The Pagan City, the Christian City, and the Secular City

35 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2017  

Steven Douglas Smith

University of San Diego School of Law

Date Written: 2017


This essay, given as the first of three lectures comprising the Charles E. Test Lectures at the Madison program at Princeton in May 2017, initiates the project of defending T. S. Eliot’s suggestion that the future of Western societies will be determined by a contest between Christianity and “modern paganism.” The essay attempts to give an account of “paganism” as immanent religiosity, in contrast to the transcendent religiosity of later Judaism and Christianity. It then discusses the displacement of paganism by Christianity in late antiquity, but suggests (using Ronald Dworkin as the central example) that paganism has enjoyed a revival in recent times. Hence, our current cultural struggles are less helpfully thought of as clashes of “religion v. secularism” than as a struggle between competing forms of religiosity.

Keywords: Christianity, Paganism, Secularism, Modern Paganism, Immanent Religiosity, Transcendent Religiosity

JEL Classification: A00, A10, K10

Suggested Citation

Smith, Steven Douglas, The Pagan City, the Christian City, and the Secular City (2017). San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 17-290. Available at SSRN: or

Steven Douglas Smith (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
619-260-7969 (Phone)
619-260-2492 (Fax)

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