The West once was pagan and then became Christian; historically, it is the pagan-Christian West. Today, in contrast, it has become the Christian-pagan West. No century was ever more misjudged than the twentieth by those who hailed it as the “Christian” century. For the once banished demonic spirits have returned again to inhabit the abode of Western culture, and some, indeed, seem to be securing permanent tenure.

Thinking men may scorn the phrase “the Christian-pagan West” as ill-tempered. The West is, after all, the Christian West; what specially distinguishes Occident from Orient is this Christian motif. Moreover, even the compound “Christian-pagan” may seem as artificial as “pagan West,” for after all, whatever is pagan is non-Christian, even as what is Christian is assumed to be Western.

Decline Of Christian Spirit

Such an evaluation of events, however, is outdated; indeed, it is actually irrelevant. It reflects the romantic overconfidence of earlier generations and of the past century. It assumes, and erroneously so, that traditional patterns of the home and work, of civilization and culture still prevail. It perpetuates the illusion of a people who took for granted that the inherited spirit of the West could not die.

Never Fully Christian

Admittedly the West has never been the totally “Christian West.” At best, it has been the “Christian West plus or minus,” the Christian West qualified by some limiting word, e.g., the “imperfectly Christian West.” Scholars now admit, indeed, that the Dark Ages were less dark than historians once pictured them; yet the Middle Ages stood nonetheless in drastic need of the Reformation. The tradition of papacy, ...

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