Monday 6th April 2020

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

The Good Pagan’s Failure

March 4, 2015 Featured Today No Comments

By JUDE P. DOUGHERTY

As Europe faces what seems to be a cultural crisis, a book written in 1939 comes to mind for its present relevance. It is Rosalind Murray’s The Good Pagan’s Failure. (1) Murray was the daughter of the Australian-born, British classical scholar Gilbert Murray, and the wife for 30 years of Arnold Toynbee, British historian and philosopher of history, best known for his 12-volume Study of History.
She was remarkably positioned to know and to assess the mind of what she calls the “Enlightened Pagan.” The book is essentially a critique of the fashionable humanism and liberalism of her day, the epoch of George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, and G.E. Moore.
It is Rosalind Murray’s contention that the crucial difference which separates and divides us as human beings is, and always must be, spiritual, exemplified by an acceptance or rejection of belief in God. “Our attitude on this fundamental question determines the whole direction of our living in all of its aspects, and in all relations, and that opposition in this one decisive matter implies secondary, but resultant, opposition in outlook and in value throughout our lives.” (2)
Speaking of herself, she writes, “Born and brought up among enlightened Pagans, their outlook and their standard, and their values are those which I first knew, [and] by which I was educated….In maturity, I have found enlightened Paganism inadequate to explain life as I see it, inadequate to deal with it as I find it. The picture presented to me in youth has proved, so it seems to me, a misleading picture, their accounting of existence offered, a false account; the key with which I was furnished unlocks no door.” (3)
In acknowledging her transfer of allegiance, she says, “I retain a deep regard, a very real respect for the good Pagans whom I must now oppose.” (4)
One’s fundamental religious outlook, she insists, affects and influences one’s behavior and lines of thought far removed from one’s religious commitment. This primal difference will assert itself if we agree on the need to address certain existing social evils. As soon as we propose a course of action to do something about them, we meet the same absolute contradiction in our ideas.
Seventy-five years later, for a profile of the contemporary Pagan, one might consult Alan Ryan’s The Making of Modern Liberalism. (5) Professor Ryan, the former warden of New College Oxford, may even qualify as one of Murray’s “Good Pagans.”
The liberal creed to which Murray objected is grounded in a number of ontological assumptions. As enumerated by Alan Ryan the list would include a handful of basic dictums: Human existence is accidental; the world has no purpose; and human beings have no special place in the universe. (6)
Given that perspective, and in the absence of a divine ordering of the world, mankind becomes morally and intellectually self-sufficient. Ryan notes that as a people we may still value “economic ambition, individual choice, meritocratic advancement, social mobility, and variability of taste and allegiance.” That they are values to be embraced cannot be denied, but from Rosalind Murray’s perspective their realization is contingent. Absent an appeal to a natural order, their defense can take place only at a purely political level. Lacking a favorable political regime, those values may not be recognized, let alone prevail.
“The Good Pagan’s failure,” Murray writes, “can be attributed to the fundamental illusion from which he starts, the belief that it is possible to conserve all positive and constructive value of the Christian order while removing it from belief in God.” (7)
Among the many faults which Rosalind Murray finds in the perspective of her early years is the liberal attachment to “economic, political, and intellectual change.” Arguing to the contrary, she believes that most people prefer stability, authority, and tradition to the uncertainty, free thinking, and “openness to the future” promoted by the liberal outlook.
From any point of view, today’s Paganism must be regarded as willful. The Pagan of antiquity did not reject Christ; he simply did not know Christ. The contemporary Pagan has to ignore a large segment of Western history, not to mention hundreds of years of philosophy and theology, to maintain his unfettered skepticism. It is not unusual to find scholars who in their historical narrative have jumped from Plato to Descartes, or began their analysis of the human condition with Hobbes and Rousseau, if not Locke and Mill.
The liberal ideas of “moral equality” and “natural rights,” principles that the modern state takes for granted, owe their origin and defense, not to the Enlightenment, but to Christianity.
The Italian philosopher of history, Augusto Del Noce, writing in 1981, equates modernity with a denial of the spiritual, the transcendent aspect of human nature, a denial consequent upon its sharp break with Greek and medieval philosophy. (8)
Oxford Professor Larry Siedentop, writing a generation later, fully agrees. In his latest study, Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, Siedentop argues that those who live in nations once described as part of Christendom may have lost contact with their cultural heritage and certainly with their moral bearings, yet it remains a fact that Western culture is not only founded on but takes for granted a set of shared beliefs that are manifestly Christian in origin. (9)
No philosopher of note claims to have evidence that God does not exist, and few claim that we can presently account for all aspects of human activity in purely materialistic terms, although many book-length attempts are annually published by major university presses. The hope of many a naturalist is a full explanation, “if not now, certainly in the future.”
Putting aside our discussion of modernity, the central issue that divides Christian and Pagan may be described as teleological, whether there is telos or purpose in nature. To physicist and biologist, purpose in nature is self-evident. The divisive philosophical issue is how to account for that evident purpose. It takes many an imaginative hypothesis to account for it by chance. The explanation provided by Genesis, Murray would say, is much simpler.

Footnotes

1. Murray, Rosalind, The Good Pagan’s Failure (London: Longmans Green and Co., 1939).
2. Ibid., p. 9.
3. Ibid., p. 10.
4. Ibid.
5. Alan Ryan, The Making of Modern Liberalism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012).
6. Ryan, op. cit., p. 76.
7. Murray, op. cit., p. 135.
8. “Idea of Modernity,” in The Crisis of Modernity, ed. and trans. by Carlo Lancellotti (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014).
9. Larry Siedentop, Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2014).

+ + +

(Dr. Dougherty is dean emeritus of The School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America.)

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

On this painful Palm Sunday I pray that we can all cling to the joy that the Lord Jesus is keeping His Promise, He is still with us. It is excruciating not to receive Him in Communion but He awaits us “in the room next to us” May Spiritual Communion place us in His Real Presence

Load More...

Covid-19: First Catholic bishop dies of coronavirus

Ethiopia’s Apostolic Vicar, Bishop Angelo Moreschi, has died. He is the first Catholic Bishop to succumb to the coronavirus pandemic. By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ Italian missionary and Apostolic Vicar to Ethiopia’s Gambella Vicariate, Bishop Angelo Moreschi, SDB, died on…Continue Reading

Catholic church offers curbside confessions during coronavirus outbreak

STILLWATER, Minn. — Drive-thrus, curbside pick-up, contactless methods. We’re becoming best buds with terms like these as we try our best to stay home, and flatten the curve of the coronavirus outbreak. However, today, we’re not talking about food or…Continue Reading

All priests, half of seminarians at traditional Catholic order infected by coronavirus

OPFENBACH, Germany, March 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Almost all priests and roughly half of the seminarians currently at a German seminary of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), a traditionalist community of priests and seminarians, have been infected by…Continue Reading

Catholic Herald US to shut down offices

The Catholic Herald’s U.S. edition is shutting down its offices in Washington, D.C., after less than two years of publication, people familiar with the matter told the Washington Examiner. The magazine, which claims to be “America’s only national Catholic weekly…Continue Reading

Middle school hangs LGBT flag in cafeteria, bans flag of traditional family

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, March 6, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A small town Minnesota school has become a center of controversy because of a LGBT pride flag hanging in its cafeteria. Following several weeks of parental and community concern, packed school board meetings, and…Continue Reading

Pope cancels visit with Rome priests for ‘slight’ illness

ROME – Pope Francis is sick and skipped a planned Mass with Rome clergy across town on Thursday, officials said. The Vatican said the 83-year-old pontiff had a “slight indisposition” and would proceed with the rest of his planned work…Continue Reading

Rush has lung cancer. Catholics owe him BIG TIME. Wherein Fr. Z rants. ACTION ITEM!

Rush Limbaugh has advanced lung cancer.  He made the sad announcement yesterday. ACTION ITEM: Please pray for a complete, swift, durative miraculous cure for him, perhaps through the intercession of Ven. Augustus Tolton. Every reader here, every committed conservative, faithful…Continue Reading

Catholic parish will not host Episcopalian consecration

Richmond, Va., Jan 17, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia will no longer hold a bishops’s consecration at a Catholic parish in Williamsburg, after an internet petition objecting to the event drew national attention. “It…Continue Reading

Cardinal Dolan conducting ‘Vos estis’ investigation into Brooklyn’s Bishop DiMarzio

New York City, N.Y., Jan 18, 2020 / 09:05 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan is conducting an investigation into Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, following an allegation of sexual abuse. The investigation is being conducted under the provisions of Vos estis lux…Continue Reading

Theodore McCarrick has moved from Kansas friary

Denver, Colo., Jan 7, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick has moved from the Kansas friary where he had been living since 2018. A spokesman for the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Conrad told CNA…Continue Reading

Vatican Archbishop: those who say Judas is in hell are ‘heretics’ and priests may ‘accompany’ assisted suicides

ROME, December 11, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — In a statement difficult to reconcile with Scripture and Tradition, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has claimed on behalf of the Catholic Church that anyone who says Judas Iscariot is in…Continue Reading

Buffalo’s Bishop Richard Malone resigns after year of scandal

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2019 / 04:01 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Wednesday accepted the resignation of Buffalo’s embattled Bishop Richard Malone. The Diocese of Buffalo will be administered by Albany’s Bishop Edward Scharfenberger until a permanent replacement for Malone is…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

Cburke3

  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading

Catechism

Today . . .

See What the End Shall Be – A Homily for Palm Sunday

The Passion, which we read in the liturgy for Palm Sunday, is too long to comment on in detail, so we will only examine a portion of it here. It may be of some value to examine the problems associated with the more moderate range of personalities involved. The usual villains (the Temple leaders, Judas, and the recruited crowd shouting, “Crucify him!”) are unambiguously wicked and display their sinfulness openly. But there are others involved…Continue Reading

Vatican theologian: Pandemic is God’s chastisement for ‘infidelity’ of top Catholic shepherds

April 3, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Italian priest and theologian Nicola Bux has identified both the sins within the Church as well as the sins of the world as the root of the current pandemic and its effects on the daily life of Catholics. Like Archbishop Viganò and Bishop Schneider, the former consulter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith characterized COVID-19 as a chastisement from God. In a lengthy statement published as a video on YouTube March 24,…Continue Reading

John Paul II embraced his suffering with love: Cardinal reflects 15 years after saint’s death

jp2

Vatican City, Apr 2, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Pope St. John Paul II embraced suffering with love, even during his illness, a cardinal and the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica said on the 15th anniversary of the saint’s death. The spread of the coronavirus pandemic, and the growing number of infected and dying people “has fallen on an unprepared society, highlighting the spiritual emptiness of many people,” Cardinal Angelo Comastri told Vatican News April…Continue Reading

A votive Mass “in time of pandemic” and a new prayer for Good Friday

The Congregation for Divine Worship adds an intention to the Solemn Intercessions during the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion and proposes a votive Mass taking into consideration the crisis in which the world is living By Vatican News The Congregation for Divine Worship has issued a votive Mass for this time of pandemic, and a new intention for the Solemn Intercessions during the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday. The new liturgical texts…Continue Reading

IN THIS TIME OF CRISIS . . . A STATEMENT FROM BISHOP JOSEPH STRICKLAND OF THE DIOCESE OF TYLER, TEXAS

bishstrick

On Sunday, March 29, 2020, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, I offer this statement concerning the “Statement on Scarce Healthcare Resources” issued by the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops” on March 27, 2020.  I offer it out of prayer and with a sincere heart. I appreciate the effort of my brother Bishops in Texas to apply sound bioethical principles, as well as their concern that health care professionals are not held to an impossible standard…Continue Reading

Advertisement3

But What Is The Real Answer? Trump Warns Of Drugs, Depression, Suicides

By BILL DONOHUE (Editor’s Note: Catholic League President Bill Donohue commented March 30 on remarks made by President Trump on the social effects of coronavirus.) + + + In his March 29 briefing on coronavirus, President Donald Trump alluded to the social consequences of not taking seriously the threat it poses. He mentioned the “massive”…Continue Reading

The Power Of For

By DONALD DeMARCO One of the most agreeable phrases in the English language is, “This is for you.” A certain brewery has capitalized on the expression with the words, “This Bud’s for you.” A most welcomed phrase for me is “There is mail for you.” It brings to mind that the entire postal system is…Continue Reading

Is The Pandemic Killing Biden’s Bid?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN “This is the question that is going to dominate the election: How did you perform in the great crisis?” So says GOP Cong. Tom Cole of Oklahoma in the March 31 New York Times. GOP National Committeeman Henry Barbour of Mississippi calls the crisis “a defining moment. . . . The…Continue Reading

Prayer In Times Of Collective Crisis

By LAWRENCE P. GRAYSON Pope Francis said in his weekly angelus message on Sunday, March 22, that he would deliver a special “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing that Friday evening, March 27 as a response to the coronavirus. Normally given only at Christmas and Easter, his decision to give this…Continue Reading

Bishop Strickland . . . The Return Of Proportionalism Threatens The Church

bishstrick3

By MOST REV. JOSEPH STRICKLAND I have been discussing Catholic Moral Teaching in the last two columns. The authentic Magisterium of the Catholic Church affirms that there are intrinsically evil acts which can never, ever, ever be chosen. A clear summary of this teaching is found in paragraph 80 of the encyclical letter of Pope…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Dutch Cardinal . . . Only Orthodox Teaching And Worthy Liturgy Will Attract Catholics

By JEANNE SMITS (LifeSiteNews) — The French-based association for the promotion of the Traditional liturgy of the Latin Church, Paix Liturgique (“Liturgical Peace”), recently published an interview in French with Willem Jacobus Cardinal Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht in the Netherlands regarding the future prospects of the Church in that deeply secularized country. Cardinal Eijk spoke frankly about the decline of…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: We are in the process of reducing our supply of books and are offering them to interested readers at a substantial discount. The books available, all in mint condition, are Catholic Replies, Catholic Replies 2, All Generations Will Call Me Blessed, Who Do You Say That I Am, Catholicism & Reason (Apologetics), Catholicism & Scripture (Salvation History), and…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… A Chance To Strengthen Catholic Identity

By Fr. KEVIN M. CUSICK Never let a crisis go to waste. This is true for cynical politicians and unscrupulous business types. Should it be true for the Church as well? I think so. Weeks ago, dioceses nearly worldwide, in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, have ordered public Masses canceled. Bishops have stipulated that these not be replaced by…Continue Reading

The Meekness And Humility Of The Lord

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Palm Sunday (YR A) Readings: Matt. 21:1-11 Isaiah 50:4-7 Phil. 2:6-11 Matt. 26:14-27:66 Today we remember the remarkable change of perspective that took place among the people between the time Jesus came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the attitude of the people only five days later as they called for our Lord’s crucifixion. However, in…Continue Reading

The Stations Of The Cross… Follow The Final Earthly Journey Of Christ

By FR. EDWARD McNAMARA (Editor’s Note: Following is a question on whether or not stations of the cross are liturgical or not, answered by Legionary of Christ Fr. Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university. (Fr. McNamara writes the “Liturgy Q-and-A” column for ZENIT News Agency, which provided this text in 2016. All…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Magdalena Of Canossa

By CAROLE BRESLIN There is a palace overlooking the Adige River that twists through Verona, Italy — about 75 miles east of Venice. In 1527 the Marquises of Canossa commissioned Michele Sanmicheli to build it, and it still stands today, having had such prominent guests as Alexander I of Russia, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Francis I of Austria. Although you cannot…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Anselm

By CAROLE BRESLIN St. Anselm was born in France near the Swiss Alps around 1033. At the age of 15, he wished to enter religious life by joining a monastery. Sadly, his influential father was so against it that the monastery refused to accept him. This so discouraged the youth that he drowned his sorrows in worldly pursuits. He deeply…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)