Celebrating a Satanic Thanksgiving

It’s common practice in the United States for families to gather on Thanksgiving and, as part of their dinner ritual, go around the table and name some of the things that they are thankful for in their lives. This isn’t a bad ritual: it is important to spend time appreciating the goodness in one’s life.

I listen to the answers of friends and family as they take turns around the table. Some are thankful for health, some are thankful for material prosperity, still others are thankful for close emotional ties and love between friends and family.

But my heart begins to pound as the turn-taking approaches me, because all I can hear in my mind is a loud voice screaming, “Who, exactly, am I thanking?”

As a Satanist, I don’t believe in God, so I certainly am not thanking it. I also don’t believe in Satan, either, and although it would be funny and mischievous to thank Satan at the family Thanksgiving dinner table, I want to participate in this ritual in solemn good faith.

So what can I say I’m thankful for, and still be honest to my Satanic beliefs?

I am certainly pleased that I have good health, financial stability, and loved ones with whom to share the holidays. But these are not things that were “given” to me, they are things that I worked for or that were put upon me by circumstance and luck, or (in most cases) a combination of both of those things. But whom would I thank?

I am certainly appreciative of the positive aspects of my life. But is that the same as being “thankful”? I’m honestly not sure. I suppose I could cast “thanks” in a more abstract way, and simply state that I am thanking circumstances or “the universe”. But part of me is uncomfortable with that: it seems to deviate from common parlance, and do damage to the way “thanks” is normally understood. Usually you would “thank” a willful agent, a conscious entity. You don’t normally “thank” inanimate things.

To me, it makes no sense to say I’m “thankful” of these things.

Which is fine as philosophy; however, the unstoppable procession of answers that moves around the Thanksgiving table has almost reached me. What do I say?

So I turn the question on its head. Instead of asking, “What am I thankful for?” I ask myself, “Whom should I thank?” Suddenly, the answer becomes much easier.

My turn arrives. “What are you thankful for?”

“I’d like to thank all of you for having me over today,” I say, “And for such amazing food and good company! I’d like to thank my partner and the love of my life for being there for me, encouraging me, and caring about me. I’d like to thank all of the people I work with on a day to day basis, whether at my job or any of the other communities I’m a part of, for helping me to be happy and creative and productive as I strive to reach my goals and make my community a better place. I thank all of you for being part of my life, and contributing to my experiencing a journey in life that is happy and healthy and free.”
I smile. Everyone around the table approves.

And I whisper silently, under my breath, “….hail Satan.”

In the beginning…

In the beginning there was nothing. What a grand way to begin! Nothing says “authority” like starting at the very beginning.

In the beginning there was nothing. Can you imagine it? Of course you can’t. For imagination to happen, there has to be an imaginer: you. Which means there is not nothing. There is still you.

In the beginning there was nothing. When you try to imagine it, you conjure up an image of being without distinction. No demarcation lines between “this” and “that”, no boundaries between “foreground” and “background”, nothing to identify as a thing that can be distinguished from that which is not that thing. It is what you might call “Void”.

Only you can’t call it “Void”. By giving it a name you are creating a category: a distinction, a label. When you assign a name you designate the subject of that name as a Named Thing, and therefore not nothing. So let’s pretend that it has some kind of unpronounceable name, some kind of taboo name. The very first act of creation, then, is your action of creating a category, a name.

In the beginning was the Word. This is the start of your own creation story: not in the historical sense, but in the philosophical sense. How do you create the universe you live in? What are the basic building-blocks of your world view? Choose whatever you like: it’s your universe, after all. Your basic building blocks may be atoms or logical axioms, beliefs or goals, relationships or moral priorities. They may be a combination of all of these things. That is your philosophical beginning, a foundation on which you can build the entire structure of your universe.

The United Aspects of Satan is a religion, but it doesn’t outline “The Way It Is” with pomp and authority. We start with the idea that everybody builds a unique personal worldview. Your worldview is made up of every aspect of the universe that you live in and experience: from the personal to the social, from moral to metaphysical, from pragmatic to ideological. It is something you create with your assumptions, your experiences, your values, and your will. And like anything you create, you should be constantly working to hone and improve it. This is just as true for your personal philosophy as it is for your professional accomplishments or your relationships. You are the one in charge, and you should never cede control over your worldview to anyone or anything else. Certainly not to a religion.

In the beginning was an Idea. The United Aspects of Satan represents a loose collection of philosophical building-blocks. Some values, some metaphysical axioms, and some basic methods for how to approach life and the world around you. It ties these ideas together with a set of symbols–the personas of the eight demonized gods–that can help you to apply the philosophy in concrete, real-world situations.

The United Aspects of Satan doesn’t have followers. There is a difference between being a follower, and being a traveler who notices when others happen to be walking in the same direction. Satanism isn’t a religion you convert to: that implies that you’re changing your world-view to fit the needs of the group. Satanism is a religion that you already have inside you. When you read about the building block ideas at the core of the United Aspects of Satan, you may find that you were already walking that same path, even if you didn’t use the same symbols or words. You may say to yourself, “That’s the philosophy I came up with myself! That is what I already believe!”

How will you know if you’re a Satanist?

In the beginning was an Idea. So it’s time to begin.


[This essay was originally published as the introduction to The Little Black Book, available for free through the United Aspects of Satan website.]

The voice of the devil

Today I’d like to share with you an excerpt from the chapter “The voice of the devil” in William Blake’s 1793 book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Even though it is not overtly Satanic, having been written long before the modern Satanic movement began, it reflects many philosophical and symbolic messages and elements that resonate deeply with me and my own interpretation of Satanism.

“All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors:

  1. That Man has two real existing principles, viz. a Body and a Soul.
  2. That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body; and that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul.
  3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.

But the following Contraries to these are True:

  1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.
  2. Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
  3. Energy is Eternal Delight.

Those who restrain Desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or Reason usurps its place and governs the unwilling. And being restrained, it by degrees becomes passive, till it is only the shadow of Desire.

The history of this is written in Paradise Lost, and the Governor or Reason is call’d Messiah. And the original Archangel, or possessor of the command of the Heavenly Host, is call’d the Devil or Satan, and his children are call’d Sin and Death.

But in the Book of Job, Milton’s Messiah is called Satan. For this history has been adopted by both parties.

It indeed appear’d to Reason as if Desire was cast out; but the Devil’s account is, that the Messiah fell, and formed a Heaven of what he stole from the Abyss.”

Obviously there is plenty about the style and imagery of this writing that could appeal to Satanists, but I want to highlight a deeper message that resonates with me: the importance that “chaos” and “evil” have in the greater cosmic structure, or the greater operation of the system of the universe as a whole.

Under classic Apollonian “respectable” religious traditions, good is associated with: order, rules, and imposed authoritarian “goodness”. In this same tradition, chaos and wild disorder are evil: they can serve no useful function, and must be suppressed or restrained. The central themes of Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is that there is good to be found in chaos. Without the scary, frightening energy of pure passions, rebelliousness and uncertainty, the system of the universe would not be complete and would not be able to function.

This is not a message of lawlessness or anarchy, but rather one of balance. A car without brakes will crash, but a car without a gas pedal goes nowhere. The gas pedal provides fuel to an engine that creates energy by combustion–the fires of hell! Scary stuff, but also the only way to make any progress.

It’s especially important in these times, when we see many elements in society spinning toward destructive chaos. This election season, more people than I’ve ever seen feel a sense that our political and social systems are so broken that we must burn it all down and start from scratch. These instincts are harmful if left unchecked, and they are absolutely not the most rational way forward.

But I don’t think we should completely dismiss these passionate revolutionary instincts, either. We shouldn’t demean them. I am not a radical, in the “political activist” sense, but I do see the importance of the radicals’ voice in cultural dialogue. The ones who protest and riot and undermine authority in abrasive and unsettling ways: these are part of the scary combustion engine that helps movement in our society. They need to be checked and harnessed to be productive, they should not be stamped out. They are part of the larger system: the marriage of heaven and hell.

Are Satanists trying to indoctrinate your children? You bet.

From the ancient Greek word διδάσκω ‎(didáskō, “to teach”) we got διδασκαλία (did-as-kal-ee’-ah), referring to “that which is taught,” especially in the sense of practical teachings about how to live one’s life. By the 1300s this was Latinized as doctrina to refer to any body of teaching or systematic thought. By the 1500s the verb “indoctrine” was used to refer to teaching to imparting knowledge: more than just teaching isolated facts, however, to indoctrine was to expose someone to an entire interconnected system of knowledge. This eventually metamorphosed into “endoctrinate” and then “indoctrinate” as a verb meaning to “impart knowledge.”

The more sinister meaning of the word “indoctrinate”–to impose an opinion or worldview upon someone by force, coercion or brainwashing–is a relatively recent phenomenon that seems to have appeared only within the last 200 years. Even today, when you ask someone to explain the difference between “brainwashing” a young child and “teaching” a young child, the explanation usually boils down to a question of whether or not the person approves of the things being taught.

Theistic religions, especially the monotheistic Abrahamic cults (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), have a long history of being against the seeking of knowledge beyond what is found in their scriptures and religious texts. If you look back far enough, you even find evidence of religious opposition to written knowledge of any kind. It was Satan, the Devil, who was blamed for trying to get people to seek wisdom outside the walls of the church, or think original thoughts that were born from questioning standard assumptions. It was Satan, after all, who tempted man with the fruit of wisdom.

My own psueudonym, Penemue, is the name of a fallen angel in ancient folk mythology who led human being astray by teaching them how to write:

“The name of the fourth is Penemue: he discovered to the children of men bitterness and sweetness; And pointed out to them every secret of their wisdom. He taught men to understand writing, and the use of ink and paper. Therefore numerous have been those who have gone astray from every period of the world, even to this day.”
— The Book of Enoch

For religions, the distinction between teaching and indoctrination is truly irrelevant: all that matters is whether what is being taught agrees or disagrees with their own scriptures.

The Satanic Temple has launched a new program, the After School Satan Club, as an after school program for elementary and middle school students who want to have fun, sing songs, and learn about secular values and critical thinking. They are specifically targeting schools that already have a “Good News Club” program: an after school club that indoctrinates children with Christianity.

Are Satanists trying to indoctrinate your children? You bet we are! We will indoctrinate them with a feeling of empowerment! We will indoctrinate them with the beauty of song! We will indoctrinate them with an understanding of critical thinking! And we will indoctrinate them with the joy of scientific inquiry and learning!

We will impart doctrina, secular cultural wisdom of the ages, upon your children.

Your brow is furrowing with skepticism, and I don’t blame you. Of course this is a little bit tongue in cheek. We are making mischief with the word “indoctrinate” here, because there isn’t a single sane person today who would say that a math teacher “indoctrinates” children with mathematics, or that a music teacher “indoctrinates” children with songs. But Satanists love to play the role of Loki once in a while, and make a little mischief.

This is the sleight of hand you are looking for: Religious organizations should not be in elementary schools in the first place. This is a fundamental cornerstone of our own religious beliefs as Satanists. In the best possible world, we would not need to have our religion represented in elementary schools because no religion would be represented in elementary schools.

But as long as The Good New Club exists to indoctrinate children with one point of view, those children must have other religious options. It is both constitutionally and legally mandatory that Satanism be allowed equal opportunity with Christianity. So here we stand, an apple in one hand and a pen in the other, ready to impart our wisdom along side the Christians in elementary schools across the country.

Do we want to indoctrinate little kids? Not really, no.

But as long as kids are being indoctrinated anyway, they need to have more options to choose from than they currently have.

Atheism 101: Is atheism a belief, a world-view, or a religion?

We have been nurturing our new official United Aspects of Satan Twitter account (please follow us!), using it to share news and opinions that may be of interest to our members, and engage the broader community on topics such as atheism, social justice, freedom of religion, our core values. In a very short time, it has become clear that a lot of people have no clue what “atheism” is.

My goal in this article is to lay out the bare-bones fundamentals: the three things you absolutely need to understand, from the beginning, in order for any further dialog about atheism or theism (much less theology or metaphysics) to be productive.

  1. Is atheism a religion?
  2. Is atheism a world-view?
  3. Is atheism a belief?

If you or the person you are talking to don’t agree on these three points, any further debate about “atheism” is a waste of oxygen.

If you are a proud atheist, you probably already know this stuff. You may still want to read this article as a kind of guide: some tips and approaches you can use the next time you’re having a discussion with a theist.

If you absolutely despise atheism and everything associated with it, you should probably read on… just to make sure that the thing you hate and are arguing about is really “atheism”.

Q: Is atheism a religion?

A: No.

Atheism is a word that describes a single fact about the entire set of a person’s beliefs: specifically, that the person doesn’t believe in gods. Atheism is therefore a descriptive word that can apply to religions, but it is not a religion.

Christianity is a religion. It involves belief in a god. Therefore it is a theistic religion. Islam is a religion. It also involves belief in a god. Therefore it is a theistic religion. Modern Satanism, including that espoused by the United Aspects of Satan, does not involve belief in a god. Therefore, it is an atheistic religion.

You can think of the relationship between atheism and religion as being like the relationship between redness and apples. Some apples are red, other apples are not red. But “red” is not an apple. “Red” isn’t even a type of apple. It’s a trait that apples may or may not have.

For a good article on the relationship between atheism and religions, and the fact that religions can be either theistic or atheistic, you may want to read Atheism is not the opposite of religion by Greg Stevens.

So what’s a religion?

The definition is a little fuzzy and varies from culture to culture, but it is generally accepted that a religion encompasses a broad range of interlocking elements. Religions usually make some claims about how the universe works, and almost always make claims about morality and how people should act. They often make value judgments about what matters and what doesn’t matter. Traditionally they have texts that are considered particularly important or enlightening, in relation to their beliefs and philosophies. Often, but not always, they have symbols and rituals that have particular importance or meaning within the religion.

Anyone who does not believe in gods is an atheist. There are no symbols, no rituals, no particular moral codes that are implied or required by a lack of belief in gods.

One person can think money and fame are the most noble pursuits a person can have, while another seeks inner peace and personal enlightenment: if neither of them believes in a god, then they are both atheists.

Members of the United Aspects of Satan believe in evidence-based reasoning and scientific method. Many spiritualists who believe in mysterious “forces” and “energies” and the consciousness of atoms. These two groups are not the same religion, but they are both atheists.

Now, some people say “atheism is a religion!” simply because they think atheism is absolutely central and important to the lives of atheists. Atheists seem obsessed with atheism!

First of all, that’s not true of all atheists… although I can see how one might get that impression if one spends a lot of time on social media. But even if it were, that doesn’t make atheism a religion any more than fitness is a religion for some people, or Star Trek is a religion for others.

And you might be perfectly happy saying “For some people, fitness is a religion!” But now we are wandering pretty far afield of what most people mean when they talk about religion. Perhaps you mean it metaphorically. That’s perfectly fine! But make sure that’s clear at the beginning of the conversation… because unless you are speaking metaphorically, atheism is definitely not a religion.

Q: Is atheism a world-view?

A: No.

This question is very similar to the previous one, to be quite honest–as is the answer. The idea of a “world-view” is different from the idea of a “religion” in several important respects: religions often have foundational documents, rituals and symbols, and important historical figures associated with them; a world-view does not.

A world-view is, however, a fairly comprehensive interconnected set of beliefs that can include everything from your beliefs about how the material world operates to your beliefs about morals and values, and purpose and goals. A world-view is a system of thought that outlines, at least in general terms, how the universe functions and what our place is in it.

There are several different variations of modern atheistic Satanism, and each espouses a slightly different world-view. The type of Satanism adhered to by the Church of Satan, for example, puts much more emphasis and importance on individualism, while the Satanism of The Satanic Temple puts more emphasis on social justice and political activism. The United Aspects of Satan represents a third world-view, that values the multiplicity of Satanic personas outlined by its Core Values.

All of them are atheists: belief in gods is not part of the world-view of any of them. All are variants of the same religion, as they share many of the same symbols and beliefs, and even share some common history. However, they are all different world-views.

So, just as with the previous question, it is best to think of the relationship between atheism and world-views as like the relationship between, for example, friendliness and people. Some people are friendly. Some people are not friendly.

But: friendliness is not a person.

Q: Is atheism a belief?

A: In the colloquial sense, yes. In the scientific sense, no.

This is where it gets really complicated! This is also where a lot of debates get completely tangled up. The atheist will say that beliefs require evidence, and the theist will respond that the belief “God doesn’t exist” must also require evidence, which the atheist then claims to be false.

The reason for this confusion is that atheists are using “belief” to refer to thoughts that are hypotheses, while theists are using “belief” to refer to mental states more generally.

It is worth point out that both of these interpretations of the word “belief” do have some validity.

In the same way that not receiving a phone call from your romantic interest can contain meaning and influence your behavior, the fact that your “state of mind” lacks a belief in gods also will change the way you think and the way you act.  A person not saying “I love you” in a particular context can convey as much meaning as a person saying “I love you”.

So when you are thinking in terms of the impact on people’s lives and actions, it is not ridiculous to claim that not holding a particular viewpoint can be as important and impactful as holding a particular viewpoint.

However, the word “belief” has a much more specific connotation within technical discussions around scientific method and evidence-based reasoning. When atheists say “I don’t need evidence to not believe in God, but you need evidence to believe in God,” they are using “belief” in this context. In this context, the term means something similar to the word “hypothesis” in the jargon of experimental science.

What is a hypothesis?

In science, a hypothesis is an idea that has been presented to explain some collection of observations. It is something that is proposed. Once proposed, it can be accepted or rejected. In science, we test hypotheses by looking at predictions they make. If the prediction turns out to be false, we reject the hypothesis. If it turns out to be true, we provisionally accept it until the next test.

If it makes no predictions, there is no reason to accept the hypothesis.

Let’s say you are playing baseball, and you hit a home run when there is a blimp overhead. You might come up with the hypothesis: “The blimp caused me to hit a home run.” Should you accept the hypothesis?

It could give rise to a prediction: the next time a blimp is overhead when you are playing ball, see whether you hit a home run. If you don’t, then it looks like you should reject the hypothesis “blimps cause me to hit home runs.” But if no blimp is ever overhead when you play ball again, you also have no reason to accept the hypothesis.

In either of those situations–where no prediction has been tested, or a prediction has failed–the consequence is that the hypothesis is rejected, and we go back to the default state, which is “I have no idea why I hit that home run.” That is where your beliefs stay, until you come up with a new hypothesis, that you can then test with a new prediction.

That’s science.

In this framework, the notion that “the blimp did not cause my home run” is not a hypothesis. It is not something that needs to be tested. It is not something that needs evidence. It’s the “default” — in scientific jargon, it is sometimes called the “null hypothesis”, in other words: the hypothesis that there is no known cause.

So how does this translate into the question of atheism?

First, what is the data you are trying to explain? What are the observations? Often, it’s something like “the existence of the universe.”  OK, fine.

Then, “God” is part of the hypothesis that is used to explain how the universe came to be. That’s fine, too.

The person who approaches the issue from a scientific, evidence-based perspective will then say: “What predictions does that hypothesis make? What further data can you present for this God hypothesis?”

And if no evidence is given, then the scientific thinker has no reason to believe the God hypothesis. Instead, the scientific thinker goes with the “null hypothesis”, which is, “There is no known explanation for how the universe came to be.”

Notice: it is not required that the atheist has an alternative explanation for the origin of the universe: just like you are not required to have an alternative explanation for why you hit the home run, in order to not believe that it was caused by the blimp. It is enough to say: “I have no reason to think it had anything to do with the blimp, therefore I don’t believe that it was caused by the blimp.

Some theists respond to this by saying, “Shouldn’t the atheist say I don’t know rather than I don’t believe in God?”

Here you have to pay close attention to the nature of hypotheses in evidence-based reasoning. Think it through using the analogy.

If you don’t have any evidence that the blimp caused you to hit your home run, you don’t go around saying “The blimp might have made me hit a home run!”

Instead, you say: “I don’t know how I hit that home run.”

That is analogous to an atheist saying “I do not know how the universe came into being.” It is not analogous to saying, “I do not know if God exists.”

This is a very tough conversation to have, because many theists are simply not used to thinking using evidence-based reasoning. The meaning of the word “belief” is actually different for them, than it is for people who are used to thinking scientifically.

So when you engage in these conversations, it’s best to start simple, and attack that problem head on.

Start by saying, “What does the word belief mean to you?”

Then say, “Do you think blimps cause home-runs?”

See where it goes from there.

The sickening belief in divine intervention

“I had a student in my class,” she said, “whose father worked in the World Trade Center. And on September 11th, when the school made the announcement about what happened, all of the kids were in shock. But she just started crying and crying. And we spent all day trying to call and find out about her daddy, but of course we couldn’t get through.”

The woman, a now retired school teacher, was telling this story to a small group of us this afternoon. We had been discussing tragedies, and our memories of where we were during great events in history.

“Now, her father had worked there for 30 years, and had never missed a day of work in his life. But the day before, on Monday September 10th, he had been feeling really sick, and he picked up some Nyquil on the way home from work. He took it that night. He wasn’t even planning on taking the next day off of work. But he took the Nyquil, and he slept through the alarm, right into the afternoon. He had never missed a day of work in his life, but he missed that day. He had no idea what had happened. We finally got in touch with him at 5:30 pm. He was still at home, feeling sick. He had no idea what had happened.”

“That’s just amazing,” a man replied.

“Can you imagine? He’d never been out sick, never even taken a vacation, but on that day…..” she said, letting her voice trail off wistfully.

“Well, I’ll tell you: that’s divine intervention, right there!” the man announced.

I said nothing.

…but this is what I thought:


Are you saying God chose to intervene in the natural course of human history in this specific moment, and “saved” exactly 1 man while allowing almost 3000 other people to die?

Are you saying that every single one of those 3000 were less deserving of life than this girl’s father?  That the feelings of loss of the young daughters and sons of the 3000 others did not matter enough to warrant God bending the normal natural rules of time and space….. but only the feelings of this one girl did?

Everyone has xir own definition of “god”, and while I roll my eyes at all of them, some of them are at least palatable.  The “blind watchmaker” God who sets the universe in motion at the beginning of time and then refuses to intervene, for example, is a weird contrivance for whom there is no evidence… but at least he’s not an asshole.

The God that this man believes in is a cruel disgusting sociopath who makes a point of reaching into his creation to save a single life while destroying thousands of others. For absolutely no reason.

I didn’t say anything, but I was thinking: The fact that you would choose to believe in such a God is perverted. By raising one person’s good fortune onto some kind of pedestal you are telling the entire rest of the world: Fuck you. In that moment, you weren’t important enough. God was there for someone; God was not there for you.

So when you see a Satanist who seems angry about religion, or angry about God, remember this story. I can’t speak for all Satanists, of course. And not all Satanists are angry. But if you’re ever asking yourself, “Gosh, why is it that some Satanists seem so filled with hatred towards God?” just remember this story.

If a Satanist expresses hatred for someone’s perception of God, there is a good chance it is because that person’s God is hateful.

This is how I reacted to “Have a blessed day”

I was driving in the parking lot of the grocery store looking for a place to park. As I was rolling past a large SUV, I noticed the space beyond it was empty. I almost noticed too late. But I took the tight turn, and pulled into the space. I turned off my car, opened the door, and got out.

“I almost got you there, brother!” came the cheery man’s voice. He had just gotten out of the SUV. “I nearly clipped you with my door!”

“Oh, goodness, I’m sorry…. I didn’t even see you!”  I said, immediately apologetic.

“No, no, it’s fine! I pulled back in time. The Lord was watching over us, so everything turned out ok!”

For a millisecond, my smile was frozen on my face while I tried to decide what to say next.

I went with: “Well, I’m happy for your reflexes! It’s amazing all these little near-misses that happen every day, huh?”

“The Lord is protecting us in ways we don’t even realize!” he suggested.

At this point we were walking side-by-side, both obviously going to the grocery store, so we had no choice but to spend the next 20-30 seconds of our lives together.

“It’s a beautiful day out!” I said.

“It sure is,” he replied, “And it’s supposed to stay that way the rest of the week!”

“Is it? That’s wonderful!” I opined, “And people are saying it will be a mild summer, as well.”

“Lord willing!” was his reply.

We reached the entrance to the store.  He started to walk in, and I paused to pick up a basket. As the distance between us grew, I called out in parting: “Have a great day!”

“Have a blessed day!” he replied with a smile. Again, there was a millisecond pause where I considered how to reply… but then the moment was past, the opportunity was lost. He was gone.

A part of me felt bad, like I had missed a perfect chance! Something simple, like a parting, “Hail Satan!” — spoken with a genuine pleasant smile, of course.

I played out that scenario in my imagination. How would he have reacted? There is no way of knowing for sure. Fear, anger, and attempt to get into a philosophical debate? Who knows. Perhaps he would simply have laughed, thinking it was a joke.

Would he have recognized that I was mirroring his own behavior: offering a pleasant parting remark, in soothing tones and with a smile? Would he have seen my “Hail Satan” as the exact functional equivalent, socially and psychologically, of his “Have a blessed day”, except expressed through the language of a different symbolic system? Would he then have taken the comment in the spirit in which it was intended, and smiled in return?

That is what I did in my response to him. I could have said, “What God?” or elaborated more specifically: “I don’t believe in God.”  But I understood how he meant his remarks, I felt instinctively that he meant me no ill will. So I replied to what I thought his underlying intent was, rather than to his words.

Would he have done the same for me, if I had wished him a parting, “Ave Satanas”?

Oh come on!” the skeptic might reply, “You know darn well how people will react to Hail Satan!  The only reason you could have for saying that is to provoke! Don’t try to pretend your ‘Hail Satan’ would be just as innocent as his ‘have a blessed day’.”

But this is the real root of the issue. Being a Satanist, there is literally no way for me to use a “phrase of blessing” that is true to my own religion without also being aware that it is a confrontational act. If you want to openly be a Satanist in today’s world, you are forced to embrace the aspect of Ba’al. You cannot simply be.

For a Satanist, some acts are simultaneously sincere expressions of deeply-held feelings, and at the same time are also acts of defiance. Like an interracial couple holding hands in public in the 1930’s, saying “hail Satan” is not just one or the other. It is both.

Today, my opportunity was lost. I took the higher road that I never expect others to take. And the man I met has no idea of the path the conversation could have taken. Maybe some day he will feel what it is like to be on the other side of that equation. Maybe some day he will have to pause for a millisecond to think about how he should react, when someone smiles and with a genuine open heart says,

Hail Satan!

My religious relationship with the Easter Bunny

I do not worship the Easter Bunny. I want to state that clearly from the very beginning, so that there is no confusion. But I do consider bunnies the most important symbol of Easter,  with specific religious significance for Satanism.

Peeps BunniesThe Bunny represents the triumph of the secular over the mystical. Christians still like to tell themselves that Easter is about some kind of weird deal where God bribes Satan, but let’s get real: in America in the twenty-first century, Easter is a widely-celebrated cultural phenomenon that has almost nothing to do with Jesus. It is about consumerism and candy and spring time.  It is about wearing pastels and showing a little skin after a long winter. It is a celebration of the material world, physical transformations of spring, and indulgence in pleasures. The perfect Satanic holiday, all centered on the glorious Bunny.

And as a Satanist, I enjoy subverting cultural norms an expectations. I enjoy taking symbols with one expected meaning, and turning them around to present them as something else. To get people to question their expectations, and move people out of their comfort zones. So for me, the truly iconic Satanist symbol for Easter is…. the Evil Bunny.

We can find the Evil Bunny in many places in pop culture.

Evil rabbit from Watership Down One of my favorite Evil Bunnies appears in the classic animated not-so-much-for-children movie Watership Down: a story all about rabbits. It features a fearsome “bad guy” rabbit, General Woundwort: battle-scarred, vicious, a military dictator of his warren. He’s basically a rabbit version of Hitler.

Frank, from Donnie DarkoThe movie Donnie Darko features a bunny that is not so much evil as ominous. A mysterious creature that looks like a terrifying half-skull rabbit creature appears to Donnie in a vision and tells him when the universe will end!  The creature, named Frank, imparts strange bits of wisdom to Donnie every time he appears. Is it a creature? Is it a person in a scary bunny suit? How can we know for sure?

Donnie: Why do you wear that stupid bunny suit?
Frank: Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?

And of course, there was a running joke throughout the series Buffy The Vampire Slayer that one of the characters (who was formerly a demon) had a fear of bunnies. She even sings a song about them:

“Bunnies aren’t just cute like everybody supposes. They got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses, and what’s with all the carrots? What do they need such good eyesight for anyway?”

All of this convinces me that the Easter Bunny–or perhaps a nice evil version of the Easter Bunny–is the perfect Satanic religious symbol for this holiday.

Which movie or television show featuring an Evil Bunny will you watch this Easter?

Moshing through life

A mosh pit at a hardcore concert is high energy zen. You enter the pit and become an atom: flowing in a stream of energy, colliding and rebounding like particles of a liquid creating a whirlpool or a convection current. You receive energy from the other people, and transfer your energy out toward them, until there is nothing but the “collective energy” swirling around in a vortex. You become one with the system

Justin Pansacola writes in an article at Vitamin String Quartet:

Every other form of concert body movement requires some self-awareness, and for many people that leads to self-consciousness. It requires either knowledge or natural talent with coordinating the awkwardness of your body to rhythms, or decisions on how to move that best match up with everyone else. That’s always fun in its own way, but the beauty of the mosh pit is that the choice isn’t in your hands. You are simply swept along. For those who struggle with even a modicum of self-consciousness, or indecision about what to do with themselves at a show, the mosh pit is a savior. You surrender to it, and then you try to keep your shoes on.

The specter of self-consciousness is powerful. You see it in their attempts to wiggle, the sudden evaporation of their nerve, and the way they look at everyone else while getting down. It’s not their fault. We all have our own terrifying social hang-ups. But the mosh pit is the equalizer that brings extroverts and introverts together. It’s a leveled playing field where we can all just enjoy the visceral sensation of a good beat, a thrashing guitar or a driving bass line.

moshBut it is also very controversial, and very counter-culture. It is frowned upon by cultural conservatives for being too chaotic and hedonistic, and by cultural liberals for being too dangerous.

The best way I can describe the dialectic between those who “get” mosh pit culture and those who do not is to just present to you this discussion thread about the philosophy of moshing on Psych Central:

Paintingravens: I think there’s a philosophy to moshing… a concert is a place where tons of people gather to have a good time and release any of that stress that’s been building up throughout the week. We gather, we fling ourselves into each other, we may fall a couple of times but we pick each other back up, we may inflict a few good bruises on each other, but it’s done unintentionally and playfully (albeit, intensely playfully), and it’s all in the spirit of rocking out. I think moshing is symbolic of the ideal human connection. We gather together to share a similar experience. A concert is a place where we can throw ourselves into each other as hard as we can (release all that daily frustration), and we take it, we share it, we laugh about it. We knock each other down, but we help each other up; possibly analogous to sharing each others pains and problems and helping each other through them? To me, it seems that moshing brings people together. While moshing, no one gets pissed at the other because you accidentally got elbowed in the face, and no one tries to start a fight because you got punched in the gut (both blows I received during this concert…:P); you take it in stride and laugh about it
Moreta: I don’t like moshers…..or people that crowd surf….since I usually position myself in the front row. I enjoy stepping out of the way so crowd surfers fall to the floor. I was at a Saliva concert one time, in the front row, and people were moshing behind me, and this huge dude slammed right into me, which led to having 3 bruised ribs from hitting the metal railing. Not fun.
Paintingravens: If you don’t like the mosh pit, perhaps in the future, you should consider finding a spot that is not directly in front of it. The mosh pit is not going to move out of the way for you.
TheByzantine: Oh? So before you buy a ticket you get a seating chart that designates mosh pit here? To think it is cool to trample and bruise those who thought they were going to a concert and not a rugby match is quite telling.
Paintingravens: The mosh pits generally start up in the same area (usually front-center area), and there’s not much one can do about it once they start. They gain momentum fast. And standing up in the very front is just asking to get pummeled by moshers… There are always other places to stand that are safe from the frantic blows of excited moshers.
TheByzantine: So what you are saying is that anyone who wants a front row sit is fair game to be bruised and battered?
Paintingravens: No, they’re not “fair game”. It’s not a hunting range. The people in the mosh pit are not targeting the unfortunate people in the front row. But if you make it to the front row and expect to be completely safe and bruise free by the end of the concert, then you are sorely mistaken. The mosh pit extends to the front row, and it’s filled with a bunch of people who are literally throwing themselves into each other. There is much pushing and shoving and flailing of limbs. Bruises happen in the front row. It’s just the way it is.
Lynn P. Sounds like a good excuse to hurt someone with out getting arrested. I would be afraid of bullies and people going there for that purpose – “yeah lets go hurt someone”
Paintingravens: Lol, mostly everyone is there to have a good time. If someone every gets seriously hurt and knocked to the ground and can’t get up, people notice and make a clearing for him/her; they help him/her up, make sure he/she gets out of the crowd without any more damage… I have yet to see someone point and laugh at any fallen, seriously injured comrades; I’ve never seen anyone as these events as sadistic as that. I’m sure there are people like that somewhere in the crowd, but I think it’s safe to assume it’s a small minority. Those are the people that would most likely be booed from the crowd

What I find most interesting about the strong advocates of mosh culture is that they truly reflect the way I interpret Satanic values, embodying the intersection of at least three Aspects of Satan:

1. Belial: You are your own spirit, you are your own actor. You neither conform nor rebel. There is no predefined structure, or set of rules.

2. The Leviathan: You understand that your own enjoyment depends on everyone’s enjoyment. You don’t pamper or constrain or “protect”, but you actively make sure to help those who need it. And if you detect people who are violent or acting in bad faith, they are booed from the crowd.

3. Pan: Be caught up in physicality, the music, the moment, and the feeling. Indulge in all of the physical sensations that your body can endure.

Of course, the mosh pit can always go wrong, and there have been news stories and scare-stories about serious injuries and things getting out of control. But at its finest, mosh pit culture represents the perfect balance between individuality, community, and indulgence: and when that perfect chord is struck, it’s one of the most amazing experiences in the world.

Political correctness is the devil

People like to keep things simple. Whenever possible, they would prefer to have One Big Problem, rather many different ones.

The Devil is a perfect illustration of this principle. Over hundreds and thousands of years, mythic and historical writing has included a number of bad characters harboring ill will, or representing challenges to humanity. But our simple-minded culture has decided that they are all actually just one Super-Bad Being: the Devil.

In the Book of Job 1-2, Job has a spiritual adversary who is referred to as “the satan” (which translates from the Hebrew as “the adversary”). According to the book of Job, this being is specifically Job’s adversary: not “the adversary of God” or “the adversary of mankind”. The satan is in fact following God’s instructions, according to the story. And yet, in our modern-day interpretation of the myth, this being becomes “The Devil”.

In Leviticus 7:17, the Hebrew word sair is translated as “The Devil”, even though it really means “goat” or “satyr”.

In Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalms 106:37,  the Hebrew word shed is translated as “The Devil”, even though it means “idol”.

In 1 Kings, the word “satan” is used to refer to an actual human being: Rezon of Damascus. He was an adversary (a “satan”) to Israel. But many Christians claim this passage refers to The Devil.

“Shaitan” or “ash-Shayṭān” is also the name of Iblis in Islamic myths: the one who whispers evil temptations into the ears of man. According to many: also the Devil.

A snake in a garden that tempts Eve? Must have been the devil.

The peacock angel worshiped by the Yazidis? Must have been the devil.

And my favorite bit of twisted interpretation is Ezekiel 28:12-14, which many many Biblical scholars argue must be referring to the Devil:

“Thus says the Lord GOD: You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, chrysolite, and moonstone, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald; and worked in gold were your settings and your engravings…”

And so on, and so on. The passage goes on to say that he was proud because of his beauty, and so the Lord cast him out. Many Biblical scholars call this a description of the Devil.

The only problem with this description of “The Devil” is the one sentence that precedes it:

“Moreover the word of the LORD came to me: Mortal, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him…….”

This (supposedly inerrant?) biblical passage very clearly states that it is a description of the king of Tyre, not the Devil. But no! It’s too confusing to have more than one Bad Guy in the novel of life… so Christians claim that this, too, is a description of The Devil.

This over-simplification happens in other areas of life, too. A good example is the way that America’s right-wing has chosen to focus on “political correctness” as the supposed source of so many things it finds disagreeable.

The original idea behind political correctness was fairly mundane: be mindful about how the things you say might have unintended negative consequences or might impact people around you in negative ways.

But now?

Students are complaining about their classes? It’s because of political correctness!

President Obama won’t use the phrase “Islamic Terrorism”? Political correctness!

Women are being allowed in the military? Oh, the horrors of political correctness!

Conservatives want to make “political correctness” synonymous with “language policing” and authoritarianism. And admittedly, some radical “PC Police” activists can use the term in a very authoritarian way. As a Satanist, and a strong supporter of Loki, I’m against anyone who tells me that I should never offend people, or must walk on eggshells in the way I talk.

But it is also obvious to me that political correctness has become the American Right’s modern “Devil”: the single big Bad Guy that can be blamed for all of the problems!

Well, you know what? I like the Devil. And I also like political correctness: at least in the way it was originally intended, even if not the way it is executed by some on the left-side fringe. It is noble, and indeed very Satanic, to be mindful of one’s place in a culture, and one’s relationship to other people. It is very Satanic to be aware of the power you have with your own rhetoric, and as an activist within a community. It is the very nature of the aspect of The Leviathan.

So let the political right wing wrings its hands over the devastation being brought down on the land by the dreaded Political Correctness! As a Satanist I say:

Hail Community. Hail Political Correctness. Hail Satan.