in ascertaining whether these new forms of religiosity are able to provide any meaning to man in his religious dimension, and identifying the socio-psychological implications in the social and ethical field.
Keywords: PostmodernismatheismNew Religious Movementsnew-paganismspiritualityanthropology
Contemporary society is marked not only by the de-Christianization manifest through militant anti-
Christian concepts, but especially by the misappropriation of the Christian understanding of the world,
expressed in the ecclesial experience. Contemporary atheism is not aggressive, but insensitive to the
idea of problem-solving and to the postulate of the existence of God, which becomes an absence, an
ignored reality, without any existential implications. In this regard, Adrian Lemeni stated that
“contemporary de-Christianization does not give birth to blatant rebels against God, but to docile and
indifferent people in what the religious phenomenon is concerned” (Lemeni, 2005, pp. 135-136).
Through secularization, the human condition is reduced to the existence in this world, there is nothing
before or after the man who is expected to revel irrationally and passionately in everything that the
consumer society offers, and consume without even being aware of that. We are proposed only a
secular human condition,
any life of the soul after death, without the resurrection brought about by the One who is Himself the
Resurrection and the Life – Jesus Christ, the God-man. Secularization is, in fact, a phenomenon of
laicization, desecration, of pagan emancipation from the authority of the Church, of refusal of God and
His Eternal Law and moral ideology. This phenomenon took the form of the militant atheism under the
past totalitarian regimes, and a creeping latent, non-conflictual, non-violent, hedonistic form in the
democratic liberalism that generalizes the human institutions without any reference to the divine
Absolute, in an exclusively historical-immanent horizon. As ideological nihilism thrives, the atheism
informs the religious conduct, which paradoxically engenders the Neo-Paganism (York, 2005, p. 3;
Strmiska, 2005, p. 2).
The international relevance of the topic of this study is that it provides a theological analysis of new-
religious phenomenon of 21st century that has implications at social and psychologically level. In the
current cultural program of postmodernism it is requested a reinterpretation of religion. Western
European countries have experienced this reinterpretation of religion in public space, justifying or
criticizing its effectiveness in general social component. Romania, a majority Orthodox country (86%),
is in full process of reinterpretation and contestation of traditional Christian religion, emphasizing a
anti-clerical and not ideological “atheism”. This type of theological analysis will allow the articulation
of legitimate discourse for evaluation and formulation of measures in the perspective of reception the
authentic Christian values.
The purpose of this brief study is to bring to the forefront the contest between “traditional” and
“new” in the social interpretation of religion and the answer if the religious offer of new-paganism and
New Religious Movements is one suitable for contemporary man or not. In this order, the concert
objectives of my research are: (1) the analysis of New-Paganism`s validity as a reinterpretation of the
sacred in this century, and (2) the definition of spirituality promoted by New Religious Movements as a
way of assuming religion into private/public space.
New-Paganism as Epistemological Derivation in Redefining the Sacred
Many researchers thought that paganism was removed from the public sphere through the policy of
spreading Christianity, specifically implemented by the Byzantine emperors. Ancient pagan religions
yielded to Christianity, which gained the upper hand. This is the explanation, beyond any sociological
interpretation. But nowadays, we witness a resurgence of paganism and of the esoteric as an experience
of the religious.
In reference to this idea, in his very well-known book,
Shockingly, Paganism is presented in a positive light by its adherents: Paganism is, indeed, a form of spirituality and mysticism, the only one that, refusing the idea of a unique and exclusive truth, can establish the spirit of religious tolerance. This is achieved by accepting the legitimate multiple ways to attain the sacred: a system which allows an infinite number of gods but also agrees with not only the plurality of religions, but especially with the plurality of morals, political systems and social conceptions about the world, whose gods are as many expressions sublimated. It also requires a complete rejection of Christianity.
This is the program of RGSEC/GRECE Group (Research Group and Studies for European Civilization): “We believe that nations should develop using the thinking schemes they have made themselves. Judaism is certainly perfect for Jews, as Islam is for Arabians. But Europe is not made to be Christian” (GRECE, 1977, p. 198). It must return to its inner roots which are Indo-European, and not Judeo-Christian: “The era of the Christian West was not an era of greatness because it was Christian, but primarily because it was occidental” (GRECE, 1977, p. 199).
That leads to the interest in resuscitating Norman, Celtic and Germanic, Druidic and Endemism religions. New-pagan groups have already been formed in France and United States, being sometimes associated with archaic religious practices (sorcery, witchcraft, Satanism) or with the search of natural roots (ecological communities) and with the inferiority (the meditation techniques of Oriental religions).
Paganism slowly starts to become a social phenomenon. Media popularization of Halloween, the Shaman's Day, the Celtic New Year modern-version celebration, simply aims to replace
forms of pseudo-religious manifestations which are supported by credulity rather than faith. They are in
full development, leading to the flowering of esoteric literature, which, in France, grows six times
faster than other publications, bringing to the market around a million of copies annually.
Therefore, at present Pagans believe that Paganism is called to become the religion of the 21st
century, through a fair statement of its rights and legitimacy. For example, Jean Markale strongly
asserts his opinion that paganism has never died; while the victorious Christianity thought it could
eliminate it, paganism survived as a substrate, or parallel thinking, always ready to resurface in the
subconscious. Paganism is not perceived as the absence of God, or the absence of the ritual. On the
contrary, starting from the idea that the sacred no longer belongs to Christianity, it is the solemn
affirmation of transcendence. Europe is more Pagan than ever, while it still searches for its roots which
are not the Judeo-Christian ones. The dictatorship of Christian ideology could not stifle the ancient
values, but only pushed them in the darkness of the subconscious. Once the dictatorship is removed, it
is normal that all these values reappear, more powerful than ever (Markale, 1980, p. 67).
The New Religious Movements - a profile of spiritual interpretation
During the lifespan of a religion, changes are dictated by the perceptions of the religious in the
cultural pattern of the society. The mutations of the society, and the scientific progress largely dictate if
a religion is still of interest to the robot-like people of the everyday mechanism as it is happening now
in the economically developed Western countries. For these reasons, the
emerge due to the crisis in culture and tradition (Flere & Kirbis, 2009), because of the feeling of
inability and inadaptability to the old methods, or from the coordination of the social factors through
the vector of the scientific progress.
It is equally possible at any time that a new “revelation” is confirmed starting from the
demand of topical social factors of today's man, or that an old paradigm infiltrates the horizon of a new
generation which carries with it the fresh vibration of immediate relevance because today's society
confines itself to the
The texts that have given birth to the New Religious Movements can be countless, but in
general, it is accepted that a new religious movement appears when the old models are powerless, and
are no longer of interest to the people belonging to a religious tradition. Thus the only way they can be
attracted by religiosity is to leave the old religious landmarks behind and to become pioneers, to take
risks in trying new exotic experiences, and seek for meaning. No rules govern this process: sometimes
it is just a matter of highly subtle religious sensitivity, appreciation or disappointment with a religion,
an objective plan, and personal commitment to subjectively experiencing a religion. The context in
inter-cultural relations in economically strong countries (Kakelic, 2006).Nowadays a new definition of
traditional religion, is imposed by a mechanized society. The technologically saturated West has
removed the religious dimension of life from public life. The technological and consumerist society
sets up benchmarks for our religiosity. In the public domain, religion is dragged from the private sector,
even some thinkers and philosophers - such as Gianni Vatimo, John D. Caputo etc. – suggest this
change of perspective imperatively (Caputo & Vatimmo, 2008).
Thus, we are speaking of a “postmodernist” de-institutionalized Christianity, according to the
equations: “God -
is more than obvious that today's man is affected by a tragic crisis of religious identity. Moral
relativism, the nihilistic and atheistic paradigms, the religious pluralism are daily realities that define
the everyday social life.New alternatives, religious surrogates, pseudo-religiosity based on atheism are
proposed and all are fuelled mainly by the spectacular Eastern religions and mysticism.
and practice demonstrated in the
We notice the ambiguity and equally the mixture of the elements of Christian spirituality with the Indian one (specifically in Hinduism and Buddhism) and the occult one, in promoting practices about the spiritual perfection of man, an “immediate salvation” and even a “self -salvation”. Also, we can see that the majority of new religious movements, which are the subject of our research, propose a
new anthropology, namely a mixture between Christianity, Hinduism and personal opinions. Thus man
is no longer a creature of God, but is devalued as a person, being restored at other valued levels.
Moreover, the New Religious Movements propose a new configuration of the divine, differing
from Christian theology: God is not the Ultimate Reality and Person, the Creator, a transcendent Entity
located in an unalterable otherness of nature of man and the universe, but an impersonal and
undifferentiated pan-cosmystic “unity”, with absolutely nothing distinct from creation, as it is proposed
by the New-Age movement.
New-Paganism, together with New Religious Movements, poses one of the biggest challenges for the Christianity of the 3rd millennium, just as it happened at the beginning of the 1st millennium. What differs is only the new socio-religious context.This reinvention of traditional religion in the form of New-Paganism and New Religious Movements raises the question of its applicability from the social and ethical point of view. The individualism and the caste system promoted by the New-Paganism and New Religious Movements impinge upon social and community values. The dependence on the religious leader abolishes the disciple’s social freedom of expression. His life becomes exclusively framed within a group and its rules, and this is why there have often been cases of maladjustment when some followers left the group. From the ethical standpoint, New-Paganism and the New Religious Movements bring this aspect to the fore.
On the other hand, the new interpretation of theology and anthropology is the characteristic of the spirituality proposed by the New Religious Movements, and it is strongly infused with elements of Oriental spirituality. Unless we take into account these mutations in theology and anthropology, we will not succeed in understanding the “new” spirituality and implicitly, the alleged perfection of man's spiritual fulfilment. Basically, the New Religious Movements operate with a different terminology: terms such as “evolution”, “transformation”, “training”, “awareness”, etc., which define a subjective exercise without any reference to God.
In conclusion, my intention in this study was to evaluate critically and realistically the new-paganism and new-religious phenomenon in social field. A theological analysis is more than necessary for understanding the mutations from today's society, because it can provide an objective framework of the religion`s validity in public space and, equally, a better understanding of otherness and freedom in expressing own religious values.
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18 December 2019
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Dura, I., & Chiriluță, B. (2019). Rethinking Traditional Religion in the Postmodern Condition: There is any Axiological Validity of New Religiosity in the 21st Century?. In A. Sandu, T. Ciulei, & A. Frunza (Eds.), Logos Universality Mentality Education Novelty, vol 15. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 323-329). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2016.09.42