In a post on the Church of Satan website titled “Lets-You-And-Him-Fight” Peter Gilmore has voiced his opinion in a response to The Satanic Temple and it’s attempt to be an open active participant in society. I responded to part of that post here. This is the second part and my final thoughts on this matter.
Peter seems to be against anything that could be construed as proselytizing or promoting his church and that is beyond a doubt his choice to make. In fact there is little anyone can say about the way the CoS is managed. As long as they are not causing harm, violating any laws, or making any unfounded public statements that could damage the reputation and credibility of others they should be allowed to go about their business as they please. At the same time no one is above constructive criticism and in this case Peter has not found misrepresenting others beneath him. What you are reading here is a clarification of facts or “the other side of the story”. I am not attempting to demand anything from anyone or to dictate how others run their organizations beyond the simple and fair expectation they are accurate when posting pubic assessments of others.
In his post Peter says the following-
Some atheists seem quite pleased by such actions since they take the attitude that it is fun to watch self-proclaimed “Satanists” mud-wrestling with Christians in a vain attempt at self-promotion in forums which by all rights should maintain religious neutrality.
There may be some atheists who are pleased by such confrontations. I will admit I have been part of such internet exchanges and it is good to see a self righteous apologetic put in their place. In my opinion I don’t care how a person identifies themselves, if they are reasonable and fair I will support them. If someone is promoting fantasy as reality and making claims about things that have no factual basis then I will attempt to explain to them the flaws in their logic. There are countless places where I would like to see religion left out of the conversation but that is not how the world works. Since there are some people who want to insert religion into everything there needs to be those who will reply to those attempts. We can not eliminate law enforcement and just say “Police should not be attempting to catch criminals. People should stop breaking the law.” While that is true, people should not be breaking laws, simple making that point has not proved to be an effective deterrent to criminal behavior. If only policing the herd were so simple, eh Peter?.
Peter goes on to claim there is some attempt to trick satanists into fighting with others just to watch the fight and to avoid the blame for starting it. I don’t know how to answer that because I have never seen this happen. if it is occurring I would encourage people to ignore such childish and pointless activities. They certainly are not the norm and most every atheist I’ve ever met would find such activity immature and silly.
: to try to convert (a group or area) to a different religion (especially Christianity)
Peter goes on to say-
We’ve seen others lifting passages from our literature, courting non-Satanist atheists to support their acts with a wink and a nod, meaning they likely really don’t want to be evangelizing Satanism, but do so to annoy the Christians and “make a point.” Of course, “Who gets the point?” is the real question. And, if the ulterior motives for such actions are made clear, then the disingenuousness of the actual proposed project (which might require funds that are lacking) may well be enough to negate the validity of such efforts.
Again I can’t see that any atheists are promoting Satanism purely to “annoy the Christians” or to “make a point” that is obviously meaningless. Maybe Peter doesn’t agree with the point but that doesn’t make it meaningless it simply makes it meaningless to Peter Gilmore. I’m not clear exactly what type of “point” Peter is referring to because he provides no examples. He then suggests some actions are disingenuous but this seems to be Peter’s default position and not one that one that comes from observation. Again this is difficult to know because there are no examples provided. It could be safe to assume Peter is talking about The Satanic Temple but there has been no indication that they lack funds for what they have proposed or that they are less than genuine. It would be fair to wait until someone actually does the thing you are holding them accountable for before reprimanding them or concluding their motives are negative.
Next Peter makes it clear that-
The Church of Satan has an atheist philosophy and so we support the American ideal of separation of church and state, which is a means for the secularization of our society. The U.S. is a republic, not a democracy, and this is a wise device for maintaining a balance so that a majority does not force other minority positions into compliance with their values. We Satanists are against evangelizing and proselytizing (in any form) as we consider these to be intrusive, bullying acts that are antagonistic to free will. Having any religion foisted on unwilling people is not Satanic. Such deeds in a rational society should be deemed to be criminal. Laws that promote a majority religion’s beliefs which could hamper the civil rights of those outside that religion should be repealed where they exist.
i don’t disagree with most of this but I have a problem with what Peter defines as “evangelizing and proselytizing (in any form)” Is simply telling someone what your beliefs are an example of this? The use of the word evangelizing is also problematic to me. If someone is promoting the use of logic, skepticism, and tolerance rather than expecting people to “have faith” and believe in incredible stories of magic and the dead coming back to life can they really be accused of evangelizing ?
Peter also says “we (CoS) support the American ideal of separation of church and state” I do not doubt this is true but I am disappointed in the way that support manifests itself. If you are supporting the separation of church and state then shouldn’t you support fair use by all religions of public space if there is to be any use at all?
In McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky. Justice Scalia writes in his dissenting opinion
“If religion in the public forum had to be entirely nondenominational, there could be no religion in the public forum at all. One cannot say the word “God,” or “the Almighty,” one cannot offer public supplication or thanksgiving, without contradicting the beliefs of some people that there are many gods, or that God or the gods pay no attention to human affairs. With respect to public acknowledgment of religious belief, it is entirely clear from our Nation’s historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits this disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists.
“The three most popular religions in the United States, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam–which combined account for 97.7% of all believers–are monotheistic . . .. All of them, moreover (Islam included), believe that the Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses, and are divine prescriptions for a virtuous life . . .. Publicly honoring the Ten Commandments is thus indistinguishable, insofar as discriminating against other religions is concerned, from publicly honoring God. Both practices are recognized across such a broad and diverse range of the population–from Christians to Muslims–that they cannot be reasonably understood as a government endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint.”
The above was written in 2005. We still have to fight in order to keep a wall of separation between church and state. No one instance can be allowed to “slip by” no matter how small because of the possibility of it being used to build a larger machine in order to tear down that wall. The only way to do that is to make sure there is no allowance of disregard of atheists or any other religious point of view. Being silent and unwilling to publicly represent your religious views leaves you open to the possibility of having those views dismissed.
Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit (He who is silent is taken to agree; he ought to have spoken when he was able to)—Latin proverb
Is standing up for your religious view the same as trying to convert or proselytizing? A reasonable person should be able to do so without giving an impression of trying to convert anyone.
Peter says that the CoS would
” enjoy the deletion of “In God We Trust” from our currency.”
But what would he do to help that happen? That’s a fair question I believe.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled: “It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.”
Yet another way religious reference has snuck into our government. Another popular argument is “We have done it this way for so long it now has historic value and doesn’t really support any religion” The reason it has been allowed for so long is because no one was willing to stand up against it. One possible reason could be they were afraid of “evangelizing and proselytizing” so afraid that they would rather allow that right to be dismissed by the courts than stand up for it’s right to be considered.
Despite all the claptrap about keeping opinions to yourself Peter slips a little
Satanism is a newer religion, having been concretized as a coherent philosophy and spread by a global organization beginning in 1966. We have been faced with prejudice and misunderstanding because Anton LaVey purposely chose an iconoclastic paradigm, but in the almost five decades of our existence we’ve made headway into being taken seriously by scholars, historians and certain aware segments of the general populace.
First, Satanism is not a “newer religion”. The Church of Satan is a newer form of Satanism. I’m pleased he feels like the CoS is being taken seriously by historians (time will do that) and the public is becoming aware of them. There are others Satanists in the world too and they are entitled to the same consideration. At least they should be given the opportunity to prove they deserve it. Now if he coulda just stopped there. Instead, this –
We don’t want to undercut this success by going for “cheap shots” meant to garner quick publicity when such could make Satanism seem like a position that is just as offensive as the spiritual religions clamoring for unearned attention, part of their agenda of hijacking society for their own belief systems. We support the secularization of society as do many others who value reason and free thought. You who believe in Gods or Devils are free to embrace your own religions, just don’t force them on those of us who are not interested or actively find them to be repugnant.
First, standing up for your rights, rights that have been granted to others is not a “cheap shot”. Next, public attention is EXACTLY what any group fighting to be treated in an equal and fair manner wants and needs. How are you ever going to gain public support if you don’t get people’s attention and educate them. NOT CONVERT…educate. Do you think that educating people about the fact gay men are not all child molesters as many used to believe has helped people to accept gays and treat them no different than anyone else? I think it probably played a part. People fear what they do not know and they discriminate based on ignorance and fear.
In my opinion religious views such as the ones held by most Satanists and atheists have one thing going for them that other religions usually are lacking in some aspect, reality. This expectation that we leave fiction stories and imaginary friends out of the process we use to create laws and find truth is more than reasonable, it is vital. No one is ever judged or treated fairly when supernatural beliefs are involved because those have no place in a system made up of people who are limited to a world of logic,reason and science as the only way of determining what is likely true in our day to day interaction with the world around us. I’m not going to say that anyone should be forcing their views on anyone else but it should be made clear the answer to every question mankind has answered about the world so far has never been “magic” or “god did it” To me that is a important observation that people should take into consideration.
As I have said the CoS is free to run their organization any way they see fit. In light of that it seems that the CoS has dismissed itself from any need of consideration about it’s opinion on issues of church and state or any others for that matter, including Satanism. Their position is -They take no position. Can’t argue with that I suppose.
Up next…definitions are important