Could it be…SATAN?


Struggles in the Phoenix city council garnered national headlines this week when a local affiliate of the nationwide Satanic Temple requested to offer the invocatory prayer at an upcoming council meeting. After some legal shenanigans by council members opposed to the Satanists’ plan, a vote was held to, in effect, ban formal prayer altogether and instead hold a moment of silence before the council meetings, something that drew the ire of Phoenix residents present at the deciding vote. The troops rallied in favor of their God, displaying the typical gamut of sentimental sacraments, including saccharine tears and sham compassion.

“Silent prayer is against our founding fathers,” a local, grandmotherly type declared, speaking for men long dead, who likely believed that a woman’s voice and vote was more dangerous than silent prayer. She added that “this nation would have never risen without God.”

After admitting that his family prayed to keep Satan away from them, a man said he couldn’t believe that the council would consider letting someone come in and “invoke the powers of darkness over the city of Phoenix.” Just what said-powers would do was ambiguous, but no bat-winged horrors bearing pestilence have been sighted swooping over the valley yet.

A woman with arm upraised in righteous frenzy told everyone that the root word of invocation is “invoke.” (Thank you, ma’am.) “Are we invoking still the blessings of God on our state and our city, or are we invoking the curse of the deity spoken of that they serve as Satan?” Does Satan have a better handle on intelligible syntax? If so, sign me up!

Perhaps best of all was Darlene Vasquez, a pastor of a local church, who said she didn’t believe in silent prayer. “I want those who believe in the one true God to pray,” she said through her tears. “It breaks my heart to hear what is going on.”

Although many Scourge readers might heave a sigh of relief that “separation of church and state” is built into the U.S.’ founding documents, there is a small hitch. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that a city council, in the longstanding tradition of the U.S. Congress, is allowed to hold an invoking prayer, although it can’t endorse a religion or exclude minority religious groups. Cold comfort, indeed.

But beyond the legal squabbles and cloying mixture of tent-revivals and jingoism was the sophisticated position of the Satanists themselves, who don’t believe in Satan as a literal god but as “metaphorical… representing a universal fight against tyranny and autocracy.”

Sounds like the Satanists get the point of religion more than the Christians do, but that shouldn’t be surprising. Like all faiths with low self-esteem (e.g. Islam, Judaism), Christianity demands that its members go to the barricades anytime someone threatens God, as if “he” were so weak that “he” needs backup from people who believe dinosaur bones are the devil’s work.

Deity is always metaphor. That doesn’t mean it’s not valuable or that it doesn’t work, but if we literalize “God,” we’re bound to be disappointed. What happens when we pray and live a good life only to get downsized at work, be struck with disease, suffer the death of a loved one…or lose a legal battle which God should handily win? What happens is we’ve got a crisis of faith – which is likely the beginning of real spirituality.

Doubt is the catalyst for wisdom. Following prescriptions laid out by so-called spiritual leadership puts all of us in the role of children forever trying to please an impossible parent. And while Jesus, of course, did tell us that we should become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew and Luke), don’t forget he also said we should be “wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16), an animal known for sowing the seed of doubt in our mythological progenitors. It’s only because of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden of Eden that Christ is born. It’s only through our exploration of the world, with all it has to offer – good/bad, black/white, right/wrong – that a mature, spiritual adult can be born in the stable of our souls.

Until next Sunday… the heretic’s day.

Other news about the faithful:

Saudi Court spares a poet’s life by reversing a death-sentence and instead giving this dissident artist eight years in prison and 800 lashes. Gotta make sure the fragile Allah is protected from rhyming quatrains!

After endless battles with Jerusalem’s Orthodox Jews, women and men can pray together in their own special spot at the Western Wall. Next up? The earth is over 6,000 years old (gasp)!

A seminary student was arrested by federal agents after using the web to find a young girl (like, four-years-old young) to sexually brutalize. Glad they caught this one before ordination. Now what about the others?

Sadly, America isn’t the only country where Christian nuts do stupid shit against Muslims. The Brits are in on the game, too.

Men in an Indian village say the head-chopping goddess Kali is against village women working. Gentlemen, have you ever noticed that the heads in Kali’s necklace are all male? ‘Nuff said.

And in real estate news, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are selling their Brooklyn headquarters. Snap up a great deal and help put more money in the coffers of proselytizing whackos!



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4 Responses to Could it be…SATAN?

  1. Diana says:

    Hey Greg — I’m wondering why the “heretic” for a blog title — why do you choose a religious orientation that puts you as a reactor, rather than an actor: For me you’ve always been someone who creates beautiful new movements and new ways of being in the world. There is power in that — but calling yourself a “heretic” places you in subservient position — as if you are being rejected by the big guys rather than standing up to them to identify yourself on your own terms.

    Other thing — I wonder if there is a bit of misrepresentation of other people and hatemongering in the news factoids? There’s a really long history to gender roles in Orthodox Judaism, for exmple, — much of it is power driven, as you suggest, but some of it is subtle and beautiful; reducing sacred beliefs into hateful superstitions seems to me a far distance from the goal of extending love to all people.

    Third thing — How much time have you spent with Jehovah’s Witnesses? From my point of view, JW are pretty wrong-headed on a lot of things, and they’ve had their share of scandal, but I’ve met plenty who are devout, loving, thoughtful followers of the divine. So why mock them? Criticize — yes or Invite them into conversation. Or Speak harshly even — but mocking is what Christians have done to Jews, whites to blacks, straights to gays, too many times.
    With respect from my heart.


    • Greg says:

      Thank you for all your wonderful thoughts!

      On heretics – Because the company is exquisite. Those labeled heretics are some of the greatest minds and mystics in human history (e.g. Galileo, Joan of Arc, Al-Hallaj).

      Of course gender is incredibly complex in any tradition or culture. There’s no easy out there. This blog is not a reaction to subtlety, because fundamentalist and literal interpreters of scripture aren’t interested in subtlety – only in the letter of the law. Orthodox men spitting on adolescent girls wearing ‘inappropriate’ clothing is not done from their love for all people; likewise, when we criticize similar actions, we can’t speak in dulcet tones. In the words of Alice Walker, it’s dangerous to be sincere with the insincere.

      Yes, I have spent time with Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who, in my mind, are similar (Born Agains, Seventh Day Adventists, Hare Krishnas, etc.). I find that anyone who feels it’s their duty to spread the good news is someone to studiously avoid. Those who consider themselves especially blessed by divinity tout a dualistic world in which there are good guys and bad guys, people loved by God and people outside of God’s favor. There is nothing loving about that – just judgment passed off as treacly compassion.


  2. Diana says:

    Thank you, dear Greg. We don’t agree — but I am very glad we are having this kind of public conversation. As always, I hold you in the highest esteem as a curious mind and my loving teacher. Sincerely :), Diana


  3. Pingback: Religion. It does a body bad. | The Weekly Scourge

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