“Evil” faiths, devil worship, and Mark Boykin

Let me tell you of a recent story of that bugs me probably more than it should but I feel like it just brings out ire in me.

From what I understand, a conservative Christian pastor named Mark D. Boykin, from a church called the Church of All Nations, is mad that the Lake Worth City Commission in Florida allowed opening prayers to other deities and that it is now considering allowing a Satanist, named Chaz Stevens, to give an invocation at the Lake Worth council meeting. He’s also incensed that one Preston Smith delivered an atheist “prayer” as an invocation at the Lake Worth that apparently invoked many deities, including Mother Earth, Allah, and Satan. Boykin believes that people like Preston Smith are using the First Amendment of the US Constitution to make a mockery of religion, and he also believes that the First Amendment only applies to “traditional” and “accepted” religions like Christianity (read: the only religion he probably defines as either) and not “malevolent and evil faiths” (like what he believes Satanism to be, or probably every other religion for that matter).

Pictured: Mark D Boykin

People like him are what’s wrong with Christianity in America. It’s not even that they ignore the Constitution of their own country; it’s that they twist and distort the statements of the Constitution to suit their own agenda in complete ignorance of the simple meaning of its statements, particularly the First Amendment.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The meaning of the above statement should be obvious to all. It means freedom of religion, worship, speech, and expression for all groups and all people, regardless of color or creed. Unfortunately, people like Boykin do not understand this, and probably never have understood, and doggedly believe in their putrid vision of one nation under Jehovah. The only religious freedom these types care about is the freedom of Christians to practice their religion, they don’t care about any other religion when they talk about freedom of religion. It doesn’t matter if you worship a deity of light, a deity of darkness, multiple deities, or none at all. Freedom of religion and worship means everyone has freedom to believe as they wish, but not to coerce others into following yours.

This is the America those conservative Christians want to see, only it’s not just children joining in forced prayer.

Also, like pretty much everyone who is truly ignorant (not just Christians), Boykins is one of those people who believes not only that Satanism and “devil worship” (which he describes as “one of those things we can’t talk about because they are so malevolent and evil”) are strictly interchangeable and the same thing, but also describes Satanism as “the spirit of Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, [and] the Columbine murders”, without any obvious knowledge about the tenets of Satanism. Satanism is about “evil” and it is not an evil “faith” that endorses killing, rape, and disorder for its own sake, nor does it necessarily demand the worship of any devil.

The tenets of Satanism simply espouse spiritual individualism, that humanity either is his/her own god or that each human can become one, that mankind is not a fallen or evil creature that must bow before someone else’s deity posing as God, and that it is OK and spiritually valid to explore one’s carnal self and to engage in indulgence (without unnecessary harm to others of course). Those are the basic tenets common to almost all forms of Satanism, but there are many iterations of the ideals of Satanism that take different forms. And some Satanists do worship Satan, or a figure along those lines, but not as the king of evil but as a spiritual liberator or a deity, though many Satanists simply revere Satan as a literary or symbolic figure who represents the ideals of freedom.

Satan as depicted in an engraving by Gustave Dore.

Like I said before, what’s going on here probably bugs me more than it should, given Boykin’s worthless tirade is just another conservative Christian hot air venting. But still it bugs me how Boykin’s kind of ignorance rears its head to give me the disgust that it does.

The Pledge of Allegiance

If there’s one aspect of American society that seems very culturally pervasive is The Pledge of Allegiance. On the one hand it provides a sense of taking an oath, which is rather powerful and usually meaningful. On the other hand, the Pledge has proven to be a rather authoritarian feature. Why would a free country have children in schools recite the Pledge all in unison and conformity? Unless it’s a matter of private schools having children do this as part of their own rules.

Nonetheless, I think children should not be made to recite the Pledge in schools like they’re living in North Korea. If a Pledge we must have, then I think it should be treated the way a sacred oath should be, and reserved as a rite of passage into adulthood or citizenhood, or just citizenship at the least. Or, you could have it as an oath to be taken by congressmen/women or politicians as part of their entry into public service in the government, and also to be recited by newly inaugurated presidents (even if it’s their second term). Obviously, however, private clubs would still be free to mandate it for their members in any way they choose.

While we’re there, let’s take “Under God” out of the Pledge. It’s a direct contradiction of the separation of church and state America was founded on, and only serves to enforce childhood religious indoctrination. Shown below is the pledge as it was before the 1950’s, when “Under God” was first added to the pledge as part of the whole Red Scare.

If we’re going to have a common Pledge, we should at least restore the secular Pledge so as to reinforce the separation of church and state and save future generations of children from being forced to take a Christian oath.

What is freedom?

At the art college I attend, I have a new brief where I have to deal with the concept of freedom. Seems easy enough for me, since I have an idea of freedom. But when we gathered yesterday morning and were asked our idea of freedom, I kinda felt like that idea was under attack and thus becoming more confused. Have I ever defined freedom on this blog? Either way, it’s time for me to sure up my conviction.

Freedom, or liberty if that works better, is the condition of not being controlled or oppressed by the government, or any other overarching entity that can manipulate you (because sometimes it’s not just the government who can oppress you; spare a thought for those who erode our freedoms using the power of money). It is the condition in which you can say what you want while having that speech oppressed by no one, not even the public. It is the condition of being able to express yourself as you see fit, believe whatever you want, and think how you please. It is the condition of being able life your life for yourself, and in any way you choose (provided you have the means). It is the condition to pursue pleasure, joy, and happiness without oppression. It is freedom from banality and from being forced to live with mediocrity. It is freedom of sexual expression, to explore sexuality in anyway you wish without being oppressed by the ignorance and traditions of the prudes (you know, as in sexual repression). It is the condition of having the power to forge your own path and make your own road to walk. Freedom is power.

But freedom and liberty also carries responsbility for your actions. You see, if there is no one to control you, then it is now YOU who must be accountable for your actions, and you are the sole person responsible for protecting your freedom. Some might even argue that freedom or free will is essential to morality, probably based on the idea that one can only make moral or immoral choices if he is free to choose them. Anyways, if your liberty is threatened, you must oppose whoever, or whatever, dares threaten it. You must prepared to refuse, reject, resist anything that threatens your freedom, be prepared sacrifice whatever is necessary or can be sacrificed in the name of freedom. And don’t forget to protect your freedom, for it is something that can always be broken by evil individuals who seek authority or to take advantage of the weak and the ignorant. This most often requires independence, strong will, and some self-reliance. Be warned, apathy shown towards your freedom and your power will lead you only to slavery and oppression, for the apathetic are the easiest to control.

There’s a kind of freedom we had as children: the freedom to enjoy life. That classic joie de vivre in our minds that gets killed when we become adults, because we become trained up as hamsters for the machine, and eventually, most of us surrender to the pressure to conform and be a slave, and the desire to enjoy life is replaced by the fear of debt. Hell, how can anyone call any society free if you’re afraid to tell your boss to fuck off? But who now will speak for that freedom? The freedom of joie de vivre? The freedom to enjoy life?

I should take care to mention that I do not care much about systems, and am more concerned about freedom, mainly because every time I try to create or find a system supposedly designed around freedom, I run into problems. Besides, what’s the point of sacrificing freedom in the name of system supposedly designed around it?

And that’s what freedom means to me: the great sacred value equalled only by justice, that is to be cherished as such, like a sacred flame.

Let no one tread on you.

Christianity compromises American ideals

That cross and the flag don’t go together.

What are American ideals, you might ask? From what I understand, they are individualism, self-reliance, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and, perhaps most important for this post, freedom of religion and to worship or believe anything you want. What about Christian values? Why, those would consist of the doctrine of repentance, subservience to God and his commandments, “embracing Jesus” on pain of eternal damnation, faith, most often blind faith, and conformity to Christian/Biblical religious doctrine, which includes worshipping only one God (Yahweh/Jehovah).

From there it’s clear that Christianity couldn’t have less to do with freedom, or American ideals for that matter, and yet it’s the biggest religion in America. Hell, they even get unearned cultural capital, otherwise known as privilege, which serves as an excuse for non-Christians to be persecuted in whatever manner they could still get away with.

And doesn’t it seem ironic? America’s whole origin story is about people who didn’t want to acquiesce to the state religion of England or to the crown, and set sail to the New World to practice their religion freely. And when England tried to oppress them again, they got their asses kicked! And when America was born, the constitution practically guaranteed freedom of religion to this day. So it seems ironic that freedom of religion and separation of church and state are allowed to be impeded by Christianity, to the fact that much of America’s political officials are Christian, and the President is made to take a religious oath, with religious and right-wing watchdogs keeping an eye on the religious status quo, making sure their imaginary Christian nation stays pure.

It’s also really ironic that Republicans and conservatives identify themselves as Christian, while supporting unregulated capitalism, defending billionaires (instead of standing up for the poor), are often depraved people behind closed doors, and some, like Paul Ryan, actually support Ayn Rand. I’m not mad that they support unregulated capitalism and Ayn Rand, I’m mad that they do it while still calling themselves Christian.

I’m looking you, Donald Trump.

All of this begs the question: why does America readily accept a religion and religious ideology that is contradictory to its own values?