Travel Burnout Starts to Set In
It’s a bit of a blessing, pardon the expression, that Americans are overwhelmingly uncultured with regard to Satanic imagery. For the most part my tattoo of Lucifer is usually assumed to be the archangel Michael. The irony there never fails to be amusing. I didn’t have any talkative row mates on the flight out to the American Atheists Convention, but the comment this trip was noticeable by it’s absence because it happens with surprising regularity. It did happen eventually, but it came from an Atheist engineer who just thought it was a remnant of past history. Normally I would write that off as someone who just didn’t focus on the arts in college but when he asked it was right after he quoted Chaucer in Middle English. It makes me wonder if there is some subtle bias against teaching Paradise Lost in college English classes. Now that I think about it I had to read Milton on my own too. So that’s interesting, but I admit it’s far from any kind of formal poll.
I’ve lucked into this trip because my roommate is Andre Salais from the Atheist Candidates Project. Between him and my involvement with The Satanic Temple my house could well be one of the most active secular activist locations in the Phoenix valley, I think. Anyway Andre got invited to speak at this convention and they offered him passes for friends so he immediately offered to bring his Satanist roommate along and Cohost Andy was willing to split the room so this trip is way under budget.
As we flew out of Sky Harbor I didn’t really know what kind of reception to expect. American Atheists is largely receptive to TST’s cause but you never know, and plenty of members of the Atheist Community are dismissive of TST as a religion. So I made a bingo card of the kinds of things I anticipated people might ask.
It’s interesting though, that despite overall acceptance as an entity TST largely struggles on two fronts. On one hand many Atheists think TST is just trolling by asserting Satanic beliefs. On the other, Church of Satan’s asserts that the only Satanists are those who subscribe to a reverence for LaVey, that and whatever it is Peter Gilmore has turned CoS into. The latter is more tedious as divisions within Satanism after LaVey’s death were inevitable. But I’ve been through all of that before and no one expects anyone to resolve those differences anytime soon. Not that it really matters. If CoS would Settle for TST calling themselves ‘Satanite’ instead of a ‘Satanist’ my only real objection is is akin to that line from Michael Bolton in Office Space.
I figure if Baptists and Catholics can agree they’re both Christians (and ok, sure, not all do but the more sensible ones seem to), then I don’t see why it’s worth them making a fuss over. Then again there are those Church Militant variety Catholics that think everything from the Protestant reformation forward is blasphemy, and still more who think that the Roman Patriarchate is the only legitimate one that the Orthodox bishops are inferior while the latter would say they’re all on even ground.
Hell even in the Secular community you can draw some stark ideological lines between subgroups like the Skeptics, the Atheists, the Nones, The Brights (are there any of those left?), the Unitarian Universalists … who you’d think would be more sympathetic to the Atheistic Religion thing but I’ve had some doozies of arguments with one or two of them. Atheist, to their credit all have the good sense to not say that any of them are the be all and end all of the label when they have disagreements.
Anyway most of the time when you meet a new bunch of Atheists it’s common to exchange deconversion stories.
For me that usually goes like this:
“So how were you raised?”
“What was it that made you decide you didn’t believe in god?”
“I think what did it for me with Catholicism was, ultimately, the capybara.”
“It’s a big rodent. Huge. They can get to be up to 130lbs. They look sort of like a giant guinea pig.”
“And that made you lose your faith in god?”
”Not at first no, but it made me lose faith in the system. The Roman Catholic Church considers the capybaras a fish because in South America it’s considered a spring festival delicacy, so in order to get people to go along with meatless Fridays during lent the pope himself (find out which) declared that in the eyes of the Church (and by extension in the eyes of god) the large rodent could be considered a fish because of how much time they spend in the water. Presumably the same rules apply to hippopotami, dolphins, whales, and Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps.”
“Right, so any organization that claims to talk for an all knowing god but goes around telling people that giant rats are fish is clearly lying. Then I got to wondering why is some dude who is allegedly busy running the entire universe would give a crap about what I have for dinner? I mean I could see a god saying ‘don’t eat rocks, you’re not built for it’ or ‘feel free to enjoy this lovely salmon I invented, no pressure though’ but any god that classifies that thing as a fish is clearly incompetent. At that point even if they did exist could you really call them a god?’
“It’s like homeopaths calling themselves ‘doctors’.”
So I expected at least a few conversations like that.
The American Atheists Conference ran Thursday through Sunday. That makes it tricky for the regular 9-to-5er to make the trip unless it’s one they’re really love. My local Phoenix Comic Con uses the same kind of schedule but that seems like a very different kind of deal. We arrived Friday night. I was pretty much dead to the world after Chicago for the better part of the two days until I had to leave again. The ISSTD protests required a fair amount of self-care afterward. So basically we made it just in time for the first night of proper drinking. Part 5 of this series will delve into all of those shenanigans but I have two animals who miss me desperately and a strong desire to sleep so bear with me a day or so until I can get those notes cleaned up. For the story up to now click here.