Contemporary Western culture is a pagan culture.
It is ruled by the gods of olden time, only with new names and different images.
The first is the god of power – formerly known as Baal (literally: ‘owner’) – who sometimes appears in a slightly different form as Mammon, the god of money.
Another such god is Ashtoreth (Astarte or Ishtar), the goddess of sex and fertility.
In our time, though, it is no longer the goddess of fertility but only of pure sex.
Yet another god, perhaps promoted from a mere muse to a full-fledged deity, is Calliope, who is now the ruler of the craving for fame.
People may want money in order to obtain material goods; they may want sex for amusement, sometimes even for procreation.
But Fame is now a thing in itself; it is a certain addiction.
What does the relatively new term ‘Celebrity’ mean?
It means that one is a well-known nothing.
And the more one is well-known, the less people care who and what one is; it does not matter.
Indeed, so many young girls and boys want to be film stars – not because they wish to be beautiful or powerful, but because they want to be known all over the world.
One may ask: where are all the temples of these gods?
Well, the temples of Jupiter-Mammon are in almost every other building in the City of London and in Geneva.
Only they are called banks, and their priests and high priests are called managers and executives.
The temples (as well as the images) of Astarte are everywhere.
And Calliope has little shrines in almost every household, in the form of television sets.
Does this mean that in the past, people did not crave for power, did not want money and abstained from sex?
I do not think so.
All these things existed from the beginning of humanity, perhaps even earlier.
But in the past, they were hidden desires; for some they were temptations, while others branded them demons.
Nowadays, however, these cravings are naked and are flaunted openly and unabashedly.
So the Western world is now ruled by this trinity – which is quite different from the Christian one.
This is neither a sermon nor an admonition, but a statement of fact.
There are, however, some changes that come as a result of the times.
The old-new gods now have more modern garments, and they drive better cars.
Today’s Jupiter often wears a business suit, Astarte has undergone plastic surgery, and Calliope very often appears on television.”
From “The Paganization of Western Culture” by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz