Mass hypnosis is a fun concept, but I think disordered religious sentiment makes more sense. Remember pagans never called themselves anything; so the followers of the Death Cult, State Cult, and Scientism only have those labels because we have found them useful.
1000+ years of domination in the west by Christianity and Islam has made people forget that religion doesn’t usually resemble these faiths, especially when it comes to self-identification. Milius was right when Conan asks, “What gods do you pray to?” not “what religion are you?”
Consider that the scientism cult has a set of rituals – wear masks, inject vaccine, social distance, etc. – to avoid something that they cannot perceive with their senses but which causes illness. And like the state religion of Rome, participation is mandatory. Why?
To the ancients, belief was irrelevant. What mattered is that you PERFORMED the rituals. To refuse them for any reason was to risk the anger of the gods and invite disaster upon the state and the people.
Modern cultists have their own rites of divination, as well—things like AI and computer models—but whether these things actually predict anything better than the augury of yore is not certain. By all rights, our cities should be underwater by now if the mediums are to be believed.
From whence does this come? It has always been with us. Humans are religious by nature. Rare is the man that can reject the idea of God and not fill the void with another religion, it’s divination and transactional rites, whether he realizes it or not.
Just to strip some esoterism away here, there was no such thing as “Pagan.” There were many gods worshipped by many many people, including gods only for YOUR family and household, worshiped in ways unique to the clan. None of them were considered exclusive to one another at all.
There were many Jupiters with many rites. But to the ancient man pious to the gods, the rites had an effect. Auspices were performed because they worked, at least for people like the Romans. Religion was in everything; it was not some separate thing from day-to-day life.
So when you see the world through the “pagan” or ancient lens, rituals are more obvious, and people often engage in them to gain control over things that are beyond their understanding. People “believe” in science in the same way the ancients believed their priests.
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