Guest Post: Reinforcing Evangelical Fear

This is a guest post by Warden Sif. Warden Sif has been interested in religion his whole life, and obtained a degree in history and theology. He has identified as a Christian, Deist, Agnostic, Atheist, Apistevist and, at this point, a Satanist. He began following TST’s efforts in 2015 and officially joined a few years later. His Twitter can be found here. He can also be found on BaphoNet Antisocial Network, its associated Discord server and the Sacred Tension Discord server.

After reading Mr. Morehead’s guest post titled “Why Are Evangelicals So Afraid of Halloween?” I was inspired to write further on something he touched on at the end of his article. I’ve tried in the past to emphasize his final point, but I consistently get push back from a fair number of other Satanists:

But understanding the psychological underpinnings of Evangelical prejudices and stances in popular culture toward others is helpful in formulating appropriate responses. Responding in-kind with fear, prejudice and alienation will only exacerbate our tensions in an extremely polarized environment. If you’re angry with Evangelicals over any number of things, including their stereotypes of Satanists, I get it. But I think we need to try to understand their fears rather than reinforce them.

This is topical not only because The Satanic Temple becomes more visible to the average Christian with each passing day, but also because Mr. Morehead is right. These are, as we have plainly seen in recent weeks, extremely polarized times. I do want to make clear that when I say “Evangelical” here I am using it as a catch-all for the most fundamental, conservative and fervent among Christians. There are very many people who would identify as Evangelical who would not think and act as I will describe.

The worldview of a Satanist is dissimilar to that of an Evangelical. This is a revelation to no one. We might point at ourselves and say that we, with our atheist outlook and humanist values, have it right. But they, the Evangelicals, easily do the same with the added benefit of their Christian zeal and moral high-ground upon which they believe themselves to be divinely placed. Their beliefs may seem backward or even repugnant to us but they are no less firmly held. Given this, it is very easy to wash one’s hands of the idea of attempting rational discourse or debate especially after having tried it a number of times. But however unreasonable or unreachable they may make themselves it should not give us license to then play into their stereotypes and, often, genuine fears just for whatever kind of catharsis it may bring to see them recoil and clutch their pearls.

Traditionally, our figurehead of Satan is set up to be the “adversary” of the Christian god. With this in mind we shouldn’t be surprised when they themselves set us up as their own adversaries. While we do not believe that Satan literally exists, they do. This is an obvious difference that I feel often gets overlooked. We know the supernatural is not real but it is to them and they rely on supernatural belief to function day to day. For them it must be real or else their entire worldview would become null. Belief in a literal Satan is just as much part of their religion as a personal Jesus who comes to save them from him. To mockingly agree to some outrageous claim rooted in the Satanic Panic may be amusing or scornful in the moment, but it can all too easily be seen as honest, confirming testimony to the Evangelical who already believes it. This is especially true in a time when a large number of people and a shockingly high proportion of Evangelicals adhere to QAnon conspiracy theories involving Satanically motivated child sex trafficing, cannibalism, and ritual abuse.

Evangelical beliefs often do not enter into our head when attempting discourse. It is easy to overlook your opponent’s views for your own more preferable ones or dismiss them completely. But with Evangelicals in particular it is important to keep them in mind and understand the cultural power they hold. It is indeed irritating, perhaps even infuriating when someone assumes the stereotype that we do horrible things in our religious practice. We know very well that it is not true and at the time it may seem like baseless insults or juvenile name-calling intended to provoke. But much of the time these alleged unspeakable acts are not merely claims exaggerated for effect but what they believe literally happens as part of the ongoing cosmic struggle between God and Satan.

So when a Satanist at the end of their rope finally throws up their hands in exasperation and admits that they casually summoned a demon last night or prefer a chianti when dining on infants in the name of Satan, it reinforces theocratic impulses in Evangelicals. The Fourth Tenet infamously insists on the freedom to offend. But the reaction to this from the Evangelical may not merely be offense. For many it is visceral, and may very well trigger essential, existential terror planted in them from their earliest moments and reinforced their entire lives. Many ex-Evangelicals can and do tell us of the damage done to them, especially in their early years, by the constant dread of a quite literal eternal damnation at the hands of our figurehead. In his blog post “On Being a Normie Satanist” Stephen Bradford Long said, “…triggering other people is unpleasant.” As well it should be.

How is it that we show nobility in our actions by at best reinforcing grievous lies and at worst terrorizing people who, at the end of the day, simply hold different beliefs? Is it compassionate? Empathetic? No, it is unwise. The next time you come across an unmoving or intolerant believer, strive to not play into the stereotypes they might be so determined to believe. It is all the confirmation they need that their faith is correct. Regardless of intent it perpetuates harmful untruths when the best thing we can do is not obfuscate what Satanism really is: a positive and affirming religion dedicated to freedom, truth, justice, compassion and so much more.

It is our duty to distance ourselves from the interpretation of Christian myth indoctrinated into so many that necessarily, or fundamentally, puts us at odds with them. Plurality, remember, is what Baphomet stands for in society. Instead of getting in that last, if satisfying jab, take comfort in knowing that unlike Evangelicals you are unbound by superstition and magical thinking, and that victory is a spirit.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below. And by the way, most discussion of my posts takes place on my discord server, and I invite you to join in the conversation there. You can also become a patron and ensure that I bring you interesting content every single week, forever.

One thought on “Guest Post: Reinforcing Evangelical Fear

  1. I’m so glad to see that my prior article was well received by some in the satanist community. I couldn’t ask for a more sympathetic and hopeful response, urging the way of empathy through deep differences. I’ll have to reach out to the author.

    Like

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