The Fighting Faith

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What
book, first published in 1929, predicted the rise of Hitler, the
imminent closing of the American mind, multiculturalism, and resurgent
Islam? The answer is Hilaire Belloc's Survivals
and New Arrivals
. This year marks the tenth anniversary
of its republication for an American audience by TAN Books and Publishers.
It remains a polemical gem, and as relevant as it ever was.

Its
thesis is certainly provocative: The foundation stone of Western
Civilization is, says Belloc, the Catholic Church, no educated person
doubts this; it is the source of truth, beauty, and freedom; and
the best measure of the health of Western Civilization is, therefore,
the strength of the various anti-Catholic movements within it.

These
movements he sees passing across the stage of Western history. Some
are mere "Survivals," slowly heading offstage to expire;
others now dominate the center stage as the "Main Opposition";
and looming at the curtain are the "New Arrivals."

The
Survivals from Belloc's time — including the "Biblical Attack,"
materialism, and "Scientific Negation" — are still breathing.
Of the three strands that made up the Main Opposition of his time
— nationalism, anti-clericalism, and "the modern mind"
(a compound of "pride, ignorance, and intellectual sloth"
among the half-educated) — the last has developed into full manhood,
while anti-clericalism has faded away with the secular power of
the Church, and nationalism is badly damaged by the two world wars
of the twentieth century.

Belloc's
analysis of these movements is riveting. But of course, for the
impatient reader, the future is the thing.

Here
Belloc sees a Neo-Paganism that is not a return to the paganism
of the classical world, but a development from its decadent slime,
sucking up within it the decadence of other past anti-Catholic movements.
Where some of these had their own sense of integrity, Neo-Paganism
is so debased as to have none. And he sees how in its assault on
Catholicism it will readily join forces with Eastern paganism (he
limns the fascination with Eastern religion that is familiar to
us today) and even with Islam, (though Muslims will despise the
Neo-Pagans, they will use them expediently against their common
enemy in the Church; it is the alliance that exists, in our time,
between Western multiculturalists and radical Islam).

In
this rise of Neo-Paganism lies "both the peril and the acute
interest of our moment." The old attacks on Catholicism "were
and are part of that general European civilization which was the
creation of the Catholic Church. But the New Arrivals are, in greater
and lesser degree, shedding so much of this heritage that they are
of a novel kind: they speak in a new language…. Hitherto it has
been Civil War: it is soon to be invasion."

How
far has Neo-Paganism advanced? "When it is mature," Belloc
writes, "we shall have, not the present isolated, self-conscious
insults to beauty and right living, but a positive coordination
of the repulsive and vile." He sees it taking shape in architecture,
in the ziggurats of dehumanizing concrete tower blocks. He sees
it in the rise of immorality in books, and the breaking down of
the visual arts and music into anti-European and increasingly degraded
forms. He sees it in a litany of laws that restrict freedom and
impose an anti-Catholic conformity, in state-sponsored eugenics,
and in "the compulsory limitation of progeny."

He
sees it also in the conscious removal of the underpinnings of basic
Christian society. Though necessity will force the Neo-Pagans to
accept "some simulacrum of marriage… we may truly say that
the facility and frequency of divorce is the test of how far any
society once Christian has proceeded towards Paganism."

Against
the Neo-Pagan assault, Belloc is no defeatist. He is a fighter.
He trusts that there is still enough Christianity remaining within
Western Civilization that people will turn in disgust from Neo-Paganism.
There have been fits and starts of this — certainly the defeat of
the National Socialists temporarily set back the Neo-Pagan cause
of eugenics. Yet today's reader will have to note that the general
trend seems to be a growing public acceptance of what was only yesterday
considered immoral, degraded, and evil.

But
Belloc offers another strategy to defeat Neo-Paganism. It has failed
to construct a system or doctrine. It cannot answer the fundamental
questions that confront every man. It conquers in large part through
the "pride, ignorance, and intellectual sloth" of "the
modern mind." But this, Belloc believes, cannot last, because
"in spite of the time in which we live, I cannot believe that
the Human Reason will permanently lose its power. Now the Faith
is based upon Reason, and everywhere outside the Faith the decline
of Reason is apparent."

It
still is. And Hilaire Belloc's Survivals and New Arrivals is
a prime weapon in Reason's support, for it reveals to us our enemy.
The last paragraph of the book is stunning. Buy a copy and rush
to read it. Do.

May
3, 2002

H.
W. Crocker III is the author of the newly published Triumph:
The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, A 2,000-Year History

(Random House). His
prize-winning novel, The
Old Limey
, will be reissued in paperback this March.

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