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Diane Vera

Everything the religious right wing is against, I am for!

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"Satan" and the "God" of Christian dominionists
In the Dark Christianity LiveJournal community, in a thread titled They're at it again, begun by roseross, there was a comment by underlankers referring to dominionist Christianity as "de facto Satanism." Naturally, I questioned that.

This led to a conversation in which I wrote:
Actually, dominionist behavior is consistent not with the worship of a "God of Evil," but simply with the strong belief in -- and hatred of -- an alleged all-pervading evil being/force that must be cast out. You mentioned the Japanese and ancient Egyptian Devil-like figures. Both these cultures are/were notoriously xenophobic. Strong belief in a hated Devil figure naturally leads to paranoia, which naturally leads to all manner of oppressive attitudes and behavior. As far as I can tell, the more liberal kinds of Christians tend not to believe in a Devil. However, both today's dominionists and the more traditional kinds of conservative Christians do believe in a Devil and do have a tendency (carried to a greater extreme by the dominionists) to see everything outside their own narrow little box as being of the Devil.

underlankers's reply contained the following:
The most effective means to destroy the Light is to turn it into a force of destruction on par with the Darkness by taking facets of it and dialing it up to 22. Dominionism is this for Christianity.

To which I replied:
Not "on par with the Darkness," but, rather, far worse than anything "the Darkness" could possibly come up with. It would be psychologically impossible to build a fanatical religious mass movement revering a deity whom the adherents themselves regard as evil. Fanaticism is rooted in opposition to, not worship of, an alleged Devil.

I do agree that "The most effective means to destroy the Light is to turn it into a force of destruction ... by taking facets of it and dialing it up to 22." I would just like to ask that you not refer to this as "Satanism."

Then underlankers wrote:
And yet were such an all-powerful evil figure to exist, what's the best means to beat his adversary? Hijack said adversary's own movement and create his own subset of same religion which happens to give him access to the same kind of power and presumably destroy the One Holy and Apostolic Faith from within.

Are you a LeVayan or summat?

I decided to post only a brief reply there and a more detailed reply here, because in-depth discussions about our own current religious beliefs are not on-topic there.

In my opinion, the very idea of "absolute evil" is an absurdity. It cannot possibly exist. See my page about Elliot Rose on the absurdity of "Evil" as a principle.

One of the philosophical considerations that helped me give up (a fundy-leaning form of) Christianity, at the age of 15, was my realization that the whole idea of "absolute Good vs. absolute Evil" was very war-propaganda-ish, and that it was highly unlikely that either side in any conflict could be 100% good or 100% evil.

Many years later, I had a totally unexpected series of profound, ecstatic spiritual experiences involving a Being that answered to the name of "Satan." Then, for several years after that, I spent quite a bit of time pondering what those experiences meant. I did not accept Christian theology, or an inversion thereof, but considered a variety of alternatives.

Recently, a few friends of mine and I agreed on the following "micro-creed" as an oversimplified summary of some important aspects of what "Satan" means to us:
We revere a God,
Who manifests at that which is feared,
Who dares us to face down our fears,
and to stand with those people who are unreasonable feared.

In those forms of Christianity and Islam that promote belief in a Devil, Satan is associated, primarily, with any and all straying outside the religion's own little box. However, to anyone with intellectual integrity, it is a good thing, not a bad thing, to face down irrational fears and to explore ideas outside one's own ideological box. So, if there's a divine Being out there that wants us to face down irrational fears and to have intellectual integrity, an enticing "Satan" would be the most emotionally resonant form under which such a Being could manifest to people in our culture.

No, I'm not a LaVeyan. I'm a theistic Satanist.

See also What is Satanism? and Satan and "Evil" in Christianity (and Satanism).

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In my view you're looking at this in a somewhat-different way. Such an entity *itself* does not have to be evil, its vision of the future of the human race simply has to be what *humans* would consider evil. Its motivations, even, may have nothing to do with evil in the Sauron-style spiky armor and World Domination viewpoint but be more akin to say, human trawlers that regularly cause the death of countless dolphins.

Most pre-Christian Gods and even the God of the Bible come across as evil to modern readers. An entity that has none of the pretense of concern for a specific culture/ethnicity that the older ones did but the same wildness and power of its predecessors would be the epitome of evil from human perspectives but perhaps it itself is not.

I agree that the God of the Bible comes across as evil -- in an everyday, practical sense of "evil" -- to most modern readers. Ditto the God of dominionists.

Still, I object to equating even the God of dominionists with a cartoon Devil. Historically, Devil belief has nearly always served the function of stoking irrational fears, with resulting paranoia and hatred.

Even more so, I object to equating dominionists with Satanists. As I pointed out here, Satanism is fundamentally all about facing down irrational fears and resisting tyranny. Alas, too many Satanists replace one set of irrational hatreds with another set of irrational hatreds, but such Satanists cannot be effective political organizers. As far as I am aware, the only majorly successful political organizer who ever publicly identified himself as a Satanist/Luciferian (at least jokingly -- it's hard to tell how serious he was about it) was Saul D. Alinsky, a progressive.

I wasn't referring to the cartoon Satan. I was referring to something more like the Derleth version of Nyarlathotep. Any realistic such leader of demons would by virtue of the inherent nature of demons as antigods (when as noted the Gods themselves are unpleasant enough creatures themselves) and by virtue of ruling a large number of such beings *have* to be a vicious thing.

Hell, *human* rulers often tend to be jerkasses in their own right, a ruler of other such powerful beings like the mythological Satan would have to be rather more jerkassish as the things required to unite millions of demons are somewhat different than that human rulers would use, as any pair of human individuals are equal, while demons would have full-fledged phenomenal cosmic power.

I have not read Derleth's stories about Nyarlathotep.

Anyhow, I hesitate to draw any conclusions whatsoever about how the gods or other nonhuman spirits deal with each other, given that they are beyond human comprehension to begin with. Instead, I prefer to focus on the here-and-now consequences of a religious movement and its symbolism. (See The here-and-now principle in theology.)

The here-and-now consequence of belief in a cosmic Evil figure is that it leads inevitably to paranoia and irrational blanket hatreds. This includes not only those Christians and Muslims who believe strongly in a Devil, but also those theistic Satanists who believe in what I call Christian-based duotheism, for whom the Christian God becomes their cosmic Evil figure. (Such paranoia on the part of Satanists is unlikely to lead to any successful political implementation, unlike its Christian counterpart. And it is, in my opinion, an unfortunate short-circuiting of the questioning-of-demonization impulse that is an important part of what leads people to become Satanists in the first place.)

I do not believe in the literal truth of any of our human myths about the gods. What I believe is that the gods and spirits, whoever or whatever they might actually be, relate to us via our myths. Thus, a spirit who (for whatever reason) likes people to be paranoid might relate to us in a way that endorses myths which inspire paranoia. On the other hand, a spirit who (for whatever reason) prefers us to face down our fears and AVOID paranoia might relate to us in terms of the same myths, but with a very different spin on them.

He makes Nyarly out to be a transparent mythological Satan knock-off which doesn't really fit in with what he's supposed to be, but eh.

That's all well and good until you realize that those here and now references amount to depicting how many angels can dance on the head of a pin to start with. Unless we discuss something like Buddhism or Confucianism you can't take the otherworldly out of religion, the two entertwine along with a reward-punishment afterlife in the West for good or for evil these days.

And yet the mythological Satan had a direct precursor in the Daeva Angra Mainyu of Iranian mythology. My view of it is that such entities being so close might hint that the Angra Mainyu of Zoroastrianism and the being Christianity termed Adversary are in fact the same entity, which would be a completely malevolent being from the human point of view.

I regard the Christian metaphysics as utterly unlikely to be true, for various reasons. (See, for example, Post-Copernican natural theology.)

By "here-and-now principle in theology," I don't mean a total rejection of the idea of otherworldly beings, I just mean avoiding metaphysical claims or speculation that goes much beyond these beings' apparent effect on the here-and-now.

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