Thursday, May 30, 2019

Why Satanic Temple is likely to continue growing: a theory

As some friends have already messaged to inform me, a recent article in the Calgary Journal about the Satanic Temple cited me for some background info on Satanism.

Now, given the focus of the article being the Calgary chapter of the Satanic Temple specifically, I had no expectation of the rather-lengthy interview the journalist did with me, re: other Satanic denominations and the appeal of Satanism more generally, making up any significant portion of the article in question.  However, inasmuch as I wound up making a few points to my interviewer that are germane to topics I’m discussing on this blog, I did nonetheless want to just post a short addendum here about a theory I have about why Satanic Temple strikes me a denomination especially likely to grow in the near future.

I want to stress, before getting into this, that this is just my own theory based on what I know of Satanic Temple’s tenets on one hand vs. the issues I’ve personally had with politics over the last few years on the other hand.  It is thus not a theory based on my own contact with specific Satanic Temple members, and it neither is, nor pretends, to have anything to do with the understanding of Satanism that the particular Satanic Temple folks who are the focus of the article may themselves have.  I am thus sharing it not because I have data to suggest that it is true, but because I find the claims I am making philosophically-plausible and will therefore be interested to see whether trends in the next few years support or refute it.

The theory has four components, as follows:

1: Tenets 1-3

The first three tenets of the Satanic Temple (click here to read all 7) call for compassion and empathy for all creatures, the struggle for justice prevailing over laws and institutions, and the inviolability of one’s own body. 

These are tenets whose moral appeal is pretty broad, i.e. I think most “decent” people would agree with them to at least some extent.  I would argue though that this kind of talk seems especially well-suited to appeal to the kind of person who, say, has strong views about animal rights and the environment in addition to moral concerns about human well-being, is critical of oppressive elements of traditional social arrangements and of authorities who abuse their power, and is aware/caring about women’s rights issues such as freedom from harassment/assault and access to abortion. 

Thus, the appeal of these three tenets is likely to be especially strong among those with left-leaning views.  And I think there are quite a few people around who are of these inclinations.

2: Tenets 4-6

The next three tenets of the Satanic Temple call for freedom (including the right to offend + a strong opposition to curtailing others’ freedoms), beliefs grounded in a scientific understanding of the world (including a strong statement against distorting science to fit one’s personal beliefs), and acceptance of human fallibility.

I would argue that these are three things that certain segments of the far left these days tend to suck ass with regard to.  More specifically:
  1. If people go around insisting that “speech is equivalent to violence,” and use that as a rationale to shut down speakers that they don’t agree with, even in contexts where the speaker is speaking in a space dedicated to intellectual exploration and in many cases is not even speaking about the thing that offends the protesters (e.g. the speaker said a “problematic” thing elsewhere at some point and are therefore now deemed “not allowed” to now speak about anything at all because their very presence is “triggering”), clearly this is contra the concept of freedom to offend.

  2. From grad school onward, I’ve increasingly noticed this thing where humanities academics will have good intentions re: wanting to critique scientific studies that may be racially/sexually/etc. biased (and I myself totally agree that this is a thing to be on guard against), but the actual execution of this is such that they wind up rejecting any and all evolutionary biology/psychology/etc. claims whatsoever, and acting as if anyone who admits any element of nature rather than nurture as shaping human beings must be a Nazi.  This, to me, constitutes a weird form of anti-scientific secular creationism that is just as guilty of denying that human beings are animals as the more-typical religious forms of creationism are.

  3. It seems to me that what Satanic Temple’s sixth tenet is fundamentally saying is that people ought to have some humility inasmuch as we are all human and can all make mistakes.  I find though that on Twitter especially, certain segments of the far left act as if they themselves are infinitely qualified to accuse other people of making mistakes whilst being magically immune to ever making mistakes themselves. I am not by any means oblivious to various leftist arguments re: the effects of power differentials etc., but I nonetheless think it is a bad move to set up your social world such that individuals wind up being classed as virtuous or vicious primarily on the basis of what demographic categories they fit into.
I would thus argue, based on these considerations, that these three tenets are readily construed as critical of certain behaviors common on the far-left fringe.  And I think there are quite a few people around who share my concerns about these behaviors.

3: Relevant content from my previous journal entries

As per point 5 of my previous entry about Satanism, the desire to express alienation is a big draw-factor for Satanism, i.e. making the statement to society that prevailing conceptions of righteousness and virtue are so inadequate that the Devil is looking good by comparison.  This is essentially the point I am also quoted as making in the Calgary Journal’s article about why people choose to identify as Satanists.

Also, as per my first entry wherein I was talking about my “issues” in recent years, there are many people I know personally who have been made to feel that the far left’s discourse now constitutes “prevailing conceptions of righteousness and virtue.” As I noted in the entry just linked, through various “reality-checking” measures I have myself concluded that, in fact, the far left’s discourse is not the prevailing conception of righteousness and virtue, as it is actually only representative of a small vocal minority who monopolizes social media, academia and journalism, vs. a larger number of people agree with me about how the way this stuff is manifesting nowadays is getting to be both obnoxious and counterproductive.  However, the spiral of silence that has been created via terror of the vocal minority gives many people the impression that we nowadays are dominated by a conception of “good” that some see notable flaws and blindspots in.

In a nutshell, then: Satanism tends to draw in the alienated, and there are definitely a lot of alienated people around.

4: Conclusion

If there are people who agree with what are broadly construed as left-leaning values, but who feel strongly alienated by the approach of the current far-left, identifying with the Satanic Temple may well make sense for those people, both because:
  • It offers tenets that reflect left-leaning values on one hand, and also tenets that are critical of the current far-left on the other; and
  • When you are fed up with do-gooders creating an awful lot of non-good in the world via their supposed “do-gooding” – as was LaVey’s own stance re: Christians – one way of expressing that sentiment is “you guys, holy shit, you are so full of fail that even Satan could do a better job of good than you are doing, for fucksakes!”
Therefore, I predict this denomination continuing to grow in popularity.  I am not presuming that any actual growth that does occur will definitely be for these kinds of reasons, but if it does happen, I would be surprised if these factors did not wield at least some degree of influence toward that outcome.