Well there I was all hunkered down against the c-c-c-cold of the polar vortex- or whatever they’re calling it- getting ready to kill an evening watching some tv or something equally mindless.
Decided to check the WP Reader before turning off the laptop for the night and, what’s there? A wee little goad by my friend OM- over there at Harsh Reality.
It’s one of the fun things he does- he gets conversations started. I actually saw the link about the Baphomet statue earlier today. I read the article, smiled a little and then forgot about it.
Jeepers. People really don’t have larger concerns?
The constant negative back-and-forth between the atheist and non-atheist groups out there nowadays is inexplicable to me. I don’t get it at all. The defensiveness- on both sides- is astonishing.
Back when I had the time- and the interest- to be producing academic articles about new religious movements (including early Christianity- in an historical perspective, and the Church of Satan as a contemporary movement), a sociologist friend and I set the stage for some research into the phenomenon that seems to be overtaking some atheist movements out there. The atheists are becoming as institutionalized as the institutions they seek to deride at every given opportunity.
I’ve talked about this a bit in passing before. Our freedoms are supposed to allow us to express the manifestations of our faith- or complete lack thereof- without fear of reprisal or threat. Regardless of whether they are sourced in a 1st century CE Nazarene carpenter or a horned figure that is assumed (by those unwilling to do a little homework) to be the antithesis of said Nazarene carpenter.
Before y’all go leaping to conclusions about my potential adherence to the Lord of Flies, let me remind you (or let you know if you’re visiting for the first time- a big ‘welcome’, if so) that I don’t believe in the existence of any deity- be it many-armed and elephant-headed; a complicated triumverate that is at once father, son and spirit; a one-eyed, raven-loving northerner; a creator Grandmother Spider; and/or the source of all evil and temptation who is set against the perceived originator of the world.
But I do like, and respect, them all. I appreciate them as the manifestations of our human need to answer the unanswerable questions and I celebrate the variety and the beauty of these manifestations as representations of both the best and worst that we people can come up with in the recesses of our imaginations and ways of viewing our world and the one(s) that may exist beyond this one we know.
I’ve written about that Devil Dude here at colemining a time or two and it’s therefore unlikely to be a surprise that I personally feel that the guy(s) has gotten a very bad rap. For lots of politically, sociologically and theologically motivated reasons. I like him. He’s an interesting character that has contributed significantly in Western art, culture and literature.
It can even, possibly, be safely said that he is my favourite mythological character. I do hate to choose- it’s like picking my favourite book or song. How can you fairly choose with so very many wonderful inventions that span millennia?
I don’t worship him, though. Or believe in him- as such.
I’m not a satanist. I don’t worship the flip-side of the coin that is the Christian deity.
You know what? Neither do Satanists. Not those folks who want to build the statue, anyway. One would have to subscribe to the beliefs about the nature, theology and theodicy of the Christian deity in order to revere its opposite. And they don’t.
They use the terminology based in its foundation: satan as ‘adversary’- and as found in the Hebrew scriptures. Satanism is mainly an ideological social movement- opposed to things like herd mentality, stupidity, pretentiousness and lack of perspective (okay, maybe I AM a little bit of a satanist…)- and the movement developed its precepts and beliefs based on the examination of human nature and the ‘laws of the jungle’.
Anton LaVey based its core beliefs on things like secular humanism, individualism, religious skepticism and an eye-for-an-eye mentality that is positively Old Testament in flavour.
No sacrificing of babies or virgins to the Devil. No desecration of Christian churches or symbols. No black masses.
While some off-shoots of LaVeyan Satanism do envision a deity, it is one that is much more associated with older iterations of the satan/Lucifer/fallen angel who was responsible for bringing wisdom and technology to humanity. For our benefit. Like Prometheus. I talked about that guy before too.
And poor old Baphomet. Symbol of a doomed Knighthood that was brought down by a corrupt king, jealous of their wealth, power and influence.
His origins are hazy, but he maintains a presence- his likeness is representative of the Devil in many Tarot decks to this day.
Various theories (and accusations, at the time) suggested that the Templars brought the worship of Baphomet back from their adventures (on behalf of Church and Crown) as they attempted to ‘reclaim’ the Holy Land from the ‘infidels’. Some suggest that Baphomet is a derivation of Mohamet- and that the assumption was that the Muslim infidels worshiped their Prophet as a deity.
That novel about Leonardo and a supposed ‘code’ played with the idea that Baphomet was a creation of a substitution cipher, and meant ‘wisdom’- but arcane- anti-Church and anti-King- wisdom that flew in the face of the social mores of the day. Hence both the destruction of the Templars, and the equally-heinous development of the cult of Dan Brown.
So we’re back to the symbol of the satanists being all about the imparting of wisdom– that was outside the control of the ruling authorities- and therefore verboten.
How is any of that bad? Let alone the embodiment of evil?
I say again, ‘Jeepers.’
Baphomet, Satan, Lucifer, Church of Satan? All victims of bad PR (although, in the case of the Church of Satan, they aren’t all that interested in what others think these days- now that the era of ‘Satanic Panic’ has thankfully passed into sordid memory), nothing more.
The intent of OM’s post was to start a discussion about ‘tolerance’ and whether or not people expect tolerance of their worldviews yet remain quick to condemn those of others.
I commented that the statue would bother me not at all. Just as statues of Jesus or Buddha bother me not at all. (Although if they are erected in public spaces using public funds… there’s a different argument to be found. I touched on that here).
I don’t understand the impulse to defensiveness that comes with belief. I really don’t get the reactionary fall-out of being challenged in belief that causes people to malign the beliefs of others.
We all have things to teach- and we definitely all need a little more learning about certain things in this wide world of ours. If such lessons can be gleaned by the placement of a statue- representative of the beliefs of a portion of humanity- in close proximity to another statue- also representative of the beliefs of a portion of humanity- where, exactly, is the harm?
That’s not simple rhetoric. In my own search to understand us people-type-people I welcome all differences of opinion and perspective that are open to discussing such things.
Might help keep us all warm on this chillychilly night.
PS- I have to take issue with the creators of those myths about Hell- much as I do enjoy them. If they had ever spent any time in a polar vortex, they’d know that such a place- if it existed would be COLD, not hot. Warming trend can arrive any time now…