cover image Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan

Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan

Anthony T. Kronman. Yale Univ., $50 (1,176p) ISBN 978-0-300-20853-5

Situating his book between the spiritual polarities of atheist and true believer, Kronman (Education’s End) focuses on a third way of thinking about the afterlife: born-again paganism. Critiquing the loss of love and gratitude that comes with what he calls the self-defeating doctrine of Christian salvation and the disenchanted “loveless world of rights” it has created (“the poisonous fruit of the Christian religion”), Kronman recommends a religion that “reconciles the longing to be close to God with the [individualistic] ideals of our secular age.” Part intellectual history and part doctrinal statement, this massive confessional work is concerned with humans making their way in the modern world with joy and gratitude. In order to make his case, Kronman seeks to dissolve what he sees as Aristotle’s errors and to deconstruct the disenchanting philosophy of Christian salvation. Furthermore, he explores the practical implications of born-again pagan theology, specifically through the writings of Baruch Spinoza (the book’s hero), Walt Whitman, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The book is daunting in length (over 1,000 pages), and its unapologetic emphasis on Western philosophy (to the neglect of philosophies stemming from other worldviews) limits it from being truly universal in scope. However, what the book diligently provides is an intellectual history of neo-paganism and a commendable attempt at navigating the practical ethics of what a post-Christian society would look like. (Oct.)