Things are unfolding just as we had warned. Under the so-called “free exercise clause” we have moved from atheists setting up public monuments to celebrate the belief of unbelief, to Satanists setting up monuments to worship of the devil, and now to Satanists setting up “holiday” displays in Michigan and Florida.

Imagine the Founding Fathers debating the passing of the Bill of Rights. Before them is the now familiar, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”

Could anyone imagine them considering the public worship of Satan as falling under the so-called “free exercise” clause? Or, for that matter, the chanting of “Hail Satan” by pro-abortion supporters as “freedom of speech”?

Could anyone imagine these things even twenty years ago?

What has happened?

Actually, quite a lot, and it’s quite complex, and it’s been brewing far longer than you think.

As we have pointed out in the past, modern secularism has produced two opposite extremes, both of which are historically defined by the rejection of Christianity: atheism and Satanism, the worship of nothing and the worship of the most evil being existing.

On one extreme we have the materialist atheists, who reject any notion of the existence of souls, spirits, or spiritual realms. They are all about the body and its pleasures, and they measure good and evil by this-worldly pleasure and pain, for there is nothing beyond this world, and no good or evil that rises above the body. This atheism goes all the way back to the early 1500s with Machiavelli, and it winds its expanding way down the centuries to folks like the atheist popularizer Richard Dawkins.

Now brace yourselves for a startling truth. It was modern atheism that actually invented “religion,” at least in the modern sense of a category defined by the “worship of anything and everything.” From the vantage point of unbelief, any belief in any god or gods was entirely irrational, therefore all such beliefs could be sorted into different kinds of irrationality (a.k.a., kinds of “religion”).  The worship of Zeus, Hera, Heracles, Apollo, Apsu, Atum, Gaia, Marduk, Yahweh, Jesus Christ, Allah, P’an Ku, or Prajapati was just as irrational and childish as the worship of trees, the sun, the moon, or spirits (good or evil). Thus began the “scientific” study of beliefs by unbelievers.

Note that according to the secularist view, Christianity is just one more religion, one more system of irrational belief from the past that needs categorization.

When you do note that, you get to the deepest source of the invention of “religion” in this modern sense. It was—and is—a strategy to remove Christianity from its privileged position in the West, the position it claims as revealing the Way, the Truth, and the Life in the person of Jesus Christ.

Treat Christianity as any other superstition, atheists maintained, and it will soon become merely one more way, one more truth, and one more way of life. Do this, and it will soon be turned into one more antiquated, irrational belief of no more consequence—for the culture, for law, for morality, for society—than the worship of Jupiter or the sun. Christianity’s hold on society will then be broken.

Machiavelli initiated this strategy with his secularized treatment of Moses. (See my Politicizing the Bible.) And so he became the father of modern religious studies. Religious Studies departments in our universities are modeled on Machiavelli’s lead, and these universities define our intellectual culture, and hence our understanding of law. They have provided the intellectual source for our contemporary view that the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment must include any and every belief as a “religion”—including the worship of the Sun or Satan—because all beliefs in deities or demons are entirely irrational, merely subjective, and if kept to oneself, entirely harmless.

Or we should say, all beliefs are harmless except Christianity. Why? Our contemporary secular approach to religion still includes the essential anti-Christian bias that historically founded modern atheism. Modern atheism was not defined against all beliefs. It was born into a Christianized world, and so it defined itself against Christianity as its main opponent.

In defining itself against Christianity, modern atheism has a lot in common with Satan and Satanists, the other extreme created by modern secularism. The amusing thing, if such a macabre thing can be amusing, is that both atheists and Satanists hate Christianity, but Satanists actually believe in a fallen, rebellious angel who continues to define himself directly against the Christian God. Hence the display cobbled together by the Satanic Temple, that depicts Satan as an angel falling from heaven and into the fires of hell.

The common hatred of Christians makes for strange constitutional bedfellows. How interesting it is that atheism, in denying all things spiritual, should pave the way for the one spirit who declares himself the enemy of all good, the father of lies, the architect of every malevolence, and the king of despair and darkness.

And so, we have atheists uniting with the Satanic Temple in a joint effort to remove all things Christian from the public square, by pushing for the presence of Satan into the public square.

How far will they go, hand in hand? The Satanic Temple website has recently announced an interesting new joint project:

“In cooperation with The Freedom from Religion Foundation, and in accordance with School Board policy that allows religious material dissemination, The Satanic Temple announces they will distribute Satanic literature in Florida Public School district.

In response to a recent School Board decision in Orange County, Florida that allows for the dissemination of religious materials in public schools, The Satanic Temple has announced they will follow suit by providing Satanic materials to students during the new school year. Among the materials to be distributed are pamphlets related to the Temple’s tenets, philosophy and practice of Satanism, as well as information about the legal right to practice Satanism in school.”

They also announce the support of abortion as essential to their religious beliefs. Again, words from their website:

“A number of states require that abortion providers give information to patients that may be inaccurate or misleading. Demands that members of the Satanic Temple, or those who share our beliefs, be subjected against our will to anything but the best scientific understanding are a violation of our religious beliefs.”

Christmas as a holy day—the real etymological root of holiday—was introduced as a Mass (hence, Christ’s Mass) to celebrate the coming of Light in the very darkest time of the year. It was defined against the darkness of paganism that held all too firmly to lives of the unevangelized in Europe who celebrated the Yule with the smearing of sacrificial blood on their idols, and who cowered in fear at the evil spirits of the Wild Hunt riding above them in the night sky and the dead walking among them in the darkness gripping the earth.

Holy Christmas replaced paganism, but then, as a result of secularism, Christmas became a mere frivolous shopping festival, full of tinsel, jolliness, and shallow enthusiasm.

But now the darkness has returned.