January 26, 2017

Satanic Stupidity

So. Donald Trump is now president of the USA. Unless I misread the reports, his very first executive order was to start chipping away at the ACA. There are people who voted for Trump - and some Satanists among them - who are cheering this action based largely on the premise that if the state is subsidizing health care, they're perpetuating the survival of the weak and thus weakening the system as a whole. Okay.... you're welcome to support politicians who support the policies you support. That's cool. 

But me being who I am, I think you're looking at this the wrong way. Instead of looking at government policy and basing your support for it on the question of, "What do 'They' get out of it?," why not look at government policy and base your support for it on the question of, "What do I get out of it?" Because me being who I am, I think that mediocrity will persist no matter what policies are place. If you want to see a Libertarian-style, pure-voluntary, solo-virtuoso world - cool, go lobby for it. Maybe you'll even get what you want. 

But to be honest, I feel like supporting a Libertarian or Republican policy platform is against my self interests. I live in Canada now, but for 27 years of my life I lived in the USA and you may find this hard to believe, but I still care about my birth country for the sole reason that I may one day want to return. Or, you know, I have family who still live in the USA and I care about them. 

This is why it's important to me to support civil rights, oppose creeping fascism, and protest authoritarian policies: I am who I am today because of those damn, dirty, leftists who created the country in which I am able to speak openly, pursue whatever sexual passions I desire, and generally live without fear of the government coming to get me. After all, Satan was the original rebel who protested against the greatest authoritarian tyrant ever imagined - Yahweh himself. If I'm wrong, you're welcome to explain why you think so, but I didn't leave the authoritarianism of Christianity just to embrace the authoritarianism of Satanism.

Politically, I'm all over the map and I don't consider myself a Democrat. I'm an independent, and I support whatever politics and politicians support me. As it happens, Democrats more often align with my desires than Republicans, Libertarians, or anybody else so that's who gets my vote. The natural environment in which I live is pretty important to me, too, so if the Green Party wasn't run by a vaccine denier, they'd get my vote from time to time, as well. And if the other parties did more to prove why my life will be improved by voting for them, then they'd get my vote more often.

But you won't catch me casting a vote for a politician whose steadfast determination to repeal the ACA will impact the lives of my immediate and extended family. You know what I get out of Republican policies? Fuck-all. To be honest, I don't really care what 'They' get in life. I'm really only concerned with what I get. Because I love me, and I'm going to support the policies and politicians who increase the quality of my life. What do I get out of it? If I get nothing, you don't get my vote.

Of course, one's preferred policies are often influenced by one's chosen religion. It's common knowledge that broken Christian beliefs have a largely negative impact on political policy, but I think it's also worth looking at broken Satanic beliefs also have a negative impact on political policy.

If your religion leads you to disregard human rights - even though you yourself benefit from them - then you're doing it wrong. Don't support a system that works against your self interests. Support for and defense of human rights is what permits us to speak openly and to criticize the powerful without fear of illegal punishment and censorship. Satanism could never have emerged in a country like Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China, or even Russia where human rights and freedom of expression and religion are routinely suppressed. Don't deliberately blind yourself to the fact that the very system your religion may encourage you oppose is the very system which makes it possible for you to do so.

If your religion motivates unity through opposition to a convenient enemy, you're doing it wrong. Your success in life isn't dependent on somebody else's failure, especially when there's no need for you to make an enemy out of somebody who has no impact on you whatsoever. And if your opposition to said hypothetical enemy is because you don't like what they're saying, then you've got very thin skin. Nobody's sorry if this imaginary enemy hurt your fee-fees. Get over it. Unless your religious organization is willing to bring a defamation suit against this hypothetical enemy, then nothing they're saying can really be so terrible. Grow up.

If your religion creates a cultural climate which frequently demeans feminism as "women who deny their femininity and hate men," you're doing it wrong. Feminism isn't about denying womanhood or hating men - it's about choice. If you enjoy sex without guilt or shame; freedom of choice in how you manage your most intimate affairs; the liberty to express your sexual preferences without feeling pressured by societal expectations for how you should really be acting; and most importantly, being treated equally under rule of law - then feminism is for you. For men, feminism means we can talk about enjoying ass play in the bedroom, expressing our feelings, and being free to dress as we see fit without being shamed for not being a "true man." There's more beyond that, but if you can't see it then you're really not looking and I don't know how to make you see it.

If your religion protects the power of the most powerful no matter how badly they've abused the system to get where they are, you're doing it wrong. You who read this aren't separate from the world in which you live. If the corrupt have stolen their way to the top, chances are excellent that they took something of yours on the way. If you can't recognize the dangers of corruption and entrenched power with no checks or balances, then I don't know how to show you that you're going against your own self-interests.

If your religion encourages you to define people who accuse and oppose violators of the social contract as whiners and weaklings, you're doing it wrong. Speaking as a Satanist, I don't think there's anything more Satanic than accusing the guilty and those who've negatively impacted my quality of life and opposing them to prevent it from happening again. Satan isn't the "quiet observer who just figures out how to merely survive." If you don't support people's choice to accuse and oppose the things that make their life worse for them, then Satanism isn't the religion for you. 

If your religion is obsessed with punishing criminals but turns a blind eye to criminals in places of power, you're doing it wrong. Be consistent in your accusation and opposition: if it's worth implementing mandatory drug tests to make sure that welfare recipients aren't using government money to buy steak, lobster, or meth (incidentally, it's not worthwhile - Google it), then it's worth prosecuting every banking CEO who crashed the world economy. If you think that social parasites at the bottom of the social strata are more deserving of your attention than the very real criminals at the top of the ladder, your sense of self-preservation is out of alignment and should be re-calibrated.

If your religion is lead by an opaque inner circle whose members are never revealed and are protected from criticism by multiple layers of secrecy, you're doing it wrong. Hidden leadership protected from criticism is a recipe that has always produced poor results. We don't accept this kind of secrecy from our governments and elected leaders, so we shouldn't expect this kind of secrecy from our religious leaders, either. If we've learned anything in an age of Wikileaks, it's that un-accountability and secrecy breed criminality.

If your religion motivates you to shun members who criticize your religion, you're doing it wrong. It's a bad look for Jehova's Witnesses, and it's sure as shit a bad look for Satanists. Internal criticism and debate are necessary for organizational development and furthering understanding of what it means to be a Satanist. If you can't discern between constructive criticism and trolling, then you're deliberately ignoring the reality in which you live.

And speaking of deliberately ignoring reality, let's talk about Satanists who equate the definition of Satanism with an immutable and universal fact. I mean - this isn't like we're arguing about the numeric value of pi. That's a fact and can't be changed. Likewise, nobody's arguing about the date when LaVey founded the CoS, the verbatim content in his books, the factual history of his promotion of the CoS, etc. Those are facts.

But the definition of Satanism isn't an immutable, scientific fact: it's a religious/philosophical label determined based on an individual's interpretation of a particular mythic entity.

It's a fact that the myth of Satan existed before LaVey. It's a fact that LaVey was the first to codify a religion and philosophy called Satanism. It's a fact that "the Satanism of the Church of Satan" (verbatim from the CoS website) provides a clear definition for what it means to be a Satanist.

But it's also a fact that people other than LaVey have been talking about Satan for a lot longer than the Church of Satan has existed. It's a fact that the mythical personages of Satan, Lucifer, and others have been inspirations for poets, writers, and thinkers for as long as they've existed.

It's a fact that the very word Satan is from Hebrew/Judaic religion and theology - and that the very concept of a "Devil" from which the literary figure of Satan was adopted by LaVey came from Zoroastrian-influenced Christian ditheism. When you're using another religion's bogeyman as your mascot, it's absolutely pretentious to think that you can claim exclusive ownership of how that mascot's name, image, and attributes are used by other people.

If you were Edward Kelley or John Dee and invented an entirely new deity - let's say, Choronzon - then you'd have a much stronger argument for exclusive ownership of said deity since that specific name never before existed in anybody else's religion. But when you choose a mythical personage that's been around for literally millennia and lift it completely out of its native mythology - then no, we can't possibly expect anybody to respect our desire that all people who call themselves Satanists adhere to our beliefs or else don't call themselves Satanists. That's like standing in a row-boat in the middle of the Pacific and shouting that the entire ocean belongs to you.

Or if you're really creative, you could argue that what Anton LaVey created with the Satanic Bible and his subsequent efforts to codify Satanism are much like the Nicene Creed. So the argument goes, Christians are Christians because they all emerge from the ecumenical councils of Nicaea. This is a problematic argument for three reasons:

First, the councils of Nicaea weren't conducted until at least 300 years after the alleged life and death of Jesus Christ. This means that for about 300 years there were multiple groups of people all practicing what they called Christianity but more than a few of them not agreeing with one another. Such was the motivation for Emperor Constantine to organize the councils of Nicaea: he was tired of the infighting and wanted a unified vision, so he used his power to bring the leaders of the splintered and separate visions of Christianity to the bargaining table where they debated their respective approaches and eventually came to agreement. So not only does this argument ignore the reality that there were multiple visions for what defines Christianity (just as there are multiple visions for what defines Satanism), but it also ignores the fact that in this argument Anton LaVey is neither Emperor Constantine nor one of the many church leaders who all assembled at the multiple councils of Nicaea.

Second, the argument to compare the work of Anton LaVey to the Nicene Creed is fundamentally broken since not all Christians accept the Nicene Creed. Such Christians are called non-trinitarians, but very few Christians outside of non-trinitarian faiths ever make the argument that non-trinitarians aren't Christians. And you know - if the Christians can agree that you can be Christian even if you're not a trinitarian but Satanists can't get past the stumbling block, then Satanism has a long way to go - about 1,600 years to go, but who's counting?

Third, if all Christians are Christian because the churches of which they're members descended from the Nicene Creed, then this implicitly supports and approves of people founding new Satanic organizations which are minimally based on the core tenets of Satanism. What this argument says is that the actions of the Satanic Temple wouldn't necessarily be a problem so long as the Satanic Temple shared the same source literature. The House of Belial? The Grand Old Order of Baphomet? The Black Lodge? The Pack of Coyote? Under this argument, the potential for the emergence of splinter groups which follow the core tenets of Satanism is limitless, and I somehow doubt that's an outcome that critics of the Satanic Temple want to see since they often care a great deal about the integrity and power of the Church of Satan.

People like myself who are members of the Church of Satan have chosen for ourselves what we believe Satanism to be, and for a large part this has been hugely successful in the marketplace of ideas. That's a fact. We choose for ourselves to follow what LaVey laid down because we see the value in it. Satanism as codified by Anton LaVey works for me - I don't feel the need for anything else, and I'm not threatened by how anybody else practices.

But that's our interpretation and our opinion on the concept of Satanism. Nobody's allowed to rewrite the objective, factual history of LaVey, the Church of Satan, and what emerged from it, but there is absolutely no basis for claiming that all others must follow the "one true Satanism." It's preposterous. I mean... that's like Christians claiming that there's only one way to be a true Christian, and that's an argument that's soundly rejected by the vast majority of people. 

Regarding Satanists who say that they can't stand the Satanic Temple because it spreads lies, all I can say is that if it's not bad enough to deserve a defamation suit, then it's just words, words, words. Grow a thick skin and stop getting your feelings hurt because somebody said something mean about you. As Oliver Goldsmith said, "Be not affronted at a joke. If one throws salt, it won't hurt unless you're raw." Such Satanists waste their time getting triggered over the issue. The Satanic Temple isn't wasting time trying to soothe a wounded ego when the Church of Satan says something bad about them - their leadership pushes on with its own agenda and gets shit done. You may not agree with their idea of what it means to "get things done," but they're showing up and - last I checked - accomplishing real things in the real world that affects real people is what really counts. If as an organization we place a greater emphasis on album release parties, curated art shows, book releases, nude witch revues, and so on, good for us. That's our prerogative to do so. But it's absolutely childish to complain about what the Satanic Temple is doing when it no way at all impacts our ability as an organization to conduct the events which we have made a priority.

Regarding Satanists who say that they oppose the Satanic Temple because of the harm they do, I challenge you to present evidence. What is your proof that the Satanic Temple has harmed either you or the Church of Satan? Please - elucidate your thoughts and say for everybody to hear how the Satanic Temple has made a victim out of you. How are you being oppressed by the Satanic Temple? The Satanic Temple has no power to publish items in the Black Flame; define canon literature; elevate members in the hierarchy; appoint leaders; change established rituals; or dictate organizational priorities. If you are such a Satanist who feels this way, I want to know all the reasons why this has made a victim out of you. Tell me about your wounded feelings. Enlighten me to how your worldly success has been withheld from you by Lucien Greaves and other members of the Satanic Temple.

If you're such a Satanist as I described above and believe that the damage the Satanic Temple is doing to the Church of Satan is that they're diluting Satanism and undoing the work of the Church of Satan, then you're deceiving yourself. The only organization the Satanic Temple can dilute is itself. History remembers the successful. If you're worried that history will forget the Church of Satan because it's allegedly not successful, then what will you yourself do in order to make it successful? Attacking the Satanic Temple and persistently working to de-legitimize its choice to call itself Satanic is nothing that history will remember. History remembers the successful. Make successful choices.

So all of this is to say, I'm not opposed to criticizing the Satanic Temple. I've got a few of my own complaints about them myself. For starters, they simply don't interest me because unless I missed it, they've contributed nothing new to the world. If they contributed something exciting to the body of religious and philosophical Satanism that didn't already exist, I might be more interested. For that reason, I don't feel like I can support the Satanic Temple.

What's more, I oppose their test of radical inclusion. I oppose all private religion in all government places, therefore I don't feel like I can logically support an organization which uses state- and federal-level RFRA style laws to insert private religion into government places. If this test of radical inclusion works, then religious plurality in government places is protected and we still have private religion in government places. If it fails, then this strengthens the position of existing private religion in government places. For me, neither outcome feels like a victory and this is why i prefer to support organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation which are already working toward the goal of removing private religion from government places without inserting private religion into government places. For that reason, I don't feel like I can support the Satanic Temple.

The Satanic Temple is also a purely rational and skeptic organization. There's no room for mystery in their practices, and they've soundly condemned the use of greater magic for anything more than theatrics. There's no requirement in the Church of Satan that members practice greater magic or to ascribe any supernatural power to greater magic, but the choice is there. I want to be able to make that choice and indulge in the fantasy of ritual and greater magic. For that reason, I don't feel like I can support the Satanic Temple.

The Satanic Temple is also deeply concerned with morals and ethics. Such is their choice. But I find it difficult to support an organization whose commitment to honesty and ethical responsibility would deny my choice to use lesser magic for selfish ends. Professionally speaking, I'm full-time self-employed as a Tarot reader. I accept that there's some magic to Tarot, but I also accept that there's a lot of showmanship and deceit involved, too. If I wanted to feel guilty about my profession as a Tarot reader, I'd be a Wiccan and make a promise to myself that I'd "harm none" and work to avoid punishment under the "three-fold law." But I'm not a Wiccan - I'm a Satanist - and I fully embrace the use of deceit and manipulation to improve the quality of my life. For that reason, I don't feel like I can support the Satanic Temple.

There are many interpretations of Lucifer, Satan, and all the other infernal names which we use to invoke the presence of our dark, carnal selves, and while I don't agree with how the Satanic Temple operates as an organization and a religion, I'd be blind if I refused to see the principles of accusation and opposition present in their actions. They're not Satanic according to my definition of the word, but then - we're not debating the value of pi, are we? I've got mine, they've got theirs, and history will remember the successful. LaVey often spoke about how the first 100 years are the most difficult. We're half-way to his 100-year finish line, but there's too far to go to afford standing in the middle of the race-track and trying to block other runners. If we're as good as we believe ourselves to be, we'll effortlessly outpace the ideological competition.

(EDIT 9/3/2017: I was wrong about the Satanic Temple.)

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