Occultism Is on the Rise

At least according to data cited by David Brooks in a recent New York Times column:

We’re living in the middle of a religious revival; it’s just that the movements that are rising are not what we normally call “religion.” The first rising movement is astrology. According to a 2018 Pew poll, 29 percent of Americans say they believe in astrology. That’s more than are members of mainline Protestant churches.

This surge in belief is primarily among the young. According to a National Science Foundation survey, 44 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds say that astrology is somewhat or very “scientific.” Unsurprisingly, online horoscope sites are booming. Stella Bugbee, editor of The Cut, told The Atlantic that in 2017 the typical horoscope got 150 percent more traffic than it had the year before.

Another surging spiritual movement is witchcraft. In 1990, only 8,000 Americans self-identified as Wiccans. Ten years later there were 134,000, and today, along with other neo-pagans, there are over a million. As Tara Isabella Burton put it in an excellent, deeply researched essay in The American Interest, “Wicca, by that estimation, is technically the fastest-growing religion in America.”

In the rest of the column, Brooks tries to explain why occultism is on the rise. I don’t find his explanation altogether successful. Nevertheless, if the data he presents are correct, something weird is happening, and it would be good to know why. Maybe it’s in the stars.

Jon Guze / Director of Legal Studies

Jon Guze is the Director of Legal Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the John Locke Foundation, Jon practiced law in Durham, North Carolina for over twent...

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