The Satanists Next Door (This is Life with Lisa Ling)

The Satanic Temple is a new religious movement born out of the need to destroy the authority and dominance Christianity has over mainstream America. It seeks to enforce the the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. Its founders and followers chose Satan as their religious symbol because Satan is the universal bogeyman of the the monotheistic religions. The Satanic Temple, its name and use of anti-Christian imagery such as hanging the cross upside down, the satan symbol of the five-pointed star and statue Baphomet which is goat-headed idol with anti-Christianity symbols on it, all serve to challenge and offend the conventional sacred-cows of Christianity.

BAPHOMET GOAT
Baphomet – Photo Credit: The Satanic Temple by AP

Baphomet is a one ton bronze statue and members of The Satanic Temple haul it around the country, putting it next to any Christian religious symbol which is displayed in public. They petitioned to have it displayed next to the Ten Commandments Monument outside of the Oklahoma state legislature, the felt if the state of Oklahoma wanted to display a monument of the Ten Commandments in a supposedly secular and pluralistic nation, then they should be allowed to erect Baphomet next to it, to serve the people who do not believe in Christianity. Needless to say, the average Oklahoman was horrified at such a comparison, but they needn’t get too worked up about it, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the Ten Commandments monument removed after a lawsuit filed by the ACLU. Many were disappointed that they couldn’t see Baphomet be displayed next to the Ten Commandments, even just to see the reaction on people’s faces.

It is important to point out The Satanic Temple is NOT the same as the same entity as The Church of Satan founded in the 1960s in San Francisco. The Church of Satan actually worships satan as one would worship God. The Satanic Temple do not worship satan as one would worship God. They do not worship anything, that is the whole point. The seek to promote pluralistic society, promote equality and civil rights. They also do not believe satan is a force of evil. They believe satan as someone who challenged authority, the authority of God. They do not believe there is an absolute, ultimate authority whom no one can challenge.

Many of the members of The Satanic Temple were raised as conservative Christians in the bible belt but felt the beliefs of their upbringing to be narrow, restrictive and excludes people whom they don’t agree with. Some of the members of The Satanic Temple were people who were rejected by their church and families when they revealed themselves to be gay.

This organization interested me because they don’t seek to provoke others just for the sake of provocation. They wanted to remove the oppression, especially in certain parts of the country, where fundamentalist Christians have waged their war against a secular and pluralist society. Their seven tenants are mostly about social justice and and equal rights for all:

  1. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
  2. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  3. One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  4. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.
  5. Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
  6. People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
  7. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word

Since this country was founded on the the principles of freedom of speech, expression and religion, than one religion (Christianity) shouldn’t dominate and tyrannize large swathes of the population in this country. And those who don’t conform with the fundamentalist interpretations of Christianity should not be treated as outcasts or second class citizens.

It’s very easy to paint people who choose to join this organization as failures and losers, but they are not, certainly not the people Lisa Ling interviewed. They were all mostly late Gen X or Millennials, well spoken, made valid points against the Christian establishment which most of them were raised with (whether as a Christian one agrees with them or not, their points were logical and valid) and strongly believe that all voices need to be heard, one ideology is not better than the other. And they emphasize they are not against Christianity or the right-to-life or monotheism at large, they are against Christians who use their religion to tyrannize, exclude, outcast others who don’t conform to their beliefs. And if a Christian monument goes up in a public space, then they will erect Baphomet next to that Christian monument so for the folks who do not subscribe to Christianity can be represented in a public space too (however, I am not sure if non-Christian observers will subscribe to being represented by Baphomet either, but their heart is in the right place).

I didn’t grow up in the bible belt or in a conservative Christian household but I do understand the urge to instinctively rebel from something in which was forced upon me. My current religious beliefs and level of observation is something I choose to practice. One of the major areas of interest for this group is protecting women’s right to choose. In some states like Michigan, they have these women’s ‘health clinics’ operated by the government using public funds but are deliberately giving women false medical information, such as telling a woman contemplating an abortion that she has a high chance of getting breast cancer if she goes through with it. There is absolutely no proof which show having an abortion may lead to breast cancer. This ‘myth’ has been debunked over and over again by all the major cancer research organizations.

Because of the backlash and threats members of The Satanic Temple receive, most members go by pseudonyms and they have difficulty procuring spaces to rent for their events. Many owners do not wish to be associated with a group like them. I think it’s poor business. It’s leaving money on the table for someone else to earn. Firstly, unlike The Church of Satan, who actively promote the worship of satan and all the nefarious things which associate with satan, The Satanic Temple do not worship Satan or sacrifice any animals at the altar (one key point they kept mentioning throughout this program). Their events, considering all the controversy and notoriety attached with it, are rather tame. Very little drugs or alcohol is involved, a few people got rather amorous with each other but it’s nothing to blush at. It’s really just a large gathering of people in front of Baphomet dancing to electro-pop music, celebrating their beliefs and each other. There are no proclamations of following darkness or evil. There are no pledges of allegiance to satan or all the supposed evil he promotes.

Their aim is to create a safe space for all the people who feel rejected or betrayed by Christianity or any other religion and celebrate humanity. Though they no longer wish to be Christian, they still want to do good works for society and this is where I see their value. They still believe in social justice and according to their Seven Tenants, they resemble many of the principles taught in Christianity but without God, Jesus, Heaven and Hell attached to it. So far, their stunt of erecting Baphomet next any religious monument in public spaces has worked. For better or worse, they are willing to test the limits of our freedoms conferred to us by The Founders and so far, it’s held up. I get a good giggle when I see these conservative, self-righteous Christians get their panties all in a wad over a bronze statue whose only meaning is what you choose to ascribe to it. For me, it means nothing but a weird goat headed creature. It neither insults nor offends my religious sensibilities. It’s just a statue.

For the full report, see here: http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2015/11/30/satanic-temple-lisa-ling-orig.cnn

 

 

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