A number of years ago we were disturbed when some secularist folks in the rural UK set up an ersatz “Church of Satan” devil worship Facebook page meant to rile up the locals and squash some attempts at Christianity being foisted on unwilling people. Of course, there was no actual group of Satanists or devil worshippers behind this, but the local news outlets freaked out and attention was focused on their issues; this time the Christian agenda was thwarted. The whole affair was a prank, based on a misapprehension of Satanism and engineered by people who thought that just didn’t matter. To those of us who have spent decades defining this philosophy which has adherents in many nations, it matters very much.
Since then we’ve seen this approach taken more frequently, at times by activist secularists but also by those who are sincere in their worship of some demonic entity. Non-believers may view a devotion to the devil as being just as dopey as other religious perspectives (our position) or as an amusing way to serve their ends by pissing-off adherents of widespread traditional religions. Other atheists want to be accepted as a godless moral equivalent to the faithful and so resent any barrier to their (generally fruitless) attempts at cultivating a broad following. They might oppose public demonstrations of religiosity, but fear being seen as agreeing with we atheist Satanists. They need not worry. The Church of Satan as an organization cannot involve itself in politics since that topic is a matter of each individual member’s choice, which I explain in detail here. Our members work to effectively promote causes that are dear to themselves, and those have been diverse, from animal rights and nuclear energy regulation to the recent “occupy” movements.
While the members of the Church of Satan are secularists, not every Satanist considers the public displays of various religions to be offensive or worth combatting. Noting past civilizations, the real movers and shakers and intellectual elite were typically non-believers in whatever deity-ridden faiths permeated their societies. As today, these people were pragmatic folk who understood the reality of human behavior and acted upon it. Spiritual religion has always been a means for controlling the masses who do not have the economic or political clout to attain wealth and success, keeping them in order with promises of rewards in some post-mortem Elysium, Valhalla, or Heaven as well as punishments in various versions of Hellish underworlds. We Satanists understand stratification and do not expect that everyone is simply waiting for the right information to suddenly slap their foreheads and realize how irrational is their theism. Far too many contemporary secularists and atheists solipsistically project their own journey towards faithless thought on others whose beliefs stem from emotional needs wherein reason plays no part. Seeing such displays of Judeo-Christian and other spiritual doctrines can be viewed as typical signs of religion as a sop for the proles, beneath one’s notice as merely a minor First World problem. This pales in comparison with theism-driven armed conflicts, kidnappings, rape, mutilation, conversion by threat of force, executions of non-believers and genocide that are currently surging in Third World nations. That is worthy of notice and should alarm any intelligent secularist as well as theists who desire peaceful pluralism. Seeking to quell such activities incited by faith and desperation may take far more than strategic bombings and drone strikes as this is a significant challenge to global stability. Rampant ideas fueled by fanaticism are not easily extinguished.
Thus our members might select a form of activism should any be congruent with their self-determined values. But we do not allow our members to use the name of the Church of Satan in their political pursuits. There are a number of atheist/secularist groups working towards separation of church and state issues which usually require extensive (and costly) litigation and we’ve seen excellent results from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. But we don’t team up with any of these organizations for the reason mentioned at the outset. That doesn’t stop secularists from suggesting to us to play the game of pluralist mud-wrestling, but we decline as explained here. Other self-proclaimed “satanic” groups have decided to play the politics game, though these present theatrics rather than philosophical theory as their basis. Using Satan as a means to get attention is easy, as we’ve discussed above, but this does not promote an understanding of our comprehensive philosophy, nor do we favor the linking of such behavior with our organization.
The “political theatre” producers attempt the “there goes the neighborhood” (TGTN) ploy. It works as follows: by forcing those who have an established territory to keep company with newcomers they despise (who might claim similar goals), this proximity will drive out those who were there first, thus ending their dominance. This behavioral principle originated during a time in the US when people of color began moving into all-Caucasian neighborhoods prompting what had been termed “white flight” of the uptight. So, having devilish materials elbowing for room alongside Judeo-Christian displays and literature is meant to quash pluralism by disgusting faithful folk with the legal obligation to also allow “satanic” materials along with their own attempts to proselytize. It might work, but it could also backfire by allowing the Christians to spread even more of their drivel in response as well as encouraging other absurd theists to hawk their lunatic views, too. Since we Satanists oppose all religious presence in public spheres, this latter possibility is particularly abhorrent. When open secularists try this peeing-in-the-pond approach, they give away that their intent is to stop pluralism and that they really are non-believers. That can invalidate their platform for inclusion with other faith-based organizations. The members-only club may be maintained as exclusive to those who are actual theists. True Devil-worshippers would have a more valid case to be amongst the throng of believers, particularly when programs they wish to apply for advocate pairing of faith-based groups with public institutions, as we’ve seen recently. The absurdity of mock-religions can muddy the waters. If their adherents claim to actually believe in a cartoonish deity, then they might have a chance to be taken seriously and achieve legal legitimacy alongside the religions they mean to hamper.
I could easily see clever secularists setting up branches of a Temple of the Serpent which would revere snake gods from many mythologies around the world: Damballa, Quetzalcoatl, Jormungandr, Nāga and so on. It would thus be multi-cultural. They could claim their pet pythons and boas as religious avatars and consider every live feeding of them as a sacrifice to the “World Serpent.” Public “snake dances” could be easily-produced “rituals” all leading to an appearance of an actual group of faithful Serpentians who want people to hear their “good news” about the benefits of devotion to their squamous idols. Milius’ CONAN film had some nifty Ron Cobb designed snake worship graphics, useful for inspiration. Such a group would surely disturb many, and Christians know who that snake stands-for, thinking back to their tales of the garden and the apple. As a self-proclaimed faith-based group, this would be a way to gain entry to public arenas wherein Christianity has ensconced itself, and they could partner with other unusual minority religions, especially if the public already does not view such with relish. These days one need do little more than issue a press release and take a couple of pictures of actors or models in weird get-ups and claim that you have performed some sort of shocking ritual—no actual effort beyond an email and a couple of cell phone images will do the trick. Yes, today’s “journalists” are that easy to fool, as we’ve repeatedly seen.
The Church of Satan is a secularist, atheist organization, so it would be hypocrisy for us to intrude on churches scrabbling for dominance in their attempts to proselytize to the masses. We do not endorse religious pluralism in public spaces. And we are well aware of the current attempts by theists to reassert their age-old bigotry. Unlike most religions, we expect intelligent people to come to us of their own accord, as has been happening successfully for the past 50 years. Our members—those concerned with what can be characterized as desperate attempts by Christians to make themselves seem important—support or work with groups who do litigate successfully. Satanists are extremely responsible individuals who do not need our organization to counsel them about contraception or to assist them in the rearing of the children that they have chosen to bear or adopt. Our basic philosophy provides the guidelines for resolving such issues which are properly in the capable hands of our adherents who adapt them to their unique needs. Adventurous secularist activists who want to play TGTN could have fun with the idea of creating reprehensible-yet-plausible faiths to leverage situations that ought not to be allowing the currently dominant religions to be shoving their symbols onto public spaces. The sensation-hungry press eats it up and often one need only threaten behavior rather than actually produce tangible results. I expect that we’ll be seeing more of that as time goes on. We of the Church of Satan remain, perhaps uniquely, the religion that champions the individualism of our members who decide for themselves how to value and apply socio-political issues as best suits their own self-determined course of living.