Wed, 26 April 2023
It's sometimes argued that, as material and political and economic conditions improve in a society, that society tends to grow less religious. Polls have seemed to demonstrate for years the validity of this argument in America. Gallup, for instance, recently found that fewer than half of all Americans belong to a house of worship or religious congregation, down from about 70% at the turn of the century some 20 years ago.
But perhaps such polls show do not show that Americans are becoming less religious at all. Perhaps they suggest instead that Americans are simply less devoted to traditional forms of biblical faith. That's the background for the argument advanced in the cover story of the May 2023 issue of Commentary, called "The Return of Paganism." Written by Liel Leibovitz, the editor at large of Tablet, the essay argues that the diminution of traditional forms of Christian worship has not made Americans less religious but has instead opened up space for inescapable religious impulses to find expression in beliefs that are awfully similar to ancient forms of paganism. To talk about these ideas, their manifestations in American culture and politics, and their implications, Leibovitz joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.