An argument against Cultural Christianity (or Christian Atheism)

If you’ve been around both atheistic and conservative circles, you may well have encountered people who identify themselves as Cultural Christians. Sometimes referred to as Secular Christians, these are people who formally do not believe in God and reject the supernatural claims of the Bible and the Christian faith, but nonetheless ascribe to the religious doctrine and philosophy of Christianity either because they identify with it on a cultural level or because they feel that it is the best moral framework available for a broad society. In The Satanic Bible, Anton LaVey referred to such people as Christian Atheists.

Of course the term isn’t confined solely to neckbeards on the Internet who wish they were born in the Middle Ages so they can LARP as Crusaders only in real life. The term also has some purchase in the New Atheist movement: Richard Dawkins, despite his strident criticism of Christianity and indeed all of religion, has referred to himself as a Cultural Chrisitan, stating in the past that he sings carols like most British people do and resists the charge of being “Christianophobic” – a term no less of a fraudulent political label than Islamophobia and is simply used by conservative Christians to scaremonger about the secularizing of society. There is also a somewhat more malevolent aspect to the term: it was utilized by the infamous Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik in his manifesto, and I suspect because of this the position has its associations with white nationalists and alt-righters (which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me; I mean, if you’re a white nationalist concerned with the European “volk”, why would you pay lip service to religion based on a Jewish deity?). I have never subscribed to the Cultural Christian label, and in this post I intend to show that the main arguments in support of such a position are fallacious and delusional.

The main argument held by Cultural Christians seems to be that Christianity is the basis of the loose collection of ideas we refer to as the Western canon, or Western Civilization, thus to support Western civilization is to support Christianity from a cultural position. However, a cursory glance at European history (both Christian and pre-Christian) and the teachings of the Bible easily disrupts this premise.

Do you like democracy? Well, Western democracy didn’t originate in the Bible. It arguably originated in ancient Greece, in the Republic of Athens. Sure, it wasn’t perfect (women couldn’t vote and slavery was a thing back then), but it was also one of the early attempts at direct democracy – voters would have their say on every legislative issue. The Athenians were also so invested in their democratic system, and this even permeates into their normative attitudes; namely that they derided people who took no interest in politics, and considered them foolish and ignorant. Outside of Greece, the Roman Republic was another early form of Western democracy, in fact it was a classical example of representative democracy, where the electorate would appoint representatives to the legislature rather directly ratify each issue. There’s also the Althing in Viking Age Iceland, which is widely considered to be one of the earliest forms of parliamentary democracy. Similar assemblies where also held throughout the Germanic world, and even in Britain where they were referred to as folkmoots by the Saxons. All of this before Christianity took over in the respective territories, under the auspices of pre-Christian religious traditions. In contrast, the Bible implies that democracy is a bad thing because humans cannot govern themselves and that those who challenge a prophet of God in support of democracy will be destroyed by God. The feudal system that characterized much of Europe during the Middle Ages was justified with the doctrine of the Great Chain of Being – a Christian concept which entails a rigid hierarchical order that stratifies all creation as ordained by God.

Pictured: democracy in action

Do you like freedom of speech? The Bible actually forbids this to some extent, with one of the Ten Commandments forbidding cursing and Colossians 3:8 condemning “filthy language”. Publications and universities were once controlled by the Catholic Church, and in 1543 they decreed that no publication could be distributed without the permission of the Church. European rulers during the Christian age also used the state to control scientific publications and artistic expressions deemed threatening to public morality and the Christian faith. The Inquisition was another way of controlling publications, specifically the regulation of the import of books to colonies in the Americas by the Peruvian Inquisition. And as will be delved into further later on, the Catholic Church punished intellectuals who denied important teachings of the Church. Of course, this is one instance when the pre-Christian world wasn’t much better, with Socrates being poisoned by the Greek state for “corrupting” the minds of the people with skepticism and the office of the censor in Rome being the origin of the word censorship. In fact, the notion of freedom of speech as was understood since the Enlightenment was probably not practiced throughout much of the ancient world, and was chiefly defended by a handful of philosophers.

Human rights? While England did establish the Magna Carta, it was opposed by the Catholic Church that dominated Europe and annulled by the Pope. And the Protestants were far from better, rounding up non-believers and women to be burned at the stake for absurd charges of witchcraft, diabolism and conspiracy to commit such things. Also, a little thing called The Inquistion anyone? Not to mention the occasional slaughter of pagans in Europe such as in the Massacre of Verden, and the brutal conquest of native tribes in Latin America and elsewhere. The Bible also has several verses in which torture is an approved method of subjugation, persuasion, not to mention redemption, as well as endorsements of slavery.

How about scientific inquiry? Galileo Gallilei was banned from promoting the theory of heliocentrism, which is now well-established as scientific fact, by the Catholic Church and forced to comply with the Church’s declaration that heliocentrism was officially false. Nicolaus Copernicus also faced censure by the Catholic Church, with his book Revolutions banned by the Church. The Catholic Church burned Giordano Bruno for promoting the concept of exoplanets and generally contradicting Catholic doctrine. So needless to say it’s not got a great record on science. Not to mention, although some scientists like Isaac Newton would have considered their inquiry compatible with their faith on the grounds that both science and faith entailed the quest to discover and unlock the secrets of God’s creation, Christianity holds that it is a sin for Man to try and explain God’s mysteries because God is undefinable by nature. The Bible casts a man named Thomas in a negative light for doubting Jesus and asking for proof of his resurrection.

How about preserving heritage? Not only did the Christians have a tendency to destroy pre-Christian cultural artifacts in Europe, destroying idols and temples and replacing them with Christian structures, but they also destroyed the cultural heritage of peoples outside Europe. When the Spanish Christian conquerors arrived upon the Mayan civilization, they not only abolished the native religion but also burned down most of the Maya Codices, thus destroying much of the literature of an entire people and destroying what could have been a source of knowledge on the culture and civilization of that people. The Inquisition in Goa burned many Indian texts, along with many Indians, predominantly Catholic converts who were accused of being crypto-Hindus. They also destroyed Buddhist artifacts that were seized by the Portugese. There are many Saints in the Christian canon who are venerated for the destruction of former pre-Christian heritage, such as Saint Boniface and Junipero Serra. It should be noted, however, that the Christians didn’t always destroy the artefacts of the former culture. During the Renaissance, for example, artists in Christian Europe appropriated the literature and heritage of the pre-Christian classical world, often remaking them as symbols of Christian doctrine. However, those artists also faced pressure from the Church for supposedly promoting idolatry, heresy and lust, forcing the artists to justify their works within the framework of Christian dogma.

Finally, how about tolerance? Again, the Christian powers weren’t very good at that, what with destroying belief systems they found heretical. The Christian powers also frequently persecuted the Jews both racially and religiously, often expelled from the kingdoms they inhabited, and in Spain they were forced to choose between baptism and slavery.

A 17th century depiction of some youths throwing stones at a Jewish man during Lent

The argument that Christianity is the basis of Western culture can easily be disputed. Although Christianity is clearly an offshoot of Judaism and is thus based on Judaism, Western Christianity also layered aspects of Hellenic philosophy on top of it, reshaping them in its own image. The Logos is a title attributed to Jesus Christ within Christian contexts, and is generally used to refer to the word of God. The Logos also appears before Christianity in the writings of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, for whom Logos was the everlasting Word in which all things become united, and the ordering principle of the cosmos. The Logos was also held by the Stoics to be the animating principle pervading the cosmos, a portion of which is possessed by each individual, thus it is comparable to the Christian concept of the immortal divine soul. The Jews, by contrast, rejected the doctrine of the immortal soul, though in Jesus’ time some Jewish sects such as the Pharisees adopted the soul doctrine. Plato’s philosophy contained many ideas that would be characteristic of Christian philosophy. For instance, Plato considered there to be a division between matter and the soul, he believed in the existence of a divine, intelligent craftsman that he referred to as the Demiurge, he believed that the resultant creation comprised an imperfect but orderly cosmos, considered mortal existence to be a passing phase in the wider cosmic existence, and he believed that by sublimating irrational desires the individual can seek perfect purity and order.

Aristotle’s conception of the nameless Prime Mover can be seen as similar to the Christian conception of God in some respects, an eternal source of motion and cosmic order without defect (his rationale being that eternal things are always good and cannot possess defects), a being that never changes, has no beginning or end, and is an immaterial being whose activities are purely spiritual and intellectual. However, unlike the Christian God, this Prime Mover has no plan for anything that exists in his creation. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity was can be said to derive from Stoic philosophy to some degree through Seneca’s conception of a threefold divine power which “we sometimes call the All-ruling God, sometimes the incorporeal Wisdom, sometimes the holy Spirit, sometimes Destiny”. The concepts of Heaven and Hell have their Greek equivalents as well – the Elysian Fields was the realm were heroes, the righteous, and mortals related to or chosen by the gods would dwell in a blissful and happy afterlife with the gods, while Tartarus is the underworld where the rest go when they do, with all of the truly wicked and evil souls residing in the fiery pit of Tartarus. In general the concept of a transmission of a soul to an otherworldly plane after the death of the body occurs not just in Greek mythology, but several pre-Christian pagan traditions, as well as the monotheisitc religion of Zoroastrianism, whereas in Judaism there was no immortal soul and Sheol was the realm where all of the dead go regardless of moral conduct in an existence severed from life and from God.

Then there’s the little things. Many Christian Saints likely evolved from past pagan deities and figures, and others became the demons recorded within Christian demonology. The Saints also, in a sense, took on the function of the old tutelary deities, serving as the patrons of nations, cities, territories, activities, families, and other things, and they could also be prayed to for various favours, which may explain why many American Protestants and Evangelicals consider Catholicism to be a pagan religion rather than a form of Christianity. The depiction of angels as winged humans isn’t entirely Biblical (Jewish tradition has all sorts of monstrous and chimeric visages for its angels), drawing instead from the Greek depictions of beings like Eros or Nike and Roman beings like Victoria. You can see this in the angelic statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus in London, depicted as a winged angel with a bow in the fashion of a mature version of the Roman Cupid, which was conveniently renamed The Angel of Christian Charity, or how in the Roman Senate all statues of Victoria were removed from the Senate to suit Christian sensibilities, except for one statue which possessed wings. Among the differing views on daemons in Greece, Plato’s view of them as spirits that watch each individual to whom they are allotted probably influenced the concept of a guardian angel that sometimes appears in Christian circles. In general, both the angels and the demons come from the concept of daemons. And of course, many holidays we celebrate have their basis in older pagan festivals. Christmas has its roots in Saturnalia and various Germanic festivals, and St Valentine’s Day has its links to the Roman festival of Lupercalia. Even Western marriage is said to come from the early Christian embrace of Roman weddings.

Eros as “The Angel of Christian Charity” in London

Much of Christianity as we know it derived its culture and philosophy from Greek and Roman philosophy and pagan religion, which it used to form a doctrine palatable to gentiles and generate a non-Jewish superstructure for a religion that was still ultimately Judaic at its base. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to say that all of Western heritage comes from Christianity, when in reality the bedrock of such heritage was established before Christianity, mostly by Greek and Roman Hellenism. All the while, Christian power sometimes actively worked against the heritage it utilized to construct itself by destroying artifacts of Greek and Roman paganism and rejecting the principles of republican democratic governance they gave to the West.

However, to say that Western culture is Pagan culture would be anachronistic in the current context. Although the base of our cultural heritage is pre-Christian rather than Christian, things have evolved rather dramatically over the last few thousand years for European civilization, and now secularism makes up the current form of our culture, having shaped that which has come before and moved it away from strictly religious purpose. Rather than Western culture being Christian or Pagan in character, Western culture, like all others, exists as a dialectical, evolutionary continuum, wherein the form of what is considered culture and civilization modifies itself over time, sometimes gradually and sometimes radically, giving rise to new forms in a cycle of perpetual re-creation. The same condition goes for all of human history, a continuum upon itself, a continuum of our continual evolution and struggle for emancipation. It is ultimately this reason combined with the absence of anything resembling modern Western values in the Bible that I reject the argument for the Cultural Christian position, for it is arbitary to try and pigeonhole Western culture as Christian culture.

Of course there is the argument further still that Christianity was a beneficial force to the development of European civilization, and was instrumental in defending the continent from the march of Islam, especially during the Crusades. The reality, however, is quite different. The Teutonic Knights (a.k.a. The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem) often slaughtered their fellow Christians in Poland and raided the territories of Lithuania, forcing Poland and Lithuania wage war against them in the First Battle of Tannenburg. The Teutonic Knights also engaged in conquests of Orthodox Russia backed by the Catholic Church. In 1204, the Crusader armies sacked the Christian city of Constantinople, killing thousands of civilians, raping women, even nuns, pillaging churches and monasteries and smashing altars to their own God. As a result of such sacking, the Byzantine Empire was left weakened and unable to defend itself from the advance of neighboring Islamic forces, such as the Ottomans and the Sultanate of Rum. And of course, the Crusaders were known for massacring fellow Christians who followed a different sect, as happened to the Cathars during the Albigensian Crusade. Far from uniting Europeans under the Christianity, Christian power was simply the glue for a civilization that constantly went to war with itself under the auspices of the Catholic Church, with, ironically, the lives of fellow Christians crushed underfoot. And that’s not even counting the times they massacred pagan Europeans, such as in Verden.

Also, despite modern propaganda concerning how Europe’s Christian ancestors drove out Islam wherever it reared its ugly head, Christian powers in Europe actively collaborated with the Islamic Ottoman Empire during the 16th and 17th centuries, including England, France and Transylvania. Martin Luther was even somewhat sympathetic to Islam on the grounds that Islam rejected the veneration of images and opposed the Catholic Church. Islam was even tolerated by the Dutch at the tail-end of the 17th century, with Muslims being hosted in Dutch trading ports. So much for Deus Vult.

A depiction of the Sacking of Constantinople in 1204

So not only is it utterly arbitrary to attach Christianity and Christian power as the basis of Western civilization, and not only was Christian power ultimately the source of a lot of violent national and ethnic conflicts in Europe that resulted in thousands of deaths, but Christian power isn’t even the strong bulwark against Islam that traditionalist ideologues claim it to be, given that the Crusaders allowed for Islamic powers to make ingress into Europe and the Protestants were happy to ally with Islamic powers to the East in opposition to the Catholic Church. Christian power truly was a cannibalistic, self-destructive, self-betraying force in its day, on top of being tyrannical, regressive and intolerant. A force of barbarity to behold.

Finally, the Cultural Christian position often entails an attempt to justify conservative politics using religious scripture. But if you’ve ever taken even a cursory look at the Bible, you’ll soon become aware that the Bible is not a consistent political manifesto, and there are several different verses that can be used to justify any position across the political spectrum, even in cases where it doesn’t mean what the people invoking it says it means. In this context, Cultural Christianity for the most part becomes simply the secular version of the longstanding right-wing Christian trope of using an internally inconsistent and contradictory tome to justify their overarching politics.

In summary, the Cultural Christian position is a vanity. It neglects the reality that Christianity as we know it is largely a product of Hellenic ideas and philosophy mingling with apocalyptic Jewish faith, and the reality that history, culture and civilization are continuums compounding upon themselves to start with. It neglects the barbarous reality of Christian power. Its assumptions about the relation between Christianity and Western values are not actually supported by history or even the Bible, and are the work of pure propaganda and pure ideology. It exists solely as the result of a contradiction of having a conservative mindset towards religion and culture within a Western Christian context but being unable to believe in God or the supernatural claims of Christianity. It, frankly, serves to appeal to the feelings of not just Christians (many of whom reject Cultural Christianity anyway because it’s not really belief in God and Jesus) but also the atheists who hold this position because, for some reason, they feel that Christianity equals The West (which, by the way, also dovetails nicely with dumb right-wing political thought concerning the “clash of civilizations”). If someone tells you that he/she is a Cultural Christian, feel free to laugh at such a person. They deserve it.

The “spirit cooking” bullshit

Well, we have 4 days to go before the end of the US presidential election, and I think we’ve hit what is probably the most bizarre revelation from the Podesta emails. This revelation in question is that John Podesta, the chairman of the Clinton campaign, was invited to some kind of “Spirit Cooking” dinner by the performance artist Marina Abramovic.

That’s not the weirdest part. Apparently, people saw the term “Spirit Cooking dinner” and, without looking at the facts, ran with it and generated the idea that the Clintons were part of some kind of devil worshiping conspiracy.

You heard me right.

A piece of “evidence” offered by proponents of the “#ClintonCult” conspiracy theory.

Abramovic’s work tends to deal with themes such as ritualism, pain, human consciousness and the body. I’m sure it makes for some interesting performance art, at least for fans of performance art or modern art in general. The term “spirit cooking”, however, seems to refer to a “cookbook” she wrote two decades ago where she writes “aphrodisiac recipes” as some kind of artform. There’s also a performance piece she did where she painted writing on the walls with a special combination of pig blood, breast milk and semen. And that’s it. I’ve seen the video, there’s not much to it other than she writes some bizarre things on the wall. Maybe she thinks there is a ritualism to it, but I’m not entirely sure of that. To me, it’s performance art. The only thing the email suggests is that Podesta is interested in Abramovic’s artwork – who knows why – and simply wants to have a get together of sorts with the artist herself.

That’s it. There’s not much to it other than that. All talk of devil worshipping conspiracies and blood feasts is pure hyperbolic speculation based on not a single scrap of credible evidence. The image I showed above is someone pulling together unrelated content and tying it together, whilst not mentioning a single fact about her work. Abramovic isn’t even a Satanist as far as I know and as far as she herself can tell you. Thus, this is one of those moments when the right-wing media looks really stupid, and when the fucking Guardian can actually come out like a sensible read on the matter.

Look, I know that the Clintons are corrupt and they’ll do anything to get into power but this “spirit cooking” shit is insane. Even for a guy like me who is interested in the occult, I find there is plenty of genuine wrongdoing to pin on the Clintons to the point that there is no need to drum up some kind of pseudo-satanic conspiracy theory surrounding them. And anyone who believes that there is an actual conspiracy of Satanists controlling the United States government from the shadows is retarded, plain and simple.

Some academic faggotry

Please excuse the very crude title, but that’s who I felt at the time . And I don’t mean to refer to people who are homosexuals. I use the term “faggotry” in this case to refer to something severely annoying.

It was 9 in the morning and we were treated to a short lecture on “dissertation theory”, where someone from “contextual studies” (which sounds like a relic of my art college dies) talks to us about how best to write a dissertation, which follows three hours of “dissertation practice”, where one of the actual game design lecturers does kind of the same thing but we’re more oriented towards actually working on our dissertations (or researching for them in the early weeks). So anyways, the tutor addressed us game students, and since he was clearly unfamiliar with the games industry he jumped straight to Call of Duty as an example, which was cringeworthy enough as it is. Then he asked when the first game was released, I guessed 2003 (which indeed it was). Then he said, “what happened two years before then?”, and that’s when it occurred to me he was trying to refer to 9/11, which led me to believe.

In what I now consider to be sort of a misguided action (I’ll get to why later) I said “are you kidding me?” in a tone where everyone can hear me, and everyone looked at me as though I had said something stupid or unpopular. All I thought was “this game has no objective connection to 9/11 happening”, and I thought the idea was so outrageously retarded that I ended up vocalizing my disapproval. In his mind though, I was taking issue with him personally (who knows? maybe I was…). He even pretended to concede that I was right before sarcastically saying “and you know what else? 300 had nothing to do with Iran”, referring to some kind of political event or speech made about Iran in 2007 or 2008, I think. In my mind, the man was clearly either retarded or just being disingenuous or intellectually dishonest. Either way, it became obvious to my fellow students that I had developed nothing but contempt for the man and his reasoning.

And just to drive the point home further, he actually went on some spiel about how Back to the Future was probably based on the Jewish myth of the golem, based on invented connections between Jewish lore and the plot of Back to the Future. He even got the fucking myth wrong! He claimed that to bring the Golem to life you had to write the Hebrew word for “truth” (which he claimed sounded similar to one of the character’s names in Back to the Future, which to me is a weak basis of connection to the film’s story) and to reverse the effect you write the Hebrew word for death. That’s baloney! In Jewish lore, a Golem is animated by the magician putting a piece of parchment in its mouth, usually said to contain the written name of “God”, and to kill it the magician has to remove that parchment. He got it wrong, and I fucking knew it from the start!!

I remained frustrated with him for a good long while now, and talked with one of my colleagues about how I didn’t trust any academics other than my lecturers at game design for the sole reason that they are simply more grounded than him. That might be because they know the game industry and they’re dealing in a profession that requires them to actually be grounded in practical reality and not be flying in the realm of nonsensical pseudo-intellectual abstractions. Of course, the program director ended up having to talk to us about it because, unfortunately, I was seen as having made a scene. Fortunately we weren’t in any real trouble and nor did he claim to that we were or talk to us in a way that suggested this was the case. But it did seem that the dissertation theory tutor was not used to his game design class. Which I don’t find fucking surprising at all considering the dissertation theory tutor has nothing to do with the game design course. I ended up realizing that even though in my mind my frustrations are pretty reasonable and I’m right to have an aversion to nonsense in academia, my actions were more counterproductive than anything else and I’m probably going to get the program director in trouble if I repeat the same actions. I’m not an idiot, and I respect the man too much to do something that might get him in more hot water. Not only because he’s a pragmatist, a very grounded individual with an admirable attitude and he knows the games industry more than any new student who enters the course, but because he saved me from throwing away my potential as a game student based on emotion back in the first year. Were it not for that, I probably would have done something stupid and I might have taken somewhat longer to grow the way I have as a person.

But you know what? The program director told me that the dissertation theory lecturer said he recognized my brother, who now studies illustration in the same institution. My brother hasn’t been in university for very long and already he says he has to deal with bullshit academics. How bullshit you might ask? Then depends on how you take to a guy who tells you to consider “is the artist really an individual if he/she has to shop at Tesco?”. I take it as just fundamentally retarded. But my program director warns me that I might have to deal with more of it because of how hypothetical and theoretical the guy is and I’m expected to push through in third year. Personally, though, I think academia is supposed to be about learning and dealing with something in the way of objective truth, not pulling stuff out of your asshole and making spurious connections to look intelligent.

What the hell did Jesus change (that wasn’t the work of the Church)?

I always seem to see Jesus of Nazareth as a figure being portrayed as a figure whose actions would change the course of human history, in terms of the influence of the Christian in the world of politics, and I can’t help believing that’s a crock of shit. In the historical sense, assuming Jesus even existed historically, the guy did not do much more than preach the coming kingdom of his “God” Yahweh against the Roman state, and got crucified in the end. He didn’t do much more than die for his beliefs.

We should all be aware what actually changed the world in the way that people think Jesus did: it was only the Roman Empire adopting the Christian faith as its state religion that changed the course of history, not Jesus preaching in Judea and dying on a stauros. Only after Jesus supposedly died did his followers spread word of his teachings and his supposed death and resurrection that anything about Jesus changed the course of human history. Jesus’s supposed life and death had nothing to do with it, and without the Church and the Roman Empire his life would have been a blip in the history of the human race, and if he were remembered as just another casualty of the narcissism of the Roman Empire. If he lived, all he did do for the nascent Christian movement was give them a messiah to revere and a kingdom of heaven to look forward to forever, always within their lifetime and never to appear.

It’s amazing – and not in a good way – how even in the secular world people like to kiss the ass of the “Christ” and paint him as the luminous figure that the Church made him out to be.

Happy Pallid Incompetence Hanging From A Tree.

Satanic Panic in South Africa

Recently I had heard that the famous extreme metal band Rotting Christ will be playing in South Africa under a different name in order to appease religious protesters, or rather to get them off their back so they can play. I also heard from my friend Tony that people in South Africa are scared of Behemoth, another extreme metal band, coming to play as well. Apparently they’ve launched a petition to try and stop Behemoth from coming to play. Both bands are being brought to the country by Witchdoctor Productions, which also holds an annual metal festival called Witchfest, which was the subject of Christian protests last year. The owner of Witchdoctor Productions, Shaughn Pieterse, describes promotion of metal music in South Africa as difficult, partly because of the cost of getting bands to the country and partly because the country is a strongly socially conservative place, with a strongly religious Afrikaans community – the kind of community that would view metal as a threat. It’s very peculiar to think of moral panic surrounding metal being a thing of the past in Europe and even America, but not so much in Africa.

From what I’ve gathered, South Africa is still, as Pieterse said, a very conservative place. Not only is the country dominated by Christians, who make up about 80% of the total population, but its been having a Satanic Panic of its own. I’m sure there are people who think of the term “Satanic Panic” and think of the lurid (and unsubstantiated) fear of violent devil worshippers and ritual abuse that gripped the Western world during the 1980’s and early 1990’s – a phenomenon fueled largely by sensationalism in the media (I’m looking at you Geraldo Rivera) and certain novels that contained true (read: not really) accounts of “Satanic ritual abuse”. However, unlike the Western world (with the possible exception of the UK), the Satanic Panic didn’t really go away in South Africa, as in this decade you can still find plenty of stories in the country’s news media about stories of supposedly “Satanic” crimes. In South African TV, you can even find soap operas that depict witchcraft as a real phenomenon used to inflict real harm on individuals. This is even a country where the Minister of Sport can tell people that it’s “satanic” to boo the President, which to me just indicates that the government doesn’t like it when the people don’t approve of it or its leaders.

And if you thought that wasn’t crazy enough, South Africa actually has a special police force specifically dedicated to investigating and preventing “occult-related crimes”. That unit is referred to as the Occult Related Crime Unit. It was established in 1992 by a man named Kobus Jonker, who happened to be a born-again Christian, at the behest of the then Minister of Law and Order Adriaan Vlok. Their whole concept of “occult-related crime” is nothing more than fundamentalist Christian rhetoric regarding youth culture and anything that doesn’t follow the fold of Christian religion – not just Satanism, but witchcraft, magick, and esotericism in the broad and general sense, including traditions that have nothing to do with the left hand path.

An issue of Servamus magazine focusing on “occult-related crime”. See if you can guess what’s wrong with this picture.

They have been noted to have certain guidelines for how to identify “occult-related discourse”, including “sudden gender confusion”, cruelty towards animals, illegal drug use or sexual activity, interest in computers, depression, pre-occuption with black clothing, and a number of other ludicrous criteria that you can see a list of on the SAPS website. If you read that list then I am certain you will notice an obsession with Satanism and black magick, or rather the Christian conceptions of them, most likely sourced from the SRA hysteria of the 80’s that was still present in South African communities by the time the unit was started. It also means that if you’re a goth, a metalhead, or anything alternative or outside the norm, or even a just a teenager going through normal teenage things, you’re a potential target of a state-sponsored witch hunt. The unit’s current leader is Attie Lamprecht, and in one article he went on and on about how he thinks Satanism leads young people to crime, and he describes all Satanists as being “walking time bombs”. Just goes to show the kind of people in charge of that unit. But perhaps the most glaring detail about the unit is that, according to an issue of Servamus magazine, in order to serve in the Occult Related Crimes Unit, you have to be believe in Jesus, and the rationale for this requirement is that “the main enemy of Satanism is Jesus Christ”. Not only does this prove the unit’s obsession with Satanism, it also shows a body of government operating on clearly religious prerogatives and enforcing those religious prerogatives through the long arm of the law.

As you might be expecting, there have been people in South Africa who have condemned the Occult Related Crimes Unit as inherently unfair, particularly the South African Pagan Rights Alliance who feel the unit’s mandate contradicts policing ethics based on both the law of evidence (cases of the supernatural not being a matter for courts of law) and religious diversity, and feel that their definition of “occult-related crimes” puts pagan practice in the same category as Satanism and black magick. SAPRA also supports a petition calling for the disbanding of the Occult Related Crimes Unit – you can actually sign too if you are interested in changing the fact that somewhere there is a police unit doing what America’s evangelical Christians wish America was doing. But so far, I don’t the hysteria going away yet, and I don’t see the Occult Related Crimes Unit going away yet, probably they’re still doing what they’re doing.

In my personal opinion, the moral panic being expressed by those who wish to protest metal music coming to South Africa is only a piece of the religious hysteria that clearly still exists in the country and is clearly being legitimized by their government. Seriously, when you have a police unit that actively deals with “occult-related crime” specifically targeting Satanism (or rather perceived Satanism), you are now legitimizing superstition, ignorance, intolerance, and moral panic – all of which could instead be vanquished through education.

You can’t pin everything negative on yourself

There’s an idea, or a mentality, that I have encountered that I find problematic. One that might be exemplified in quotes such as these:

“Never blame anyone in your life.

Good people give you happiness.

Bad people give you experience.

Worst people give you a lesson and

best people give you memories.”

Basically it’s New Age script, the same kind that says “just wait and things will happen at the perfect time”. I think the problem is that it potentially justifies people doing horrible things or generally being assholes to you on the basis that the universe is somehow trying to teach you a lesson. You may gain experience or learn a lesson or two, but that’s not to say somehow this was all meant to happen. Not only that, but it seems to me like it’s accidentally asserting that everything is ultimately your fault, which is at best a flawed assertion that can’t be taken seriously.

Another version of this is the idea that the idea that the negativity of other people is the negativity within us manifested somehow, and that our attitude affects the things that happen to us, which I just can’t take seriously. Almost all the negativity we feel is in reaction to the world, not because of our attitude towards it. If you saw people acting hostile or petty towards you for no good reason, let alone the majority of mankind, you’d react negatively towards the world too, wouldn’t you? And when something negative happens to you, it’s not necessarily your fault.

To be fair, it’s probably purely a motivational thing, meant to get you to get away from negative energy and conquer it. But on the other hand, it feels like the message is that you have to take responsibility for all circumstances, even the ones that aren’t your fault. Perhaps I’m being disingenuous, perhaps I’m missing something, but come on; a lot of the negativity we encounter is due to people generally mistreating other people without regard for how they feel about it or for how negative they make them feel. You can’t let yourself be a victim of it, but you can’t blame people for feeling victimized by it either. And one thing we sometimes have to accept is that, although the self is the primary agent of responsibility in our lives, there are some things that happen entirely outside our control or sphere of influence or just generally have nothing to do with us. I understand that we have to distance ourselves from negativity and negative people, and not let negativity devour us, which is sound advice, but we can’t just be positive all the time.

We are just as capable of feeling negative as we are of feeling positive, and perhaps there is no way to fully appreciate positive without negative, but at the same time we can’t only think positively and you can’t tolerate people creating negative energy for others when they don’t deserve it. If you want to feel negative, feel negative, just as long you don’t choke yourself with negative energy.

Mr. Robertson, what’s going on in your head?

It’s hard to think I’ve gone the entire lifespan of this blog so far and posting diatribes against Christianity and its conservative offshoots without even mentioning one of America’s favorite Christian bullshit artists: Pat Robertson. To be honest, I’m mildly amazed he’s even still alive, let alone still going on saying the damnedest things about liberals, gay people, non-Christians, non-white people, and likely everything else imaginable. He’s said so much shit over the years that I’m not even gonna bother writing it down on this blog and risk defiling this space with it. Just do a Google search of it, and I’m sure you’ll find it all. Trust me, he’s so looney that if you’re not too young to not take his statements seriously and convulse with horror, there’s a good chance you’ll laugh when you see it.

More recently (this week in fact), Pat told the friend of a mother grieving the death of her 3 year-old son that God allowed the child to die because he believed God could have stopped the next Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin. Aside from the general lunacy of that statement, it honestly raises a lot of theological questions that Pat Robertson has absolutely no interest in answering. For instance, if God killed this child or allowed him to die because he thought he would become the next Hitler, why didn’t he just kill the original Hitler when *he* was a child? Or, if God thought he was going to be the next Hitler, wouldn’t he stoop to killing the child before he was actually conceived, or preventing the pregnancy altogether? Not to mention, if God kills/allows one child to die because he thinks he’ll become the next Hitler, but doesn’t kill the original Hitler, then maybe you should consider that God didn’t account for the original Hitler, despite God’s supposed omniscience, and then you might wonder if God is really as all-knowing as his believers make him out to be.

To be honest, from this point onwards, Pat’s batshit lunacy is going to be less and less funny, even as we don’t take it seriously because we know he’s just a nut even in the eyes of many modern Christians (I mean, if you’re a Christian and you have a guy who claims most forms of Christianity, even Presbyterianism, as the spirit of the Antichrist while trumpeting the name of your faith, you just know to draw the line). I actually feel like all Christians (conservative or otherwise) would do well to stop and think about guys like Pat and think of how it’s guys like him and how prolific they that are a notable threat to their own faith by virtue of their batshit lunacy leading people to atheism. And I must wonder how many times people such as myself like Pat say crazy things and become news stories before you just start becoming disillusioned and think “this isn’t really news”, and that all these stories just distract from real issues affecting the world right now.

Pat Robertson, like many Christian evangelists, are among the last relics of the attitudes of the medieval European Christians and those of the American public during the 1950’s in the outset of the Cold War and the age of atomic power. They continue to dupe the gullible while stoking the flames of the sensitivities of everyone who hasn’t been stuck in the past. The more airtime we give them, the longer they will continue to influence the dumb and serve as a cruel joke for everyone else. And the dumb shit they say will continue to be used as talking points by straw liberals/progressives against the other side and contribute to the piss-poor state of rational and reasonable political discourse in the Western world.

Fuck off Scientology!

I honestly thought it’d be forever since I even heard of the Church of Scientology, that there was basically nothing more to say about them since 2012. Yet in recent weeks I find what is tantamount to Church of Scientology propaganda taking up commercial airtime. They talk of a world filled with illicit drug usage, homicide, and human rights violations, and they somehow, somehow, feel they are the world’s only hope for redemption and cooperation. I can honesty opine, no, declare that these guys are not interested in humanity. They are only interested in their own greed.

Think about it, this is the religion that is constantly hungry for your money to the point they they SELL your salvation. They ask that the Church member pay sums of money for sessions to have “engrams” (supposedly nasty spirits) removed from them, and always find ways of extracting large fees from its member. This is a church so paranoid and demented that it feels the need to attack anything that criticizes it, either by whining and launches commercial attacks on their critics or through silencing critics through litigation. They’ve also sued the IRS once for refusing to grant tax-exempt status to the church. This is a religion that is just as homophobic as the Christian church, denouncing homosexuals as “sexual perverts” based on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard who himself advocated the institutionalization of people he described as such. This is a church that punishes all members who fall out of line with re-education camps and even violence and torture. Frankly, this is a church that does things the Christian Church can only dream of getting away with in the modern age! Or any mainstream religion for that matter. There was even a documentary film made about the Church of Scientology this year, titled ‘Going Clear’, that proved to be critical of the Church, and they went out of their way to demonize the makers of the film, referring to them as violent criminals or psychopaths for daring to speak against them.

With that in mind, why would anyone listen to the empty promises of just another cult? What do you possibly hope to gain by joining up with them?

The Church of Scientology appears to have not changed at all despite how they’ve been shown to be the villains that they are. They continue to seek only the sustenance of their putrid establishment, and they continue to demonize their critics and to pursue their silence. Can you imagine a religion like Scientology gaining the same establishment that the Christian faith once had? It would be a Dark Ages of modern times, with the same kind of cult enslaving the masses and Inquisitions happening all over again to silence all criticism. So to hell with Scientology! Mankind has no need for another empty filth-ridden cult like Scientology, any more than it needs Christianity or Islam, for its salvation, and that’s the truth.

Boredom with conspiracy theories

In the past I have sometimes talked about conspiracy theories involving Satan, devil worship, the occult, and pagan gods, and made artwork that flirted with some of the ideas presented in those conspiracy theories. At those times, I thought they were fun, even though I did not believe in them. I even played with conspiracy theories on various levels. What was I thinking?

I feel fed up with conspiracy theory, becasue not only are those conspiracy theories mere showcase the ignorance and utterly closed minds of fundamentalist Christians, but the fact that this is the case eventually shows, especially if you question the whole point. For the average Bible-worshipping fundamentalist Christian conspiracy theorist, everything that is not Jesus Christ and/or is outside his/her particular brand of Christian belief is actually affiliated with Satan, or part of some Illuminati/Masonic/NWO conspiracy (the latter kinda moot when you consider that often this very conspiracy is believed to be Satan’s plan for the earth). And often times, even more absurdly, they accuse the symbols, myths, and holidays closely tied to their own religion as originating entirely from some ancient monolithic “pagan” religion bent on world domination, probably as per Satan’s will. Some of them believe that there was an ancient monolithic religion devoted to the worship of Nimrod (a king of Shinar depicted in the Bible) and Semiramis (an Assyrian queen), and that Nimrod and Semiramis are the sources of the gods and goddess respectively, which is all just laughable at best.

Like this shit right here. How fucking spurious can you get.

And the problem with all this is that it gives a really bad image of everything pagan, occult, and satanic because, if you really believe that stuff or even fiddle with it, it partially derides from the gods, the symbols, belief system, and even knowledge of such things for what they really are, and when you get a better and more mature, informed, or at least refined understanding of those things then all this conspiracy shit starts to crumble.

And speaking of the occult and the satanic, I forgot to mention about demons supposedly being in everything. It’s not just neoclassical symbols that dot Washington DC that supposedly contain the power of occult forces, it’s fucking everything according to these people! Pokemon (among other video games), Santa Claus, Coca Cola (for Muslim extremists anyway), energy drinks, Disney, every popular musician and their music videos, the Super Bowl, sign language, even saccharine cartoons intended for little girls. Every innocuous thing imaginable, based on nothing more than the crazed and distorted imaginations of some people and their utterly closed beliefs, themselves pathetic excuses for religious beliefs to begin with.

The fact is, it’s all from the point of view of not just Christianity, but some even more twisted and paranoid version of Christianity, more times than not designed to suit some delusions and/or extreme agendas to deceive and/or divide ordinary people. And if it has any influence, that is worrisome. But for the mind that is open, perhaps mature and refined too, then these ideas will eventually become worthless, and hopefully that will lead to a correction, an ability to understand the symbols, gods, and belief systems of the world for what they are, not to mention Satan and paganism. And if that leads to either acceptance or rejection of any of those things, it doesn’t matter, so long as whatever you do is based on a better understanding of things, and your true connection or relation to things.

Afterlives of the rich and famous and other crap

I recently visited a local Waterstones, just to see what they had that I might like, and unfortunately I chanced upon the books on the “Mind and Body” section to find a book titled Afterlives of the Rich and Famous. My first reaction was “What?”, and my second reaction was to discover that it was by Sylvia Browne, you know that self-professed con artist psychic with a criminal record, and my third reaction was something along the lines of “for crying out loud”.

No really, it’s actually still quite a sight to see these books get sold no matter how much tepid bullshit they are. It’s the same kind of dreg that appeals to the audience of middle-aged to old-aged people who’ve apparently become dull enough to be interested and too dull to find their own path. And speaking of that audience, that’s all the spirituality books and such in Waterstones seem to appael where I’m from. The books and the subject offer no exciting spiritualities and offer only the housewife spirituality forged by shills and believed by worse sheep than the kind who fall for the average mainstream religion. And outside book stores like Waterstones, you have whole market stalls dedicated to selling you spiritual items from all the soft household brand of spirituality (and I’m not talking about the ethnic shop I go to). You know, Buddha statues, soft light pagan stuff, chakra stuff, and fairy art.

How come all the spiritual stuff I find outside the net is astrology, psychics, domestic spirituality, fairy junk, and angel cards? I never find any wild spiritualities, no fire, nothing representing the other side, nothing that offers any glimpse of the old ways so that I can learn them. It seems stupid to complain about, particularly since I can feasibly search for all the things I might like on the Internet, but outside the Internet there is very poor diversity in representation of spiritual ideas and that’s my complaint. Only the mainstream beliefs and ideas are represented, only mainstream ideas sell, and the culture of where I live is the poorer for it, especially if the alternative can only be found on the Internet where it can be represented by anyone (and don’t think it’s not likely some idiot will run into another idiot to get their opinions, because it does happen on the Internet).