The Satanic Temple holds a convention

I have been aware of the Satanic Temple as largely a group that seeks to dethrone religion’s dominance in US culture by demanding that the same privileges that are given to traditional religions, such as monuments in public lands, also be allowed to them. I knew that they use Satanic rituals and regalia even though they do not believe in Satan or the afterlife. It is political activism mixed in with cosplaying and performance art. They are in fact secular and supporters of a science-based worldview and fight racism and homophobia.

However they seem to be much larger than I had thought as evidenced by their convention currently underway at a Marriott hotel in Boston.

The Satanic Temple is recognised as a religion by the US government, and has ministers and congregations in America, Europe and Australia.

More than 830 people snapped up tickets for its late April convention, dubbed SatanCon.

Members say they don’t actually believe in a literal Lucifer or Hell. Instead, they say Satan is a metaphor for questioning authority, and grounding your beliefs in science. The sense of community around these shared values makes it a religion, they say.

They do use the symbols of Satan for rituals – for example when celebrating a wedding or adopting a new name. That might include having an upside-down neon cross on your altar while shouting: “Hail Satan!”

For many Christians, this is serious blasphemy.

“That’s not wrong,” agrees Dex Desjardins, a spokesperson for The Satanic Temple. “A lot of our imagery is inherently blasphemous.

The event takes up the whole fourth floor of the hotel. The Satanists fill it with androgynous goth chic, flamboyant robes, hand-painted horns, diabolical tattoos, and high-maintenance moustache choices. Most people here are old enough to be parents, and several are. I spot at least one pushchair.

Presentations are given, including one called “Hellbillies: Visible Satanism in Rural America”, and a seminar on Satanism and self-pleasure.

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Sex and seances

The 1920s were a high point in people believing that they could communicate with the dead. This may well have been due to two major events: the First World War of 1914-1918 and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919. Both of them resulted in many millions of deaths, many of them sudden and of young people, causing deep grief among the survivors. One can well understand the yearning of people to somehow connect with the ones they had lost.

Naturally this created a market for those who could claim to channel the spirits of the dead and as a result there was a cottage industry of people conducting seances, where you go to talk with a loved one through an intermediary. Belief in this was widespread and indeed this form of ‘spiritism’, the belief in the existence of an afterlife where the deceased lived and could be communicated with, was viewed as a kind of religion that was independent of other religions and devoid of beliefs in any particular god. Belief in communicable spirits was supported by many eminent people of that time, including scientists such as Sir Oliver Lodge, whose son had died. Another notable believer was Arthur Conan Doyle whose son Kingsley had died during the war and Doyle believed that through a medium, he had been able to talk with him. His wife Jean also claimed to have the ability to communicate with the dead using the mode of spirit writing, where her hand would be guided over paper by the spirit.
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Jewish extremist attacks on Christians in Israel

Right wing evangelical Christians in the US have at least two agendas. One is to portray themselves as a persecuted minority both at home and abroad. In the US, this ‘persecution’ takes the form of whining about not having a privileged place in the public sphere, even though as a majority they have so many advantages. They are also quick to seize upon attacks on Christians who are a minority in other countries as further evidence of this global persecution of their faith.

The other agenda of right wing evangelical Christians is to be strong supporters of the right wing of the Israeli political spectrum. This results in them not being critical about the harsh treatment of Palestinians in Israel and in the occupied territories that has resulted in what is effectively apartheid-like conditions imposed on them. The reason for this may be because Christians and Jews share the Old Testament of the Bible and that forms a bond. Another is the shared antipathy to Muslims who are deemed to be not worthy of consideration of the same rights as anyone else. Yet another may be that evangelical Christians eagerly await the second coming of Jesus and seek signs of his imminent arrival. These End-Timers view strife in the Middle East as a key indicator of Armageddon’s onset and thus view any escalation of violence there as a good thing.
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Evangelicals put the Republican party in a bind

I wrote recently about how Republicans have dug a hole for themselves because their voting base, especially evangelical Christians, has taken the abortion issue to far greater extremes than the party establishment would like, in the process alienating many people who, while they may be uneasy about abortion, are even more disturbed about making it so hard to get that it becomes almost impossible for women to get one even in cases of rape or incest or the health of the woman.

Then there is the other problem that evangelical Christians present to Republicans in that while Republican candidates seek their support, evangelicals are not the majority of the voting population and getting their vote is not sufficient to put them over the top.

We see this dynamic play out in the first state to vote in the Republican nomination contest, which is Iowa. This has the format of caucuses where people gather together on one evening in winter to discuss and vote for candidates at public meetings. Such formats are favorable to those who are very committed and in the case of the Iowa caucuses, that consists of people like evangelicals. Already we are seeing a steady stream of Republican hopefuls going, or planning to go, to Iowa to pander to that group. Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, and Tim Scott have already made their pilgrimage.
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The New War Between Science and Religion

As part of my process of posting my published articles here on my blog for easier access, here is one that was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education Review on May 9, 2010. Note that this was back in 2010 so the word ‘new’ may no longer be applicable. The editors of the magazine said that this article received one of the highest readerships that they had seen.

The New War Between Science and Religion

Frauds hiding behind religion

The US government gives religious institutions all manner of tax breaks and also tends to not scrutinize their workings too closely. Crooked people have been exploiting the extra freedoms given to ostensibly religious institutions, such as so-called pastors living the high life on their tax free incomes and perks.

ProPublica exposes the workings of yet another religion-based fraud that left a lot of people, who trusted the institution would do right by them because they were Christian, in the lurch. They describe the case of Bonnie Marin who purchased insurance through a Christian health insurance company. When she developed a cancerous tumor, she thought that she would be spared the huge cost of treatment. To her shock, after a while, they stopped paying out.
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Book review: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida (2022)

This novel by Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka won the prestigious Booker Prize for 2022. He is the second Sri Lankan to win the prize, after Michael Ondaatje. The story is set in 1990 and deals with the carnage that engulfed that country in the decades leading up to that time, with thousands of people, mostly ordinary civilians, dying in the conflicts with suicide-bomb explosions in crowded places, people disappearing, mysterious death squads operating with impunity (‘mysterious’ only in the sense that people were fearful of publicly and openly saying what everyone knew, that these were plain-clothes government forces in unmarked vehicles carrying out extrajudicial kidnappings and executions), and dead and mutilated bodies found floating in rivers, lakes, and canals. As far as I am aware, to this day no one among the senior police, military, and political figures who ordered and executed these atrocities has been held accountable for their actions.

The story begins with narrator Maali Almeida waking up in a waiting room in the afterlife where he is told that he has seven days (‘moons’) to try and figure out how and why he died before he moves on to the next realm. This book falls into the category of magic realism so we are in a world where the spirits of dead people are the main characters as they move around not sensed by the living and are able to go anywhere and listen and watch, though they cannot communicate with the living, except for a very few spirits and that too in very limited ways.
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Measuring Christian nationalism in the US

The PRRI ((Public Religion Research Institute) conducts research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy. Along with the Brookings Institution, it recently carried out a survey to measure the extent that Christian nationalism has taken hold in the US.

To measure Christian nationalism, the PRRI/Brookings Christian Nationalism Survey included a battery of five questions about the relationship between Christianity, American identity, and the U.S. government. Respondents were asked whether they completely agree, mostly agree, mostly disagree, or completely disagree with each of the following statements:

  • The U.S. government should declare America a Christian nation.
  • U.S. laws should be based on Christian values.
  • If the U.S. moves away from our Christian foundations, we will not have a country anymore.
  • Being Christian is an important part of being truly American.
  • God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society.

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