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The Impact of Scientism on Competing Faiths

By Isaac Bonewits

When examining polytheistic ideas about divinity and the nature of worship (and vice versa), we must first take down some barriers to clear thinking of which many people are unaware. Discussing spiritual matters with modern Westerners, even the religiously inclined, is often like discussing rainbows or sunsets with someone who has worn dark sunglasses for his or her entire life. First you must persuade them to remove the sunglasses, at least temporarily, in order to show them what you are talking about. This is especially difficult if the person is unaware that the sunglasses exist, or that they can be removed. Unless you have carefully prepared them for the experience, the odds are high that their reaction to an unfiltered rainbow or sunset will be to scream in horror, replace their sunglasses as quickly as possible, and attack you violently.

Christian fundamentalists confronting the evidence for evolution, Roman Catholic leaders refusing to ordain peni-less priests, or Islamic fundamentalists burning the works of Salman Rushdie, all demonstrate this common Western reaction to ideas coming from outside of their established worldviews. What may not be so obvious is that third-rate stage magicians and mediocre scientists “debunking” evidence for psychic phenomena, intellectual members of liberal religions ignoring the magical aspects of liturgy, or ordinary people rejecting ideas about multiple deities and other spirits, are behaving in exactly the same fashion — prisoners of the conceptual sunglasses they don’t even realize they are wearing.

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