The Universal Maternal

Maternal figures and other portrayals of feminine power are represented in most myths and religious folklore. There are numerous female deities, Goddesses, and other feminine spiritual representations, both positive and negative in practically every culture around the globe. By looking more closely at the stories and characteristics of these figures, you’ll begin to notice that there are some common themes that transcend cultural and historical boundaries when it comes to the feminine in religion.  

Greek and Roman mythology, like other civilizations, have multiple Goddesses who represent fertility and motherhood but also war, creation, protection, the harvest, the earth, and many more. One such Goddess is Cybele, who ancient Greece adopted from older traditions. A shrine of Cybele dating back to 6 century BC is inscribed with what translates to “Mother of the Mountain.” Later, in the Greek tradition she was known as “Mistress Cybele the Mother” or “Mistress of Animals.” When the Romans adopted her, she was known as Magna Mater or “Great Mother.” A cult of Cybele was formed that included ecstatic frenzies and descriptions of male followers ritually castrating themselves. Initiations into the cult included the sacrificing of bulls with the blood used to symbolize purification and rebirth. Women were usually the priestesses of the Cult of Cybele and if there were male priests, they would castrate themselves and wear women’s clothing. Cybele has become a symbol of feminism and is even honored among some in the transgender community.

Another representation of a Mother Goddess in Greek mythology is Gaea, in Roman culture she is known as Terra. Gaea was basically the Earth itself, the creator of all. Similar representations from other cultures include Tiamat, from Ancient Babylon, who was the primordial Mother of the World. Two African Goddesses who were considered “Mother of All” are the Egyptian Goddess Isis and the West African Goddess Yemaya. Isis gave birth to the most powerful Gods and was considered the “Divine Mother of Egypt itself.” Yemaya is a Goddess of the ocean and considered “Mother of All.” She is also widely believed to have a connection to the Christian Virgin Mary. Devi Adi parashakti in Hinduism is the Divine Mother and viewed as the universal creative force, also known as Mother Nature. Durga represents the protective nature of motherhood as well as the power of the One God in Hinduism. From Durga’s forehead came Kali the Goddess of Time. The Irish Goddess Danu is associated as an Earth Goddess as well as the mother of a race of supernatural beings, and the Celtic Goddess Brighid was thought to watch over women in childbirth. The Norse Goddesses, Freya and Frigga are the Goddesses of war and peace, sexual freedom and marriage respectively. The Greek story of Demeter and her daughter Persephone personifies maternal protection with Demeter braving the Underworld to save her child.

As seen in some of the descriptions above, a major theme among Mother Goddess traditions is the relation of the maternal/ feminine to the Earth. To this day both secularly and non-secularly the planet is commonly referred to as “Mother Earth.” The reference of the Earth being female is similar to many of the Mother Goddesses having nurturing as well as destructive characteristics. The Earth gives life as well as destroys it. In most traditions, the feminine is closely related to nature, the wild, and animals. This wild nature is also attributed to female sexuality. This animalistic view of female sexuality is something that patriarchal religions have characteristically tried to “tame.” Where multitudes of Goddesses commonly had multiple consorts and gave birth to many Gods, Christianity came in and exalted the Virgin Mother.

The Virgin Mary’s importance or prominence varies within different sects of Christianity. For example, Catholics venerate her and consider her “Blessed,” and Protestants believe she was just an average woman who was the mother of Jesus. The Virgin Mary is also part of the Islamic faith where she holds the title of “Our Lady,” or Qānitah which indicates she is completely submissive to God. In the Quran she is also referred to as “Tahira.” Tahira means “one who is purified,” and delineates her as one of the two humans who have never been touched by Satan.

Continuing the focus on Abrahamic religions, with the pure, submissive virgin mother figure, we also get the opposing impure, disobedient, female “mother” figure. Two prominent characters who fit that description are Eve and Lilith. Both Lilith and Eve have multiple backstories. Eve is sometimes considered the first woman and the first mother on Earth. Depending on what story you read, she was either made from Adam’s rib or both Adam and Eve were created at the same time. An interesting take on the creation story is found in rabbinic literature where it is interpreted that Adam was created as both male and female. God then decides that Adam should not be alone and creates Adam and Eve as two separate beings. In Hebrew, Eve can be translated to “source of life.” In many depictions, Eve is the first human mother, and the transgressor. She is seduced by the serpent, tempts Adam, and as a result causes the fall of man. She is cursed, and all women after her as a result, with pain in childbirth, menstruation, and both men and women are no longer immortal. Most religious leadership used this story to ensure women’s submission. What are known as “Early Church Fathers,” the men who established the foundations of church doctrine, interpreted some writings of the Apostle Paul regarding Eve in a way that promoted the silence of women and their submission. A major influence of early Latin Christian texts, Tertullian, taught his female followers that they were “the devil’s gateway.” In Milton’s popular portrayal of Eve from his epic Paradise Lost, when questioned about her transgression, she simply replies, “The serpent me beguiled, and I did eat.” Even given her storied disobedience, the Catholic Church recognizes Eve as a saint, and a feast day for Saint Adam and Saint Eve is celebrated on December 24 in many regions. Many Christians cast Eve as a villain, but there is no denying the texts, Eve gave us the gift of knowledge. Eve reminded us that we do have free will.

Lilith, more specifically, gave women a sense of freedom and independence. The history behind the legend of Lilith is somewhat mysterious. Some say her name comes from the Hebrew lilit, which can be translated to “night creature” or “screech owl.” Other ancient texts have descriptions of lilitu, which can be translated to demons or spirits. Related terms are found in other ancient texts that could have influenced the common understanding of the figure of Lilith, but the most recognized story comes from Jewish mythology. In this story Lilith was created for Adam from the same material that he was created from. When Adam wanted her to lie beneath him, she refused saying that she was his equal. Adam countered, saying that he was her superior. Lilith, seeing they would only fight, flew away. When Adam told God of this, God sent angels after Lilith asking for her return and she refused. She was then cursed to have 1000 of her babies die every day as the mother of demons. Because of her refusal to submit and her determination for equality, Lilith in modern times has become a symbol of feminism and female independence.

Many Satanists not only use Satan as a symbol of rebellion against authority, but Lilith as well. Neither would bow to arbitrary domination, fear, or tyranny. Eve, too, sought knowledge and is a symbol of our release from ignorance. The value and respect of the maternal and the feminine was clearly a part of humanity throughout history. Patriarchy, especially through patriarchal religions, has tried to suppress, dominate, and devalue women and the feminine to maintain control. Fortunately, the symbols they created to enforce their misogynistic goals have done just the opposite and have become a source of feminist inspiration for many. Feminism, and female portrayals of power are not just inspirational and constructive for women identifying persons, feminism and feminine power are beneficial and inspirational to anyone who identifies as a man as well.

So, whoever fills the role of the maternal in your life, we hail them! If you fill the role of the maternal, we hail you!

Hail Lilith! Hail Eve!

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Hares giving gifts, slaughtered lambs, & COVID-19

April is upon us, and with it comes Spring, Easter, Passover, and ongoing social distancing. It was a struggle to decide whether to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic for this month’s blog, or to shift focus to other topics in order to give our readers a bit of a reprieve from the crisis. We’re going to do a little of both.

The major religious holidays that occur during the month of April all have some themes in common. Basically, these holidays are a celebration of Spring, no matter how twisted the stories are. Of course, there is Good Friday, which celebrates the torture and crucifixion of Jesus, followed by Easter, when Jesus rises from the dead three days after he is buried. The Easter bunny works his way into the celebrations by way of Germany. According to German Lutheran folklore, the “Easter Hare” is a sort of Santa Claus/ Krampus figure who judges whether children are good or bad. He carries Easter eggs and other goodies in his basket to bestow on the good children. Ancient legend describes the bunny as a hermaphrodite who could reproduce without losing its virginity, and for this reason is associated with the Virgin Mary in ancient artwork and texts. Okie dokie.

Then there is Passover. In the Book of Exodus, the Israelites are enslaved in Egypt, so Yahweh appears to Moses as a burning bush, as one does, to tell Moses to confront the Pharaoh. As if appearing as burning shrubbery isn’t enough to show his power, Yahweh imposes ten plagues on the Egyptians, the final one being the death of every first-born. The Israelites are instructed to slaughter a lamb and mark their doors with the lamb’s blood so that Yahweh does not confuse them for Egyptians and murder their first-borns since his all-powerfulness stops at being able to locate where his would-be victims live.

Both of these holidays “borrow” their central themes from older traditions. The custom of celebrating death and rebirth during the Spring season dates back to ancient cultures. One source of this theme comes from the Mesopotamian Goddess, Ishtar, known in Sumerian literature as Inanna. One translation of this story explains that when her husband, Tammuz (Damuzi in Sumerian) dies, Ishtar goes into the underworld to find him. She is punished for doing so, and all life on Earth stops reproducing in her absence. After she is missing for, you guessed it, three days, her servant pleads with the other gods for her return. They are permitted to be resurrected for six months out of the year, which is how we get the seasons. This same story of death and resurrection is seen in the Egyptian myth of the murder and dismemberment of Isis’s husband Osiris, of her resurrecting him and then ultimately having a son, Horus, in the Greek story of Persephone’s abduction by Hades and her mother Demeter braving the Underworld to bring her back, in the Roman myth of Cybele and her lover Attis, and among many others.

Another connection the Christian Easter holiday makes is through the Pagan celebration of the Goddess of Spring, Eostre or Ostara. There is much debate as to whether the Benedictine monk, Bede, born in 673, invented the Goddess, or if there is credible evidence otherwise. A discovery made in 1958 of over 150 votive and altar offerings dating back to the first century with inscriptions of the names of Goddesses who were venerated has given sway to the acceptance of Eostre as an accepted ancient Goddess. In Jacob Grimm’s 1835 work, Deutsche Mythologie, he states, “OstaraEástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted by the resurrection-day of the Christian’s God.” In the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, there is a holiday named for the Goddess, and in other forms of neopaganism She is venerated.

As we can see, it is common across time and beliefs to celebrate Spring as a season of renewal and rebirth. Spring has positive psychological effects on our mood and mental health. In many parts of the world it brings the warmer months and increased daylight. We hear the birds start singing and insects buzzing. We see the flowers and trees start to bud and bloom. After the long, dark, and cold winter months, we feel increased urgency to go outside more, socialize, and make the most out of the warmth and long days. Presently we find ourselves in an unprecedented and surreal situation. The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to go against these natural springtime urges. With the high religious Spring holidays upon us, we are seeing many Christian and Jewish leaders defying the advisories and orders of social distancing and non-essential closures to observe their holidays. There have been many reports from around the country and the globe where leaders of the major religions have made proclamations that prayer will cure people with the virus or keep people from even contracting the virus. That their god will keep them safe. That a lack of belief in their god is what is causing the pandemic and if we would all just pray, pay tithes to their churches, ask their god for forgiveness, or any other number of superstitious claims, the virus will magically disappear and we will all be saved. It is an egregious abuse of power to ignore medical expertise and put the health and safety of countless people at risk. If your religion makes you question your personal safety and the safety of others, then there is something incredibly wrong with that system. If people in leadership roles of your religion are asking you to disregard the warnings of medical and scientific professionals, then you should really start to question that religion. Most of us are feeling the stress, strain, and anxiety due to the lack of physical social interaction, fear of the virus, and cabin fever, but we are all in this together. Utilizing technology to socialize and see loved ones and people in our communities is incredibly helpful. We urge you to reach out if you need support.

The Satanic Temple also has an official holiday this month. April 30 is Hexennacht, which is very appropriate given the current circumstances. Hexennacht for The Satanic Temple is “a solemn holiday to honor those who were victimized by superstition.” It’s an “occasion honoring those who fell victim to superstition and pseudoscience, whether by witch hunt, Satanic panic, or other injustices.” TST’s Suggestions for Celebration:

  • Feast with mead and sparkling wine (or nonalcoholic equivalent).
  • Grey Mass.
  • Destruction Ritual with bonfires, music, and dance.

All of these can easily be adjusted to practice indoors and communally via virtual means. In lieu of bonfires, you can use candles, if you are unable to obtain the suggested beverages, substitute with anything you wish that you have on hand. There is no official way to celebrate, feel free to personalize your holiday. This Hexennacht is going to be a powerful one due to the current situation we find ourselves in and all the above stated superstitious rhetoric that is going to cost people their lives. As a religious community rooted in compassion, empathy, reason, and science, we should use this day to reflect on our current state of the world, honor those who have had dangerous religious practices forced on them, and who are denied medical attention due to their religion.

Again, we are in this together. We can still celebrate the renewal of Spring while adhering to the safety guidelines. Open the windows and the shades to let the light and warmth in. Reach out to your community by phone or web when you need to and hail yourself! We will get through this together. Hail Lilith! Hail Satan! Hail science!

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Consider the 90% aka Happy Women’s History Month

Let’s talk Women’s History Month. Starting out in the early 1980’s with Congress requesting that the President declare just one week during March to observe Women’s History, eventually all of March was proclaimed by Congress and the President as Women’s History Month. On March 7, 1982, the inaugural Women’s History Week, President Reagan stated,

 “American women of every race, creed and ethnic background helped  found and build our Nation in countless recorded and unrecorded ways… As leaders in public affairs, American women not only worked to secure their own rights of suffrage and equal opportunity but also were principal advocates in the abolitionist, temperance, mental health reform, industrial labor and social reform movements, as well as the modern civil rights movement.” Women of all kinds have always worked towards progress, have always been forces of change, and have always been integral in this nation’s, as well as global history.”

Similarly to the often hostile questioning, “Why is there a Black History Month but no White History Month,” “Why is there a Gay Pride March but no Straight Pride March,” there’s usually someone also asking, “Why should we have a Women’s History Month when there’s no Men’s History Month?” The answer is the default for most facets of society are set to cis, white, heterosexual male. Having months, marches, parades, days, exhibits, etc. highlighting those groups that have been marginalized throughout history are important to help change the default, and hopefully remove a default altogether. Bringing stories of women to the forefront will help normalize them and remove them from the realm of “the other.” Education is extremely important, and teaching people of all ages, but children especially, the whole of history is vital in representing truth and strengthening equality.

Another common and often hostile reaction to Women’s History Month is in response to the inclusion of transgender women in the celebrations and recognition during the month. To this I say simply, fuck off. All women have been marginalized, all women’s voices have been repressed, all women have experienced some form of discrimination or harassment, whether subtle or overt, at some point in their lives. Trans women are women period. They have suffered in the same ways as all women, and in vastly different ways as well. To continue the horrific trend of exclusion, of othering, of discrimination is abhorrent. Trans women have contributed to and strengthened our society throughout history, and like all women, they are still struggling for recognition and respect. The current administration is doubling down on its attacks on transgender rights and the bodily autonomy of all women. Instead of adding to the divisiveness, intolerance, discrimination, and hate, we should be learning from each other, listening to all voices, representing all lived experiences, and moving towards equality. When people question whether trans women are “real” women or whether they belong in a Women’s March or to be celebrated during Women’s History Month, they are fueling the attacks on these women. They are supporting the laws that prevent these women from entering bathrooms, from being accepted in domestic violence shelters, or adopting children. They are complacent in the epidemic of murder of trans-women throughout the United States and its territories. No one should be complacent in the face of bigoted opinions, even when the behaviors do not seem extreme. Even small acts of discrimination add to the atmosphere of unmitigated hate.   

This month and beyond, celebrate all women who have been cast out of history. Teach and learn about a broad range of experiences and all histories. This month we lift up the likes of Lucy Hicks Anderson who in 1945 proclaimed, “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman,” and “I have lived, dressed, acted just what I am, a woman,” and Mary Jones, a sex worker of color in the mid-1800s who refused to give up her identity in the face of arrest, insults, and discrimination, and Sylvia Rivera who was bullied as a child, kicked out of her home, and still went on to co-found STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), a group dedicated to providing housing and support for homeless queer youth and sex workers in New York City in the late 1960s; and countless others who in the face of discrimination, threats, violence, and hostility went on to create, advance, help others, and promote compassion, equality, and education.

Forbes Magazine recently had an article with the results of a United Nations analysis that indicated 90% of people around the globe have biases against women. Many think human society has made great strides towards gender equality, but when 90% of the world continues to hold irrational and insidious prejudices against women, there is little to celebrate. Use this month to reflect on your own internal biases against women. Use this month to critically think about media, advertising, and other ways women are used and represented commercially. Use this month to start conversations about transgender women and women of different backgrounds and cultures. Think about white feminism and white female privilege. Think about men and how sexism and the devaluing of the feminine affects them. Reach out to our male allies and feminists of all genders. Remember Women’s History Month is not just about white, cis-gender women. Let’s celebrate the feminine in everyone, lift up ALL women, show gratitude to our feminist allies, but also remember that we still have a lot of work to do. Let’s also take every opportunity to teach compassion, to listen to all voices, make space for all lived experiences, and forge a community of respect, freedom, and kindness truly for all.

Hail Lilith! Hail Satan! Happy Women’s History Month.   

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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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