A peculiar people

A peculiar people March 18, 2005

"Be virtuous and you will be eccentric."

— Mark Twain

"Hatred Is a Poison" — the wonderful essay by hilzoy at Obsidian Wings, was still kicking around in my head when I finally got around to reading this month's Harper's. That's where I encountered the following:

From a calendar of satanic rituals inadvertently distributed last December by a police officer to seventh-graders in Pearland, Texas, during a presentation on gang activity.

July 1. Demon Revels. Sexual, druidic.

July 20-36. Grand Climax Preparation. Abduction, holding and preparation of sacrificial victim.

July 27. Grand Climax. Sex, human sacrifice. Female child or adult.

August 3. Satanic Revels. Oral, anal, vaginal sex with females, ages seven to 17.

September 7. Marriage to The Beast. Sex, sacrifice, dismemberment. Females, infant to 21.

September 20. Midnight Host. Dismemberment, esp. of hands for "hand of glory" ritual.

September 23. Fall Equinox. Group sex. …

That's a rather astonishing calendar and agenda. Horrifying stuff. Evil. Very, very bad.

Except, fortunately, that it's not true.

Some would disagree with that, of course. They would disagree that this is not true, and they would disagree that it's not being true is fortunate.

The strange thing about believers in "Satanic Ritual Abuse" is not just that their belief persists despite an utter lack of evidence, but that they seem so eager for these things to really be true. They seem to want it to be the case that a vast, secret, predatory network exists that abducts, abuses and murders tens of thousands of children every year as part of its ritualistic worship of Satan.

This is not a healthy thing to want to believe is true. And yet, despite the fact that no actual practitioners of Satanic Ritual Abuse have ever been found, thousands of people believe in it because they somehow want it to be so. These believers fail the test that C.S. Lewis speaks of in Mere Christianity:

The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one's first feeling, 'Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that,' or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible?

The dates and activities in our police officer's handout almost certainly came from one of the many books detailing the sex, abuse, torture and dismemberment allegedly practiced by these alleged worshippers of the Christian Satan. (See this helpful list of " Satanic holidays, as viewed by conservative Christian authors.") These books were written mainly by evangelical Christian authors writing for Christian publishing houses like Word, Zondervan and Broadman & Holman.

As with most urban legends, it's difficult to determine precise origins for many of these stories. But it certainly appears that some devout, Christian writers sat down and devised elaborate rituals involving group sex, dismemberment and the rape of infants. That these writers ran this material by the devout Christian editors at these publishing houses. And that these publishing houses packaged these claims, bound them attractively, and shipped them out to the local Mustard Seeds, Wellsprings and other devout Christian bookstores across the country.

These writers are, like H.P. Lovecraft,* engaged in the business of writing horror stories. Yet where Lovecraft saw horror as horrifying — as something from which to recoil — these writers seem strangely heartened and encouraged by their bloodcurdling tales.

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things," Philippians 4:8 says. So why, one wonders, do evangelical Christians in America have such an enthusiastic appetite for tales of alleged perversity and depravity?

The answer, I think, has to do with what I've called "evangelical anxiety." This anxiety arises in part from the never-quite-wholly conscious recognition that we Christians don't seem to be all that different from everybody else. We know we're supposed to be "a peculiar people," yet we seem to spend our time, our money and our lives pretty much the same way that everybody else around us does. We have the same things, we do the same things, we want the same things as those unsanctified others.

One way in which evangelicals contend with this anxiety is by latching on to symbolic behaviors that set us apart — not just the teetotalism and the prohibition against dancing, but the whole subcultural apparatus which, for those not already familiar with it, would take me volumes to describe and explain. These things come to function as a kind of symbolic surrogate for actual virtues.

But the more pernicious response to evangelical anxiety is the literal demonization of our neighbors. We can make ourselves relatively more virtuous simply by exaggerating the viciousness of others.

Hilzoy describes this process:

It's fun to see other people being vile and to set yourself in opposition to them. It's inspiring to go on a crusade. Of course, there is always a crusade at hand and an enemy to be fought, if your tastes run that way: the struggle to be a genuinely decent person, and the fight against your own worst self. But that requires that you actually give up your vices, which can be tiresome. A crusade against other people, like most of the pleasures of fantasy, has none of these drawbacks: it's all exhilaration, and none of that tedious business of recognizing your own faults and trying to correct them.

… morality, which we ought to use to make ourselves better people and only secondarily to judge others, turns into a tool we use to excoriate those we hate, and to demonstrate, to ourselves and to others, how very, very different we are from them. Crusades are fought by the righteous, and if you need to believe that you are on a righteous crusade, you will of course need to conscript morality to the cause of maintaining your belief that you are on the side of the angels.

I'm still chewing on this idea, but I think this anxiety and this response to it helps to explain many evangelicals' oddly ferocious approach to political engagement. It illuminates the devout belief of so many that they are simultaneously the moral majority and a persecuted minority.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

* I would be remiss if I mentioned Lovecraft without linking to this classic parody.

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36 responses to “A peculiar people”

  1. The sad thing is that I feel exactly like evangelicals feel about devil worshippers about the Bush administration.
    The difference being that, whenever I find out more about some lie or abuse by the administration, it’s always worse than originally thought…

  2. As a young teenager, I used to go to the local Christian bookstore and buy fiction – Peretti and the like. I picked up some book about a radio DJ that got involved in some Satanic plot, I don’t remember it all that well.
    But I do remember, unfortunately, the part detailing a 7-year-old girl performing fellatio on all the members of a satanic group. I had to look the word up, and I have never run across anything as perverse as that since – probably because I stopped reading “Christian” fiction.
    Fred, once again you strike at the heart of the evangelical problem. The movement has become what it condemns, and therefore must create ever new, ever more depraved straw men to attack in order to maintain its level of self-righteousness.

  3. To quote Anne Lamott (probably a Satan-worshipper): “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

  4. See, that’s where I disagree Stephen. I’m not at all sure that the evangical movement was EVER about bettering themselves. I’m pretty much in the boat with Hilzoy, execpt I go a step further. Modern evangicalism has at it’s core, a sense of amorality at best, and complete immorality at worst. Ever notice what these guys focus on..mainly abortion (affects women), and a whole lot of sex issues? Why do they do that?
    The goal, and they’ve been HIGHLY successful (they’ve basically neutered any objection or differing opinion from ANY religious group period…most don’t even try anymore), is to limit the debate on morality to “safe” (from their POV) issues. Things that can’t come around and bite them on the ass. In a nutshell, as long as business practices and actual public behaviour are excused as “business is business”, then they’re happy.
    This is the religious movement that was formed out of the Reagan revolution, where people voted for a corrupt, greed-preaching immoral actor over one of the most moral leaders ANY country ever had.
    And then they did it again.
    They had to justify their own existance, their own morality. So they went on the rampage of making a huge deal of fighting things that frankly, have nothing at ALL to do with morality. Rock music, Dungeons and Dragons, Homesexuality, Boobies on TV. Nothing. Not one of those things has ANYTHING to do with morality. None. Not a one. Why? They’re all relativly harmless. Even a breast on TV isn’t going to kill anyone, it’s not going to scar any reasonable person.
    And that’s really had the effect of destroying morality in the modern day. Nobody really cares about how what they do might affect somebody else. People only really care for themselves, their own urges and desires. Their own wanting to destroy.
    How to get out of that? Frankly, I think the only way to do it is to directly confront the evangilists themselves. And not in a nice fuzzy way. Basically we’re talking campaigns to teach how actions that hurt others are morally wrong. And business is not just business. Your actions affect other people, you have to live with them.
    Right now, people complain about the state of youth, that their listening to such mysogenic and materialistic rap music, and so on. Think about it. What does that reflect..what does that represent but the teachings, attitudes and actions of their elders? They grew up in the greed decades, the 80’s and 90’s. They grew up with this stuff, their parents teaching them, not by words, but by actions, that this type of behaviour and attitude is not only not frowned upon, but encouraged? Kids are told to go to school so they can make more money. Not to gain information, or be happy with their lives, but it’s all for the money.
    In any case, this is becoming too long, so I’ll end it here.

  5. Fred, great piece. Your very good at articulating the Christian psychosis.
    Feature request, Print Version… it shouldn’t be too hard to manipulate the CSS.

  6. Karmakin,
    I would say that this is a religious movement that was corrupted by the Reagan Revolution, not formed during it. Evangelicalism actually has a wonderful history of caring for the poor and working for peace & social justice.
    It’s a complicated path from Evangelicalism’s roots to the mess we see today, but you are spot on with your identification of what the current focus is and why. It’s why pastors who preach a lot about social justice usually have to move a lot, while numbskulls who obsess over homosexuality and hollywood stay forever.
    It’s why they condemn “society” for its divorce rate while ignoring that of the church. Why they ignore the fact that the likelihood of a sexually active teenager to get pregnant and/or infected with an STD goes up with the level of church attendance. Why so many believe that homosexuals have over 50 partners and die at age 40 or whatever, why they believe that Islam is inherently violent.
    It is pschological projection on a massive scale, literally millions of people wallowing in their own filth, complimenting each other on their beautiful perfume.
    I say this as an Evangelical, BTW.

  7. Those that live in the black and white of the righty tighty whitey fundie world must have a nemesis, a foe, a dragon to slay.
    The threat of this nemesis must be exaggerated to bolster the black and white view of the world, the enemy, to demonize “him” or it.
    This all to justify the amoral and immoral actions that will inevitably follow. These acts that they know on some level are immoral. They hate the nemesis and they hate themselves for doing the things they do to control the nemesis or fight it.

  8. It seems that the same divisions can be seen in Islam as well. Thoughtful Islamic scholars describe jihad as an inner struggle against evil thoughts and deeds, while ignorant fanatics think jihad means waging “holy war” against “infidels”.
    Jesus taught people to focus on their own behavior, not on the real or purported sins of others. “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3). Too often Christians ignore this as it is so much easier to condemn others than to resolve our own inner conflicts. “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20). I wish that the Christian church would focus more on these teachings. To hear some of Christianity’s more prominent self-appointed spokesmen, you would think that Christians were a bunch of sex-obsessed fanatics.

  9. Fred,
    As a young Jew, growing up, I needed to define a Rest Of The World as an Other, and I very busily othered away: “they” have the wrong notion of salvation, an unhealthy appetite for pork, and a disturbing love of guys hanging on wooden sculptures.
    I am pleased that I have finally figured out that others may be different, but needn’t be Horribly Wrong And Sinful. I can only hope that more people keep calling the message you do.

  10. Hey, Fred, thanks, I needed that post. Excuse me now, I have an apology I need to make to someone who’s not really as evil as I like to think he is. Catch you later…

  11. So I click on over here because I really enjoy reading what you write, and what do I find butme. Very odd. Glad you liked it ;)

  12. This is more of a trivia note than anything else, but Cornerstone Magazine discovered that “Lauren Stratford,” who was paraded around on the fundie circuit back in the 1990s as a Satanic abuse survivor (and wrote three bestselling books detailing said abuse) is now passing herself off as a Holocaust survivor instead:
    The need to believe is so strong that Cornerstone and its reporters were excoriated for exposing “Stratford” as a fraud and a compulsive liar despite the fact that they’ve been fixtures of the Evangelical press for years.

  13. Stephen:I’m a fairly youngish person, but it was always my impression, from the history and what I’ve seen, heard and read of it, that the social justice evangelism always struck me as being a really secular thing. They played the religion, but the language really strayed away from religion as a whole. That’s not a bad thing really, but when trying to motivate people to join your community, it doesn’t really help much.
    And this..
    “Why so many believe that homosexuals have over 50 partners and die at age 40 or whatever,”
    That’s actually what got me into really looking deep into modern morality and what’s it all about. What goals and objectives do the wanna-be moralists have. When I realized that they do not really believe what they’re saying. See..problem is that homosexuals are sexually over-active. I can see why that could be a bad thing, spreading of STDs, decaying of community roots, whatever. But then, some time later, homosexuals want to do something that..well…will help with that particular problem (not saying it ever really existed of course, but in the perception of the “moralists”).
    And it’s rejected.
    These people treat morality like they treat ppolitics. It’s not about making people’s lives better, or bettering themselves.
    It’s about winning and crushing your opponenets.

  14. Karmarkin, you’ve got the order backwards. This is the movement that *formed* the Reagan Revolution.
    I was a Theocon from the mid-70s up to the mid-90s, I remember *all* this stuff from way before most people on the Left were aware of it. Anti-Union, anti-SocSec was a big part of the agenda of conservative Christian writing from circa 1977 onward. Demonization of Islam, too. Oh, and I watched the shifting of The Social Enemy from Feminism – after Schlafly, who was a hero to my mom – and friends defeated the ERA, to Homosexuality, which my family pretended not to notice, since they were converts and had gay teachers and friends in Europe, and so genteely ignored the rise of that bigotry as it was going on. Islamophobia was cultivated in part from circa 1975 on (only in part, though – it dates back to before WWI with Belloc et al) so as to have a new enemy to put in place when the SSSR fell – remember how that left them not rejoicing, but at a loss?
    The Xtian Wrong *needs* enemies desperately. And they do nothing constructive, only destructive. (Noticing this helped me escape the brainwashing.)

  15. I am so glad that Christians are at last waking up to the fact that some of their number are Not Very Nice People.
    I’m a Pagan, and was a footsoldier in the fight against the SRA myth in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I read so many accounts of horrifying torture and sexual abuses that I ended up physically ill and had to take time off from it all. I could not understand, still cannot understand, why supposedly good loving Christians would take such delight in reading (and indeed, inventing) this pronography. I still wonder if people who are drawn to extreme fundamentalist sects are in some way psychologically warped.
    They certainly seem to have lost all critical faculties. For instance, anyone attempting to follow that “satanic calender” would find themselves having to commit roughly one day in three to “Satanic Revels” of various sorts. Who the heck has the time for that? And those self-styled “ex-Satanists” (like Warnicki and Stratton) retail life-stories that have more holes in them than a colander. But hey, they’re Christians, and Christians never lie….

  16. I realized that they do not really believe what they’re saying. . .These people treat morality like they treat politics. It’s not about making people’s lives better, or bettering themselves. It’s about winning and crushing your opponents.
    I would agree except that many of them actually do believe what they are saying. I live and work with these people. They are my family. Hell, I even go to church with them, trying to be a “voice crying in the wilderness,” if you will forgive the John the Baptist reference.
    But the rank and file does believe, and that’s what makes this all so dangerous. If you succeed in making your enemy the embodiment of all evil, then you are able to oppose them at any cost, no matter the contradiction to your own logic. So one can condemn homosexuals for having immoral sex (sex outside of marriage) while making it impossible for them to marry. The reason they shouldn’t marry is because that would weaken marriage by letting immoral people get married – people who are immoral because they have sex outside of marriage.
    If they didn’t believe this crap, they would sooner or later have to reject it. It is the power of belief (and years of reinforcement in the echo chamber) that allows such cognitive dissonance to continue.
    The idea of social justice evangelicals being mainly secular is exactly what the nutjobs want us to believe. Before the fundamentalist emergence of the 1920’s and their ascendancy in the 1950’s, it was the most “conservative” Christians who led the way in helping the poor and working for peace around the world.

  17. Like Bellatrys, I remember all this stuff from, say, the mid 70s. (Adolescent convert to Christianity; had no models for what being a Christian meant, so had to figure it all out for myself, a process made much easier by the fact that CSLewis refers to so many really good books; assumed that most differences between different denominations were, at this point, more stylistic than substantive, so followed them all; lost faith a decade later, but kept up for a while after that; now look at a lot of contemporary Christianity and wonder what on earth they could be thinking, and whether they read the same New Testament I do.)
    I remember back then there was a move by some Episcopal priests to ban gays from communion. This mystified me on many levels, even assuming, for the sake of argument, that homosexuality is a sin (which I did not then and do not now believe, but the people advancing this idea did.) One was this: there are, of course, lots of sins out there. Was anyone proposing to ban, say, the proud, the covetous, the vain, or those prone to anger from communion? Not that I could see. Why not? Was it that homosexuality was somehow worse than, say, pride? Not on any remotely plausible reading of the Bible or Church doctrine. So what was going on?
    I ended up concluding that at least part of it was probably this: that the various sins of sexual practice (not including lust itself) are among the very few sins that you can, if you wish, not engage in if you really set your mind to it. You can decide not to have sex outside marriage, and if you really try, you can succeed. But you cannot similarly just decide not to be subject to anger or pride or covetousness. (You can, of course, decide to try to root them out, but the result of such a decision is not normally that you are never e.g. proud or angry again.) And it’s not just that sex is about behavior. So is anger. It’s that while there are line-drawing questions about what counts as having sex, they are nowhere near as difficult as those involved in determining when you’re acting out of anger and when you’re just being forthright or practicing tough love or whatever.
    Now: if you’re interested in becoming a good person, these differences aren’t all that important: you need to work on lust and anger and pride and the whole unfortunate lot of them, and there’s no reason to think that the various sexual sins are especially important. But if you’re interested in seeming virtuous, the fact that you can just decide not to engage in sex outside of marriage gives you an obvious reason to take avoiding that particular sin as an index of personal virtue.
    I don’t think that’s the whole of it, but I have always thought that that’s part of the explanation of the otherwise bizarre (and imho theologically unsound) focus on sex.

  18. Hilzoy – Dorothy Sayers did an essay on this at least fifty years ago entitled “The Other Deadly Sins” , pointing out the disproortionate fixation on lust in Christian churches.
    It is much easier. And plus, homosexuality, unlike heterosexual lust, has the advantage of affecting a *lot* fewer people so its even safer to preach against. After all, if you preach against fornication, as against likker, well, how many preacher men have been discovered in embarrassing circumstances? “hide the beer/the pastor’s here.”
    But also it keeps people busy – it makes fora good sleight of hand, because biology being waht it is, it’s always going to be affecting people, and thus you can keep pointing to it, rather than dealing with the *hard* issues like poverty and injustice and greed. It’s kind of smoke and mirrors, plus it gives you something to push people areound with and better yet, get them bullying and snipping at each other over – just as the secular regime in 1984 uses it, recall!

  19. Fred
    Just an aside…
    I will agree that the whole Satanic thing has gotten completely out of hand in the minds of Christians (I required therapy to undo the work of Peretti and the Left Behind movies of the 70’s). However, I have worked with clients in child welfare who were ritually sexually abused and tortured. Obviously, they are now very screwed up individuals. I’m not sure if it was Satanic, but definately evil.
    For many Christians today, Satan seems to be the personification of those things within ourselves and our society that are evil. It implies that we have no control over them. “Satan” lies in our societal apathy, our lack of love for others. Satan is not lurking in the shadows. He is the shadowy places in our own lives. It’s just easier to blame some being that we can’t see. Then we can wash our hands of the matter, and not deal with the ways we can change ourselves and our world.

  20. Hilzoy (& others),
    It is also interesting how we continue to place our focus upon the act of sex, the behavior, the timing, the choice of partner, etc. To say that the sexual sins are ones which we can choose to not do is a complete contradiction of what Jesus was trying to accomplish with the Sermon on the Mount, and what other NT writers, esp. James were trying to do as well. When we focus on behaviors we misunderstand what it means to be human. Our actions come from our hearts; that’s why Jesus said that to lust after someone is just the same as actually committing a sex act with them. To wish to kill is to kill.
    So, unfortunately, to experience hate or pride or jealousy or whatever is indeed a sin. What we must do is train our “hearts” so that we do not allow these things to “just come up” unbidden.
    But you are absolutely right that to focus, then, on such “behavioral sins” as homosexuality or whatever removes the pressure to actually conform to our example in Christ.

  21. I basically agree with what several people have said about this issue being used as a hypocritical smokescreen for political reasons. But absent from much of the discussion over SRA is the fact that there are indeed people out there who were profoundly abused in ways that seem ritualistic & probably involved groups of offenders.
    The fact that such violations were so terrible to them needed to be explained away as “the work of Satan’s minions” as a way to avoid pointing the finger at the real culprits who couldn’t be safely opposed — usually parents, people close to the family, and/or people with community influence (like preachers).
    A similar diversion can be seen in cases where people claim to have been abducted by UFOs & subjected to blatantly sexual “experiments”, and that occurs probably for the same reason. The fact that the survivors are often adults when they come up with the story isn’t unusual — severe psychological trauma often gets buried until something else brings it to the surface, and the survivor sometimes latches onto a convenient framework to understand the already distorted memory. This is often unconscious, but is sometimes a willful way of forcing seriously disturbing truths back under the carpet.
    The fact that some of these people have “life-stories with more holes in them than a colander” can be a function of either blatant dishonesty OR severe dissociation brought on by the traumas they experienced. They might be consciously hiding events, or legitimately don’t remember them. The problem is that, by latching onto the “Satan did it” theme, they abdicate responsibility for exploring their own memories, healing themselves, and rooting the real abusers out of their communities. Some of the people in power take advantage of that to essentially perpetuate the abusive mentality — dissociation is the fragmentation of oneself internally, and they promote such dissociation externally for their own ends.

  22. “One way in which evangelicals contend with this anxiety is by latching on to symbolic behaviors that set us apart — not just the teetotalism and the prohibition against dancing, but the whole subcultural apparatus which, for those not already familiar with it, would take me volumes to describe and explain. These things come to function as a kind of symbolic surrogate for actual virtues.”
    Or, as Samuel Butler put it,
    “We compound sins we are inclined to
    By damning those we have no mind to.”

  23. I confess! I admit! It’s true!
    As a horrified liberal assaulted daily with fresh Republican and conservative abuses of power and hypocrisy, the condition you discuss here pertaining to evangelicals APPLIES TO ME, TOO.
    There is no crime or conspiracy too evil for me to attribute to George W. Bush. No low too low for him to reach; no civil restraint too taboo for him to breach.
    I do achieve pleasure, usually humorous, but sometimes simply in transfixed dumbfoundedness, when I meditate on his possible crimes, side by side with his ACTUAL crimes. I confess.
    I’m not being sarcastic. This is serious, and the same applies to nearly every Democrat or even freethinking person not in the grip of Bush’s sway. It’s time to do the truly Christian thing, for me, anyway–and begin loving George W. Bush, and praying for him daily.
    God sometimes asks the impossible of us.

  24. Daddy-O: In all seriousness, it is time to do that. For one thing, it’s the only way to keep yourself intellectually honest in your opposition.
    I find that periodic reflection on the fact that he really did a good thing in bringing about a peace treaty in the Sudanese civil war helps.

  25. But then my cynical side kicks in and I think he only did it because Christians were involved.
    No! Damnit! doing it again.

  26. Odd that noone’s yet mentioned the Protocols of the Elders of Zion yet. They go in for ritual abuse, too, don’t they?

  27. That’s the thing, hilzoy: I read your long article and immediately started thinking about how much hate-as-entertainment and revenge-as-justice I see propounded in the comment boards of liberal blogs, usually way down near the bottom of the thread when people have been one-upping each other for a while. They get nowhere near LGF levels of insanity, but that’s hardly the point, and it’s there.
    And I’m reluctant to state this publicly, because:
    (1) some Republican is immediately going to read it and dash off, as if by reflex arc, “even the liberal Matt McIrvin realizes the depth of depravity to which the Left has descended”, and
    (2) there’s a popular argument going around to the effect of, “Yeah, we Democrats really go in for loving our enemies and arguing rationally and conceding points to our opponents, don’t we? Say, how did that work out in the last election? Or the one before that? Or the one before that?”
    When you keep losing to people who use hate and lies unabashedly, it’s hard not to conclude that hate and lies are simply stronger than reason and truth, and the only way to win is to embrace the darkness. Which, if done with sufficient enthusiasm, makes winning pointless, because you’ll just become the monster in power. I’m not sure how to walk the line here.

  28. …One thing that helps is that it’s not actually true that Bush’s perfidy is worse than I can imagine. I can imagine things that are almost arbitrarily bad; it’s a skill I have. During the Democratic convention in Boston I was seriously concerned that Bush was going to destroy downtown Boston with a nuclear device rigged to have the appearance of a terrorist weapon, and while I bit my tongue and didn’t express this until after the fact, I was a bit worried about my wife going down there for that reason. Well, he didn’t do it.

  29. This is the best post I have ever read on this site! It effectively punctures the belief in ritual satanic abuse AND it challenges all of us to look at our own attitudes towards those we disagree with. and it is funny. I’m with the first commenter, I am guilty of the same thing towards any number of entities from the Bush administration to The Chinese gov’t to the Public Schools. I want them to be evil so I can oppose them. And I want global warming to hurry up and happen so I can say, “I told you so!”

  30. Slactivist

    It looks like Fred is getting the popularity he deserves. He has a great post today that everyone should read:
    A peculiar people
    He quotes C.S. Lewis:
    The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then supp…

  31. Matt: I have this idea that it’s possible to be, all at once, passionate and hard-hitting, fair-minded (so the ‘hard-hitting’ is never hitting below the belt), decent, and tactically shrewd. (I have never managed this myself, but I think it’s possible.) When I look at the last two Presidential campaigns, I think Democratic candidates never got either the ‘passionate and hard-hitting’ or the ‘tactically shrewd’ parts right. That being the case, I think it’s early to give up on decency, especially since I believe (optimist that I am) that there’s a way to turn genuine decency to tactical advantage. (I mean: surely there’s some logically possible brilliant strategist who could make an issue of the moral contrast between Republican and Democratic tactics in the last election. (cough swiftvets cough, to paraphrase Atrios.) )
    Of course, this leaves aside the crucial question: if we did have to sacrifice decency to win, should we? I hope never to arrive at the point where I really have to work out the answer to that question.

  32. Well, yeah. When I think about it, I hope global warming is a fantasy, but part of me still wants naysayers to suffer the consequences. of course, most of the people who will suffer will be completely innocent..
    It is all about ego. I have an attachment to being right. If I can let go of this attachment, I can see reality more clearly.

  33. WWNH Pt XI: Taking the Monster’s Point of View

    Fred Clark at Slactivist has a wonderful post up about the corrosive nature of hatred, and the purely imaginary horrors dreamed up by conservative evangelicals and other conservative paranoid fantasists. He draws a comparison between the stories told…

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