The point in this discussion is not whether Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa was or was not a man of faith. The point is rather that it was almost natural for excellent minds to fall back upon pagan premises, since they were repelled by certain tenets of the Christianity they otherwise professed. We saw that one of these tenets was the immortality of the soul, which Pomponazzi denied philosophically but still professed as a Christian. The doctrine of the Incarnation was another hard-to-swallow tenet, as it necessitated a certain degree of anthropomorphization of God, which would limit him and deny his infinity. The importance of faith as the cornerstone of religion was also distasteful because it blocked the free movement of reason, and of science in particular.
What we have called the pagan thrust is the ambition of many thinkers, past and present, to remove these obstructions and to formulate a natural religion, as it came to be called. And where is this natural religion to be found ready-made if not in pagan antiquity, where the sages had repudiated the Homeric pantheon, relegated the gods to a position of inaction and indifference, and endowed the natural forces with philosophical tags so that there could be no question of faith in an impersonal cosmos?
The success of the pagan revival was stupendous, whether in the studies of the occult or of wisdom. We must look for the root of this success in the relentless efforts of so many thinkers not only to unearth ancient writings but also to formulate arguments against the Christian religion. Pagan speculation itself was supported by prestigious doctrines of the Orient, which display a spectacular and attractive variety of arguments grounded in pantheism, Gnosticism, and atomism. These Eastern doctrines are not just philosophies: they are worldviews, speculative but also lived visions --- religions, ethics, and epistemology in one. This makes them full-fledged rivals of Christianity.