August 17, 2018

Pop Culture Satanism II

That's not the seal of Satan, it's the sigil of Lucifer,
but I doubt that distinction matters to the conspiracy theorists.
One of the things that I enjoy about making connections to Satanism through popular culture generally but in expressing my understanding of Satanism through the mythological Tower of Babylon specifically is that Satanism is absolutely everywhere. In this paradigm, Satan -- or Babylon, if you prefer to call her by that name -- is the ruler of the world. Unlike a fabled sky-daddy living in a celestial realm that's both far away and separate from manifest reality, Satan is among us here and now. Consider for example the photo at the top of the page which compares everyday symbols to occult symbols: if you follow the logic, even the person who created this infographic appears to be saying that either Satan or agents of Satan have infiltrated every aspect of society. Now let it be said that I'm sure I don't know what the conspiracy theorists think -- I suspect that their world paradigm is substantially different from my own -- but I feel confident agreeing with their frequent accusations about how anybody who's not the right kind of Christian is part of the church of Satan...

... and I need to clarify before I go any further: the upper-case Church of Satan is a religious organization founded in 1966 by Anton LaVey which rabidly condemns theism, by its own preference and admission has very few members, and as an organization in fact does nothing. The lower-case church of Satan is an fictitious and amorphous blob whose definition changes depending on the person describing it, allegedly includes everybody who isn't a True Christian (the definition of which is also subject to change), supposedly is in constant contact with Satan, and is allegedly in control of every aspect of the entire world including very nearly all other organized religions.

Let it be known that the Church of Satan doesn't enter into this discussion. Instead, this essay focuses on the fictitious church of Satan, also called the church of Babylon, also called the whore of Babylon, also called the "great and terrible church of the earth." Regarding the church of Satan, I want to discuss three interesting distinctions that get made by the people who define it:
  • Joining the church of Satan isn't an act of commission, but of omission.
  • Serving the church of Satan doesn't have to be deliberate, and can even be accidental.
  • Worship in the church of Satan doesn't require overt ritual. 
1. How does one join the church of Satan?

The first claim made by popular culture and the conspiracy-minded is that although the church of Satan is for some reason in need of rappers, singers, actors, business leaders, world leaders, religious leaders, God Himself, and for some reason even preschool workers*, nobody actually needs an invitation to join the church of Satan. Unlike a good-and-proper Christian church which requires baptism (voluntary or not) for remission of made-up sins and afterwards requires 10% of your income for life plus dutiful avoidance of impure, unchaste, and otherwise corrupting influences, the church of Satan doesn't ask anything of prospective members. Quite the opposite: the church of Satan instead welcomes into its ranks those who take for themselves** the things which they desire, be they material or immaterial, or of the mind or of the body.

The reason this is so interesting to me is that the church of Satan welcomes everybody. Straight, gay, lesbian, bi, trans, queer, cis, black, white, yellow, brown, or even fucking purple -- doesn't matter, you've got an "in" with Satan. God might love you enough to let you hang out with him forever after you spend your entire mortal life kissing his hairy butt-hole, but Satan loves you so much that She'll meet you at the crossroads on any night you choose -- and unlike God who wants you change for him, Satan loves you exactly as you are. Isn't that wonderfully validating?

It's also interesting to me because unlike that old chestnut about the mere 144,000 people who'll be allowed into Heaven, Satan doesn't bother with exclusion: She wants everybody. From the highest to the lowest, the strongest to the weakest, the able and the disabled, the rich and the poor, it doesn't matter: you're important to Satan, and She wants you to be with her. I feel at this point I should remind my readers that I don't believe in a literal Satan and that when I speak of Her I do so metaphorically. In this sense, Satan represents to me natural, instinctual human behavior which includes altruism, cooperation, and just plain caring about others (versus shunning people for their violation of imaginary rules.)

2. Serving the church of Satan doesn't have to be deliberate.

The second claim that emerges from popular culture is that just like how one joins the church of Satan, one need not deliberately choose to participate in order to serve within the church of Satan. So the accusation goes, it doesn't matter even if you're the right kind of Christian who attends the right kind of church and says the right kind of words on the right days of the week: if you still watch TV or movies which portray sin, buy music which encourages sin, eat food that has been deemed sinful, vote for people who are the wrong kind of Christian (or not at all), and otherwise lead a lifestyle that doesn't keep the right kind of Christianity as your #1 priority even above responsibility to your family, then you're serving the church of Satan by at best not protesting against Satan, and at worst contributing to Satan's plans.

As has been pointed out by one of my favorite blogs, "[N]utters will always call you a Satanist whether you are or not. Not really being a Satanist never spares anyone the stigma of Satanism." Doesn't matter how devout you are, or how much you genuinely care about living a Christ-like life. In the end, when it's convenient, the people who care about this sort of thing will still denounce you as Satanist no matter what you do. And yes, that's frustrating for a lot of people who either aren't Satanists at all, or who are Satanists but want to just keep to themselves, but at least for me I find this comforting in that I never need to apologize when this and similar accusations are levied. Somebody once in all seriousness accused me of being dark-sided for not agreeing to tell his fortune, and it was a singularly hilarious experience. 

Although I reject all belief in the fabulous conspiracy of a one-world government operating under the oversight of Satan Herself, I confess that thinking about the world through this paradigm is comforting if only because it reinforces the truth that actions have consequences, and that by actively choosing to refuse a life lived according to religious dictates from over 2,000 years ago I'm helping to discard yester-millennium's rubbish in favor of a new world order. Serving the church of Satan requires nothing more than that I pursue my natural appetites***, live according to my conscience (wherever it may lead me), and contribute in whatever ways I can to people and organizations who further my own interests.

And if you think that I'm advocating for a kind of pan-Satanic unity, then you'd be wrong because unlike God who demands that everybody believe and act the same, Satan welcomes differences of opinion, belief, and practice. Satan was the first advocate for multi-culturalism, tolerance of others, and learning to work alongside and even with others who would otherwise appear to be enemies. 

3. Worship in the church of Satan doesn't require overt ritual

Finally, the third claim that emerges from popular culture and especially from certain Christian congregations is that worship of Satan doesn't require overt ritual. So the accusation goes, almost anything can be a Satanic ritual whether it's a celebration to mark the opening of a tunnel, the existence of a scientific research facility, or even watching a movie. The act of anything at all which displaces God as the highest of the high and steals even one iota of adoration from Him constitutes a Satanic deed which in turn is deemed a Satanic act.

This may be my favorite accusation because it allows me the opportunity to expand the definition of ritual and worship beyond that which I conduct within the ritual chamber. While I'd like to flatter myself that this is something unique to Satanism, the truth is that the Wiccans probably got here first. Doreen Valiente famously wrote in her Charge of the Goddess, "Let my worship be within the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals." I sincerely doubt that Ms. Valiente had even a thought of Satan in her mind when she wrote those words, but they feel not an inch out of line with the sentiment of modern Satanism that living itself is a ritual.

Whether I'm indulging the sin of lust by laying with my wife, indulging the sin of wrath by emptying my anger on the deserving, or even denying the artificial bonds of in-group sectarianism and defying authoritarian dictates of the culture-warriors by learning foreign languages: overt, specific ritual is not necessary to worship Satan. You might accuse me of searching for words in Alphabet soup, but I find that this selective interpretation of otherwise meaningless activities gives my life color and and flavor.
This is part of a continuing series. For all entries, see Babylon Rising.

* Do not think that I'm apologizing for pedophilia. If ever there were a universal wrong detested by all people everywhere, then the rape of a child surely qualifies, and people who commit that crime deserve to be permanently exiled from society. At any rate, I think that the Christians who slur Satanists as rapists and pedophiles should see to their own house first. 

** This is satire, and not to be taken as an endorsement of criminality, but all the best comedy is based on truth.

*** Again, don't even think that anything I'm saying can be construed as an apologetic for pedophilia. There are detestable people who will argue that their desire to rape a child is "natural" and therefore totally okay. Well, if you're going to follow that line of logic, then I think it's also natural and therefore totally okay for me to desire that child rapists be subjected to rat torture

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