FUCK RACISM!

Satanism has a long history of being misinterpreted, misused, and negatively portrayed. One of the most insidious of these distortions is the alignment of racism with the Satanic. There has been a long literary tradition establishing that which is “dark” as evil and that which is “light” as good and this theme is strong within mythology, folklore, and most major religions, especially Christianity. This color association has unfortunately been exploited to spread hateful and malevolent ideologies and fuel racism and white supremacy well into modern times.

There are many examples that illustrate the light/dark: good/evil thematic. Early folklore describes Satan as a “black man,” and though there aren’t explicit descriptions in the Bible of Satan, other sinful or negative forces are described as being dark or black. Art during Medieval times tended to portray figures of an evil nature as darker than other figures and in Medieval theater actors would wear black masks when they played demons. According to the Black Presence Project, “…by the time of Elizabeth I and the advent of the slave trade, some writers were portraying ‘blackness’ as satanic and sinful, while ‘whiteness’ was purity and virginity, as (supposedly) embodied by the queen. At the same time, however, images of Black people had become trophies – a means of displaying one’s wealth and power, based on ideas of racial superiority.” A work of art entitled “The Devil’s Ball” encapsulates this sentiment of evil and “blackness” that ranges from the 18th century onward. The Black Presence Project describes it as, “…one of a series of satirical cartoons by Robert Cruikshank. It is a vivid example of the gross caricatures made of Black people in the 18th century. Cruikshank portrays the African as a devil with thick lips…” Modern examples of this color dichotomy in popular culture range from Star Wars and its light and dark forces to the more Satanic themes of “The Bible” miniseries which created controversy because the Satan character purportedly resembled Barak Obama, and the movie “The Witch” that made Black Phillip a mainstay in Satanic subculture.

For all the insidious and deceptive influences on Satanism, there have been many positive, anti-racist, and progressive artistic representations of Satanism as well. The reading of Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost as an anti-hero and figure of rebellion against tyranny, whether it’s correct or not, lead many artists to depict Satan in a favorable light. Neil Gaiman’s take on the Lucifer Morningstar character in the comic Sandman and his new role on the TV show Lucifer depict him sympathetically. In music, Twin Temple takes a feminist stance on Satanism and the band Zeal & Ardor created a magnificent album entitled The Devil is Fine that asks, “What if American slaves had embraced Satan instead of Jesus?” In an interview with Revolver the band’s creator says, “…it struck me as odd that American slaves adopted the beliefs of their oppressors and masters in their very personal music. If they sung the spirituals truly for themselves, it’s hard to believe that they incorporated Christianity into it. So [embracing Satan] seemed like an interesting form of rebellion, at least in my head.”

When it comes to racism in ideology, the rising of Identity Christianity in the late 1800s, which subscribes to extreme racism, claimed that the devil was black. A later interpretation from Charles Carroll’s 1900 book The Negro a Beast or In the Image of God, states that white people descended from Adam and non-white people descended from “pre-Adamite beasts.” They are adamantly against couples of mixed races, so much so that James Alfred Aho’s The Politics of Righteousness: Idaho Christian Patriotism, states that identity preachers claim according to the Bible, “the penalties for race-mixing, homo-sexuality, and usury are death.” Some of the most notorious hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Republic Army, Aryan Nations, and the Universal Church of God identify as Identity Christian.

The hypocrisy within Christianity and its views on racism and Satanism are not only apparent in readings and interpretations of the Bible, but in its contemporary preaching as well. In a 2018 article in Christian Living titled “Racism is Demonic” Andrew Menkis states, “When discussing racism, we must not forget Satan…God ‘has delivered us from the domain of darkness…’ Believers are soldiers in the fight against Satan and his evil, including racism.” He goes on to quote Jesus, “When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” The above statements are an example of how these belief systems reinforce the idea that darkness is evil yet attempt to claim racism as Satanic when the correlation was spurred by their very own theistic doctrine.

It is apparent from historical documentation that the false assumption believing racism is somehow Satanic was devised by early supernaturalism and further developed and propelled by Christianity for self-benefit. While it must be acknowledged that Satanism has lacked diversity in its development, The Satanic Temple is staunchly anti-racist and inclusive. In a 2017 Washington Post article, TST’s co-founder, Lucien Greaves, in addition to countering the pious insistence that racism and evil are products of the supernatural or a literal Satan states, “Finally, it must be said that nothing could be more antithetical to modern nontheistic Satanism than racist ideologies. We embrace a large diversity of individuals from a wide spectrum of political and cultural backgrounds, but we’re all unified by our respect for individual rights and pluralism.” TST is continuously working to be as inclusive as possible and ensure all voices are heard. Most recently, the Satanists of Color Coalition was launched within TST “for Satanists of Color to talk about issues, subjects, and experiences that [they] face in [their] communities.” The tenets embrace compassion and justice and part of TST’s mission “is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people.” There is no place for racism or hate of any kind in Satanism. As Lucifer states in The Sandman, “They use my name as if I spent my entire days sitting on their shoulders, forcing them to commit acts they would otherwise find repulsive. ‘The devil made me do it.’ I have never made one of them do anything. Never. They live their own tiny lives. I do not live their lives for them.”   

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The Same Ol’ Roaring Twenties

A new year, as well as a new decade is upon us. The numeral alone symbolizes multiple anachronistic themes. 2020 is seemingly a number out of science fiction that signifies some far-off futuristic time period with flying cars and colonies on other planets. It also brings with it a sense of nostalgia, a sense of the past. The “roaring twenties” have returned with jazz parties and a swingin’ sense of style. 2020 is the past and the future all twisted together right here in the present.

While we haven’t gotten flying cars or off-planet colonies just yet, the electronic age is in full swing. There are cellular phones where actual voice calling is probably the least used feature, other contraptions that you need only speak to for them to perform many different tasks, and communication to every country around the globe is possible in multiple ways. A vast amount of information is at most people’s fingertips and can be found in mere seconds. All these things seemed impossible not that long ago, but the swiftness in which technology has evolved and continues evolving is staggering. Technological advances during the 1920s were a main feature of that decade as well, but there are some more frightening ways in which our present is like the 20s of the 20th century. That era saw increased restrictions on immigration, politicians who used slogans such as “America first,” a decline in labor unions, and increased consumerism and corporate control. Today we see harsh restrictions on immigration and refugees, slogans like “make America great again,” and union busting on a national scale with increased corporate power.

Women gained the right to vote in America in 1920 but there was still a host of restrictions and discriminations that continued to work against them. Women could participate in “appropriate” professional fields but could legally be fired if they were pregnant. There were restrictions placed on what was appropriate for women to wear at work as well as in public spaces, and these are only a couple of examples. Today women are still struggling for paid maternity leave and reproductive health coverage. They are still criticized on how they dress in public and sources from the White House have indicated that the president instructed female staff need to “dress like women.” The trend of women in the 1920s gaining minor advancements yet still struggling for full equity continues with increased female representation in many spheres but with the battle for basic bodily rights and general respect ongoing and becoming more urgent every day.

Racism and other forms of bigotry were rampant during the 1920s with the Ku Klux Klan having an estimated 6 million members. There were lynchings, race riots, a rise in anti-Semitism, and a trend towards the belief in eugenics. Segregation was still prominent and zoning rules dictated where non-white families could purchase homes. In entertainment, the jazz craze was gaining popularity and dance halls were a main attraction for youths of all races. Jazz was a musical genre created by African Americans and mostly played by African Americans, yet the dance halls were segregated, and the music itself was eventually co-opted by whites. America today has seen racism, anti-Semitism, and hate crimes rise again to startling heights. While we now have laws against race discrimination, there is a strong movement of white nationalism. While there are hate crime laws now protecting people from certain forms of abuse, anti-Semitic attacks and the murder of trans men and women have seen an uptick across the country. Hateful ideologies which were once out in the open eventually simmered, although never disappearing fully, eventually became outlawed and outdated. But now the hate that was driven underground is once again out in the open. The KKK and other neo-Nazi organizations are openly holding rallies and recruitments, swastikas are graffitied in public places, anti-LGBTQ laws are surfacing in our state and federal governments, and laws to control female bodies are sweeping the nation.

Religious conservatism is another area where our present is emulating the past with its ideologies seeping into our laws and government in alarming ways. Religious conservatism reared its head throughout the 1920s fueling the drive towards prohibition and denouncing science. An important example of this is the famous Scopes trial in Tennessee in 1925 with the banning of evolution from being taught in schools. John T. Scopes was put on trial for teaching it anyway despite the law and was eventually found guilty. The details and basis for this trial no longer seem like distant history. An Ohio bill that prohibits penalizing children who answer scientific questions incorrectly if those answers align with religious beliefs has passed in their state House of Representatives. Indiana is currently attempting to pass legislation that requires schools to place “In God We Trust” in every classroom at the school’s expense. Dominant religious doctrine is infiltrating our public lives in numerous other ways with strong political backing and widespread public support.

Living in a future that in many ways is emulating an America of 100 years ago is exceedingly distressing. But there were forces like John T. Scopes, the numerous suffragists, W.E.B. Du Bois and all the contributors to the Harlem Renaissance and anti-segregationists, the pioneers of the “Pansy” and “Sapphic” crazes that celebrated the LGBTQ community of the time that all created, danced, educated, and defied their oppressors. They dared to live their truths freely which made the roaring twenties a joyous time despite the terrible challenges many people were facing. The roaring twenties of today also has many inspiring individuals and communities who are striving to make this world a more accepting place for all of us. There are leaders among us refusing to give in to intolerance, religious oppression, and hate of all kinds. We belong to one such community. The Satanic Temple is filled with like-minded individuals who value and respect the adversary of unchecked authority. We will continue to defy oppression and seek justice. We will continue to dance, create, educate, pursue knowledge, and defend our freedoms. Welcome to the new Roaring Twenties. Happy New Year and Hail Satan!

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Celebratin’ with Satan

Winter seemingly has always been a peculiar and extraordinary time of year. It’s hard not to feel a sense of wonderment during the darker days and long nights. The aura of culmination and the anticipation of new life and new beginnings surrounds us all. There are many articles and advice columns on ways to cope with this time of year, but what do we do as Satanists to acknowledge and manage this special season?

While we do not celebrate the tale of a virgin birth or any other stories of the miraculous, we do celebrate, well, whatever we want. The winter is seen as a time of prolonged darkness and death when much of nature is entering hibernation and once flourishing plant life withers. People have historically used this seasonal time of darkness to reflect on the year that is ending and to let go of negative feelings or behaviors in order to begin the upcoming year anew. Many pagan rituals have been co-opted by other religions to form what are now the major winter holidays, and it is these early pagan ceremonies that many Satanists borrow from to commemorate this time of year. Whether it is Saturnalia, Krampus, Yule, or Winter Solstice, the themes for winter time celebrations usually revolve around gift-giving, togetherness, reflection, and general revelry. While no Satanist must adhere to any formal holiday, ritual, or celebration, there is something to be said about observing special or significant moments with community. There are clinically proven psychological reasons why humans have historically come together to celebrate periodically. Humans are social animals and the need for human contact is actually greater than the need for safety. This may also be one reason why many people feel depressed during this time of year. The feeling of being socially excluded activates certain parts of the brain that process physical pain. Social exclusion can also be coupled with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is especially common from late fall through early spring. Even if you choose not to celebrate a specific holiday or acknowledge the season in any way, it’s hard to escape the festivities surrounding the winter months. If this time of year is especially distressing in any way, do not hesitate to reach out to a fellow Satanist.     

Gift giving is another prominent element to the winter holidays which raises many conversations regarding consumerism. What started out as the gifting of small tokens or treats many years ago has evolved into a capitalistic frenzy. There is a certain amount of joy in choosing the perfect gift for someone and seeing their face light up when they open it. There is that excitement of tearing into a gift chosen especially for you. Alternatively, there is the horror and distress of hearing news accounts of people being trampled to death attempting to snag huge holiday sales. Of course, people should not feel pressured into doling out gifts. Buying thoughtless and useless items just to fulfill a sense of obligation isn’t just silly, it’s wasteful. Again, you should feel free to choose whatever elements you desire to be a part of your holidays. Many choose to solely exchange hand-made items instead of store-bought gifts. Others eliminate this tradition altogether choosing not to participate in the capitalistic driven slant behind modern winter holidays. Showing your love and appreciation to those you are grateful for can take any form you desire. Utilizing the holiday season to take a moment to express these feelings as the year ends can be especially gratifying.

Decorating for the holidays has exploded from a few customary components to grand displays of lights and robotics. Most of the conventional features stem from pagan traditions such as the Christmas tree which is rooted in the pre-Christian practice of putting up evergreen boughs in winter to encourage the return of the sun. This evolved into utilizing whole trees or “paradise trees” in public spaces in the Middle Ages to celebrate the feast day of Adam and Eve. This practice was eventually banned by the church which brought the trees from the public sphere into the home. Decorations, like most religious customs, are steeped in symbology. The colors red and green for Christmas symbolize eternal life and the blood of Jesus. Blue and white are traditional Hanukah colors representing the Israeli flag. Kwanzaa utilizes black, red, and green. Black signifies the people, red signifies their struggle, and green represents hope for the future. Like the social aspect of holidays, psychologists have also indicated that decorating for holidays makes us happy. Psychologist Deborah Serani confirmed in an interview that decorating can lift your mood. “It does create that neurological shift that can produce happiness,” she said. “I think anything that takes us out of our normal habituation, the normal day in, day out … signals our senses, and then our senses measure if it’s pleasing or not.” Some Satanists definitely feel the positive energy produced from decorating for their holidays. Many put up their own version of holiday trees bedecked in Satanic ornaments and flourishes. There are also Satanic stockings, lights, and other items to adorn your home or office for the special winter months. If you haven’t seen the Snaketivity holiday display set up by The Satanic Temple’s Chicago Chapter, I urge you to look it up.    

However you choose to celebrate during this time or not, reach out to your community whenever you are feeling overwhelmed or particularly sad or alone. If you are in a location where a TST chapter is not close by, reach out online. Our religious community is accessible for support whenever you need it. Summed up perfectly in Al Ridenour’s The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas, “Christmas requires the darkness.” Happiest of holidays to all our readers. Hail you all! Ave Satanas!  

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On War, Religion, and the Science of Non-violence

The United States President’s spiritual adviser, Paula White, has publicly stated, “To say no to President Trump would be saying no to God.” Believing in a god that has planned for your country to go to war, to conquer others, that makes you believe that your country is “divine” allows for war to seem righteous. The belief that war is a “necessary evil,” or that war is patriotic needs to be abolished. Apotheosizing soldiers, battles, and violence has created a world strife with misery. If non-violence were exalted and heroes of science and thought were celebrated and revered to the same extent heroes of war are, it would create a much healthier world and the need for people to volunteer to enact violence and death on our behalf would be far less. In the words of writer and social activist, Alice Walker, “We must, I believe, start teaching our children the sanity of nonviolence much earlier.”

Political figures and other historical leaders have routinely capitalized on theological pronouncements of the divine nature of their rule and actions. This type of rhetoric plays on the majority public’s belief system and creates a spiritual bond between the leader and their subjects. The public’s collective opinions are highly influenced by those in power manipulating their firmly held religious beliefs. These tactics have been brandished relentlessly throughout history and now the seemingly sacrosanct marriage between nation, politics, and religion are engrained in society to a debilitating degree. Humans venerate “war heroes” and collectively pay respects to soldiers during national holidays. We play at being soldiers in video games, watch them in movies, and sing about them in national anthems. Famous battles are depicted in art and famous soldiers have everything from parks, bridges, and streets named after them. War is everywhere. Having such violence normalized in human culture has many psychological effects. While scientific studies on the link between violent video games and violent behavior in children are inconsistent, the fact that toy soldiers, war games, and other media depicting similar scenarios are targeted at young boys is no mistake. Just like baby dolls were intended to train girls for motherhood, toy soldiers were meant to train boys for the military. Celebrating and idolizing all aspects of war in a sense militarizes our minds. Militarization is defined as the process by which a society organizes itself for military conflict and violence. While the United States does not experience literal war within its borders daily like many other countries do, an article in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems states, it “has become a country that is constantly at war.” According to the Department of Defense, for fiscal year 2019, the budget authority for the military is $693,058,000,000, which is more than what China, India, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and Japan spend on defense combined. The gun culture that grasps the country is another indication of its militarization. The ease in which firearms can be purchased in many states and the vigilance with which the “right to bear arms” is defended indicates how many citizens’ minds are militarized. There is a somewhat warped notion that peace needs to be violently defended and that war ensures our freedom. This idea can be seen everywhere from bumper stickers and t-shirts declaring “Freedom is not Free” to the scholastic doctrine of “Just War Theory.” This war/peace hypocrisy is most glaring during the month of November throughout North America. Some even call it “the month of gratitude.” Canada celebrates Remembrance Day, which is like America’s Veterans Day, both celebrated around the same time during this month. These days are meant to acknowledge and give thanks to military veterans for their service. Mexico has Revolution Day that celebrates when the Mexican Revolution started. And of course, there’s Thanksgiving. A day supposedly celebrating gratitude and purportedly modeled after a feast attended by both pilgrims and Indigenous peoples but historically ignores the actual genocide, rape, and pilfering of land from the Native Americans.

The roles the military and its soldiers play are indeed important ones and they do deserve gratitude and respect. They volunteer their lives to protect others. The act is noble and brave, and many lives have benefited from certain military action. Unfortunately, those who join the armed services in a sense enter into a machine that has an established set of norms which include hyper violence. These norms go beyond the call of duty but are still within the environ of the military. They theoretically join a club of toxic masculinity, a club that centers around violence and power. The constant threat of battle, the repetitive training for war, among other stresses of military service has a definite impact on the psyche. Research conducted by Washington University published in Psychological Science, indicates that even without active combat, military service has lingering negative effects on the mind. The fact that violent criminal behavior is rampant among the ranks is also something we cannot ignore. Important steps have begun recently to address the flagrant sexual violence within the US military of both women and men, as well as acknowledgement of rape and forced prostitution perpetrated by other militaries such as the Imperial Japanese Army’s history of “comfort women and girls.” Elizabeth Hillman of the University of California Hastings College of Law stated that military sexual violence “occurs with astonishing frequency … because it is so central to military legal precedent that it has both shaped the substance of military law and strengthened through repetition the image of some men as sexually violent predators and women as sexual victims.” Domestic violence is also a prominent outcome of military service. According to the September 2019 issue of Military Times, “Domestic violence has only been a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for a few months, after lawmakers added it as part of last year’s defense authorization bill. Before that, offenses were prosecuted under a patchwork of other regulations, which advocates said severely restricted the services’ ability to track and monitor the problem.” The article goes on to say, “Outside advocates said more must also be done to work on prevention strategies, not just abuse response issues.” Many studies have uncovered psychological reasons that increase the levels of domestic violence among those who work in highly stressful and violent environments. Those in military service face a multitude of physical dangers, emotional and mental strain, and long periods of time away from loved ones. Psychological studies indicate that people experiencing these intense forms of workplace pressures undergo “emotional dissonance” and become “desensitized” to the violence they are forced to commit and see during their service.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another serious condition that consumes veterans. PTSD was once thought of as a condition faced solely by veterans often called “shell-shock,” or “war fatigue.” A 2017 article in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems claims, “that mental health disparities are often a leading factor to the high suicide rates among veterans who experience depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” A study released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found a “substantial unmet need for mental health services…Roughly half of those veterans surveyed who showed a need for mental health care said they do not currently receive any such care, either through VA or private physicians.” Once discharged it’s very difficult for many service-members to reacclimate to civilian life and homelessness becomes a very real issue. Research from the Clinical Psychology Review, “found that veterans’ transition stress can include challenges such as confusion over their new role — ‘loss of the military self’ — in civilian life, unexpected isolation or grief, and anger over military stereotypes from new civilian co-workers.” The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness estimate that just over 9% of all homeless adults in the United States are veterans of the US Military.

While the country outwardly expresses all the pomp and circumstance for its veterans, it fails them in other more critical arenas. They are used and victimized by the cycle of war for other’s gains. The brave, strong, virile soldier is a proud sight marching into battle. But people cringe at the broken, wounded, traumatized human upon their return. They are stepped over in the street as they’re asking for help. They are pitied. Society is both obsessed with and revolted by war. Patriotism, nationalism, and religious ideologies brainwash people into thinking war is honorable. Evangelist Billy Sunday said, “Christianity and Patriotism are synonymous terms, and hell and traitors are synonymous.” Evangelical blogger, Brad Archer writes,

 All nations are set up by God for the purposes of God. While it

 can be a source of pride to live in a nation “by the people, for

 the people,” we must always remember that every country, nation,

 or government on earth is first and foremost by God and for God.

 He brings them into being, uses them for his divine plan, and then

 replaces them.There are many examples of this in the Old Testament.

 God used Assyria to punish Israel for its disobedience; then God used

 Babylon to destroy Assyria for its sin. God had Babylon invade Judah

 as a punishment for Judah’s sin; then God raised up Persia to punish

 Babylon. It is God who orders these things. Nations only exist and act

 to further the sovereign will of God.

We must now shed the religious doctrine of violence and embrace the science of nonviolence. The Metta Center for Nonviolence is doing just this. They report that “neuroscientists like to say today that we are ‘wired for empathy… deep in our evolution are the capacities for empathy and other dimensions of nonviolence.” Physicist, Sir James Jeans, has said, “The universe is much more like a great thought than a great machine.” The Metta Center explains “this means that we are deeply interconnected and can influence each other in ways much more subtle than physical force (for example, ‘appeal to the heart’ of an opponent).” Our lives are not preordained by a fictitious and war-hungry god who instructs our behavior. We have the capacity hard-wired within ourselves of shaping our own destiny and doing so with compassion and empathy.

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What do we labor for?

The month of September celebrates Labor Day, the federal holiday observing the contributions of the labor movement. Labor education is not a significant part of general education and most people aren’t very familiar with what Labor Day symbolizes. Especially in the United States, where “capitalism is king” and corporations have immense power over thought and politics, the contributions of labor are widely undervalued.

Capitalism and the United States are so intertwined that even suggesting a belief in another system, such as communism, can provoke immense ridicule. The First and Second Red Scare after each World War showcased just how linked American nationalism and capitalism are by the blacklisting, deporting, and arresting of numerous people believed to be communist or socialist spies. While there is much more background regarding what prompted the Red Scares, the paranoia of what is seen as subversive thinking was and is very real. Those targeted during these tumultuous times ranged from labor leaders and other unionists, to left-leaning politicians, celebrities, artists, the film industry, among many others. Propaganda was spread and the veneration of capitalism and condemnation of most other systems have since been engrained in American society.

 We can see these trends even today with conservative politicians denouncing more liberal politicians as “socialists” or “communists.” Anything other than a staunch capitalist is deemed “unamerican.” Most look at the history of communism and focus on its failures in certain nations by citing the leadership’s power and control along with the imbalance of wealth and resources between government and the citizenry. If we look at America, we can see very similar imbalances. The wealth inequality between most of the nation is astounding. Access to certain resources, quality education, healthcare, and healthy food, for example, is arguably structured around class and race. Powerful corporations give enormous donations to politicians and effectively control laws and policies. The successes of other nations that have a more socialist structure are minimalized if even acknowledged. Universal healthcare and free education have been enormously beneficial in many European nations. While no political system is without its flaws, there are pros and cons to all of them, it’s evident that the toxic patriotism that vilifies anyone who doesn’t endorse the consumerism and corporate control of this country is hurting the majority of the population. According to the United States Census Bureau, the official poverty rate in the US was 12.3% in 2017, but this number goes as high as 13.4% according to other counts. The Trump Administration is now proposing a change to the federal poverty line to make it harder for low income people to receive assistance. Currently the poverty threshold in 48 states and Washington, D.C. for a two-person household is an annual combined income of $16,910. Many can agree that even as a single person, living comfortably in this country on $16,910 a year is extremely difficult. Poverty is also both a racial and gender issue. More women live in poverty than men, and Native Americans followed by Black Americans are the most affected by poverty.

Additionally, America is the only advanced nation boasting one of the strongest economies that doesn’t have national laws guaranteeing paid maternity leave, paid or unpaid vacation, or paid sick days. Conversely, the European Union’s 28 nations guarantee at least 4 weeks paid vacation, and of the 193 nations in the United Nations, only New Guinea, Suriname, a few South Pacific Island nations, and the United States do not have a national paid parental leave law. The laws we do have regarding workers’ rights, such as minimum wage (even though America has the lowest minimum wage of 36 industrial nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), sexual harassment, child labor, non-discrimination, and the 40-hour work week are all due to the Labor Movement. If you belong to a union there can be added benefits such as collectively bargained medical coverage, pensions, paid sick and vacation time, maternity leave and higher wages. Unions have historically, and continue to, fight for these rights. But we must remember that these advances are not guaranteed, and they are not obligatory nation-wide. The current administration is waging what amounts to an all-out assault on unions with one of the major blows being the 2018 Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME which decided that workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement do not have to pay union dues. The result could bring an end to many unions that won’t be able to fund themselves.

Labor, the trades, and other blue-collar work built this nation and continues to maintain it, yet the current system devalues this essential workforce. White-collar work is deemed more dignified and carries a higher status even if it is nonessential to the rest of society. This sort of bias can be seen in media with jokes about sanitation workers, housekeepers, janitors, etc. It can be seen in our educational system where trade schools are looked down upon as where the “bad” or “unintelligent” children go. Low wage rates also signify the devaluing of these types of jobs. Healthcare workers, social workers, and teachers, who are universally seen as valuable and respected, still are not paid nearly as much as stock brokers, investment bankers, athletes, or corporate CEOs, for example. Gender and racism also play a role in these wage disparities, which can lead to who is affected by the cycle of poverty. Most of the work considered blue collar and emotional work are performed by people of color and women respectively. Many of these types of jobs also serve others and benefit society, while the majority of white-collar, higher paid professions tend to solely benefit the individual. This disparity demonstrates very different value systems. Capitalism, as well as American culture, promotes individualism while more socialist countries and systems value the collective. This individualistic frame of thought fuels such negative traits like greed and apathy; mental health issues like stress and exhaustion and can become as extreme as suicidal tendencies. It also reinforces a type of selfishness and the “us versus them” dynamic that maintains a constant source of hostility nationally and globally. Instead of endorsing a framework that includes the whole or that asks, “How can we help each other?” we live within a framework that constantly asks, “How do we get more for us while excluding others?”

America is an amazing place and has infinite potential. It has resources that can benefit and help support many more people and places than it currently chooses to. As Satanists we are well aware of the mob mentality and ridicule that comes with challenging the status quo and suggesting a new way of thinking. Breaking away from what you have been taught your whole life is difficult, but not impossible. When we look back at what those people in the labor movement were able to accomplish for the benefit of everyone is inspiring. They realized that the status quo was harmful to the majority, and they demonstrated a better way. This month, as we reflect on what those before us have accomplished to make our lives better, also contemplate what we can do to benefit the collective now. We live in a world of systems, and we all live in it together. Continue to challenge those systems keeping in mind that we must strive for compassion and justice for all. When we seek to benefit more than ourselves, we all reap the rewards.      

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Living with Death

From ancient Egyptian tombs, to Irish and Scottish cairns, and East Asian cave paintings depicting burials, commemorating death has been a part of the human experience for millennia. We each experience death at some point and the way we respond to it is deeply personal. Bereavement is not solely a human condition either. Research has uncovered evidence showing many animal species engage in behavior indicative of grief. Scientific reasoning behind human and non-human animals mourning surmise that attachment, or love, for family, mates, friends and others close to you drive safety, protection, and reproduction. Neurobiologists conclude that attachment was evolutionarily selected for to ensure survival and that grief is a side-effect of that mechanism. These innate characteristics grew into complicated, multifaceted belief systems and behaviors surrounding life and death.

What started out as a hard-wired trait, with time, morphed into formalized rituals and practices. According to the “Funeral Guide” 2017 article, Why do we have funeral rituals?, “Humans are social animals and we have an inherent need to make sense of our surroundings. When someone we love dies, we can find it difficult to put the meaning of anything into context anymore.” While humans struggled to understand death and other unexplainable aspects of life, they created stories, myths, and eventually religions to help cope with loss and life’s mysteries. Scholar and author Huston Smith defines religion as “beliefs and patterns of behavior by which people try to deal with what they view as important problems that can’t be solved by other means: e.g. the need to confront and explain life and death. All cultures have religions, which are powerful and dynamic forces in human society.” The general belief in an afterlife, heaven, hell, and a soul are basically universal and have dictated behaviors associated with loss. Christianity and Judaism have varying beliefs regarding heaven and hell, but the generalized concepts of either eternal salvation or eternal damnation remain the same. The website “Interfaith Family” explains that the Talmud depicts Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden, as a place of “spiritual fulfillment,” and Gehennom, Hell, as “a place of intense punishment and cleansing.” The Bible has many descriptions of judgments leading to either eternal life in Paradise or wrath and fury condemning the unrighteous to eternal fire and torment in what most translations consider Hell. People comfort themselves and others with the idea that loved ones will go to heaven after they die and eventually, they will meet up with them again upon their own death. Conversely, if people or loved ones were hurt by someone else, they are comforted believing that the perpetrator will suffer an equal punishment in hell.

Other popular religions have varying beliefs regarding death. Islam, for example, also believes in a Paradise and a Hell. Prominently Indian religions believe in reincarnation, that the deceased will begin a new life in a new body or form. South Asian religions hold similar beliefs to reincarnation describing a sort of rebirth. The major themes throughout all these religions recreate aspects from much more ancient myths and cultures. Not being able to comprehend death, coping with loss, and surviving amongst others compelled humans to create scenarios to help with the grieving process, but also to guide behaviors while living. Fearing hell or eternal damnation urges people to engage in good conduct while they are alive. While major religions still dominate most of the population, scientific discoveries, an understanding of evolution, and realizing the many reasons why and how people die have altered the way some humans deal with loss and loosens the grip fear has over living behaviors. This may include the ways we view sex and sexual relationships, marriage, sexual orientation, to more reckless or harmful behaviors. It also includes how we observe major life events, such as marriage, birth, and of course death.

Customary ways to treat the deceased, for mourners to dress and behave, where, when, and how to dispose of the remains are just a few areas where religious observances have strict guidelines, but more recently secular and environmentally friendly ways to minister to remains have also become popular. Some of these methods include mushroom suits, aquamation, sky burials, and eternal reefs. “Green burials,” or, “eco-burials” eliminate preserving the body with chemicals or embalming fluids and take place 24-48 hours after death. They use a biodegradable coffin and seek to limit any unnecessary environmental impact. The human need to grieve can still take the form of a ceremony without religious overtones. Non-religious gatherings to remember the deceased and to formally say goodbye help mourners express their feelings and offer condolences to loved ones.

The need to create religions, although born out of the need for survival and to help make sense of death, has since twisted into the actual cause of countless massacres. The fact that so much violence has been, and still is, caused by religion is a sort of phenomenon, but since religions are such powerful forces in human society, they can be used as ideological weapons to justify wars, invasions, and persecutions. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Thirty Years’ War, the Northern Ireland Conflict, the Holocaust, jihad in the Middle East, the Buddhist Uprising, are just a few. Modern times see new ways to wage religious war from suicide bombers who don’t fear death because they believe they will be honored in their afterlife, to Islamophobia causing hate crimes, to a rise of radical Christian fundamentalism in the United States that is causing a wave of intolerance, oppressive “religious freedom” laws, and general unrest. Religion went from helping humans deal with death to actually dealing in death. Presently, America is facing a white, Christian uprising that promotes guns, white male supremacy, and racial, religious, and cultural intolerance. The country is host to mass shootings at any given time, where the latest slaughter consisting of two mass shooting occurring less than 24 hours apart on August 3 and 4,  saw over 30 lives lost. The entire country shares condolences, holds memorial services, and attempts to come together universally regardless of belief systems. The families of those victims grieve together, yet separately based on their religion or lack thereof. It’s a labyrinthine cycle of belief systems causing murder then bringing strangers together to mourn.     

The Satanic Temple is a religion, but its tenets are clear. We do not proselytize, we are nonviolent, and we strive for justice. As Satanists we trust science, reject superstition, and aim to live compassionately without requiring the fear of supernatural retribution to do so. Losing a loved one may challenge these beliefs and may stimulate the desire to demonstrate our feelings or pay tribute in some grand way. Suffering the death of a loved one may compel us to consider the stories of an afterlife and heaven because it is a shock to our rationale to come to terms with death, especially of those we love deeply. As stated in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker, “The doctrine of the sacredness of the soul sounds vaguely uplifting, but in fact is highly malignant. It discounts life on earth as just a temporary phase that people pass through, indeed, an infinitesimal fraction of their existence. Death becomes a mere rite of passage, like puberty or a midlife crisis.” The psychological impact of loss affects everyone differently and the desire for something after death is understandable, but as Pinker suggests, life on Earth should not be diminished because it’s temporary; rather, its significance should be magnified for that reason and the lives of our loved ones regarded while they’re with us and after they’re gone with the utmost compassion.  


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In Truth We Trust

In recent years there has been a lot of controversy over certain American statues and memorials that honor historical figures who supported slavery and segregation. Similarly, there has been debate over American holidays that celebrate such individuals or dates that are rife with historical inaccuracies and violence. There is a strong divide between whether monuments of this nature should be removed because of their offensive and hateful symbolism or remain because of their perceived historical value. Over 30 memorials have been removed in Texas alone since 2017, with additional states also removing, relocating, or renaming confederate monuments. States like Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, among others, swayed in the opposite direction by passing laws to hinder or outright prohibit the removing, relocating, or renaming of public confederate monuments. Some other compromises that have been made in several places have been to add disclaimers or more historical facts to the structures themselves or to add more diverse figures from history like women, people of color, Indigenous peoples etc., to balance out historical representation. New York City, for example, has a campaign underway called “She Built NYC” to add more statues of women around the five boroughs.   

Since it glorifies enslavement, hegemony, and the erasure of Native Americans, it has become fairly common not to celebrate Columbus Day. Some cities have begun to rename the day “Indigenous People’s Day,” including—in New York–Woodstock, Ithaca, Rochester, Rhinebeck, and several more. Lewiston, New York and Tompkins County, New York celebrate both. It isn’t well-known, but Indigenous People’s Day has actually been around since 1989 where it was adopted in South Dakota and originally named Native American Day.

Similar controversy surrounds July 4th, the day the thirteen colonies declared their independence from the British. While many people revel in having a day off to eat, drink, and relax, they fail to give much thought to the problematic nature of this particular holiday. Like Columbus Day, the Fourth of July dismisses the colonialization, rape, dehumanization, and genocide of Native Americans by the British. The Declaration of Independence, written by slave traders and owners, literally calls Native Americans “merciless Indian savages.” In the document’s famous phrase, “…all men are created equal…” the Declaration fails to recognize enslaved peoples and all women. Many abolitionists and feminists throughout history have attempted to amend the statement, or at least expose the problems with it. One such attempt was made in 1848 at the famous Seneca Falls Convention. Women drafted their “Declaration of Sentiments” which stated, “All men and women are created equal […].” It was never adopted.  

Of course there is the other crucial document, the Constitution, with its highly important First Amendment, which grants the Freedom of Speech. Does censoring or removing certain monuments infringe on this essential right? Does reassessing certain holidays that celebrate certain events or individuals border on censorship? These are critical questions to ask, but what is extremely clear is that the history of this nation is a violent and oppressive one. These facts should never be overlooked. Historical figures who supported and perpetuated slavery and the genocide of Native Americans should be recognized as the reprehensible humans they were and not branded as heroes. Holidays that recognize dates in history that discount the reality of this nation should not be celebrated but rather used to remember, acknowledge, and educate on the true history of the United States of America. A false narrative has been created and taught for too long in this country. The history books have been written by only one demographic who have had a very distorted version of the past. This distortion has shaped the landscape of America from who we admire to what we celebrate, our laws to our internalized biases. So, I think that instead of asking if the reassessment of particular monuments or holidays is problematic we should be asking why it has taken so long.    

One of The Satanic Temple’s Fundamental Tenets is “The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.” There are too many people, past and present, who have yet to get the justice and recognition they deserve. The true history of this nation has only begun to come to light. We all must continue the pursuit of facts and acknowledge the many faces of our history. We need to start celebrating the true heroes of this land and rewriting the history books without omissions or half-truths. It will definitely be an ongoing struggle, but a vital and necessary one. It is everyone’s task to bring justice to those who have failed to receive it for so long. It has long been time that the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America finally includes ALL its residents and amend its vile degradation of Native Americans. This Fourth of July, in addition to gathering with loved ones for a day of leisure, take a moment to reflect upon what the day is really about. Take a moment to teach others–never gloss over the true history of our country. We all have the power to make a difference.

Hail Satan.   

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Non Serviam

With Donald Trump’s reign of terror still going strong, and right-wingers waging war on everyone from would-be gay adoptive parents, to Muslims, to transgender people who just gotta take a leak, the American people are starting to stick a collective middle finger in the eye of the status quo. But some play Human Rights Hardball a little more ferociously than others, don’t they?

Enter TST, or The Satanic Temple. A religion forged by individuals with common, deeply held beliefs and concerns which are a direct, and VERY serious, answer to the Puritanically-minded agenda of the American Conservative population – many of whom wish to not only make abortion illegal for pregnant people for ANY reason, but who seek to criminalize MISCARRIAGE, which is often unavoidable and unintentional as well. Naturally, this has sparked a powerful wave of outrage, and LOUD opposition. TST is standing at the front lines. Especially now that a few States, like Ohio and Alabama, have laws forcing even rape and incest victims to carry the fetus to term – no matter the age of the pregnant person. 

How can a tiny clump of cells have more right to “life” than the person whose body its very existence depends on? Why should that be?

Religious Reproductive Rights Campaign Logo

Without making this article about myself, I just quickly want to explain who I am, how I became involved in TST, and why I so desperately wanted to write about this event. My name is Artemis. I am a fairly new admission to TST’s NYC Chapter. I am a bisexual, non-binary person who grew up under the Catholic theocracy, spending several of my earliest childhood years in Montana (a very Red, VERY Christian state), listening to our preacher telling us women were made to be subservient, and other lovely things I’m sure you can imagine just fine.

Continue reading “Non Serviam”
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It Takes a Religion: Church, TST, and winning the battle for bodily autonomy

Recent years have seen an overwhelming upsurge in anti-choice sentiment in local and national governments masked in radicalized Christian ideologies.  These ultra-conservative views have been able to overtake and bombard states with hazardous anti-choice policies. Whatever the reasons driving this obsession to overturn Roe v. Wade: misogyny, patriarchy, to control women, to control reproduction, greed; there needs to be a powerful, united effort against it.

There have been public outcries against this persistence to upend reproductive rights, but there’s no real driving opposition. The contentions to these heinous obstructions to personal freedom are mainly seen on social media. Large gatherings, demonstrations, and protests in the streets are needed to establish a staunch resistance. Hundreds of thousands of women marched on Washington, D.C. to successfully defend abortion rights in 1992. Huge pro-choice walk-outs and demonstrations took place in 2016 in Poland to successfully stop a total abortion ban in the country. Thousands of people protested and signed petitions in 2017 in South Korea that resulted in the decriminalization of abortion. The United States has had several “Women’s Marches” recently, but none focused solely on reproductive rights. Reproductive justice and bodily autonomy need to be central in repeated, national, concerted actions. 

The Satanic Temple can be a galvanizing force in these endeavors. The indignities demonstrated by the anti-women/anti-choice establishment are a direct affront to TST tenets and ideology. With TST’s new federal recognition as a religion along with the increased notoriety via the Hail Satan? documentary, TST can make a real, positive impact, unclasping the stranglehold misogynistic leaders currently have on this nation. Concrete efforts are already being made by individual chapters, and individual TST members have been networking via social media groups and forums to provide transportation and/or board for people who need to travel to obtain abortions. 

We need the leadership, direction, and organization of TST to counter and dismantle this patriarchal, hateful, and twisted regime before it goes too far. Their endgame is to overturn Roe v. Wade and the results of that would be catastrophic. I believe in The Satanic Temple, the strength of its community, and the purity of its vision. With each chapter working together to ensure the safety, autonomy, and freedom for anyone who is affected by these attacks on reproductive justice, the current bastion will weaken and crumble, and the march towards a logical and truly secular nation can begin.               

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TST NYC is Official

As of 2/26/2016 The Satanic Temple of NYC is official. Our council has been working together for a while now to contribute to our TST NYC culture and objectives through our varied special interests and perspectives. Our common thread is our love for various aspects of TST, art, literature, philosophy, and cooperation.

We are all so thrilled to start our next phase. Thank you to everyone for the ongoing support.

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