In a post that is mostly about Harry Potter, Happy Catholic has a point to make about the relationship between pagans and their gods, and Christians and God.
Underneath the Zeuses, Zoroasters, Odins, and Baals is a mercantile relationship–namely, that we can appease the uncontrollable powers of the cosmos by rendering a fitting offering from our own wherewithal. In its worst form, this tit-for-tat, I-can-buy-my-own-security-with-right-sacrifice mindset devolves into demonism, wherein our power-rendering sacrifice entails making ourselves fit to be fodder for demonic powers. Witness the Azteca and Maya of Central America, or the Carthaginians and Phoenicians of the Mediterranean who made human sacrifice, especially of children, the coinage of power.
In it’s least malignant form–the paganism of Greco-Roman culture–represents an almost playful, imaginative encounter with the magic springs of the universe. Indeed, that is why the ancient world admitted no reconciliation between its great mythologies and its great philosophies. Even when a virtuous pagan would put some stock in Aristotle’s “First Cause/Prime Mover” or Plato’s realm of ideals, he couldn’t speak to those abstractions. Simply put, there could be no imaginative encounter with the conclusion of a philosophic argument. How then to explain the magic of the universe? The fact that, despite its setting, the sun does come back again? The joyous realization that, though Autumn wends its way to Winter’s ever-longer, colder nights, the light waxes with a finality revelled in during the Summer Solstice?
What do men do, in lieu of the revealed final truth, but personify such things in the form of mythic encounters with the gods? Though much mischief and demonic trickery comes of such mythos, the demons themselves are not capable of myths–only of gross parodies of the True Good that only God creates. Thus, even in the most lie-riddled myth of, say, Zeus forcing himself upon Leta lies a tiny truth that springs out of man’s own goodness: his encounter with the supernatural–a goodness and an encounter authored only by the One True God. Demons can’t do that; they can only lie about and warp our vision of God’s authorship of our story.
Truly, in the Christ, we become men who put away the childish things of myths. When the True God arrives in the creche at Bethlehem, the half-gods (and their demonic puppeteers) are put in rout. We now have a personal, societal, civilizational, natural, supernatural encounter with God in the Eucharistic that blows away all myths–not because it is solely true and they wholly false, but because it is the Real Presence that they can only dimly, awkwardly, and mischievously pantomime, like a four-year-old’s stick-figure points to the Mona Lisa. If it never occurs to us to immediately conclude to the Mona Lisa after viewing a child’s stick figure, it is not because the stick figure is flat-out evil but because DaVinci gives us the real thing.