Satan Comes to Harvard

As I’ve written in the past, I find Satanism silly and juvenile. If you’re an atheist, as most of them say they are, then call yourself an atheist, and don’t wrap yourself in the mythology of a religion you don’t believe in. The only reason I can imagine to identify as a Satanist is as a stunt, to shock and outrage the easily shocked and outraged people whose religious beliefs cause them to jump at shadows. But I have to admit, if that’s what they were going for, the Satanists of Harvard have made their point:

“It’s disturbing,” said Father Michael Drea, senior chaplain of the Harvard Catholic chaplaincy. “The unfortunate thing is that this is being allowed [by the university] to go forward under the guise of academic freedom without a real sense of respect for the dignity of the Catholic faith.”

The Archdiocese of Boston, in a statement, expressed its “deep sadness and strong opposition” to the plans for Monday’s event, calling it “dangerous” and asking Harvard University to condemn it.

The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club, in cooperation with the Satanic Temple (the same people who want to put a statue of Baphomet in the Oklahoma state capitol) is planning to hold a Black Mass on campus tonight, as part of a series of religious ceremonies from around the world. The Catholic hierarchs of Boston are furious, and many of them are demanding that Harvard stop this event from taking place. Yes, just in case you were wondering, these are the same people who assert that “religious liberty” (of Catholic employers, to dictate whether employee health plans cover contraception) is a sacred value which must never be infringed.

And it’s not just the Catholics of Boston, either. Some of my Patheos colleagues over on the Catholic channel are quite exercised about it:

Pray for the poor souls who are opening themselves to very dark things with this act. (source)

Whether or not one agrees with Catholic theology — and surely, many at Harvard don’t — someone there has to agree: this is wrong. This is hateful. This is evil. Even unbelievers have to concede: this expresses hate for Catholic Christianity, offends sensibilities, inflicts pain on people of faith, and mocks the understanding of God embraced by a billion people around the world. (source)

(Do “even Catholics have to concede” that opposition to marriage equality expresses hate, offends sensibilities, and inflicts pain on LGBT people around the world?)

Having spoken with several people within the organization, I am not entirely sure they fully understand what they’ve gotten themselves into, with this “re-enactment”… Having spoken with diocesan exorcists, I know that many people who have no real intention of inviting in the dark end up becoming imprisoned by it. (source)

It’s frightening that Satanism is being played around with like this… I can’t help but think about the little girl in The Exorcist, who just thought she was playing a silly game. (source)

As you can see, my Patheos colleagues are gravely concerned that a bunch of kids who dress up in black robes and wave around a goat’s skull might accidentally open a portal to the netherworld, as if that were the most important thing there is to worry about. This ought to be taken about as seriously as the Jack Chick tracts which claim that playing Dungeons & Dragons teaches you how to cast real black magic spells. My favorite is the post from The Anchoress, who asked a breathless question – what will happen if you really do summon Satan? – to which their spokesman gave a perfectly reasonable response:

When I asked Greaves what he would do if, in the midst of their exercise, something from the etheric plane made itself known, he laughed and said, “well, then I’d have to reassess.”

But the comments are even better. One commenter who doesn’t understand the definition of “hate crime” says that the Satanists “are proposing to commit a true hate crime” and urges the police to arrest them: “they should be charged and prosecuted… If they were doing this sort of mockery of a Moslem or Jewish solemn religious ceremony they would be arrested and prosecuted in a New York minute.” (I must have missed all those trials of people imprisoned for mocking Muslim or Jewish ceremonies. What section of the penal law is that, I wonder?)

Another asks, “has the local Catholic bishop done anything to try to stop this?” – and if you’re wondering what sort of action by the bishop might be contemplated here, a third proposes “a Mission Impossible style raid” on the Satanists. (Unfortunately the Vatican’s elite strike team of bishops is busy elsewhere.)

Much of this outrage was stirred by a rumor, which was subsequently denied by the Satanists, that they’d be desecrating an actual consecrated Eucharist wafer as part of the ceremony. Even if that were true, it’s hard to see what the Catholic apologists are so upset about. If the Satanists did get their hands on such a thing by some nefarious means, why wouldn’t God just withdraw his presence from it before it could be used in a Satanic ritual? Is Jesus trapped in the cracker once the priest speaks the words over it? (This has more than a faint echo of the anti-Semitic medieval belief that Jews would steal consecrated hosts and stab them to crucify Jesus anew.)

The lesson to be learned from this story is just how widespread and influential this kind of paranoid demonology still is. Belief in black magic and demon possession isn’t a third world relic, isn’t confined to Congo or Nigeria. It’s right here, alive and well in America, and it’s being unapologetically taught by advocates for the single largest and wealthiest religious denomination on earth.

These Catholic apologists may claim to love science and uphold rationalism, to represent a faith fit for the modern age. But scratch the surface and you find that ancient superstition, that the cosmos is swarming with invisible, malicious spirits who can wreak havoc unless we know the right magical rituals to keep them at bay. This fear has always been used to deny the humanity of the supposedly demon-infested, and in its name, countless innocents have been imprisoned, tortured and killed through the ages. The Harvard Satanists, at worst, are harmless pranksters and provocateurs. But I won’t judge those who oppose them so leniently: Fear of demons has done vastly more harm than worship of demons ever did.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Ramiro Fernandez

    I’ve never met a Satanist who actually believes in the mythology of Christianity, but if I did I would have a whole lot of respect for them. I always thought if someone managed to convince me that Yahweh was real, I would become a Satanist straight away.

    After all, I think I am a reasonable moral person, and Satan was clearly the one with the morals. Everyone else supports the big bad boss, but I’d rather side with the less powerful but clearly morally superior underdog.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

    Here once again that “religious liberty” usually means only for me, and not thee.

  • Russell Wain Glasser

    “I can’t help but think about the little girl in The Exorcist, who just thought she was playing a silly game. ”

    Yeah, uh, The Exorcist was still fiction, sweeties. It’s telling that they couldn’t find a real life cautionary tale to scare us with.

  • Robert Slack

    I’ve met Satanists who not only believe in the Christian mythology but who also didn’t necessarily think that Christianity and Satanism were irreconcilable.

  • KBQ

    Having spoken with diocesan exorcists, I know that many people who have
    no real intention of inviting in the dark end up becoming imprisoned by
    it.

    Having spoken with someone who has undergone an exorcism, I know that many Christians who have every no real intention of torturing their religious or political opponents in the name of “God” end up doing exactly that.

    I find the belief in demonic possession and the efficacy of exorcisms as especially vile. As stated above, I knew some people who allowed members of their congregation to perform an exorcism on their child because those people said that the kid was under “demonic influences” from watching Japanese cartoons.

    Yes, really. You have no idea how hard I wish I were making this up.

    Even this person’s Bible-believing parents acknowledged that this chicanery likely resulted in severe psychological trauma to their kid.

  • raylampert

    Satan would barely qualify as a background character in the Bible. Pretty much everything people “know” about the character of Satan comes from outside the Bible, from works like “Paradise Lost”, “Faust”, and “The Divine Comedy”. Are these bishops and priests legitimately afraid of black magic? Are they stupid?

  • Nathaniel

    If the Satanists wanted to expose how silly and stupid some Catholic beliefs are, they succeeded admirably. Its always a bit a of sit and stare moment when I realize that someone actually believes that Ouija boards can summon supernatural power.

  • katiehippie

    How dare you mock our ritual cannibalism! /snark

  • Yonah

    I object to your name-dropping of anti-Semitism. You have no right there.

    Beyond your cartoon denigration of the Eucharist, the plain bad thing that Harvard has done is simply give an affirming platform for symbols that have current market value with a variety of extremist groups which commit atrocities from gangs to right wing organizations. All of such groups these days are attempting to use more media-savy segues into creeping semi-respectability. Giving Satanists or the Klan a Harvard forum contributes to such groups’ marketability. Harvard can and should choose to deny them.

    What the Catholic Church is or isn’t or what you think or feel about the Catholic Church doesn’t have anything to do with it.

  • Erp

    A few thoughts

    1. The whole idea of the ‘Black Mass’ seems to have been a Catholic invention. Something they alleged for centuries that people who didn’t believe like they did, did. This Harvard event seems to be a literary recreation of how the Black Mass was depicted in literature at particular times (but no naked people on altars).

    2. Admittedly since Vatican II the Catholic Good Friday liturgy has been modified. In particular the phrase “perfidious Jews” was removed though there are some who want to bring it back. Should Harvard ban a Harvard traditionalist group from using it?

    3. Should Harvard ban ‘Christian seders’ which some Jews consider a perversion of their Passover Seders?

  • paizlea

    Have you ever talked to a Satanist? I’ve known a few, and without exception they were the sweetest, most good-natured men I’ve ever encountered. They would be the first to oppose atrocity of any kind.

  • paizlea

    The only modern-day exorcism stories involve gravely ill people being tortured by their well-meaning families and priests.

  • Nathaniel

    Well, I’m sure you’ll be here with a list of atrocities that Satanists have committed. Because otherwise your argument wouldn’t make a lick of sense.

  • GCT

    I object to your name-dropping of anti-Semitism. You have no right there.

    Adam has no right to point out the historic anti-Semitism of the RCC? How so?

    Beyond your cartoon denigration of the Eucharist, the plain bad thing that Harvard has done is simply give an affirming platform for symbols that have current market value with a variety of extremist groups which commit atrocities from gangs to right wing organizations.

    LOL. Yes, those roving gangs of Satanists that…wait, what do they do now?

    Giving Satanists or the Klan a Harvard forum contributes to such groups’ marketability.

    IOW, how dare they allow people that I don’t agree with a venue to speak! Oh yeah, and don’t forget that the KKK is a Xian organization.

    What the Catholic Church is or isn’t or what you think or feel about the Catholic Church doesn’t have anything to do with it.

    Except it’s the Catholics rushing to speak up and look dumb as well as hypocritical.

  • Azkyroth

    Probably believes Ritual Satanic Daycare Abuse was an actual thing.

  • Psycho Gecko

    He had a nice cameo back in Job if you decide to use Satan as a name instead of a word meaning “accuser”. Other than that, he’s more of an dark horse character. He’s like the Boba Fett of the Bible.

  • JH

    So Harvard should ban the use of any symbols that have market value with atrocity committing extremist groups regardless of any other value the symbols might have? Interesting.

  • Yonah

    Common sense has its own prima facie properties. If you need an argument not to pet a growling dog…good luck with your arts and crafts project.

  • Giauz Ragnarock

    I’m thinking Death-note or Bleach, but I wouldn’t put Voltron or Pokemon past Christians for declaring “demonic”.

  • Giauz Ragnarock

    “Satan: the Boba Fett of the Bible”

    Anyone good at visual memes?

  • raylampert

    I assume the person who said that hasn’t actually seen The Exorcist. The girl didn’t do anything to get possessed. She was an innocent; that was kind of the point. It’s like those dunderheads who complain about Monty Python’s Life of Brian and totally miss the point because, again, they hadn’t actually seen it.

  • KBQ

    I seriously doubt that the exorcism was performed in response to the believers in question actually observing this person watching anime. Probably all that happened was that one of them heard that the kid watched it from time to time. I’m not sure if this is only a thing in the area where I live, but many Christians I speak to will say things to the effect of “Japan is a spiritually dark nation”. Just knowing that someone was a consumer of Japanese pop culture would probably have been enough to convince them that he was in league with “the dark side”.

  • Alex SL

    Wait, these people really believe in Satan and black magic? Even the Catholic Patheos bloggers? Are they four years old or what?

  • DavidMHart

    Beyond your cartoon denigration of the Eucharist

    What exactly is cartoon about it? There are realistically only three possibilities:
    Possibility 1: the eucharist is merely symbolic. The wafer and wine remain ordinary wafer and wine, they are simply used as a metaphor for the body and blood of a 1st century Jewish preacherman, in which case complaining about god being hurt by someone hurting the wafer is extremely silly.
    Possibility 2: the eucharist actually performs real magic, in that a god somehow inhabits the wafer and the wine, in order to be better absorbed into the human body, or whatever magic the eating of Jesus is meant to perform, but, being a reasonably competent god, he can remove himself from the wafer if it looks like the wafer is about to get into trouble, in which case complaining about god being hurt by someone hurting the wafer is extremely silly.
    Possibility 3: the eucharist actually performs real magic, in that a god somehow
    inhabits the wafer and the wine, in order to be better absorbed into the
    human body, or whatever magic the eating of Jesus is meant to perform, but, being a somewhat incompetent god, having put himself into the wafer, he is trapped there until the wafer is destroyed, in which case, you are literally worshipping a god who cannot escape from a wafer, which is extremely silly.

    Of course, if we step outside this paradigm, there is a fourth possibility: that you are aware on some level just how implausible, how unlikely-to-be-true, are the claims of the transubstantiation; how silly and superstitious they sound to someone who has not been indoctrinated into the Catholic faith, and yet, as someone who has been indoctrinated into the Catholic faith, you are experiencing some cognitive dissonance. In which case you just need to remember that the long-term solution to the pain of people finding your beliefs silly is to stop believing silly things. It can be done; you don’t have to look hard to find ex-Catholics who can tell you that.

  • Agni Ashwin

    Statement on ‘Black Mass’, by Harvard President: http://www.harvard.edu/president/news/2014/statement-on-black-mass

  • Yonah

    I am a Jew.

    I have not one whit of interest in your views pertaining to your truncated understanding of Catholic Eucharistic theology. For your information, your level of thought on the matter is very limited to an attack on mere element piety and PEOPLE who have a piety that you do not understand, and broadly misses the function of the Eucharist not only in the Catholic Church but in other liturgical churches.

    You have tried to walk back your cartoon by trying to sound reasonable, but your “Jesus trapped in a cracker” denigration has been read. That’s not an attack on an idea. That’s an attack on people that you very well know would be emotionally hurt by such language. You want to cause that hurt. That’s your decision. I reject it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Having spoken with someone who has undergone an exorcism, I know that many Christians who have no real intention of torturing their religious or political opponents in the name of “God” end up doing exactly that.

    Powerfully well said.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    I object to your name-dropping of anti-Semitism. You have no right there.

    That’s interesting, because I don’t recall asking you for permission to write what I choose.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    I have not one whit of interest in your views…

    Yes, you’ve made that very clear. Do you have any interest in having a debate, or are you only here to offer evasion and abuse?

    EDIT: Wait, “walk back”? You do understand that I’m the author of this post and that DavidMHart, who was responding to you, is a different person, right?

  • Yonah

    The fact that you have no regard for the typical standard of the Jewish Community that historic atrocities against Jews not be utilized as argument in completely unrelated issues because such utilization again victimizes those oppressed people is what you, on its moral face, have no right to. Had you said something of that nature in my physical presence I would have yelled at you in front of as many people that I could possibly get to hear. And, I can yell pretty loud. You do not have my permission.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    I grant you my permission to grant or withhold your permission, whichever you choose. It will not make the slightest difference.

  • Yonah

    If you two disagree with each other, “different person” might be meaningful. As it is, clearly I am not granting you a debate, but utter rejection. That I will respond to every comment directed to me, is actually the opposite of evasion.

  • KBQ

    Adam, if it’s not too much trouble, is there a way for me to PM or e-mail you? I had a brief message I wanted to communicate to you in light of your reply, but it’s not really relevant to this post or what’s being discussed in this comment thread.

    My apologies in advance if an eyeball fail on my part was responsible for me not knowing how to do this already.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee
  • KBQ

    Can anybody confirm this? I was actually going to say the exact same thing that raylampert said here, having watched the film for the first time just a few years ago. However, when I went to Wikipedia to do a quick check on whether or not that was right, it said something about a Ouija board and an imaginary friend, so I got confused.

  • Unah

    As a Christian, I thought the “Jesus trapped in a cracker” thing was pretty funny. I actually plan on using it at church if I ever get the chance.

  • J-D

    I am reminded of an old joke:

    ‘What’s the difference between an elephant and a mailbox?’
    – ‘I don’t know, what is the difference between an elephant and a mailbox?’
    ‘Well, if you don’t know, I’m not sending you out to post any of my letters!’

    Are you unable to tell the difference between a Satanist and a growling dog? I’ll give you a hint–count the legs.

  • GCT

    Writing words back at people can still be evasion, when you refuse to address any of the comments. Derision is not actually a substitute for reasoned argument. We get that you’re mad about something. We also get that you can’t actually articulate why you are mad or why we should care.

  • GCT

    You have tried to walk back your cartoon by trying to sound reasonable, but your “Jesus trapped in a cracker” denigration has been read. That’s not an attack on an idea. That’s an attack on people that you very well know would be emotionally hurt by such language.

    Nope, it’s an attack on ideas, no matter how hard to try to claim it’s not. Pointing out that religious ideas are silly is not an attack on people. Full stop. The idea that attacking religious ideas is tantamount to attacking religious people is nothing more than base and ugly religious privilege used to abuse atheists. IOW, the denigration and abuse is coming from you, not from us.

  • Christopher R Weiss

    This is “pastafarianism” taken to a whole new level…. kids…. hopefully, they will grow out of it.

  • GCT

    The ‘black mass’ had its historical origins as a means of denigrating the Catholic Church; it mocks a deeply sacred event in Catholicism, and is highly offensive to many in the Church and beyond.

    LOL. The president of Harvard actually believes in real black masses as tools of mocking Catholicism? Really?

  • GCT
  • Yonah

    As Satanism represents, among other things, regression to an evolutionary history of critter eat critter, the leg count is the same.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    A woman I work with was not allowed to watch He-Man and the Masters of the Universe or The Smurfs when she was young. The former because “Only God is the Master of the Universe” and the later because “little blue guy, only three apples high” are obviously demons, according to her father.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    I only asked if you wanted some ketchup with that. Geez, some people can be real snobs when it comes to their food!

  • Sagrav

    Here’s a real life cautionary tale!

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/faithbased/2014/05/exorcism_in_catholic_church_pope_francis_says_satan_the_devil_is_real.html?wpisrc=hpsponsoredd2

    A trained Vatican exorcist claims that a pair of demon infested lesbians sat behind him on a plane, and they started growling and throwing chocolates at him. Really! A grown man actually told this story to other adults with a straight face!

  • raylampert

    If I’m not mistaken, Pazuzu had already targeted her by pretending to be her imaginary friend “Captain Howdy”. I think she only tried the Ouija board after she was starting to be possessed. So using the toy was apparently only a symptom, not a cause of demonic possession.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    It’s not clear to me exactly what happened. I’m going to have a followup post very soon.

  • paizlea

    A co-worker once told me that Pokemon translates to “pocket demon” and is therefore unchristian. Of course, I’ve also heard someone seriously saying they couldn’t eat chocolate cake because it was called “devil’s food” too. Superstition is weird.

  • http://www.ghiapet.net/ Randy Owens

    Not I, but I’m definitely getting a mental image of “cast into the Pit.”

  • KBQ

    Some thoughts on this article:

    “Pope Francis never stops talking about the Devil; it’s constant.”

    This sounds a little eerie; I’m not sure I’d want the pope as a conversation partner if I was trying to relax over lunch.

    Asked how he knew the woman was possessed, he said that “once you hear a Satanic growl, you never forget it. It’s like smelling Margherita pizza for the first time. It’s something you never forget.”

    This strikes me as a very bizarre analogy.

    Anthony Faiola (the reporter from this article who witnessed an exorcism): I used to think exorcisms were just a one-shot deal, but they’re not at
    all. Apparently it takes years for these cleansings to happen. She said she started coming to the priest four years ago, when she was in the throes of her most violent stages. They told us it would take two or three men to hold her down. She was provoked by someone praying for her, or a church, or a religious object. Over four years, she has not been cleansed, not yet. But the demons have been greatly weakened, as they put it, so their power to influence her, in their minds, has weakened.

    I’ve never heard about this before; has anyone else? I think it’s really interesting, and also really unusual: I would think that if the exorcism was being carried out through the power of an omnipotent and omniscient deity, it would only be necessary to conduct one exorcism.

    And finally, to add a bit of levity:

    Anthony Faiola: At some point, he (Cesar Truqui) seemed to suggest, the confrontation (with the supposedly possessed lesbians) stopped. On an enclosed airplane, there was only so much he could do. In addition, he wouldn’t have been able to do an exorcism on a plane at random. Exorcisms have to be sanctioned by a diocese. He couldn’t spring into action; he had to do a minimal level of prayer.

    It’s interesting: There are scales of prayers. Some prayers are
    considered outright exorcisms, others are used to ward off evil spirits in a less direct way. He was using one of those lower-grade prayers.

    (Italicized text added by me for clarity)

    Since my other comment mentioned an exorcism performed in response to anime, it seemed weirdly appropriate that, when the interviewee mentioned “scales of prayers”, I immediately thought of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyn41Zjz3sk

  • Giauz Ragnarock

    I am frighteningly the bearer of the childhood this man fears. I loved The Smurfs as a kid, and more than that I almost always carried around a plastic sword and yelled, “I have the POWER!”, for many years of my childhood. Masters of the Universe is my most re-watched film (due to hundreds of rentals in childhood… my dad was a “cheapskate?”… and finally getting the DVD in the early 2000s). In grade school, I had a cool teacher who let me borrow her son’s old collection of what had to be every He-Man action figure in existence up to that point in the late ’90s. I even enjoyed the newer He-Man cartoons of the early 2000s. To this day I have strong nostalgia for the He-Man franchise. My dad may have been a narcissistic OCD nut, but at least he wasn’t all that religious.

  • Giauz Ragnarock

    My former pastor thinks China having many more men than women will cause them to become gay. Superstition is, indeed, very weird.

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    Ah, sounds like her parents were fans of ‘Turmoil in the Toybox’: http://www.cartoonbrew.com/ideas-commentary/turmoil-in-the-toy-box-revisited-90147.html

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    It’s ‘Pocket Monsters’, so … I mean, close, I guess, but they’re clearly not monsters in the demonic sense. But I once had someone tell me very confidently that Pikachu was the name of a Japanese thunder god, so…

  • Donalbain

    Why do YOU have the right to namedrop the Klan?

  • Yonah

    I didn’t receive notice of your comment two days ago, and am responding now. In this case, I am saying something more assertive. Harvard should ban the actual people. Associating those people with Harvard ought to be factored in every parent’s decision on whether to spend money there. If grad students on their own want to take out student loans for such a scene…who can stop them? The stunt in question is not an academic examination of a topic in a class reading or discussion, but the provision of a forum for the exercise of an ideology destructive to what should be the social contract and constructive toward the strategies of many extremist groups to achieve a status of normalcy or inclusion in civilization. In any event, Harvard should not be surprised that many raised in the Church will attack it for this stunt for it goes to bedrock commitments here on both sides as witnessed by the text of the baptismal liturgies which specifically call for a permanent opposition to Satan. So for Harvard’s side of it, it’s one way to piss away future endowment dollars.

  • J-D

    The Black Mass does mock Catholic ritual, and so it should. Catholic ritual should be mocked.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Harvard should ban the actual people. Associating those people with Harvard ought to be factored in every parent’s decision on whether to spend money there.

    So, let me see if I have this straight: You’re a Jewish person, and yet you say that it’s not necessary to grant equal rights of free speech and assembly to adherents of a belief system you disagree with, but that they should be banned from civilization and forbidden to practice their own rituals, based on nothing but their group membership. Hmm, I wonder what that reminds me of.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    If you two disagree with each other, “different person” might be meaningful.

    I consider that most uncourteous.

    So, let me see if I have this straight: You’re a Jewish person, and yet you don’t care to treat those who disagree with you as unique individuals with their own thoughts and opinions. Instead, you’ve announced that you intend to consider all your opponents as an undifferentiated mass of malevolence, all of them alike and indistinguishable, with no individual characteristics that are worth getting to know or caring about. Hmm, I wonder what that reminds me of.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    As Satanism represents, among other things, regression to an evolutionary history of critter eat critter, the leg count is the same.

    So, let me see if I have this straight: You’re a Jewish person, and yet you consider adherents of a belief system you dislike as subhuman. Hmm, I wonder what that reminds me of.

  • J-D

    When I see a Satanist with four legs, I’ll take you seriously.

  • Yonah

    Actually satanism does not score high enough for the rank of sub-human.

  • J-D

    It’s not a completely unrelated issue.

    I don’t suppose _my_ permission makes any difference to Adam Lee, but he can have it anyway.

  • J-D

    Satanism is not a destructive ideology.

  • J-D

    Maybe you hope they’ll grow out of it, but I can’t see why.

  • Christopher R Weiss

    Really? Do you think this helps anything by poking fun this way? Ya… I did some silly things in college too, and then I graduated and got a life.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Actually satanism does not score high enough for the rank of sub-human.

    Well, I see I misjudged you. I thought you objected to mention of anti-Semitism because you feared it would cheapen those historical atrocities to analogize them to anything else. I now see that you objected because you didn’t like being reminded of the parallels in your own conduct.

    You’re disinvited from my site, as of now.

  • J-D

    Yes, I think it does help. The powerful should be mocked.

  • JH

    Somehow, I don’t think folks who are obsessed with adherence to the text of baptismal liturgies are a particularly important source of future endowment dollars for Harvard.

  • GCT

    Maybe it does now, but not historically. Historically it was a made up boogeyman used to scare and vilify.

  • DavidMHart

    It maybe doesn’t change the minds of many hardcore Catholics, but by highlighting just how unhinged they become when you threaten a wafer, it helps other people to see how silly their claims are, which may help in the long term to weaken the aura of respect that religions tend to claim for themselves.

  • Christopher R Weiss

    Ah yes…. try holding down a job in a professional setting with attitudes such as this. You might get away with it as a kid, but eventually you will get older.

    You don’t need to kowtow to religion or to the religious, but discretion goes much further than being openly insulting and mocking in a public setting.

  • Christopher R Weiss

    Do you think things like this actually convert people? Really? I have found that reasoned patient discussion with people on the fence goes much further than a sharp stick in the eye or a pitchfork in this case. Call me silly that way….

  • Deanjay1961

    Yah, my best friends are Satanists. I think it’s a litlle silly, but I don’t know anyone kinder than them. They’re more cultural Satanists, I suppose though, they don’t attend temple much.

  • Deanjay1961

    So does parody. Do you think Pastafarians really worship pasta? Satanists do a great public service: they remind Christianists that if they mix religion and government, Satanists get to do the same.

  • J-D

    How old do you imagine I am, and what kind of jobs do you imagine I have succeeded in holding down? You have no way of knowing, do you? Does it affect the merits of my argument one way or the other? Of course not.

    Mocking people who hold power over you is frequently an imprudent course, whether those powerful people are employers, the government officials of a dictatorship, Church inquisitors, or anybody else. At least, it can be imprudent to mock them to their faces, or in contexts where they might get to hear about it. If you don’t know that employees frequently mock their managers and supervisors among themselves, discreetly, when they’re confident nobody will snitch, then perhaps you don’t know as much about working in a professional setting as you think you do.

    But prudence and discretion are distinct from justice. Often it’s not _safe_ to mock the powerful. That doesn’t mean it’s _wrong_.

    In 1860, it was reported that a British soldier, captured by the Chinese, had been beheaded for refusing an order to kowtow. Some thought his action heroic (Francis Doyle wrote a poem about it). Perhaps some would think it not heroic, but foolish (perhaps you would). But I don’t see how anybody could think it villainous. When people dare not refuse to kowtow, I understand. But I admire every refusal to kowtow. Nobody should be kowtowed to, including the Catholic Church.

  • Christopher R Weiss

    Judging from your responses, you seem very young. If you’re not, this speaks volumes about your maturity.

    Your discussion about employees mocking managers is a red herring and off topic. Making a break room joke is very different from what is going on here. Expressing extreme views in open and obnoxious ways at work will get your fired. For example, look at what happened to David Coppedge from NASA who was fired over passing out ID literature at work. Similarly, someone who went around passing out tasteless literature about a black mass desecrating a Catholic Eucharist wafer *could* be fired, and this would be legal. Speech in the work place is not protected except under very narrow circumstances such as labor disputes. If you don’t know this, I would recommend you do a little reading.

    If you are trying to equate what is going on with Satanic black masses with some sort of meaningful political protest against tyranny, I would say you are reaching. This applies particularly to the US. Suing to stop creationism in the classroom is one thing, virtually putting a sharp stick in someone’s eye is something completely different. While public mockery is protected under the first amendment, it can affect your employment. We don’t live in some oppressive theocracy even though politicians such as Rick Santorum would like us to become a theocracy.

    I am not calling this mock black mass “villainous.” My judgment is that it is silly and unnecessary, and something that won’t accomplish much.

    Religion is on the decline in the US and just about everywhere elses where fascist Muslims are not in power or are not a significant portion of new immigrants. Even in South American countries such as Brazil the number of “nones” has gone up 10x in the last decade. In the US, the only affiliation that is growing is the “none” category, which includes atheists, agnostics, and the religiously unaffiliated. Do you honestly believe that this mockery at Harvard is going to speed this process along? Seriously? Religion is declining as each new generation comes into power. This pattern was true of race based civil rights, this is true with LGBT based civil rights, and this is true with the trending around religion. In two generations, we will see for the first time in US history where the majority of the population will be religiously unaffiliated. Patience is the key to progress when it comes to the decline of religion.

  • J-D

    It’s possible that it would be legal, under US law, to fire somebody for distributing literature about a black mass at work. But it wouldn’t be right.

    I believe that the less respect people show for the Roman Catholic Church, the less respect people will feel for the Roman Catholic Church, and that’s a good thing.

    (To describe me as young I consider an unearned compliment. To describe me as immature is of course mere abuse.)

  • KBQ

    Christopher R Weiss:

    I think you are mischaracterizing J-D’s remarks, somewhat. Your post seems to imply that J-D, due to immaturity and lack of professional experience, is unaware that “Expressing extreme views in open and obnoxious ways at work will get your fired.” However, J-D did indeed acknowledge your point in the post you were responding to:

    Mocking people who hold power over you is frequently an imprudent course, whether those powerful people are employers, the government officials of a dictatorship, Church inquisitors, or anybody else. At
    least, it can be imprudent to mock them to their faces, or in contexts where they might get to hear about it.

    But prudence and discretion are distinct from justice. Often it’s not _safe_ to mock the powerful. That doesn’t mean it’s _wrong_.

    That said, my personal approach to disagreements definitely takes a less-confrontational route than the Satanists.

    The other thing I wanted to respond to in your post was your remark about David Coppedge. If he was indeed fired for his religious views, then even I, an agnostic atheist, have no difficulties in calling the actions of the JPL repugnant. However, when I did a brief search on the news surrounding the case, it looked to me like the court didn’t seem to find merit to Mr. Coppedge’s claims of discrimination on the part of the JPL.

  • Azkyroth

    And yet here all you’ve offered here is Argumentum ad Naughty Naughty Boy and threats (“you won’t keep a job!”).

  • paizlea

    “Cultural Satanists” – I like the sound of that! :-D

  • Christopher R Weiss

    The workplace is not the public square. Freedom of speech does not apply. You cannot fire someone because of his religious beliefs, but you can for proselytizing to the staff, which is what Coppedge was doing.

    Similarly, if someone was spreading around offensive material about a mock black mass, the same would apply.

    People forget that freedom of speech does not mean free of consequences. It *only* means that except under well-defined circumstances you cannot be prosecuted.

  • Christopher R Weiss

    Look further down…. Religion is declining on its own. Offensive acts like a mock black mass typically serve to consolidate the faithful – not convert them. Most of the believers I have seen who later became atheists did so through reasoned analysis. Not once did I hear, “I saw some offensive protest against religion, and *face palm* I get it now.”

    My point is that if you want to help people see that religion is a sham, there are better ways than being offensive such as answering questions thoughtfully and politely. Pointing out hypocrisy without burning a bible or “desecrating” a cracker is usually much more effective.

    I have to remember “Argumentum ad Naughty Boy.” It was very funny.

  • J-D

    I didn’t say anything about ‘freedom of speech’, and neither did KBQ. I’m not discussing ‘freedom of speech’. US law on the subject, as it happens, does not apply to me, but even if it did, It would not be relevant to what I’m saying. Even if I were an American, I would not treat US law as the ultimate definitive ethical standard, and you don’t even do so consistently yourself, or else you’d just say ‘Celebrating a Black Mass is legal’ and leave it at that.

  • J-D

    People have to realise that there is a question before they start looking for answers; people will only start asking ‘Why believe?’ if they are first aware of unbelief as a possibility.

    I’m a great believer in reasoned analysis; no reasoned analysis of human affairs can neglect the importance of emotional reactions.

    If it’s true that mockery prompts people to harden their views, not to question them, then it’s an important point; but is it true? What’s the evidence?

  • Christopher R Weiss

    First and foremost, if you mock religion in the workplace you could be sued or fired. See the 1964 civil rights act and EEOC rules. I was self-employed for ten years and had a payroll for three, and it is amazing when you have 50 or more employees what you need to learn. If you personally are perceived as being intentionally hostile to religion and this gets back to work, there most definitely could be consequences. Maybe you get lucky… maybe not.

    Now, back to the idea if mockery actually changes minds. Think about this yourself. Are you more likely to listen to calm criticism and careful reasoning about a belief you had or have or are you more likely to change your mind if someone says “Your views are idiotic?” I know I am most likely projecting, but I have always responded to reasoning as opposed to insults.

    Mockery in itself is not sound reasoning. It is in fact a form of a logical fallacy. If you are going to argue with mockery, you aren’t actually proving things.

    I spent about as much time as I could searching… (I have other obligations), and I couldn’t find evidence of mockery assisting the religious changing their views. Consequently, I will have to do more homework later.

  • Alex Harman

    People other than the so-called “Satanists” politely and thoughtfully pointing out how ridiculously histrionic the Catholic reaction to the Satanists is, and how it resembles Muslim reactions to equally harmless “offenses” like drawing cartoons of Mohammed, can potentially be very useful — and that opportunity to highlight Catholic insanity and contempt for freedom of expression would not have arisen without the black mass.

  • Alex Harman

    What superstitious Catholics don’t get about The Exorcist is that it’s not just a work of fiction, it’s a work of fantasy. They think it’s a fictional depiction of a class of event that actually happens in the real world, like a police procedural, whereas it’s actual relation to reality is pretty much the same as that of the Harry Potter series.

  • GCT

    The plural of anecdote is not data.

  • GCT

    The fact that you seem to want to brook all criticism as “offensive” is rather telling. And, why do you think religion is declining? Do you think that people have just decided not to be religious any more, or do you think there might be something in the fact that religious observance has started to decline at the same time that criticism is more widespread?

  • Christopher R Weiss

    You are throwing up a strawman. Where did I say I want to stop “all criticism?” It is one thing to call the Catholic church out for its hypocrisy such as the fact that its attitudes toward sex and birth control increase suffering. It is quite another to have a black mass.

    I am in favor of reasoned and rational debate, which does change minds.

  • Christopher R Weiss

    Uh sure… now tell me how many Muslims converted because of “draw the prophet day” and how many Catholics left the church because of this incident? Show me the data if you think these sorts of attacks help. Of course they are absurd, but does it help bring people into the light of reason to go on this way?

    I am not advocating censorship, I fully appreciate and support criticism of religion. I am an atheist. However, my point is that if you wish to help people see a different way, making them angry usually doesn’t help.

  • raylampert

    His last name is “Faust”!? I can only assume that he has a PhD, because then he’d be “Dr. Faust”. That is just absolutely perfect.

  • GCT

    Her last name is “Faust.” And, she does have a Ph.D. in American Civilization. Google…friend…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drew_Gilpin_Faust

  • J-D

    When you say ‘if _you_ mock religion in the workplace you could be sued or fired’ and then refer me to ‘the 1964 civil rights act and EEOC rules’, you are overlooking the fact that that act and those rules don’t apply to me; but, more importantly, that is not in any way responsive to the question I asked you.

    Nor is any of the rest of what you’ve posted.

    The question I posed related to your assertion that mockery prompts people to harden their views, not to question them, and it was simply this: do you have any evidence to support that assertion?


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