This is a guest post by Ryan Clark. Ryan Clark is the Event Coordinator for Friends of the Satanic Temple -Toronto. Outside of his efforts with TST, he works as a technical trainer while also promoting, DJing, podcasting and acting as father to two grey cats. You can find him on twitter here.
Second Tenet: “The struggle for Justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.”
Adherents of the Satanic Temple are asked to center their actions on the pursuit of Justice which is, undoubtedly, a noble cause, but in this pursuit adherents are left with little direct guidance on what a just, Satanic society would look like. As an organization we have made a couple of clear stands on abortion access and religious freedoms, but beyond these few stands, there aren’t a lot of concrete answers. The following Tenets hold the keys to answering “What is Satanic Justice?”
Third Tenet: “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”
The first key to understanding what Satanic Justice looks like is the Third Tenet. Of all the Tenets, the Third is the most explicit of all. There are no qualifiers. It exists as a simple, hard, universal truth. It is, in my opinion, the one that supports all of the other Tenets.
This Tenet is why we stand up for abortion rights, defend the LGBTQ+ community, and decry racist and sexist policies. These wrongs are so self-evident, so morally incorrect that we immediately oppose them. But what happens when we extend this absolutism about the individual beyond these clear-cut issues that we fight against? Well, things can get a little trickier.
Take for instance utilitarianism, one of the foundational concepts of the Western world. In its simplest form you can boil it down to, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” but we as Satanists hold the will of the individual as inviolable. That means that if an individual is not willing to give up something for the good of the many, we should respect their decision.
Of course, you will always find one person who doesn’t want to go along with the will of the crowd, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes just out of obstinance or bitterness. Obviously that would not be conducive to a just society, so our quest to understand Satanic Justice brings us to the next question: where does a person begin and end? Deciding where we draw this line becomes a critical factor in deciding what our Justice looks like. It is not clear where to draw that line.
Humans express our beliefs in many ways. This is why we claim “the right to offend.” As Satanists we know our thoughts are us—“I think therefore I am” as Descartes might say—but how far do our thoughts and the expression of those thoughts extend past our physical body to our things? Given the existence of property laws, both physical and intellectual, it is clear that we as a culture do believe that “we” extend past the physical limitations of our bodies, but different people will have different answers. You can see that difference of opinion clearly between people who believe that there should be a right to use deadly force to protect one’s property versus those that do not.
These are only some of the very important, practical questions when it comes to bodily autonomy and the quest for Justice, but they are far from the only ones. We can ask questions around assisted suicide, welfare, conscription, and more.
The Fourth Tenet: “The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.”
Moving past the individual, we now look at a collection of individuals and how we should respect and interact with each other. That is where the discussions of Freedoms comes into play with regards to Satanic Justice.
I read this Tenet as “we have all rights by default”. We cede them unconditionally to others and they cede them to us unconditionally as well. From this starting point we, as a collection of individuals, negotiate the rules that we will all abide by within our society. This means that everyone must be willing to freely give up some of our freedoms without coercion to ensure that the collective can function.
This need to willingly give up or restrict your freedoms in some way is why we stand up for religious liberty and access to abortion services. We have not agreed to those restrictions on our freedoms and the loss of these freedoms makes life worse for us and for others.
In a small community, this system could be negotiated by the whole group, but in a large community, like a nation state, we must ensure that there is true representation for all segments of the population. To achieve this there can be no barriers to anyone who is part of the body politic from engaging in politics. And by no barriers, I literally mean none. Everyone who has a stake in the systems of society must be able to have a say in its function.
There are, of course, some concerns with this thinking when taken to extremes. For example, the rejection of masks during the COVID-19 crisis. But I would argue that rejecting reason and compassion to fight against putting on a mask in the middle of a global health crisis speaks more to the injustices in the world that has left so many distrustful of authority than to some kind of innate cruelty of the individuals who will not wear a mask. It doesn’t make the anti-mask crowd correct, but it does allow me to have compassion for where they are coming from. They live in the same coercive world I do. They have just reacted in a very different way to that injustice than I have.
Sixth Tenet: “People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused.”
Our Sixth Tenet is our final key and it makes it clear that those who do make mistakes are expected to fix the harm done. When tempered with the First Tenet, the Sixth also implies that we need to hold space for people to right their wrongs. This would be a call for a restorative justice system rather than the punitive one we have now.
We see the request for restorative justice in the way we pursue religious inclusivity. Never once has the Satanic Temple demanded that someone else’s religious iconography be removed. We have simply asked for a level playing field so we can display articles of our beliefs beside others. If that right is denied to us, we have repeatedly stated that we would be fine with a ruling so long as no one has access to government space to promote their religious ideals. This is simple restorative justice.
Now, calls for restorative justice often face strong knee-jerk reactions. For many, restorative justice simply does not feel satisfactory. We want to see someone get what they deserve when they wrong us. There is nothing cathartic when someone is given a chance to be better and fix their mistakes, or seeing someone we don’t like get what they want. We want to see them hurt for wronging us. Schadenfreude is powerful but if we look into our hearts, I think we would all admit that we prefer the opportunity to be better rather than be brutalized when we wrong someone else.
Another common criticism of restorative justice is certain wrongs can’t be righted. This concern is much harder for me and I actually struggle with this one a lot. How do you reconcile the harm done by a murderer, a rapist, or even gross economic crimes that wipe out entire life savings or devastate the environment of a community? I don’t have an answer for that. What I do know is that the punitive Justice system we have now, based on Judaeo-Christian ideals, has not worked. It has led to broken communities, expensive carceral systems, and a history of exploiting the marginalized. None of this is acceptable to me.
“So what is Satanic Justice?”
I am not sure what Satanic Justice will look like to each individual, but I do think there are some common themes that will come out of any just, Satanic system.
Satanic Justice would center the well-being of the individual. There would be no moral or thought crimes. Access to the tools of society—education, healthcare, housing, communication, and the legal and political systems—would be accessible to all, without question and without restriction. When someone commits a wrong, they would be given an opportunity to right the wrong when possible. The carceral system will be used as a tool of last resort and when used would not be a cruel act of punishment, but a system that has the goal of returning the person to society as a better human being for the benefit of all.
In the end, you may reflect on my words and come up with a very different version of what Justice looks like to you. Satanism is not about obedience to a single ideology, but instead your personal growth. If you are to pursue Justice as an individual or as part of a community it is imperative that you understand what ideal you are trying to reach. The pursuit of Justice, while necessary, is also long. Knowing what Satanic Justice looks like to you will allow you to express your hopes and goals with your peers. This will ensure no misunderstanding, no wasted effort, and the ability to stay on task to the benefit of everyone else.
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6 thoughts on “Guest Post: What is Satanic Justice?”
I like this guest article. I feel strongly it’s most useful to examine the Seven Tenets in relation to one another, rather than in isolation, and I’m glad to see that articulated here. I love the idea that we can look at the interplay between autonomy and justice by examining more closely what exactly we mean by “self” and “body” and where the boundaries between “self” and “other” are placed. I’d love to see more discussion that delves into that idea!
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Hey, Greg. Ryan made fine points and the discussion needs guys with tech backgrounds like you, so I am glad to have you engaging.
On the Sacred Tension’s Discord I posed the question “Do you consider your smartphone as another organ of your body?”. I feel this is an important question in a world where terrorist groups like the Order of Nine Angles have access to advanced malware and are using it not only for human operated ransomware but for blackmailing people into submitting to arbitrary authority (and later inciting them to commit terrorism against minorities). Governments and other religions aren’t opposing them, so I look forward to see how TST will react when its time comes to confront this.
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Thinking about this, I would say the device itself is not an extension of you but access to the device is. If you think of you as something you have created, you did not create the phone. It is the product of other people’s efforts. Accessing the phone means using the phone and it is those actions, stored as data, that is you. Given how much data is on a phone, it could really be a significant part of you that is compromised.
Hey, Ryan. Thanks for the comments on Twitter and here. Let me just tell one of my experience with cops:
One day I was doing maintenance on the CCTV system of a store when there was an accident on the road in front of it. An adolescent on a motorcycle was killed. The police came, the sheriff in fact, and demanded access to the recordings of the cameras in front of the store.
Given how the cams were positioned and the side of the road of the accident, there was no way it could have been recorded. Further more, given the system was offline for maintenance, there were no recordings. I told him this, he said he would take the computer anyway and would run a program to uncover deleted files (implying I or someone else had deleted something that did not even exist). I asked if he was doing this “by the book”, he said he did not want to bother with paper work formalities. I told him the computer had other system that were needed for the store to function, he did not care.
With truculence, he “won” and took the computer. The next day his officers came to return the machine and I asked if they found anything, they confirmed they did not.
This was before smartphones were common. If it happened today, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cops demanded the phones of everybody in the vicinity – and, given my other experiences with them, I doubt they would stick to only looking for images of the accident and not misuse any personal data.
Now a short comment about superhero movies:
I usually dislike those, but The Dark Knight (2008) was rather enjoyable. At a certain point on the story, Batman activates a system that hijacks every mobile device in an attempt to locate the Joker. He makes it so that the system self destructs, to prevent misuse. Art and reality seem to have taken different paths, for today it is types like the Joker who are hijacking phones for nefarious means.
That cop was way out of line and I have had bad interactions with cops – not to that degree – here in Canada. My interactions have generally been good but I’m a 6’3″ white guy whose dad, two uncles, and a cousin are all cops across Ontario so a lot of the things cops do is actually funny to me because I know what they are doing.
Ultimately, ACAB is a really good standard to follow, especially when it comes to seizing your property like that. It’s a lot harder in the United States with Civil Asset Forfeitures but don’t let police go through your stuff. If you want to give them a video, give them just the video, but letting someone take your phone or computer without a warrant could leave you completely screwed if they find something they don’t like and want to pin it on you.
Regarding superhero movies, what you see as good I see as the innate problem with superhero movies. Batman is not a hero, he’s a villain. The fact that anyone person thinks they have the moral authority to invade your privacy at anytime because they see themselves as a perfect arbitrator of good, evil, and necessary is a terrible message. Especially given that every time they do this, the story proves them right.
Stories are how we relate the moral lessons of society. Super hero movies tell the story that society is week and needs people who are morally virtuous to wield immeasurable violence for the benefit of all of us, often in express opposition to our wishes, because we are too naive and weak to understand what really needs to be done.
Superb and well put. Just some tidbits I remembered and may lead to a proper follow up later:
Moral authority: often just a facade.
“Incredibles 2”: movie of superheroes with one main character that criticizes superheros along the line you present.