Reply to Church of Satan- The Many Uses For A Pitchfork

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You may or may not know I have been a supporter of the Church of Satan. I’m not an official card carrying member but I know their belief system pretty well and am also aware they are largely misunderstood. To eliminate the ignorance people may have about satanism I have talked about the subject on my podcast, wrote about it on my blog, and interviewed guests who were knowledgeable about the subject. While I have agreed with much of  what Satanism represented I felt no pressing need to join into any group much less one that expected me to pay them so I could be an official club member. The base cost of getting a card and bragging rights from the Curch of Satan is $200.00.The COS website rationalizes the $200 ($208 if you use paypal) by claiming that-

“Most Christian churches will charge you a tithe that counts for 10% of your yearly income—membership in them is not free, as so many assume.”

Maybe I’m just naive cause I don’t get to church much these days but I have never heard of anyone being kicked out of their church or told they can’t love Jesus unless they pay the dues. Maybe some type of guilt trip or that “you will burn in hell someday” thing but a mandatory 10% or you cant be god’s kid anymore? Okay….

A little further down it reads-

For those who think we ask too much, we suggest that you look to your other possessions and expenses as a comparison. Most people spend far more than this amount on general entertainment. We’ve discovered that most individuals can muster these funds if membership is something they truly desire. Bear in mind that our church has real people doing work, such as corresponding with individuals, and otherwise helping to run an international organization (postage, paper, computers, email accounts, and so on are not free). Our administrative staff’s time is precious—isn’t yours? Also, we are emphatically not altruists. We’re Satanists, so we expect to be compensated for our time and efforts.So, our reasoning is quite simple, and we think it is a bargain. If you disagree, then you don’t have to affiliate with us.

So they charge a membership fee, big deal, lots of groups do. I am uncomfortable with the reasoning. Why mislead people into  being comfortable about the cost by making it sound like all other religions? ironic thing is-They trick people into handing over their cash just like the other religions do. So be upfront about it at least.  Another thing that turned me off from actually becoming a part of the COS is the overall feeling I get from the above paragraph.  They really don’t care about anyone or anything. Find a way to get the money or too bad for you. A big point of the COS is individual belief, almost to a fault. I’m not the type to need other people to validate me or anything I do but I do realize that concern for others is important. I don’t have a problem reaching out a hand or into a pocket to help the best interest of the individual or the group so long as my help isn’t pissed away on things that are not helpful. It is probably safe to assume there are very few if any homeless and lower income people who are officially affiliated with the Church of Satan since saving up $200 is not a realistic goal for those people. The tactic is sometimes referred to as “pricing out the riffraff” The Church of Satan shows no concern about any Satanist who can’t put an extra $200 together.  I guess that’s why the traditional suggested donation to a church is 10% they don’t wanna miss out on even the smallest revenue generating possibility.

The application to become a member is also a bit too intrusive for my tastes. I mean 39 lines of questions to answer? I have a problem with Christians sticking their noses into my life already why would I invite more of it from another religious group? The fact that they are interested or concerned to such a degree about my preferences and personal habits is a red flag. Most of what they are asking really should have no bearing on whether I am a satanist. I assume some of these questions are to help recognize those who may be intent on using their affiliation with the Church of Satan as an opportunity to act out whatever warped suggestions their mental illness or hatred demands of them. I can understand that is probably a needed precaution. I also wonder what becomes of an applicant who answers question #29 ”Kicking babies”

 It seems like the COS should simply be doing a background check on all members before allowing them in or would that be too herd-like?

One of the people I have had an opportunity to talk with about satanism and The Church of Satan is Peter Gilmore.  I enjoyed the conversation. Peter seemed to be a intelligent guy. He was easy to talk with.   We never really discussed other satanic groups during our talk so when I heard about a group called The Satanic Temple attempting to erect some sort of monument in Oklahoma near an existing ten commandments monument I wondered what Peter would think about that.

But before I did anything to find the answer to that question I contacted Lucien Greaves who goes by the title of Overlord at The Satanic Temple and is their spokesperson. I asked him if he would be interested in having a conversation with Al Stefanelli and myself about his request to the OK leadership that a satanic monument be allowed equal space as the ten commandments at the state capitol. He accepted and we spoke for an hour and a half about Satanism and his activism.

I came away from the conversation with a new perspective on Satanism. There was some of what I thought had been missing from the COS in The Satanic Temple approach to Satanism.

The Church of Satan requires that people accept “LaVey’s principles” before becoming members of the church. Anton Lavey’s Satanic Bible is a mix of various influences in his life and has been criticized by many for various reasons I’m not going to go into here because it isn’t as important as the end result of the entire text. I was not exposed to the Satanic Bible until my religious beliefs were very well established. After I read it I did not feel as though I needed to make any changes. I found Anton Lavey himself to be very interesting as an individual and the founding of the Church of Satan has had undeniable effects on society and the way many look at  religion.That however does not give it unquestionable  authority on Satanism. The Church of Satan can run it’s organization as it sees fit but it should be careful of not becoming what it hates.

After my conversation with Lucien I reached out to Peter Gilmore and the COS. here is what I received in reply-

On Tuesday, December 17, 2013 3:32 PM, Administration <administration@churchofsatan.com> wrote:
As always, look to our news feed. This should make our position clear:

http://news.churchofsatan.com/post/69495555098/lets-you-and-him-fight

We do not even think ³The Satanic Temple² has any legitimacy except as a
means for doing stunts to get them attention.

Sincerely,

Administration
Church of Satan
www.churchofsatan.com

First, I suggest you follow the above link and read the response Peter Gilmore has to many types of action/behavior by Satanists and atheists lately.

The post by Peter Gilmore troubles me for many reasons. One of those is the amount of strawmen in his post. I am disappointed at the end of reading because I had respected Peter Gilmore. I can understand and respect well supported disagreement on the issues but to belittle and misrepresent? Those are not acceptable and not deserved in my opinion.

Peter starts out by saying-

Their theory is that if Satanists demand the same irritating forms of public proselytizing as do certain Christian sects, then “people” will “wake up” and see how foolish the Christians are and so end their irksome displays. Would that raising consciousness in the herd were so simple.

pros·e·ly·tize:

to try to persuade people to join a religion, cause, or group

I’m not sure that requesting equal opportunity to display a monument is of itself an example of proselytizing. Does anyone think that a ten commandment display is going to convert anyone to become a  Christian anymore than a Satanic display is going to convert anyone to Satanism? I’m not sure if Peter agrees with me on this or not because on one hand he thinks simply having a monument in view  is an example of proselytizing. Then he reminds us a monument is not going to “wake up” anyone because (in condescending tone) “raising consciousness in the herd” is not so easily done. Doesn’t that mean it will be difficult for a monument to be considered persuasive just because it exists?

In an effort to clarify this for Peter I’ll explain the reasoning most are using when they voice opposition to religious displays.-

Having one display allowed and no others does suggest that there is one set of beliefs that are considered “better” or “more correct” by the state government in Oklahoma and that is not how the law works in this country. In our efforts to reach justice and/or truth we offer as much information as possible and then allow people to consider that information in order to find the truth or the closest thing possible. When it comes to something as personal as religion we have chose to leave those decisions up to the individual. Our laws dictate that we not include religious preference in the operation of our government. Some people have found ways to circumvent those laws in order to further their own agenda. That leaves a couple of choices.

1- Court battles over the display which do not always result in removal and can go on for extended periods.

2- The space be shared so that there is an opportunity for people to form their own opinion after being provided diverse viewpoints . At the same time the land is being shared among the people who own it, everyone. Sharing with others is a behavior taught at a very early age in this country. Adults should be able to grasp the concept easily

For Peter to dismiss the request by The Satanic Temple as “doing stunts to gain them attention” and leave it at that indicates a lack of  understanding about the implications of unchecked use of public areas by one group. When a person walks around in public areas and all they see are monuments representing one religious group THAT is public proselytizing

If Peter Gilmore and the members of the Church of Satan do not find it productive  to actively challenge groups that will/would/have limited freedoms by imposing their own religious beliefs on others then they should not do so.

They should also refrain from criticizing those who will take on such challenges since they benefit from the successes.

I’ll clear up some more of the straw Peter Gilmore left laying around in the next blog. Unless he wants to clean it up first (or at least put the pitchfork down) which is what I would prefer rather than spending time correcting people who I have more in common than differences with. It is a waste of time better spent, I hope we can agree on that.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com/ vjack

    Infighting among non-religious groups? Who would have guessed this could happen? From what you have presented here, it sounds like the groups agree on their goals but differ in how they want to pursue them. This certainly sounds familiar.

    • Brent Woody

      Actually, it is a purely capitalistic squabble. CoS is concerned that TST will cut in on their monopoly on Satanism. :D

      • beth

        Yes, Brent, I think you’re exactly right — CoS seems to feel that they have exclusive rights to Satanism. They seem to think they’re entitled to this despite having no real presence or impact of their own, and for some reason they take umbrage to the Satanic Temple’s efforts to openly fight discrimination and be an active part of the religious community.

        If Gilmore had any sense he’d be *supporting* the Satanic Temple.