Editors Note: The following views are those of writer Thomas Essel and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Danthropology blog.
I woke up today to some extremely obnoxious news on my Facebook newsfeed. It seems that Chaz Stevens, self-proclaimed celebrity, and Faux-Satanic activist, put up a display at the Pompano Beach, Florida city hall featuring Jesus being crucified upside-down with a butt plug stuck, well, in his butt.
The display is part of Chaz Stevens’s new Church of Satanic Activism, a reactionary invention that appears to be directly related to me exposing Stevens as a sophomoric charlatan. In a January 12th article, I (with help from Lucien Greaves, Brian Conklin, and several unnamed others) spelled out, line-by-line, why Chaz Stevens is a liar and a buffoon, only interested in self-aggrandizement, trolling Christians, and his own “celebrity” status. The Church of Satanic Activism launched around January 28. Coincidence? I think not.
But this post isn’t really about Chaz Stevens because that’s exactly what he wants. Instead, this post is about Hemant Mehta’s softball treatment of Stevens.
Mehta consistently treats Stevens like an amusement, saying this latest act of stupidity occurred “Because America. That’s why.”
When Stevens was justifiably denied the opportunity to give a supposedly “Satanic” invocation in Coral Springs, Florida because the invocation was going to involve a mariachi band and twerking, Mehta claimed that “they [the city] brought this upon themselves by having an invocation at all.”
“And before anyone mocks a Satanist, keep in mind that the current invocations are mostly delivered by people who think a dead man came back to life and whose mother was a virgin. Stevens isn’t upping the nonsense factor. He’s just giving nonsense a different flavor.”
However, none of that is really true.
The purpose of Stevens’s invocation was, in the words of the City of Coral Springs, to “make a mockery of the proceedings.” Mehta blaming the city’s invocation practices for Stevens’s outlandish, brash, and, frankly, stupid behavior is completely disingenuous: the cities in question were looking for sincere invocators, not pretentious trolls.
In addition, Mehta mocking the religious beliefs of other invocators as “nonsense” is also disingenuous, since they don’t believe their religious claims are nonsense, whereas Stevens clearly does. Mehta even quotes Stevens as saying, “When you encounter such bold acts of stupidity, you have to think of an even bolder act of stupidity,” but somehow entirely misses the point about sincerity. No Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc., invocator is sitting around thinking, “what’s a ridiculous way I can represent my religion?” Time and time again, Mehta has failed to consider the sincerity of Stevens’s claims, thereby failing his readers.
While I don’t blame Mehta for running articles that his readers will find interesting, I do think he needs to look at the facts behind the stories he’s running with a more critical eye. Clearly Stevens is nothing more than a troll with a bloated sense of self-importance. Any serious look into the matter will reveal this fact. In addition, not only does Stevens make a mockery of secularists and Satanists, but Mehta does them both a disservice by encouraging Stevens instead of analyzing him for what he truly is.
Mehta has a loud voice in the secular community. The Friendly Atheist blog has 250,000 followers on Facebook alone, and their articles are shared thousands upon thousands of times. In my opinion, Mehta and his blog have a responsibility to put out more than just fluff pieces for their readers to fawn over in the echo chamber. Treating people like Chaz Stevens as anything more than blustering trolls on such a widely-read, widely-shared platform is not only an insult to Mehta’s more intelligent readers but also gives the wrong impression about what effective, sincere activism really looks like.
photo credit: Facebook