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The Americanization of the Devil

Today’s Satanists are not engaged in the worship of evil. What they are engaged in is a classical American exercise: civilizing something that was originally anything but civil.

Published on: January 8, 2014
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  • Boritz

    … I think that I would be compelled by the constitution … -TAI

    What an extraordinary, altogether unconventional, position to take.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    Even the devoutly religious might agree that it would be acceptable to place a monument to the devil in the public square of a state capitol on the grounds that it is “better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t know.” Another possible legal basis for a devilish monument to the devil is that according to a Gallup Poll in 2011, 43 percent of American said they believed the devil to be a living entity, compared to 90 percent who believed in God. I guess the devil would have some sort of minority rights legal status based on the same reliability as opinion polls (with a 5% plus or minus statistical confidence interval of course).

    In academic, scientific, and liberal social circles it would be social suicide to publicly talk about one’s belief in the devil, except perhaps as incarnated by the likes of someone like Dick Cheney. Demonization is big business in the Democratic Party. A monument would at least invite the devil to a public park instead of to dinner for Thanksgiving. After all, the devil has already made known his presence at the recent New Year’s Holiday Bowl football game under the banner of the Arizona State University’s Sun Devils (who lost to Texas Tech University by the way. I can imagine the newspaper headlines in Texas where football is a religion: “Bible Belt beats the Devil.” But the devils were at least beaten by a technical school, not a religious seminary, monastery, Yeshiva, or even worse, a Bible college).

    I am reminded of what sociologist Max Weber wrote about the religious “calling” of the devil:

    “….the ultimately possible attitudes toward life are irreconcilable, and hence their struggle can never be brought to a final conclusion. Thus, it is necessary to make a decisive choice. Whether, under such conditions, science is a worthwhile ‘vocation’ for somebody, and whether science itself has an objectively valuable ‘vocation’ are again value judgments about which nothing can be said in the lecture-room. To affirm the value of science is a presupposition for teaching there. I personally by my very work answer in the affirmative, and I also do so from precisely the standpoint that hates intellectualism as the worst devil, as youth does today, or usually only fancy it does. In that case the word holds for these youths: ‘Mind you, the devil is old; grow old to understand him.’ This does not mean age in the sense of birth certificate. It means if one wishes to settle with the devil, one must not take light before him as so many do nowadays. First of all, one has to see the devil’s way to the end to realize his power and his limitation” (source: From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology).

    So I surmise that while the devil, along with God, can not be entertained in the lecture halls of science he can be at least accommodated on the grounds of the state capitol of Oklahoma as statuary to the Church of Individualism. But then why should he be allowed into the rational-legalistic courtroom, as Max Weber might say?

    • TommyTwo

      “Even the devoutly religious might agree that it would be acceptable to
      place a monument to the devil in the public square of a state capitol on
      the grounds that it is ‘better the devil you know, than the devil you
      don’t know.'”

      🙂 Next up: a Monument of the Unknown Devil.

  • Jim__L

    So Emerson’s aphorism needs to be updated to take into account today’s Constitutional debates… “A foolish consistency is the Satan of little minds”.

    The exclusion of Christianity from the public square except in the presence of Satanism definitely qualifies as foolish consistency. The fact that the ACLU can’t see that destroys their credibility, and the credibility of the legal structure they advocate.

  • Anthony

    Diabolus enim animarum but has American design (CoS/Wicca) to sanitize and legally encapsulate altered man’s historical religious imagination (Satan is serious business because evil is serious business)?

    • TommyTwo

      If the Church of Satan understands Satan as a symbol of Man’s true nature which is to be celebrated, and our “standard” religions as unacceptably repressing our true nature and our pride, liberty, and individualism, then those religions are evil. Just as the CoS turns Satan into “God,” God becomes the new “Satan.” It is easy to tear down specific idols, but our thought patterns tend to persist throughout history.

      • Anthony

        So, we end with symbolism of quantification in conjunction with historical patterns.

  • free_agent

    “This is how the culture war ends. The institutions that once challenged the moral order don’t disappear. In fact, they grow more popular. But their meanings change. They get digested by the mainstream bourgeois order, and all the cultural weapons that once were used to undermine middle-class morality, however disgusting, are drained of their subversive content.” — “The New Upper Class” by David Brooks

    One feature of these new religions is that they tend to be far less particular about their adherent’s behavior than the older Abrahamic religions, especially in sexual matters. This is sort of the “Kahlil Gibran” style of “spirituality”, making people feel comfortable in the greater universe without telling them what to do.

    Of course, the Manichean trope of a global battle between the unified forces of Good and the unified forces of Evil continues in our political discourse.

  • Fat_Man

    As Umberto Eco wrote:

    “G K Chesterton is often credited with observing: ‘When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything.’ Whoever said it – he was right. We are supposed to live in a sceptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity.

    “The ‘death of God’, or at least the dying of the Christian God, has been accompanied by the birth of a plethora of new idols. They have multiplied like bacteria on the corpse of the Christian Church …”


  • Gary Novak

    In a chapter on the “cruder phases” of religious experience in “The Idea of the Holy,” Rudolf Otto writes: “Religion is itself present at its commencement: religion, nothing else, is at work in these early stages of mythic and daemonic experience.” But the earliest experience of daemonic dread– one dimension of the numinous– can look “more like the opposite of religion than religion itself. . . . One can understand how it is that not a few inquirers could seriously imagine that ‘religion’ began with devil-worship, and that at bottom the devil is more ancient than God” (p. 132).

    Otto does not, of course, endorse the idea that the devil is more ancient than God, because the later love of God is already implicit in the fear of God, which is itself already implicit in the dread which does not even know what it is a dread of. Otto’s point is that the rational theological elaboration of the non-rational numinous does not construct religion in an unteleological evolution but represents the unfolding of a religious a priori. “It is not only the more developed forms of religious experience that must be counted underivable and a priori.”

    Meanwhile, Berger’s point is that, as long as people are still trying to figure out how old the devil and God are and who’s on first, the Devil is “serious business.” “The Devil” has a place in a world with windows, a world that recognizes transcendence. In his early short essay on “The Devil and the Pornography of the Modern Mind (1974), Berger wrote that the re-emergence of the devil– as evidenced, for example, in the popularity of the movie ‘The Exorcist’– was a “not altogether unwelcome . . . reminder of transcendence.”

    But Otto would surely share a laugh with Berger over that nice Americanized Devil with the glad hand and Protestant smile. (Once again, Berger triumphs with his “cover” illustration.) This is not a “serious business” Devil. This is a multicultural, feminist, environmentalist devil who must be respected even though he is red, has horns, and is “different.” The federal judiciary may be required to take him seriously, but bloggers from the Stone Age to the present recognize his irrelevance to real religion (with a vertical dimension).

    • Wayne Lusvardi

      “There is no surer sign of decay in a country than to see the rites of religion held in contempt.”
      Niccolo Machiavelli

  • OttoZeit

    Satanism (its”religious” expressions included) is basically an in-your-face to the
    mainstream society and its values. “Freedom of expression” does not
    obligate the larger society to surrender its resources of space and publicity
    in order to promote the fortunes of those who work against it.

    The greatest secret of successful subversion is to use a society’s own values and virtues against it, to bring it down. To resist such a strategy, a society basically has to fight against itself – a fact that essentially paralyzes resistance.

  • RoverSerton

    I don’t really want this monument on the State Grounds, but I also don’t want the 10 commandments. They show christian privilege and don’t represent me at all. You want them on a church lot, no problem! I’ll help move it. I wonder how far the closest church is to this monument? In Lansing, MI. the capitol is surrounded by churches (one my grandmother went to in 1917).But on my (our) public property, I don’t want to exclude the tax paying public. If you want the 10 commandments monument, the satan, truid, jewish, muslim and every other of the 2000 plus gods are welcome.

  • Robert Landbeck

    To quote Mahatma Ghandi: ‘the only devils that exist are those running around inside the hearts of men’. By this measure “If we look for Satan in this (as yet) unredeemed world, I don’t think
    that we will find him dressed up in the costumes of contemporary
    Satanism or witchcraft” we more likely to find him in the finery of high ecclesiastic office! Retailing to a gullible humanity a theological counterfeit Word and Salvation.

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