Thursday, June 16, 2011

Classic literary Satanist novel gets favorable review on Religion Dispatches website

Some good news:

Today the Religion Dispatches site published a favorable commentary on one of the classic works of literary Satanism, Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France, written back in 1914: Devil’s Bookmark: Sex and Drugs and Hating God by Bernard Schweizer, June 14, 2011.

Schweizer remarks: "What is interesting to me is the fact that Anatole France’s hatred of God — what I call an absolute misotheism, because it seeks to destroy God rather than wrestle and quarrel with him — is happily wedded to benevolent Satanism. ... He can do this under the guise of satire, which fits his discourse rather like a jester’s motley outfit."

Schweizer's article about Revolt of the Angels is the latest in a series of Religion Dispatches articles by Schweizer on "misotheism" - hatred of God.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

More about Cimminnee Holt and the definition of "Satanism"

Earlier today, I posted Cimminnee Holt and the definition of "Satanism", about a religion scholar who has accepted the Church of Satan's sectarian definition of the word "Satanism." My post earlier today was my preliminary response to a news story about Cimminnee Holt, written before I found a copy of her paper itself.

Later, I read the "Methodology" section of her paper and found that she had discussed the terminology issue. I responded in a post on another blog of mine, More about Cimminnee Holt and the definition of “Satanism”. After commenting on her reasons, I concluded:
.... It is likely that Holt's acceptance of the Church of Satan's definition of "Satanism" will continue to be an anomaly among religion scholars. After all, as Per Faxneld told me during one of his visits to New York City, theistic forms of Satanism are likely to be more interesting to religion scholars than the CoS worldview.

But we theistic Satanists shouldn't take this for granted. We need to prove to the academic world that we exist in sufficiently large numbers to be worth studying. So, if you are a theistic Satanist who does not want the CoS to succeed in their attempts to monopolize the definition of "Satanism," please respond ASAP to James Lewis's current survey.

Cimminnee Holt and the definition of "Satanism"

Most new-religion scholars who have studied Satanism are aware that LaVeyan Satanism isn't the one and only form of Satanism. For some examples, see my 2006 page about The definition of "Satanism" according to new-religion scholars and other observers.

More recently, Per Faxneld, a Swedish historian of religion who is now writing a book on the history of Satanism, has told me he defines Satanism as any "system in which Satan is celebrated."

So I was a bit startled to come across the Canadian news story Satanism isn’t for devil worshippers, says Canadian researcher by Derek Abma, Montreal Gazette, June 4, 2011, about research by Cimminnee Holt, a graduate student in the department of religion at Montreal’s Concordia University. She is quoted as discussing Satanism strictly in terms of the Church of Satan's definition.

Using the word "Satanism" to mean LaVeyan Satanism is a little like using the workd "Christianity" to refer only to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Admittedly, all too many Satanist leaders today are even worse than Christians in their insistance on sectarian definitions of "Satanism." But a scholar should use more neutral terminology, it seems to me.

The Montreal Gazette story mentions that Cimminnee Holt recently had a research paper called "Death and Dying in the Satanic Worldview" published in the Journal of Religion and Culture. Judging by the description, the title should have been "Death and Dying in the LaVeyan Satanic Worldview." There isn't just one "Satanic worldview." For example, some (not all) theistic Satanists do believe in an afterlife. Some believe in reincarnation.

I wonder: Is she unaware of the existence of other public forms of Satanism? Or has she herself become a CoS partisan? I would like to encourage her to expand her research -- or at least to stop using a sectarian definition of the word "Satanism."

The news story also briefly mentions Scott Robb, a Canadian Satanist who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on Edmonton’s city council last October.

The reporter also solicited a disapproving quote from a Christian: Rev. Bruce Gregersen, general council officer of mission and ministry for the United Church of Canada, who is quoted as saying, “We do not support, in any way, taking lightly the nature of evil or, therefore, of Satan.” I wonder what practical significance, if any, a belief in Satan has for The United Church of Canada, which is one of the most liberal Christian denominations. Googling, I found no evidence that they perform exorcisms, for example.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What's happening now: Not an "apocalypse," but important battles nonetheless

Lots of people today, including some Satanists, believe we are living in the era of an imminent Apocalypse. I personally see no reason to expect a full-fledged "apocalypse" - although I do believe that we are living in a very significant era. I also do believe that we need to take our enemies (e.g. the Christian religious right wing) seriously and work to counteract them.

We live in an era of increasing religious polarization. But religious polarization has had its ups and downs over the past few centuries. What's happening now is yet another upswing.

As for war, today's wars (which typically kill tens of thousands of people) are actually not nearly as bad as many of the wars of the 1900's (which killed millions).

And Christianity is not dying. Far from it. Christianity is growing in some places, shrinking in other places. The more middle-of-the-road sectors of Christianity are shrinking, but the more fanatical forms have been growing in many countries around the world, including the U.S.A., these past several decades. Perhaps Christianity will eventually die, but if so, that's likely to take at least another few centuries.

What is new is the growth of today's new religions plus
subcultures like the goth scene. Also new is today's increasing freedom for sexual minorities (at least in some countries). We are also living in a technological Golden Age. For all these reasons, one could say that we are living in the most "Satanic" era ever. And all these trends are likely to continue, albeit with ups and downs.

In the meantime, the Christian religious right wing is a formidable foe -- although, fortunately, it also has formidable opposition.