The god of the cannibals will be a cannibal, of the crusaders a crusader, and of the merchants a merchant. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Civilization
A MOVIE THAT’S DEVILISHLY ENTERTAINING AND INSIGHTFUL
I saw a movie in the S.F. Bay area recently entitled, Hail Satan?
As a youth in Catholic schools, at a time when parochial schools were virtual penal colonies for juveniles just waiting for opportunities to go astray, uttering the words Hail Satan would have brought tribulation and woe.
I was so indoctrinated into an Old Testament vision of a punitive god that being turned into a pillar of salt, like Lot’s wife, would have been too good for me. After all, that poor woman’s offense was but to look back to view the commotion, to catch a glance of her home being wrecked or perhaps to assess whether there was time to go back to save the family pet. But no, God was throwing a temper tantrum, raining destruction and death on an entire city because, well, every man, woman and child, even babies, I suppose, were behaving like Sodom and Gomorrahites, which evidently wasn’t pretty. Lot and his wife were fleeing because two characters, dressed as angels, had scared the bejabbers out them, urging the one virtuous couple to flee for their lives and, for some unknown reason, not to look back. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife could not resist a backward glance. Who among us would not have sneaked a peek? Lady Lot got the pillar of salt treatment for disobeying angels.
At the time, I would have expected a gruesome penance for saying the words Hail Satan, let alone attending a movie by that name. Come to think of it, it seems likely I would have expected spontaneous combustion, on the spot, not a second chance to repent and shape up. Fathers LaRue, Doyle and McGovern would no doubt have ceremoniously sprinkled holy water on my smoking ashes; Sisters DeChantell, Lucy and George would have marched their classes to the charred spot where I had been cooked in fiery flames. This daily field trip would surely impress my classmates to eschew blasphemous smart aleck salutes. There was no place for Little Satanists at St. Barnabas.
Despite my experience of a dramatically intense educational environment during twelve years of Roman Catholic schooling, I recently viewed Hail Satan?, 63 years since my last day of attendance at an institution run by the one true church, the one founded by St. Peter on a rock where I was immersed in the only religion that would render me eligible to appear one day in the dock at the high court of Heavenly Gates. Eligibility was one thing, admittance something else altogether. There were no guarantees that I or anyone else, even the pope, would be found not guilty of one or more transgressions (e.g., missing Sunday Mass, eating meat on Friday, touching oneself impurely, etc.) that would trigger a guilty verdict, after which I’d be unceremoniously dropped into a huge pit of fire to commence an eternity of suffering.
The merciful god of the Catholic Church had a mean streak.
Despite these educational advantages, I attended a production about an organization that did not believe in any gods or devils, including Satan, but which hailed him anyway for its own purposes.
I loved it but I had lots of company – the audience was enthusiastic (a standing ovation as the credits rolled) and it got a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes)
I recommend you discover for yourself how the Satanic Temple goes about hailing Satan for the purpose of promoting church/state separation. The bottom line about the Temple is that it artfully, satirically and often hilariously employs the boogeyman or, if you prefer, the apparition/evil spirit/phantasm/specter/spook or bugaboo of a devil figurehead, to promote an irreligious form of humanism. Or, in the areas of reason, exuberance and liberty, REAL wellness.
Despite years of religious dogma, supernatural rituals and threats of eternal punishment, I believe the brief Tenets of the Satanic Temple are superior to the voluminous teachings of the Catholic Church, Christianity and other religions with which I’m somewhat familiar. The Satanic Temple has no angry or other gods, no hellfires, no superstitions – just a set of beliefs that encourage an embrace of critical thinking and science, personal responsibility, individual and societal freedoms and a passion for justice, kindness, love, good works and other secular values needed today more than ever.
Consider the seven tenets of the Satanic Temple:
1. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.
2. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
3. One¹s body is inviolable, subject to one¹s own will alone.
4. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.
5. Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world.
6. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs.
7. People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused.
The authors of these Tenets believe that each is a guiding principle that might inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.
The Tenets do not square much with the kind of Satan the priests and nuns of my childhood described. Since watching the movie, I’ve not had a single nightmare. I can’t say the same about dreams endured as a child, concerned as I was about what Satan had in store for transgressors young and old in the scary afterlife.