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The Planet I’m Not Worshipping

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Department Of The Partridge Of The Week

It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself  will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard.   [1]

Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?

 

 

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Department Of Yet Another Blast From The Past

Seeing as how MH and I are hosting Thanksgiving/harvest day festivities at our Humble Abode ®, moiself  will not be sober enough able to do my usual Thursday night blog editing. 

 

 

Thus, a rerun.

Apropos of…something I’ve already forgotten, I was recently given cause to look up what I had, previously in this space, written about ancestor worship (from 2-17-17):

 

 

As regular readers of this blog know (and new or sporadic readers will likely surmise), I am not a religious person. I was raised by church-going, Christian parents;  [2]   flirted with/researched a variety of denominations during/post college; was a member (even served as a deacon, holy shit!) of a UCC church  [3]  for many years; happily (read: finally) came out over 15 years ago as a lifelong skeptic-atheist-Freethinker-Bright.

While I hold a modicum of respect for some of the ideals and practices of, say, contemporary non-theistic Buddhism and Unitarianism and Jainism, I find all religions to be more-or less silly/offensive/just plain fallacious. There is one “spiritual” practice, however, which I can somewhat understand, if only in that it makes a teesny-tiny, infinitesimally wee bit o’ sense:

Ancestor worship.

 

 

Yes, really.

Make that, ancestor *veneration,* not worship. For the love of the FSM,   [4]   get off your knees, open your eyes, and stop bowing your head – nobody should “worship” anything.

Worship: VERB
[with object] Show reverence and adoration for (a deity)
1.1  [no object] Take part in a religious ceremony.
(English Oxford Living Dictionary)

Unlike the claims of religions which have one or more deities, you don’t have to take your ancestors’ existence on “faith”  [5]  – you know they have lived (you yourself are evidence of that); you’ve likely met them one, or two or sometimes even three, generations back. From the photo albums and other heirlooms to the birth certificates, school and county records, family businesses, homes, farmsteads, and kinfolk near and far, you’ve an idea of what they have “given” you, materially, intellectually and emotionally – you’ve some idea what you might be grateful for.

Best of all, you’ve little incentive to argue or go to war with other people over whose interpretation of what their Imaginary Friend wants is correct. Your neighbor’s ancestors are their business, and yours are yours.

Of course, the option of ancestor veneration leaves out a small subset of people: those who have little or no knowledge of their forebears, such as certain kinds of adoptees,   [6]  as well as those who have just enough information (e.g., children in the foster care system) to…well, I’ll put it this way: if you come from two generations of meth addicts, ancestor veneration might not be the spiritual practice to float your boat.

Now then.  By ancestor veneration I’m not talking any kind of belief system wherein the dead are beseeched to intercede on behalf of the living – that’s just as silly as all the others. I do not believe that my deceased grandparents and parents have a continued existence in a spirit world, or that their spirits look after moiself  and my family in particular or the world in general, or that they somehow can influence the fate of the living. I’m talking about a practice of honor and appreciation, in which a person might use the roads paved and trails blazed by previous generations as a focal point for remembrance and gratitude.

 

Thanks for the dimples, Dad.

 

I’m not sure what brought the previous topic to mind.  A likely suspect is the recent death of my mother. Anyway, y’all have my permission to honor your ancestors…as well as my fervent wish that that is as far as your theology goes. However, as I look at the state of the world, it appears that the old superstitions have some staying power. As long as people will continue to proclaim and dispute over whose invisible leader is the best-est, I’d like someone to come up with another dog in the fight.

As the Bay Area’s own Huey Lewis, the Bard Of The Bammies, once sang, I Want A New Drug.

Putting it yet another way, y’all have my encouragement (if you are religiously inclined) to come up with a new religion, within the following parameters: in this belief system, it is the men who are required, in one form or another, to cover themselves.

That’s it. Yep. That’s the entire theology in a nutshell.   [7]

From a light veil or hijab – make, that, he-jab –  to a full-body, Bro-burqa, your theology must include all the usual nonsense reasons (modesty; an easily offended deity; protection from your fellow believers who will beat the holy crap out of you if you show any evidence of human form) as to why certain people –  in this case, those with boy parts – must be covered in public.

Duuuuude – put a scarf on it.

 

We swear on Her Holy name, it doesn’t make your butt look big, no, not at all.

 

*   *   *

That was then; this is now.  Last week, reveling in an awesome autumn day, I found moiself  thinking about Wicca and/or the contemporary pagan/nature spiritualities – those which mark the passing of the seasons – as another category of spiritual practices which make more sense to me.  This doesn’t mean I am or would consider being a sun or “goddess” worshiper; it’s just that, unlike the tenants of the so-called “revealed” religions,   [8]   with those nature-centered ideologies we can see and directly experience what is being venerated.

Humans living in extreme regions –  i.e., at the poles or the equator (or Southern California) –  [9]   don’t have the dramatic difference of the four season changes that we who inhabit the middle latitudes experience.  Still, the earth has seasons and cycles; we live here; they affect us.   But again, this form of spirituality gets my Nod Of Approval® for *acknowledgement,* not worship.  As in, after a period of torrential downpour I appreciate the sun; after an unremittingly unrelenting bout of summer heat moiself  appreciates the rain.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Planet Earth Edition

How can you tell the ocean is friendly?
It waves.

I love the way the Earth rotates – it makes my day.

How can you tell Mother Nature watches a lot of Oprah from June – November?
Because it looks like everybody gets a hurricane.

 

*   *   *

May you take care of your Mother;
May you appreciate the seasons;
May you enjoy those leftovers;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Specifically, in our pear tree.

[2] Lutheran, specifically: what was once called the ALC and now ELCA, for those obsessives interested in denominational nitpicking. It wasn’t one of the “synod” denominations (Missouri & Wisconsin), which are closer to Catholicism in their conservative doctrines (e.g. women cannot be ordained as ministers; liking to snipe about other denominations as being the “not true” faiths) .

[3] Which I have, since leaving, recommended to people who, for whatever reasons, are looking for a liberal Christian church experience and/or community.

[4] The Flying Spaghetti Monster.   “All praise to his noodly appendage.”

[5] Although, especially at Thanksgiving when someone brings up politics, you may have to take them with a helluva big grain of salt.

[6] If you’re counting “blood” kin as the only kind of ancestors which matter. Which I hope you are not.

[7] Which is the proper receptacle for all theologies.

[8] Revealed religions are religions based on the supposed revelations of god(s) to humans, particularly as described in the scriptures of those religions. Thus, the existence of these gods depends on revelation by said gods, to humans, of ideas that would not have been arrived at by natural reason alone. Examples of revealed religions are the primary monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’ism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Sikhism.

[9] Growing up in So Cal we used to joke we had two seasons:  brown and tan.

The Temple I’m Not Joining

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Department Of First Things First

Fifty-one years ago today, the blast that was heard around the world.   [1]

Happy Exploding Whale Day, y’all.

 

 

*   *   *

In May 2014, The Satanic Temple scheduled a Black Mass to be held on the Harvard University campus, sponsored by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club; the event was forced to relocate off campus due to significant opposition by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and school administrators.
(Wikipedia, The Satanic Temple entry)

Department Of Arguably The Best Quote From A Documentary Filled With Zingers

“I think the participants felt discouraged after their permit  (to demonstrate) in Boston was denied.  And then it just occurred to me: this is the Catholic Church in Boston, which covered up decades of child rape, moved priests around, covered it up, let them continue their raping and child abuse… and then had the gall to say what *we’re* doing was sinful? I mean, fuck them.”
(a member of “The Satanic Temple” (TST), as quoted in, Hail, Satan?)

 

 

 

“The mission of The Satanic Temple, a religious organization, is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits.
The Satanic Temple has publicly confronted hate groups, fought for the abolition of corporal punishment in public schools, applied for equal representation when religious installations are placed on public property, provided religious exemption and legal protection against laws that unscientifically restrict women’s reproductive autonomy, exposed harmful pseudo-scientific practitioners in mental health care, organized clubs alongside other religious after-school clubs in schools besieged by proselytizing organizations, and engaged in other advocacy in accordance with our tenets.”
( mission statement, from The Satanic Temple website )

*   *   *

The Wiccan priest tried (unsuccessfully) to stifle rolling her eyes.  The man interviewing her had asked her to explain Wiccan beliefs but inserted a stereotypical inaccuracy before he gave her time to answer:

“So, you are devil worshippers?”

The Wiccan’s tone indicated that her patience was tried; obviously, this was not the first time she had been asked that question. She replied emphatically, and a bit wearily:

No, *we* don’t worship Satan.
*We* don’t believe in Satan, or devils or demons.
*Christians* are the ones who believe in the devil. Satan is a Christian god.”

 

 

 

The interview moiself  refers to happened many years ago, in a documentary I saw about the connections between Wicca and Paganism and Norse Mythology.  I thought of that interview last week when, thanks to daughter Belle’s recommendation, I watched Hail Satan?, the 2019 documentary which followed the rise of the grassroots activist organization, The Satanic Temple (TST).  Belle thought I would find the documentary entertaining and provocative – she was correct – and we had a fun back-and-forth texting about the subject matter.

Hail Satan?, as one reviewer put it, “puts the fun in satanic fundamentalism.”    [2]  In many places the film is downright hilarious…and also thought-provoking.

“For something that doesn’t move or talk, monuments have been the subject of much debate and deep feeling in recent years. And not just Confederate monuments, but also religious ones. And one of those debates played out in Arkansas, where State Senator Jason Rapert petitioned to erect a statue of the Ten Commandments outside the Capitol building in Little Rock. In response, a group called The Satanic Temple asked to have a monument of their choosing displayed on government property. It was of Baphomet, a goat-headed angel-winged icon. And let’s just say the offer wasn’t that well-received.

That fight and The Satanic Temple more broadly is the subject of a new documentary called “Hail Satan?” – that’s with a question mark. And it follows the founding of this group, which is bringing a puckish new voice to a very thoughtful and actually serious debate over religious freedom.”

( NPR, ” Filmmaker And Satanic Temple Leader Talk New Documentary,
 ‘Hail Satan?’  4-27-19)

 

 

Moiself  was chuckling throughout the film, especially at the moment whence the opening quote in this post is taken:  in Boston 2014, when The Satanic Temple had received permission to perform a Black Mass, and they were being picketed by Catholic priests and nuns and received so many threats they decided to call it off.    [3] A Satanic or Black Mass  [4]  is a grotesque mockery of the Catholic Mass, and is meant to be offensive to RC believers…but then, the Catholic Mass and other Christian churches’ communion rites – with their reenactments of ritualized cannibalism – can be offensive (or at least, bizarre and mystifying) to people of other beliefs.

So, there they were, in the middle ages twenty-first century, priests and nun in their robes, holding rosary beads, crucifixes,chalices, and other artifacts of “catholobelia”… [5]

 

 

and then you have the “Satanists,” in their robes and masks….

 

 

It was so funny, to see both sides in their respective, silly outfits.  Only the Satanists seemed to have any self-awareness about the whole thing – that this (religion) is all play acting/dress up.

Does moiself  think that any of those people involved with TST are, in fact Satanists – that they actually and sincerely “believe in” or “worship” Satan?

Hell no.

The impression I got was that TST organizers and the vast majority of members are part political/Constitutional/free speech activists, and part street theater/Merry Pranksters…with some Cosplay nerds devotees thrown in there as well.

Belle and I bantered with the question: Does TST do more harm than good, by using imagery and tactics that some people find sooooooooooooooooo offensive? Yes, and no.  And admittedly, there is a certain power to be had from disgusting, shocking, frightening, and angering your adversaries.  If you have personal, political, and/or ideological beefs with Christianity, what better way to get under a staunch Christian’s skin than to profess allegiance to that which they view as their polar opposite, whether or not you actually “believe in” your own silly deity (just as you don’t believe in their silly deity).

 

“Who you callin’ silly?”

 

And, analogous to how some rap stars often call themselves the N-word, many people believe that there is power in taking a pejorative which has been used against you and using it (on) yourself. As one of the TST members interviewed noted, for many Conservative and Evangelical Christians, any beliefs other than theirs are evil.  Thus, if you believe something other than their interpretation of their religion, you are under the influence of the devil – they are going to consider you evil or satanic anyway, so why not be proactive about it and claim the title yourself, under your terms, not theirs?

For moiself, one of the more uproarious moments documented in Hail Satan? occurred when TST took a page from the Mormon playbook of performing proxy baptisms (a ritual wherein a proxy for a deceased, non-Mormon person is baptized into the Mormon church   [6] ).  In order to incense and mock the notoriously homophobic Westborough Baptist Church founder, these antics ensued:

” A group of satanists say they’ve given the controversial Westboro Baptist Church a taste of its own medicine, performing a same-sex ritual at the grave of the mother of the church’s founder.
Members of the Satanist Temple performed on Sunday what its spokesman describes as a “pink mass,” an admittedly made-up ritual celebrating gay love, at the grave in Meridian, Miss.
Spokesman Lucien Greaves doffed a headdress made of horns as two male couples and a female couple recited scripture, lit candles, and made out over the grave.
Members then posthumously declared Catherine Johnston, the mother of Westboro’s founder Fred Phelps, a lesbian.”

(“Satanists Perform ‘Gay Ritual’ at Westboro Gravesite,” ABC news, 7-13)

Belle and I went back and forth re the tactics of TST, which we both found…the word “silly’ kept being used.   However seriously you do or don’t take TST, it seems to be a reaction to the abuse of power and religious discrimination promulgated by Christian culture and theology, rather than standing for something on its own.

However….

Many of TST‘s antics are actually well-informed public protests, and not just “giving the middle finger to the evangelical right.”  One high ranking TST organizer pointed out that “…we are really giving the state of Oklahoma a civics lesson,” referring to TST‘s fight to have their group’s goat-headed statue (“Baphomet“) displayed on public ground, after Oklahoma allowed Christian religious artifacts on the State Capitol lawn.   [7]

 

 

One lawyer quoted in the film said, “…from a constitutional law perspective I am really interested in the Satanic temple, because it is basically making these public bodies confront the real implications of their decisions to allow religion into the public square.”

 

 

The documentary gets into some very interesting, and serious and disturbing territory when it revisits the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s , a time when many innocent people’s lives were ruined via a series of bizarre, totally false and fabricated accusations of ritualized child rape. The founders of and teachers at the McMartin Preschool and so many others endured false charges of child abuse;    [8]   meanwhile, as records would later reveal, priests and other religious figures were actually abusing children, with impunity.

One TST member recalled how he, as a boy during the 1980s who loved to play Dungeons and Dragons,  was ostracized by his friends’ religious parents, who thought the D & D game had satanic connections:

“The ‘satanic panic,’ we now know, in an entirely verified and publicly known way, was projection.
*They* (Christian religious leaders) were doing it (abusing children).
I was playing D and D.”

 

 

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Punz For The Day
The Devil Made Me Do It Edition

I’m writing a book about a guy who peddles shoe parts to Satan.
It’s your basic, “Sold My Sole To The Devil” novel.

Where does the devil do his dishes?
Helsinki.

Why couldn’t the Devil find any cheese?
There’s no whey in hell.

How do I know that Satan works at the DMV?
Because a priest said the devil takes many forms.

If the devil were to go bald…
I bet there would be hell toupee.

I want to get a job as a stunt devil who lights his butt on fire.
It’s just something I asspyre to.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you keep in mind that the things you take seriously
may be silly – or disturbing – to others;
May you never attribute human failings – or successes – to supernatural beings;
May you honor Exploding Whale Day ® in your own special way;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Well, if your world consists of proud Oregonians.  And it should.

[2]Hail Satan? puts the fun in Satanic fundamentalism.”  The Verge, 4-17-19

[3] Actually, they moved it to another location.

[4] Which TST was going to perform in private, as in, not open to the public.

[5] My term (I think) for such accoutrements.

[6] Yes, this batshit crazyass rite in the LDS church is a thing.

[7] The Satanists won that battle in court, as per a 2015 Oklahoma State Supreme Court decision.

[8]  And were ultimately acquitted of all charges…after a trial that lasted SEVEN YEARS and cost taxpayers 15 million dollars.