The Church of Satan has existed as a form of intentional blasphemy from its very inception on April 30th, 1966. Our founder, Magus Anton Szandor LaVey, delineated his thinking thusly: “Calling it a church enabled me to follow the magic formula of one part outrage to nine parts social respectability that is needed for success.” Satan was chosen as the most apt primary symbol as the name means adversary and opposer in the original Hebrew. With his atheist, skeptical and pragmatic philosophy, LaVey was thumbing his nose at two thousand years of Christian domination of the globe with his avowedly carnal religion. But countering Christianity was not his sole goal.
The rising hippy culture as well as the burgeoning “occult revival” of the 60s, while contesting the rigidity of previous decades, brought forth a general sloppy spiritualism that LaVey felt needed to be challenged by his third-side perspective. Thus, while inverted crosses and the desecration of symbols held dear by Christians could play a role, slaughtering contemporary sacred cows was also encouraged by Satanism. He suggested that a contemporary black mass might vilify well-respected gurus and LSD sugar cubes might be trodden underfoot. His sense of blasphemy thus did not stop at Christianity, but was applied towards mockery of anything that might be held-up by herd culture, questioning why such things were valued and whether that should be so.
In that tradition, I curated an art show—the second in our series of exhibitions under the title THE DEVILS REIGN, for the HOWL Gallery of Ft. Myers, Florida—which opened in early December of last year. This installment was titled PSYCHEDELIC BLASPHEMY and you'll find some of its images below. I called for submissions thusly:
Blasphemy is a conscious act of rejection, showing contempt for or derision of established sacred icons. Typically it is directed at objects, people, and concepts placed on pedestals by religions. As secularism has grown, one may also deem irreverence and disgust for things held above criticism by herd culture as today’s implementation of that idea. When we dismiss what by consensus is held to be inviolable, we are blasphemers.
While here in the United States we may blaspheme at will, that is not an accepted global prerogative. Nations exist with laws censoring and condemning—in some cases with imprisonment or death—those who criticize the theism or the political faction currently ruling their societies and these governments should be recognized as being barbaric. Such savagery aught to be abhorred by any who pretend at being civilized. That the Church of Satan could emerge here and Anton LaVey not be burnt at a stake was because of the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. Freethinkers around the globe work towards attaining or sustaining such liberties in their nations of residence and those of us who already have this privilege support their efforts. But this struggle is not something we should take as being won—we've recently seen patriotism used as an excuse by government officials to advocate punishment for those exercising this constitutionally-guaranteed right.
We Satanists salute those who have made a regular practice of dissent and criticism. Among them, the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was subject to murderous attack by Islamic fundamentalists, yet their writers and artists dauntlessly continue critiquing many religions and social institutions. The folks producing the animated South Park have done a splendid job over the years of mocking social and religious conventions, with devastating parody as their weapon of choice. They share with Satanism an essential commitment to examining society and leveling pretension, bigotry and commandeered dominion with humor, laying bare uncomfortable truths.
Indeed, the timorous and small-minded may find such expressions offensive and clamor to be protected from the presentation of ideas which they find repugnant, "triggering," or with which they simply disagree. Far too many of such people in our society now erroneously think they have a right not to be offended. That attitude—as advocates of free expression know from studying sociology and history—is found primarily in dictatorships and other totalitarian societies which silence dissent and diversity, whether they are ruled by an intolerant religion or a despotic political faction. Such regimes fear criticism and try to compel submission, but the brave will refuse to be silenced. Whatever your position on the political or religious perspective might be, championing the right to excercise free expression must embrace tolerance for those with whom we disagree. Only then can we examine—and with civility— rationally critique their concepts so that by learning about adversarial positions we can accept or reject them based on a clear and accurate assessment of their sources, their validity, and the possible consequences that such thinking might bring about.
So, with gusto, we embrace CFI’s International Blasphemy Rights Day and joyously accept the honorific of being blasphemers! Here’s to continued blasphemy, a means for questioning tyrannical dictates in our unending struggle towards achieving self-sovereignty and espousing independant thought.
—Magus Peter H. Gilmore