Satan Statue In Detroit.
No doubt you’ve heard of the July 25th unveiling of the Satanic Temple’s nine-foot-tall, one ton statue of the goat headed Baphomet in Detroit. It won’t be erected in Detroit, but (so devotees hope) will be shipped down to Arkansas so that it can be installed on state capitol grounds, next to the Ten Commandments monument.
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me” smack next to a statue exalting the great enemy of God as an object of worship.
Time wins the award for offering up the most insipid commentary on the event: “In a sense, the statue is a stress test of American plurality: at what point does religious freedom make the people uncomfortable?”
It is our misfortune, as a society, that this question captures just about the full shallowness of public discourse on the event. So, I can’t blame the writer, Nash Jenkins. He’s simply echoing back to us the platitudes of a society which has almost entirely shelved its capacity to judge good from evil, or truth from falsehood.
How to awaken some sense of the real evil entailed in worshiping Satan for a society that’s been basting in relativism for so long?
I could raise the alarm that in the unveiling of the statue there was also an upside down cross present, a symbol of the implacable hatred of the Evil One for God Incarnate. But we live in a society in which the increasingly secularized government, through the Supreme Court, has been taking down crosses as a matter of policy.
I could warn that worshiping the Evil One will lead to child sacrifice, and since he is the Father of Lies, these ritual killings will be covered up by an elaborate web of deception. But we already kill children every day by abortion, thousands of them, and Planned Parenthood (as it has now been revealed on the web) has no anxiety at all in lying to everyone about harvesting fresh baby organs for profit. If Planned Parenthood can kill babies and lie—and get millions in government support—where’s the shock?
I could raise the alarm that Satan is very real, and he’s the Father of Lies, so that however innocent the Satanic Temple declares its activities to be—it purports to understand Satan to be a mere literary figure, a symbol standing for “rational inquiry”—in reality we can be sure that they are purposely spreading falsehood. The truth is that they are masking the actual worship of demonic beings with all the darkness that entails. But we already live in a society awash in intellectual relativism, where true and false, like good and evil, are passé. Our Enlightenment championing of rationality has (ironically) ended in the post-modern acceptance of complete intellectual relativism. There are just a variety of perspectives, none any more true or false than any other. What does “lie” even mean?
It’s hard to wake up a society in such deep and contented moral and intellectual sleep.
Perhaps some headway might be made by explaining to people of good will how it is that we got to the point, as a society, where we believe that we must affirm Satanism as a legitimate form of worship, one that must be protected by our First Amendment protections of religious liberty.
I say “to people of good will” because there are many out there, especially Christians, who truly have some foreboding of the evil of Satan, but who know no other way to respond than by nervously affirming religious liberty.
Here’s a short but instructive history. Long before the First Amendment was written, over a century before our official founding as a nation, a new secular, materialist philosophy arose in Europe. These philosophers—the chief of them being Machiavelli, Hobbes, Descartes, Francis Bacon, and John Locke—all viewed Christianity as the great obstacle to their secular aims. To remove the cultural power of Christianity they devised a philosophical position that reduced all religious claims to mere interior subjective passions (e.g., fear or awe or the desire for comfort). Thus, according to these influential philosophers, Christianity wasn’t any more true than any other religion, be it Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, the pagan worship of Isis, or Zeus, or Marduk. No religion was in a privileged position in regard to its truth claims. All were equally true, because all were equally false. A person’s religion is only a description of his or her irrational subjective feelings.
At first, the subjectivizing of religion was aimed at Christianity, especially insofar as, after the Reformation, wars between Christians were tearing up Europe. Subjectivization of religion was the cure. In John Locke’s words, faith is entirely reducible to an “inward persuasion of the mind,” and because each person’s inner feelings are peculiar to him, then in regard to faith, “Every man…has the supreme and absolute Authority of judging for himself.” Since each person has the absolute authority to judge religion for himself, no one can be wrong—or right—about his religious beliefs. Thus, no one can fight over them.
To make a long story a bit shorter—see my Worshipping the State for the longer version—this notion has come to define our understanding of the First Amendment. That is why we are utterly stymied by the appearance of Satanists claiming protection under the “Free Exercise” clause. And that is why we say things like, “In a sense, the statue [of Baphomet] is a stress test of American plurality: at what point does religious freedom make the people uncomfortable?”
Our “comfort” level is not the issue. In fact, reducing it to comfort is a sign of the origin of the problem: Locke et al reduced religious belief to subject inner feelings which are neither true nor false, but which can be a source of subjectively uncomfortable feelings in others.
The issue is, rather, how we have been happily led into such utter religious and moral incoherence, and the two go hand in hand.
The assumption that existing religious plurality means indiscriminate affirmation of the “right” to any and all religious views no matter how false and evidently harmful is—please grasp this fully—just like the assumption that moral plurality means indiscriminate affirmation of the “right” to any and all moral views no matter how evidently false and destructive.
A sign that something is deeply and dreadfully wrong in our intellectual, political, and moral culture is that in our legal system as headed by the Supreme Court, we actually now believe that the First Amendment protects the worship of Satan because it must protect the worship of anything, and that the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment protect the right of a woman to kill her unborn child.
Platitudes will not suffice. We need a deep and long inquiry into how we got this lost.