movement's public figures." These "monistic ecologists of the spirit" are bad observers;they claim that "now is the acceptable time for a great leap forward in paradigms,despite one's gloomy sense that the era belongs to Reagan, Bush, and similar anchorsof the Old Age." At best, says Bloom, the New Age is "a charming parody" of theAmerican religion. As for a typical Christian New Age figure like Matthew Fox,"ostensibly a Catholic priest," Bloom terms him "one of my defeats." He admits that hefailed to make it all the way through Fox's work, since "no prose I have ever encountered can match Fox's in a blissful vacuity, where all things flow to all, as riversto the sea."Where does the American religion find its clearest expression? The religious critic, asdefined by Bloom, is allowed to play the prophet. He thinks two expressions willdominate the future. The "religion of the American West" will be Mormonism, and it willbe matched by the "religion of the American South," the fundamentalist faction in theSouthern Baptist Convention. At the heart of Bloom's American religion, and thus of Latter-day Saints and Southern Baptist fundamentalists, is the following understandingof the self and God.
Freedom, in the context of the American Religion, means being alone with God or withJesus, the American God or the American Christ. In social reality, this translates assolitude, at least in the inmost sense. The soul stands apart, and something deeper thanthe soul, the Real Me or self or spark, thus is made free to be utterly alone with a Godwho is also quite separate and solitary, that is a free God or God of freedom.
What makes it possible for the self and God to commune so freely is that the self already is of God; unlike body and even soul, the American self is no part of theCreation, or of evolution through the ages.
In African-American religions, Pentecostalism, "and the other peculiarly Americanvarieties of spiritual experience," one will find this "frequently terrible, sometimesbeautiful" outlook condensed into a faith. But it is especially pertinent to the "Mormonsand Southern Baptists [who] call themselves Christians, but like most Americans ... arecloser to ancient Gnostics than to early Christians." Bloom's sweep is denominationallysomewhat broader than this: most American Methodists, Roman Catholics, and evenJews and Muslims are also more Gnostic than normative in their deepest and unwariestbeliefs."Even our secularists, indeed even our professed atheists, are more Gnostic thanhumanist in their ultimate presuppositions. We are a religiously mad culture, furiouslysearching for the spirit, but each of us is subject and object of the one quest, which