Being in love a few years ago and then out of love since last year has done some really weird things to how I relate to egoism. But reading Stirner’s Critics turns out to be a good way to make sense of it. When I fell in love, and keep in mind that back then it was probably the first time in years since I felt like that about someone, it was like I was ready to live my life for another person for the first time, and only her. But is that not because I felt like I was alive through her? Or is it not that there’s a certain forgetting involved?
Max Stirner, writing in third person in Stirner’s Critics, talks about egoistic love in response to the likes of Ludwig Feuerbach, a certain “Szeliga” (possibly Franz von Zychlinski), and Moses Hess. Their contention is that the egoist cannot really have love, that the egoist cannot have a “sweetheart”, that the egoist man is destined only to marry a rich woman who then bickers at him constantly, that the egoist is nothing but a “human-beast”. They rally around “unselfish love”, which they take to mean a sort of self-sacrifice towards some higher purpose, in opposition to the mere satisfaction of the organ. The part about Stirner’s response that stuck out for me is the discussion of self-forgetting in relation to love. He pointed out that Feuerbach still lived in a world that was essentially his own, just as we all really do in the sense not only of egoism being mutual to us all but also that this world is really “our” world because of it. The world here is basically what you are not, but it is in a relationship with you and then belongs to you, and you, the unique, are unique together with “your property”. But it doesn’t escape you that this “property” is still also its own as much as you are, it has its own existence just like you do.
The real deal for me was the point about self-forgetfulness. You forget yourself in sweet self-forgetting in your relationships. But do you disappear as a result of that? No. You just stop thinking of yourself. People forget about themselves in the moment of looking into another person’s eyes, or looking up to the stars, or even looking at tiny animals under a microscope, and in fact everyone seems to forget themselves all the time, often thousands of times in an hour. But do you only exist just because you think about yourself all the time? That’s absurd. Of course you’re still here. You’re just thinking about something else while you’re here! But forgetting about yourself, “losing” yourself in a moment and coming back, is one of the ways that individuals enjoy themselves. It’s part of why people get intoxicated in various ways. That’s the pleasure we take in our world. But it’s not this in itself that dupes us. The ignorance that leads to the illusion of “unselfishness” comes from forgetting that the world is “our” world. What Stirner calls “duped egoism” is what happens when we throw ourselves at the mercy of an alienated world (or what Stirner calls the “absolute” world) that we take as a “higher” world outside ourselves and waste our self-consciousness as a result. We thus fall into self-denial while idealising a world outside ourselves.
You know, that can happen as you forget about yourself, at least for long enough. Or at least it can happen when you forget about the fact that it’s you who is enjoying, you who is coming alive, you who “owns” around you, and so does everyone else. You stop thinking about yourself once in a while, more often than you might think, and sometimes you actively set out to do so for your own self-enjoyment. But what if you forget the fact that you’re forgetting yourself for your own pleasure? That’s what Stirner means when he says that the real problem is when we forget that the world is “ours”. It’s self-denial. And, convinced that we are not of ourselves or owning our world when we love others, convinced that we now draw our breath just so another person can feel us, we fall into ignorance and we dupe ourselves. And in the end it doesn’t help anyone when you forget yourself as the lover, that you’re the star in someone’s sky just as much as the other person might be in your own.
Egoism a deux is how the petty ideologues of history often imagine false love. In fact, you might notice that in describing that basic conceit I’ve stolen that term from Erich Fromm, who used it to refer well-oiled reciprocal relationships between people who remain basically strangers to each other, whereas “real” love meant “active concern for the life and growth of that which we love” – an abstracted unselfishness, which is also easily explainable through the fact of our own desire for that which we love. In fact, when Fromm said that real love only exists in a union based on respect for each other’s individual integrity, that’s actually fully understandable as egoistic union, since what that means is the keeping of each other’s Ownness in mutual recognition. Egoism a deux, then, is actually real love, and we just happen to forget the egoism in mutual love. But Society, judging from the way it tends to present love on almost the exact same terms as Feuerbach, Szeliga, Hess, indeed all Christians both religious and secular, has a vested interest in our amnesiac self-denial, because Society, at least insofar as we’ve set it apart from ourselves (a separation from which it derives its own conceptual life) is its own interest and its business is that we forget about our own interest so as to become part of Society’s absolute interest. You can read this in almost all discussions of egoism or individualism carried out by people who see it as a problem or something that needs to be “balanced” with “the interests of the collective”.
While we’re still here, talking about Stirner’s Critics, let me also extend some thoughts about religion that I derive from the distinction between “absolute”/”sacred”/”holy” interest and egoistic interest. This is important partly because, although Stirner can be counted as a critic of atheism, he often did talk about religion in ways that can be interpreted as anti-religious or anti-theistic. Still, I don’t think that you have to absorb such a perspective in order to appreciate egoism.
We can start by discussing what Stirner means by “absolute interest”, a.k.a. “sacred interest” or “holy interest”. “Absolute interest” is the interest that does not spring from the egoist and exerts itself outside and above yourself. It is a universal interest, because everyone is meant to be a vessel for it in some way. It is called “sacred interest”, fitting in that the one of the root words for sacred can mean “to set apart”, and in Stirner’s sense is set apart from your own interest. In the face of this “absolute” interest, your own individual interest is categorized against the absolute as “private interest”, and against the holy as “sin”. Many religions do function as absolute interests, as does a lot of conventional morality. But at the same time, when we observe conformity to abolsute interest as “religious behaviour”, this is pretty much a reflection of the terms of Christianity and its understanding of religion. Granted, you will find similar attitudes towards religion outside of Christianity. I think about “absolute interest”, what Stirner calls “holy” or “sacred” interest, and I am inclined to interpret it in terms of alienation. In literal terms that’s exactly what it is: it is an interest that does not spring from your own and, unless you can make it your own, it is thusly alienated from you.
But if a lot of religion presents itself and its conception of divinity as an alienated interest, does that really have to be how we approach religion as a whole? Remember: to devour the sacred is to make it your own. That is what pre-Christian pagan magicians did in the spells they devised so as to allow them to identify themselves with the gods. It’s also part of those same magicians identifying themselves with the places of power they saw in nature. The act of religious identification in this sense presents what I think is the way to look at it, in that it very much literally presents the making of divinity your own in the context of apotheosis. Admittedly this idea makes little sense to much of the world’s religions. But it makes quite a bit of sense for Paganism, and for Satanism, and it especially makes sense when we look at religion from a magickal perspective. But even if you don’t conceive it on those terms, what matters is the idea that religion can be pursued on the terms of a framework where it centers an unalienated divine interest that is at once acknowledged as individual or egoistic interest, even in the case of religions that would never expressly understand it as egoism. At heart, the problem of alienation is central to egoism, and the primary egoist answer to alienation, the main course of egoist de-alienation, is the act of devourment and ownership, to de-alienate interest by making alien interest your own, for egoism opposes no interest – not love, not communism, not even religion or at least if we’re not dealing with Christianity writ large – except for disinterestedness and the alienation of interest from Ownness.
So it is with love. And make it a lovers’ devourment, devour love as you “devour” your lovers’ body, and your lover “devours” you in turn. Let everyone possess one another out of longing for possession. Let everyone embark upon free love, where their longings may spread across as many people as desired. As long as no one may coerce and abuse each other, may longing, desire, egoistic love, all manifest themselves in universal liberty. For love is not the battlefield for some witless quest to “remake the human condition”. Because love is so of itself.
Some people reading this might have some idea who Peter Boghossian is. He’s an atheist philosopher, of the New Atheist school in particular, the kind of atheist who loves getting self-righteous about their beliefs in a way that outmatches even many religious moralists. He’s also a conservative ideologue, in fact he’s pretty notorious for submitting intentionally absurd hoax papers for the purpose of “debunking gender studies”, which his employer, Portland State University, determined to be a violation of its ethics guidelines concerning research on human subjects. Like other New Atheists, Peter Boghossian is enamored with ideas about opposing vague constructs called “wokeness”, which he believes to be a threat to liberal democracy. Often times you find that “wokeness” is a thing that people struggle to define. Personally, I really hate the term “woke” as a way of describing anything. It’s a vague term often meant to describe any political position you happen to despise. But on November 11th, Peter Boghossian posted on Twitter a spreadsheet detailing the characteristics of what he called “the woke religion”. Ironically enough, I think it also exposes his own inner “religious thinking” for lack of a better term, as well as the true content of the manufactured “war on wokeness” now peddled ruthlessly by the mainstream of politics. So, let’s take the opportunity to dissect it.
Apparently compiled by both Peter Boghossian and Michael Shellenberger, himself a self-described “eco-modernist” and noted conservative contrarian, the table is divided between seven vertical categories and ten horizontal categories. The categories of the vertical axis consist of “Racism”, “Climate Change”, “Trans” (as in trans people), “Crime”, “Mental Illness”, “Drugs”, and “Homelessness”, all of them seemingly pet issues for conservative culture warriors. To be honest, I’m surprised “Immigration” and “Islam” aren’t sections here, considering where this is going. The cateogries of the horizontal axis consist of “Original Sin”, “Guilty Devils”, “Myths”, “Sacred Victims”, “The Elect”, “Supernatural Beliefs”, “Taboo Facts”, “Taboo Speech”, “Purifying Rituals” and “Purifying Speech”. Some of these sound like song titles from a shitty glam rock album. But, more importantly, they sketch out what Boghossian seems to think a religion is, and how “wokeness” supposedly works. First there’s the “original sin” doctrine, or rather what we’re supposed to take as an expy to the original sin doctrine of Christianity, here meaning basically the idea of a crime or transgression taking place which is responsible for the current problems of the world. Then of course there’s the people who are responsible for it. Then you have “Myths”, which apparently are supposed to be a creation story, which will seem all the weirder when we analyze what these “myths” are. There are “Sacred Victims”, who continue to be affected by “Original Sin”, and there are the “Elect”, a chosen few gathered to right the wrongs of the world. The “religion” is equipped with a set of “supernatural beliefs”, here defined as “beliefs beyond scientific understanding or known laws of nature”, and, of course, has attendant categories of “forbidden speech”, which attacks the “religion”, as well as counteracting categories of “purifying speech”, which upholds the “religion” while alleviating guilt.
So, Boghossian’s construction of “the woke religion” is apparently a salvationist religion in which there are, judging by the table, multiple original sins that need to be redeemed by an enlightened Elect, supported by purportedly non-scientific beliefs, origin myths, purification rituals and speech, and, of course, the persecution of heretics. Boghossian here is trying to frame all of his critics and opponents as being religious fanatics, or just given over to religious thinking in general, and it’s very obvious that Boghossian’s idea of the nature of religion is informed almost entirely by Christianity. The whole concept is essentially a caricature of Christianity, the religion most defined partly by the concept of “original sin”, though unlike Christianity or any other religion it also involves the presence of an “Elect” to be set up to correct society, which actually sounds a little more like Plato’s Republic than Christianity or any religion. Then again, perhaps “the Elect” is meant to have the same meaning as “the Church”.
At this point I believe it’s worth bringing up that Boghossian’s understanding of religion is, like that of many other atheists, a very narrow understanding of religion, one that only really responds particularly to a generalized set of claims made by or about Christianity, as well as maybe Judaism and Islam. It is entirely inadequate when addressing the diverse reality of religion, both historical and present, or many claims made by non-Abrahamic religions. Ideas about original sin, the temptations of devils, spiritual elects, and the like are all absent in the polytheistic religions of the world, and in the historical context of the pre-Christian world, Christianity actually seems unique, perhaps even “eccentric”, in this regard. Hinduism has one God, expressed through many deities, and Hindu class society does affirm a sort of elite spiritual caste at the top, but there’s no original sin in Hinduism. Nor is there original sin in Buddhism, with suffering merely being a product of continuous arisings of craving and ignorance that don’t seem to have an obvious starting point; there is no descent from purity to impurity. Shinto does emphasize ritual purity, very strongly indeed, but it has no concept of original sin. Finally, the nature of the gods of polytheism seems distinct from the One True God imagined by the monotheist faiths and likely the same God that is the sole focus of atheist responses. They are powerful, but not omnipotent, nor omniscient, or even omnibenevolent, they do not deal in the sort of divine command that God is known for, and in some belief systems they are not even immortal.
With that out of the way, let’s examine what Boghossian and Shellenberger seem to think is the “woke religion” in terms of what its apparent beliefs are, and this is where things get truly bad.
One thing I should note right out of the gate is that Boghossian uses the term “supernatural beliefs” not to refer to any actual supernatural claims but instead to claims that very much pertain to worldly society, often with scientific support, but which he himself happens to disagree with. For example, one of the “supernatural beliefs” he lists is “humans are causing sixth mass extinction”. Putting aside the obvious problem that the scientific community seems to suggest that this is indeed happening, it beggars belief to suggest that this might be interpreted as a “supernatural” claim. Do mass extinctions happen only because of a God flashing a magic wand, or like lightning bursting out from another dimension? No, they are very much naturalistic phenomenon, and until today they were all caused solely by extant, uncontrollable natural phenomenon. Or how about “prisoners aren’t guilty, the system is”. Again, we might well ask questions about the system that makes sure that non-violent drug offenders, often African-Americans, spend years of their lives in prison, while allowing millionnaires who literally committed murder to avoid incarceration, but how in the world are we to take that as a “supernatural” claim, or even a particularly extraordinary one? I also fail to see how decriminalization as a means to prevent addiction and overdoses qualifies as a “supernatural” claim. These are just a handful of examples of Boghossian’s absurd labelling of whatever claim he dislikes as “supernatural”.
The “Racism” section of the table begins in predictable fashion. Slavery, referring mainly to the Atlantic slave trade, is the “original sin”, the machinations of mercantile slavery here are somehow given a cosmic status that perhaps was never afforded to it by actual anti-racists, and white people and the police are the “guilty devils”, the implication being that Boghossian assumes that white people are assumed to never be capable of being allies in the struggle against racism or of dismantling racial hierarchy. The “Myths” section is ostensibly supposed to refer to “creation myths”, but contains nothing of the sort. Instead it contains strawmen such as “Asian success is due to Asians participating in white supremacy” and “structural racism is the cause of all racial inequality and the only explanation possible for disparate outcomes by racial group”. The “Sacred Victims” are of course non-white and indigenous people, and the “Elect” meant to save them are Black Lives Matters, critical race theorists, and basically a selection of anti-racist intellectuals that he doesn’t like (not that I’m a fan of Ta-Nehisi Coates or Robin DiAngelo either, just so we’re clear). Black Lives Matter here is supposed to be taken as a kind of elite movement, an appendage of the establishment meant to scold white people, when in reality they seem to repeatedly criticize mainstream Democratic politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, and have more recently earned the ire of the establishment for their declared solidarity with Cuba against US imperialism. The “supernatural beliefs” section here is just a joke. It consists almost entirely of strawmen, and the otherwise not incorrect claim that racism is as bad as ever. The “taboo facts” section would imply “things forbidden to say”, but claiming that racism is declining and that interracial marriages are broadly accepted is not the edgy, rebellious, or controversial statement that Boghossian thinks it is. If anything it just shows he understands very little of the subject, as is demonstrated by his claim that racism can simply be wished away through a single legislative act (surely “magical thinking” if I ever saw it) and that “black wealth” supposedly rising is somehow proof that African-Americans do not experience systematic incarcertation and brutalization. “Purifying rituals” here seems to mean essentially any policy intended to address racial inequality that isn’t the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as more performative measures that don’t actually address it, while “purifying speech” seems to include obscure phrases no one uses as well the concept of intersectionality itself. All in all a truly baffling mixture.
I kind of stress the implications of Boghossian’s apparent beliefs on racism. Based on what we’re looking at here, Boghossian might be a racist. He opposes the idea of any structural barriers explaining the prevalence of racism and the negative outcomes of black people, and it is my suspicion that when he hints at “other possible explanations for disparate outcomes by racial group”, he’s trying to hint at something more essential, like IQ, genes, or phenotypes. And if he isn’t, he will likely assert that the problem is cultural, that African-Americans partake in a culture of violence and the glorification thereof, while of course conveniently ignoring similar cultures among white men or even the very existence of “white trash”. Either Boghossian believes that black people are genetically predisposed to crime, or he simply believes that black people have a uniquely violent culture, and in either case, this clearly is racist, and so Boghossian has irrational racist beliefs. It’s also quizzical how he maintains the idea that rioting is inherently apolitical as a means to denounce it. What does he think the Rebecca Riots were? How does he think Stonewall fought for gay rights? In certain contexts, rioting can take on political significance as political actions. But of course even this is hardly relevant since he’s clearly referring to the 2020 “riots”, after it was found that 93% of the so-called “riots” were actually peaceful protests. You know, for someone who might claim to advance evidence-based beliefs over faith-based ones, Peter Boghossian certainly doesn’t seem interested in any evidence that might contradict his racist faith. I suppose this is the first proof that not believing in a god of any kind doesn’t actually make you any better at evidence-based critical thinking.
The “Climate Change” section is no better. In fact, it’s one of the clearest proofs that Boghossian has no idea what he’s talking about when he tries to discuss science. Here the Industrial Revolution and fossil fuel use are “original sins”, and the “guilty devils” are climate deniers, the Koch Brothers (who often fund them), and huge multinational corporations. Yes, Boghossian and his friend are actually defending corporations through their implication as persecuted heretics, and yes, the implication of climate deniers as the same type of heretic shows their sympathies towards climate change denial. The “Myths” section comprises of entirely scientific and factual claims about climate change, the “Sacred Victims” section is essentially a way of belittling indigenous people who might have their lives completely destroyed by the worst effects of climate change, and “the Elect” consists of an absurd mixture featuring climate scientists, the United Nations, Greta Thunberg, Vandana Shiva, and the long-dead economist Thomas Malthus, never mind that Malthus tends to be despised by many progressive thinkers as a racist because of his ideas about overpopulation. The idea that man-made climate change will make humans as well as the majority of Earth’s lifeforms extinct is inexplicably dismissed as a “supernatural belief”, as is the study of tipping points and the idea that prosperity does not equal happiness. Nuclear power advocacy is somehow framed as “taboo”, when in reality it isn’t, as are certain talking points about renewable energy, which are in reality anything but fringe, while “taboo speech”, meant to imply true but heretical ideas, consists of a string of delusional nonsense and non-sequiturs. “Purifying rituals”, yet again, consist mostly of any attempt by state policy, society, or the individual to address climate change whatsoever, although I will say: “net zero” really is just a buzzword.
This section is also, in my opinion, a good glimpse into the inner religious thinking of the otherwise secular atheist Peter Boghossian. If, as the common atheist does, we define religious thinking as meaning faith-based beliefs, not based in evidence or critical thinking, then to be perfectly honest Peter Boghossian embodies this in spades, even in just this one topic. One example of “taboo speech” is “wealth is good”. Why? How much wealth? For whom? Evidently not for everyone. Wealth is apparently so good that most of the world isn’t allowed to have it, and instead it must be concentrated into the hands of an abject minority of the global population. This is a value judgement that is never questioned. By his terms, it is an assertion of faith over reason. The idea that fracking actually reduces carbon emissions flies squarely in the face of basic facts about fracking and the methane gas it releases. The idea that human civilization, in its current trajectory, can continue to exist, at least without a significant reduction of prosperity, is quite possibly the most faith-based position you can have on climate change. If you think that humans can keep consuming the earth’s finite resources ad infinitum, destroy the ecosystems that sustain life on earth, and continue perpetuating anthropogenic climate change, and not expect that civilization will collapse or be significantly imperiled, you have way too much faith in the status quo and its power to resolve our situation.
More scientific ignorance and arguably faith-based talking points comprise the “Trans” section, and this one sure is a doozy. The “original sin” here seems to be the reduction of gender to the traditional sexual binary, which is then conflated with gender, and the “guilty devils” who perpetuate it are TERFs, as well as people who oppose trans athletes competing in the games of that correspond to their gender identity as well as “mandatory use of pronouns”. I think we can tell who’s side Boghossian takes here. The two “Myths” listed are either a strawman (“trans women or trans men are identical to biological women or men”) or actually a proven fact (“Violence against trans people is on the rise, disproportionate, and due to being trans”). The “Sacred Victims” are of course trans and non-binary people and the “Elect” are essentially any individual or group advocating on their behalf. The idea that puberty blockers and gender affirmation surgery have any effect on your gender or your sex is dismissed as a “supernatural belief”, yet another abuse of the very concept, and the other claim is simply s strawman.
It’s when we get into his idea of “Taboo Facts/Speech” that the depths of this ignorance extend even further. He claims that social acceptance of trans people is increasing. This is despite the fact that more trans people are being killed each year, and there seems to be an entire media apparatus dedicated to defending transphobes and never facing any political challenge because of it. He claims that trans kids “often benefit from parental involvement”. The truth of that claim really depends on what he means by “parental involvement”. We have evidence to suggest that strongly supporting trans kids in how they want to live, just letting them be themselves while accepting their validity and not withholding parental love because of it, dramatically reduces the overall risk of suicide for trans people. If that’s what we mean by parental involvement, then yes, trans kids do overwhelmingly benefit. But I suspect that this is not what Boghossian means. It’s clear that he in fact despises trans people or sees being trans as a purely ideological construct rather than an age-old reality of the human species. In which case, parental involvement for him would mean that the parents of trans kids repeatedly deny the validity of their identities and raise them to deny themselves. There’s no evidence that trans kids benefit from it, and in fact we have evidence that this is actually more likely to lead to trans people committing suicide. And, of course, like any died-in-the-wool transphobe, he brings up “detransitioners” as a “forbidden” subject, the supposed heretical status of it being a way to delegitimize trans people as tyrants. Putting aside the fact that J K Rowling can be defended for using “detransitioning” to justify transphobia, if you actually cared about evidence, you’d learn that “detransitioners” consist of less than 1% of the trans community, who themselves are a group that already consists of around 1% of people, and if you actually cared about logic, you’d realize how stupid it is to ban people (including children) from having gender affirmation surgery or getting puberty blockers on the basis that the tiniest possible minority might want it banned, especially if you’re OK with children going through other body-altering surgeries if it means saving their lives. Once again, by Boghossian’s own standard, his claims about trans people are in fact “faith-based”, since they are not evidence-based and reject evidence-based conclusions.
Before we get into the next section, are you beginning to see the big picture so far? So far the “woke religion” seems to consist of anti-racism, or at least any anti-racism that does not accept the liberal-conservative faith that believes racism has already been resolved, the acknowledgement that man-made climate change is a real and tangible thing which threatens the continued existence of human civilization and life on Earth, and the basic scientific reality that trans people are real and valid as well as the basic moral position that you should accept them for who they are and let them be themselves. “Wokeness”, then, seems to just mean any vaguely progressive position you can take: or more accurately, it means any scientific or social reality that you dislike and thus have to rationalize as a totalitarian conspiracy.
In that spirit, let’s examine the “Crime” section, which shows his fundamental deference to authority. It’s very clearly his way of whining about people who acknowledge capitalism at the root of any social frustration that might culminate in criminal behaviour. The “Myths” here consist of the almost universally acknowledged fact that the American police force descended from slave patrols, and that large numbers of black people are slaughtered by the police. At his most shockingly out of touch, he also claims that black people killed by police officers are considered sacred. Yes, in Peter Boghossian’s fucked up mind, there are people in America who, when they see a black man pass them by, they will immediately prostrate themselves in worship. Again we see evidence of Boghossian’s possible racism, as to be completely honest it sounds like something a white supremacist might say. Another possibile indicator of this strand of racism is his claim that the “Elect” of the “woke religion” on crime consists of Black Lives Matter, progressive district attorneys, police abolitionists, and George Soros. I trust that I don’t need to explain what’s anti-semitic and white supremacist about blaming all social and racial unrest on one rich Jewish man.
In yet another abuse of the concept of a supernatural belief, he defines “Supernatural Beliefs” to include the idea that “Prisoner’s aren’t guilty, the system is”, which is just a strawman directed at anyone who thinks we should address structural inequality in order to resolve the problem of crime, as well as the idea that “Jails and prisons aren’t necessary”. The “Taboo Facts” include the dizzyingly mainstream and common belief that the police reduces crime, and that the “taboo against cooperation with police and prosecutors is a barrier to successfully prosecuting criminals”. That’s doing all the work isn’t it? What matters to Boghossian is not necessarily justice in itself, but rather just “prosecuting criminals”, which in itself could just mean arresting and incarcerating more people. You merely want a justice system that meets arrest quotas, not necessarily a justice system that resolves crime. He also blames anti-police protests for increasing criminal emboldenment through police pullback. Again I would point to the ACLED data for 93% of the George Floyd protests being peaceful as evidence to disprove his claim. And of course, he’s one of those people who still hasn’t figured out that nobody actually believes “all lives matter”.
I mean, think about it. Let’s go back to the logic that Boghossian would like to talk about. The only thing to understand about saying “all lives matter” is that it’s meant as a response to Black Lives Matter, on the grounds that Black Lives Matter is somehow an exclusionary statement on the value of human life in the abstract. “All lives matter” is thus, in theory, an axiomatic statement that every human life has the same value, defined in terms of a kind of individualistic egalitarianism. If that’s the case, then guess what? You don’t believe it, and in fact I’d even argue that nobody does. Or, if you/they do, then you/they certainly are willing to make a lot of exceptions to that rule. How many people who respond to Black Lives Matter and their supporters with “all lives matter” actually care the lives of people settling in camps and crossing the ocean to flee their countries of origin? Certainly not enough to oppose them being labelled “migrants” and either getting shot or interned by the state. Sticking to Boghossian, the lives of trans people, indigenous and non-white people, and, as we’ll see, the mentally ill and the homeless don’t seem to matter to him, at least since he is willing to disregard their needs for failing to conform to his moral ideology. And what about in a more everyday sense? Does the life of someone who invaded your home and either abducted or killed your family matter as much as the victims? Does the life of a dictator matter as much as the lives of his oppressed subjects who might be about to violently overthrow him? Our willingness to put up with countless imperialist wars might suggest that the lives of the people of the countries we invade don’t matter, no doubt because they are strangers and foreigners. And what if we extend that to non-human life forms? Clearly, our attitude towards climate change suggests that human comfort matters more than the survival of countless non-human life forms. And even older, perhaps more animistic cultures, clearly didn’t think all non-human lives were sacred enough to not devour them. And if you’re squishing flies, spiders, and ants to death for the high crime of being creepy crawlies, or defend industrial factory farming because it gives you the meat you eat, then yes, something tells me all lives don’t matter that much to you. I sincerely wish people would give up the pretence.
Moving on, we come to the “Mental Illness” section, which is certainly an unexpected endorsement of conformity from an atheist complaining about enforced conformity. The premise he establishes is that “the woke religion” believes that psychiatry and the Enlightenment are responsible for inventing mental illness as a way to control neuro-atypical people. Of course, the “Sacred Victims” are neuro-atypical people and non-conformists, already suggesting that he ridicules and hates anyone who doesn’t conform to society (except himself, of course), and the “Elect” meant to save them consists of “advocates of mentally ill” as well as a motley crew of intellectuals such as Michel Foucault, Thomas Szasz, and R. D. Lang. Never mind for a moment that Michel Foucault was just this year accused of raping young boys in Tunisia based in the testimony of people who immediately retracted or walked back their claims, and the media or parts thereof just uncritically parroted those claims as objective truth. So much for darling of the establishment. As opposed to the “supernatural beliefs” that mental illness is made up and that mentally ill people should self-medicate freely, he advances the supposed scientific truth that mentally ill people are disproportionately violent and that many mentally ill people need or claim to benefit from “involuntary treatment”. The part that does all the work is “involuntary treatment”. What kind of “involuntary treatment”? What does it involve? Considering that he views neuro-atypical people as “Sacred Victims”, an inherently derisive category, and believes the word neuro-atypical is itself a mere buzzword meant to signal virtue, I suspect that Boghossian would be fine with taking autistic people away to have electroshock treatment to control or “cure” their autism. Another case where all lives don’t matter to the guy who says all lives matter.
The ” Drugs” section is yet another instance where Boghossian’s attempts to define progressive and/or libertarian positions on drug policy as faith-based superstition fly directly in the face of empirical reality. He attempts to portray the idea of decriminalisation and legalization of drugs as vital to preventing addiction and overdose as a “supernatural belief”. Aside from the obvious abuse of the very term, what Boghossian won’t tell you is that it’s actually true. In 2001, Portugal decriminalised the personal possession and consumption all drugs; those found to have a supply, rather than being arrested, were expected to appear before a local commission about treatment, harm reduction, and support services. This was accompanied by a broad cultural shift in attitudes to drugs, and resulted in a dramatic decrease in drug addiction, substance abuse, and related deaths. This, keep in mind, was after decades rampant drug abuse and deaths from overdose. Portugal is thus a shining example of how rehabilitation over punishment is the more effective way to resolve the problem of drug abuse than the other way around, and to claim the contrary would, again by Boghossian’s own standards, be a faith-based claim, not an evidence-based claim.
It is also apparent that Boghossian blames George Soros for widespread proliferation of drugs, since he appears as one of the “Elect”, along with the Harm Reduction Coalition and the Drug Policy Alliance, set up on behalf of drug users, who are the “Sacred Victims”. Again Boghossian is perpetuating an anti-semitic conspiracy theory in which Jews are accused of spreading drugs everywhere, which white supremacists believe is an effort to weaken the white race. Yet more racism from Boghossian and his friend. Boghossian then claims as a “taboo fact” that liberalisation, decriminalisation, and normalisation of drug use increases drug addiction. The evidence points to the contrary, but that won’t matter because it contradicts Boghossian’s faith. Distributing clean needles and providing services for homeless drug addicts is dismissed as a “purifying ritual”. I suppose it’s purifying in at least one sense; namely making sure the needles are sterile so that you don’t get infected with something and die. Oh look, more lives that don’t matter to the guy who says all lives matter!
And in that spirit we come to the last section of the table: “Homelessness”. It seems to be yet another way of whining about people who think capitalism causes problems by dismissing it as an “original sin” doctrine. The idea that homelessness is caused by poverty and high rents is classed as a “Myth”. Again, any available evidence on the subject suggests that it’s not a “myth”, but that doesn’t matter, because Peter Boghossian just religiously despises homeless people. The idea that people live in tents and sidewalks because of poverty is dismissed as a “supernatural belief”, and it is misleadingly presented as something people might “decide” to do. You wouldn’t “decide” to live under a bridge if you had the choice, you only do it because you’ve lost everything and have nowhere else to go. Logic might tell you that, but for Boghossian, his faith, albeit a godless faith, overrides logic. This faith also seems to override the facts about homeless people experiencing more violence, since Boghossian dismisses this as a “supernatural belief”. Instead he asserts that homelessness is caused principally by addiction and mental illness despite all evidence to the contrary and claims that trauma and abuse have declined. He also argues that subsidized housing should be contingent on abstinence. While he might consider that to be “taboo speech”, his ideas are already mainstream policy: it’s called means testing. Unsurprisingly, free housing and any programs focusing on homelessness that aren’t punitive in nature are dismissed as “purifying rituals”.
By now we have a clear picture of what “the woke religion” looks like, and by extension what “wokeness” is. It seems to just be a collection of progressive policies and ideas that Boghossian and his friend don’t like, and in particular policies and ideas that seem to involve criticially addressing the current structures of power. To call something “woke”, then, is to attack it for daring to challenge existing laws, norms and power structures on the subject of race, crime, gender identity, drugs, homelessness, really any issue, or for more generally questioning the status of quo of “Western Civilization”. That, I think, is one of the other almost religious ideas found among some sectors of the New Atheist. The more palatable form of this embraced even by non-reactionary atheists is the cult of the Enlightenment. It all starts from this idea that we progressed from being backwards apes in the throngs of religious superstition to being people who conducted their lives and thoughts based on rationalistic logic and reason. The more self-aware atheist is usually prepared to acknowledge the fact that this all came with a bucketload of colonialism and attempts to justify racism through science and even philosophy, though I suspect many New Atheists will simply gloss that over. That’s because the Enlightenment, or its twin phantasm called “Western Civilization”, are both functionally a kind of sacred center, a sort of ground of being for the worldview they would prefer to be dominant. The ideas they oppose have but one thing in common: they challenge a set of ideas that have been crystallized as the social basis of “Western Civilization”, which are justified through what seems to be the rationalist’s version of what is otherwise the typically faith-based thinking they might claim to oppose, and so they amount to blasphemy. You might say it even counts as “taboo speech”, ironically enough. Instead of an unshakable faith in one God and the promise of eternal life in heaven, these people have an unshakable faith in the order and progress of “Western Civilization” and its culture (often in the sense of a particularly homogenous culture if you know what I mean), and will bitterly defend that faith against anyone who criticizes their beloved civilizational order.
Incidentally, it also turns out that Shellenberger and Boghossian got their concept of “the Elect” and many aspects of their “taxonomy of woke religion” project from John McWhorter, a conservative intellectual and the author of Woke Racism, who uses the term to refer to a class of progressive “neo-racists” and, well, perhaps anything else; seriously, McWhorter never adequately defines the term for himself. Shellenberger just summarizes it as “people self-appointed to crusade against evil”, which is meaningless. But apparently this junk philosophy can be endorsed by big-name skeptic atheists like Michael Shermer (who, by the way, is a sex pest) and fans of people like Sam Harris will simp for his work anyway, thus the New Atheist movement continues its reactionary drift.
This is the truth behind Boghossian’s and Shellenberger’s claims about “wokeist repression”. It’s all a big lie, a grift concocted by Boghossian to try and gain sympathy from idiots who might be inclined to believe his philosophy, and judging by the fact that Shellenberger endorsed him and became his friend after the fact, the grift seems to have worked. It’s nothing more than a pathetic manifestation of ressentiment that disguises rank failure, abject ignornace, and petty malice as common sense rationalism and skepticism, while framing the people opposing it as totalitarians, authoritarians, illiberals, what have you, which then justifies his own proposed actual authoritarian suppression of critics. But what’s really interesting and which I feel the need to stress more than anything is that his views, if we take them seriously, are fundamentally faith-based in the very sense Boghossian means when he condemns faith-based thinking. So much of what Boghosssian believes is proposed in direct contrast to evidential reality, and often seems to consist in what might otherwise be called “magical thinking”, or at least follows a similar logic. The way that the modern atheist movement, or at least certain sectors thereof, are defining themselves or have been defined by starkly reactionary tendencies, especially to the extent that they are supported by pseudo-science that presents itself as science, will never cease to fascinate me, between Peter Boghossian’s absurd attempts to frame everything he doesn’t like as a superstitious religion that must be purged and Lucien Greaves with basically everything he’s been doing up to this point. I’ve honestly been beginning to wonder what they’re even for over the last couple of months.
A little while ago I stumbled on a video by a YouTuber by the name of JustTheFacts, or more specifically a video he released titled “RELIGIOUS LARPERS ARE RUINING THE INTERNET AND HERE’S HOW”. From what I understand, JustTheFacts is what’s referred to on the internet as a “tradcath”, or “traditional Catholic”. These are highly conservative and often reactionary Catholics who want to “restore” a society governed by authoritarian ideas of morality under the auspices of the Catholic Church, and for the Catholic Church itself to go back to the way it was before the Second Vatican Council, which modernized liturgy by allowing Mass to be read in vernacular language among other things. Their reactionary nature also sometimes leads to them adopting a host bigoted positions, and they even have a reputation for anti-Semitism. Of course, I’m sure not all of that applies to JustTheFacts, who from what I’ve seen considers himself to be against fascism and racism, but a brief run-down what tradcaths are is worth getting into before we start.
Despite tradcaths being known for copious amounts of “larping” on the internet, JustTheFacts intends to accuse Pagans of being larpers who only abandon Christianity in favour of Paganism for political and aesthetic reasons as well as group identity instead of reason. Now granted he does criticize tradcaths for much of the same thing, but the central target appears to be Paganism and as I see it the whole point is just a slew of projections that easily apply to Christians. We’ll get into that as we go forward, but the necessary conceit that comes with this argument is that it is impossible for people to embrace a religion other than Christianity for rational, intellectual, philosophical, or really reason that doesn’t amount to some kind of show. The idea is that there can’t be any logical reasons for abandoning Christianity, and so it necessarily must be explained by certain desires such as for group identity, emotional fulfillment, and attention – because you know, it’s not like all religions have something to do with group identity and emotional fulfillment, right? That’s the thing about Christianity: sometimes, Christians like to pretend that everyone is irrationally religious except them, that they believe what they believe because of logic and reason above all and everyone else only believes what they believe for irrational, superstitious reasons or an assortment of psychological complexes that overpower rational thought.
JustTheFacts is not the only Christian conservative/traditionalist who likes to insist that every modern expression of Pagan spirituality and religiosity is inherently insincere. I remember seeing Jonathan Pageau talk about some self-proclaimed Druid he met and how supposedly this Druid “admitted” to him that his tradition was “all made-up” as though that was some kind of own for the Pagans. Christians, when they aren’t pearl-clutching over demonic threats to their faith, will take any reason they can get for Pagans to not be accepted as sincere in their faith, whereas they are far more willing to accept atheists for their sincerity for some reason.
Anyways, let’s get started with this video. He starts out by saying that he actually despises the term “Larp”, because it assumes that people always merely pretend to believe what they say they believe and this shuts down any conversation people have about each other’s beliefs. His contempt for the word “Larp” is such that he even bans the use of the word on his Discord server, which has some fairly interesting (to say the least) implications about his views on freedom of speech if I may say so. Despite this, he says that it’s important to call out people who “derive their beliefs not from reasoning but from group identity and contrarianism”, a tendency that he believes applies to most religious people on the internet today. What he might not tell you is that this includes the online Christians of the present. He claims that, while there are people that are that arrive at their beliefs based on reason, they are drowned out by people who base their beliefs on group identity and contrarianism, or more specifically for “political reasons” (we’ll get to that in a moment). Again, the same exact thing applies to Christians even if true, or for that matter especially to atheists who find themselves converting to Christianity after watching enough Jordan Peterson lectures about feminism and the Bible.
He frequently conveys his arguments through memetic imagery, a manner that definitely befits the medium, so it’s worth pointing out that the first time we see him represent Pagans in this way is through a Wojak (an ambiguous meme character originally meant to represent melancholy or regret) wearing a Nazi uniform and a shitty “Viking” helmet saying “Well, Christianity is Jewish” when asked what attracted him to Paganism, and then reacting with disdain to an atheist “soyjack” (variation of Wojak) saying “You’re an atheist too? Let’s talk about gay rights and socialism!”. Immediately the subject is engaged in bad faith. The first representation of Pagans we see in this video is a strawman built around the phenomenon of Folkist (or Volkisch) Paganism, which is a racist and exclusionary form of Paganism based around ethno-nationalist and often fascistic ideas about racial purity and bloodlines as a source of community with the gods. It’s an absurd, xenophobic idea that is rejected and resisted by the majority of the Pagan community, but this has not stopped non-Pagans from slandering Pagans as Nazis or fascists because of certain racists and bigots who, although ultimately a minority of the movement, are unfortunately prolific enough that we have to respond against their presence.
Anyways, to return to the supposed conversion to atheism for political reasons. Here’s a strange statement from him:
Since atheism is not a religion but a lack of a religion, it doesn’t validate any particular belief system and that’s not good for people that need to be 100% politics 100% of the time.
I find that many atheists do in fact validate some particular belief system over another. Namely, they validate secular humanism and dismiss almost everything else as superstition. In fact, I would think that the self-styled Catholic should already have some idea of that. Further, the implication of what he’s saying here is that atheism is inimical to politics, but while it is true that atheism in itself does not have a specific political ideology locked into it, it is simply not true that atheism gets in the way consistent politics. In fact, some of the “most political” people you will meet on the internet are atheists. And indeed, when you spend enough time being an atheist, you criticize evangelical Christians, but that means criticizing the political structures that give them power. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists have never actually gone away just because atheists “won the debate” on the internet late in the 2000s and then moved on to whining about feminism. They’re still in politics, many still control state governments and legislatures, the megachurches of course still exist, the Trump administration was full of them, and thanks to Trump the Supreme Court is filled with reactionary Christians that believe basically the same things as many televangelists at least when it comes to religious politics, and they might be in a position to overturn the rights that decades have been spent fighting for. The only thing that changed is that some atheists just stopped talking about them so they could re-enact Elevatorgate forever. And you know what? Most atheists still oppose all of that, which is rightfully so, which also means that, if anything, they’re incredibly political because you have to be in order to fight all of this bullshit.
Also, what’s a “normal pill”? And why are you supposed to take one? And why is resistance to it worthy of mockery?
JustTheFacts’ other representation of Paganism, introduced almost a minute into the ten minute-long video, is another Wojak variation, this time female, with short orange hair, glasses, holding a can of yerba mate tea, and wearing a collar that just says “Witch”. This no doubt is meant to represent the witchcraft subculture, which isn’t necessarily strictly Pagan. It exists within Paganism, does tend to overlap with neopaganism, and many modern withches align themselves with Paganism or neopaganism, but witchcraft in itself is not strictly Pagan, some witches in fact actually consider themselves Christian (I’ve covered this a year ago), and it is not a religion per se. In any case, the witch says that “we are the true opposition to Christianity”, and the Nazi Pagan says “Fool. Idiot. Degenerate.” to mock her. The impression is that there is a schism within Paganism over who is the most “anti-Christian”, which is yet another of many strawmen, since I have never seen the Pagan movement in real life operate this way.
Another strange and ignorant statement follows:
For the most part, it’s been the right wing that has departed atheism online, allowing leftists to make atheism all about them. But, it’s worth noting how some leftists have tried to create a religion from almost nothing. Most of this is contrarianism against Christianity, which is associated with the right in America, and what could possibly be more contrary to Christianity than witches.
The presumption is that leftists seek to “make atheism all about them”. What is meant by this? The impression is that atheism, heretofore an apolitical movement, was recently colonized by the left, who wanted to complete take over atheism and make 100% political, or something. The fact that many atheists throughout modern history have been some kind of leftist, and many leftists throughout modern history have been atheistic, seems to be lost on this guy. The idea that the left is trying to create a religion from nothing has no basis in reality, and is incoherent in the face of the claim that they are embracing Paganism en masse in lieu of atheism. Although, if this guy is anything like Jonathan Pageau he probably thinks nearly all of modern Paganism is just “made up” and therefore would constitute being “created out of nothing”, which only means there’s a certain “party line”, as it were, for Christian conservatives on Paganism.
Also, it may interest our resident Catholic to know that taboos against witchcraft are not the invention of Christianity or its Catholic branch. We find tablets from ancient Mesopotamia invoking the gods to banish the influences of witches, seen simply as malevolent magicians who could cast curses on people, in Greece magic was widespread but not exactly trusted (in fact, the philosophers often regarded magic, let alone witchcraft, as a fraud), and the Roman equivalent of withcraft was practiced on the fringes of Roman society, and on the fringes of the boundaries between religion and “non-religion”, and in any case was often treated as a form of superstition, which back then simply meant excessive or improper desire for knowledge. This may be because the realms of magic and witchcraft aren’t the kind of thing that are easily controlled by the cult of the state, and the ruling class, regardless of the era or religion, has the habit of despising what it cannot control. Because Christianity is ultimately a religion based on authority, divine authority albeit, this logic of state control remains embedded in its own taboos on witchcraft, although ironically the early Christians didn’t even take witchcraft seriously, let alone enough to start burning accused “witches” en masse, until the Middle Ages.
Continuing on the subject of witchcraft we get to his assessment of the role of feminism and, oh boy, is this guy stupid:
It also has the bonus effect of being against the patriarchy and women only, so people on Tumblr decided to “become witches”, as if there were any sort of witch canon or organization qualified to certify them as witches, and eventually the phenomenon spread to Reddit, resulting in WitchesVPatriarchy, a very fun subreddit to add to the pile thereof.
Witchcraft is not exclusive to women. I’m not sure how he got the idea that it was, seeing as he must have waded through a certain amount of witchy content on the internet, but it is simply not true that witchcraft consists exclusively of women. There are plenty of men who embrace the label of “witch”, rather than terms like “warlock” or “wizard” as might be expected in popular culture, and the term “witch” is actually considered to be a gender-neutral term. In fact, a surprising amount of the accused witches burned in the Middle Ages were men; although in many countries, such as Germany, most of the victims of the witch trials were women, in some countries, like Russia and Iceland, more men were persecuted for witchcraft than women were. It is not untrue, though, that there are still plenty of women who practice witchcraft, and the witch as an archetype is more strongly associated with femininity in popular culture, which is no doubt the cause of the confusion of our resident Catholic.
Gender in witchcraft is not the only basic aspect of witchcraft that JustTheFacts seems to be ignorant of. Because he is a Catholic, projects certain expectations upon all other religious movements, in this case the expecation of religious authenticity being contingent upon your faith being certified by some external authority or “canon”. Not every religion has a “canon” in the sense meant by Christians. In fact, a lot of pre-Christian traditions were built on oral cultures, meaning they didn’t have a written canon or any written texts, and tradition was something that was passed down through speech. The fact that they didn’t have “canon” in the Catholic Christian sense didn’t make them any less legitimately religious, and you don’t need “canon” to be a witch or a Pagan. JustTheFacts seems to assume that modern witchcraft as a movement was basically created by people on Tumblr, but there have been witches on the internet since long before Tumblr got off the ground, and there have been witches writing books about their craft for decades. There are still publishers that sell and distribute books on witchcraft, past and present. So on that basis, you can’t just dismiss witchcraft as some hip invention of Tumblr. All you’re doing is demonstrating your own ignorance.
Before we get to his next point, let’s address the next image sequence JustTheFacts shows, because it’s a point I really want to get into. There’s a Wojak on the left side addressing some witches, saying “so when was the last time you girls performed a sacrifice?”, and the witches respond saying “uh shit” and “are we supposed to do that?”. Being that witchcraft isn’t actually a religion, it makes no sense to assume that there be any actual normative expectations regarding the practice of sacrifice. As far as I can see, a lot of modern witches don’t practice animal sacrifice (which is the bare minimum of what JustTheFacts seems to be hinting at) and don’t expect other witches to do so, and they definitely don’t practice human sacrifice either. When it comes to sacrifice of any kind, it would probably be practiced in the context of Paganism, and even in that context the norms for sacrifice are not what they’ve been made out to be. In the ancient world, animal sacrifices were mostly reserved for festivals and some fairly specific cults. When it comes to what you might consider to be more “regular” sacrifices, the norm for that, in Greece at least, was actually vegetables. Many deities were given offerings of plants, flowers, grains and wine, not blood sacrifice. And while some pre-Christian cultures did practice blood sacrifice to some extent, in Greece and Rome human sacrifice was considered a grotesque superstition. In fact, there were some in the Greco-Roman world that argued that all sacrificial rituals served only to separate humans from the gods and argued for their abolition.
Meanwhile, if anything, Jesus Christ’s death in the context of Christianity is basically a human sacrifice performed by God to expiate the sin of mankind. The difference is that this human sacrifice is supposed to annul the need for all other sacrifices, since sin is forgiven and the door to Man’s salvation in eternity is opened. But of course, there’s also martyrdom to account for. Their lives are sacrifices to God, sacrifices made by their own hand, knowing their souls have a place in heaven in their sacrifice. The whole concept of burning heretics and witches at the stake is essentially human sacrifice in all but name. Sin was believed to invite the wrath of God, and witchcraft was seen as especially sinful, witches were believed to invite damnation into the community, while heretics would no doubt have been considered a threat to the faith of the community, the abandonment of which would incur God’s wrath. Ceremonially executing them, through burning or other means, would therefore be a means of expiating the sins of the community through sacrifical murder. Thus, Christianity, far from abolishing sacrifice, has always been a religion of sacrifice. In fact, there are apparently even animal sacrifices still practiced by Christians to this day in the village of Taybeh in Palestine, a Christian-majority village where lambs have been sacrificed since the days of Abraham himself and almost nobody there seems to have a problem with it.
In any case, the funny thing about JustTheFacts’ beliefs regarding witchcraft and paganism is that he doesn’t take too seriously the idea that the people who practice witchcraft “don’t really believe it”, but insofar as he’s prepared to grant that their beliefs are genuine, he is inclined only to admit it in terms of some kind of irony-poisoning (“we become what we pretend to be”) and, ultimately, as a surrender of reason to group identity. Because you know, Catholicism has surely never worked that way. Yes, to have any belief in either the efficacy or simple validity of magic is to completely surrender your individual reason to some group identity, whereas believing that Jesus literally raised from the dead and will come back again to fight the armies of evil is totally based on reason and not conditioned by the desire for acceptance within a group.
Seriously though, give me a fucking break with this shit! When I was a kid, I told my teachers and at least once my parents that I believed in Jesus solely on the basis that I thought I might be punished or face some negative consequence if I didn’t. And it’s not like that was natural instinct or anything, because the very first time my parents asked me to go to church (which I think was when I was around 9 years old) I said no, because, for reasons that I don’t really remember, I didn’t like the idea of going to church. I eventually did end up going to church as a kid, for a little while, but I never liked it very much, and at some point in my youth I did an amateur prayer to a Hawaiian goddess just because I liked her after reading about her in a book about volcanoes. And to be honest, I’m very convinced that I’m not really alone in that experience. How many kids, how many people, have found themselves in the Christian fold not because of their actual beliefs or reason but because of social pressure and the desire to fit in? How do you know that’s not most Christians, considering that a shit-ton of them don’t even understand the Bible they swear by? How many people have surrendered their reason and individuality to conform to the absurd rules, doctrines, and false promises of Christianity? That’s how it is with Christians, though. To attack alternative belief systems that might prove more appealling than their faith, Christians will not hesitate to project all of their failings onto other religions.
The idea that Paganism enforces belief through rigid groupthink is the apogee of the ignorant projection of Christians. The modern Pagan movement is incredibly pluralistic and there isn’t much in the way of “dogma” in the sense understood in the context of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and by that I mean the Pagan movement isn’t dominated by hegemonic thought-terminating catechisms in the way that the monotheistic religions are. In the ancient world, although the record for freedom isn’t comparable to the present, the religious landscape was a pluralistic one in the broad sense, and insofar as there definitely was religious conformity, it wasn’t necessarily because there was some kind of Pope of Paganism telling everyone what to think. Meanwhile, the entire premise of Christianity is that what you believe determines what happens to you when you die! That’s the whole reason that heresy and schisms are such a big deal in the Christian world, why entire sectarian wars have been fought, and why children are indoctrinated whenever possible. Faith in God and his son Jesus is the basic prequisite to being eligible for being saved by God and thus spared eternal damnation, and so what you believe matters if you want to preserve your immortal soul. This inevitably results in a dramatic emphasis on groupthink and intellectual conformity, especially as Christianity became more and more hierarchical and institutionalized over the course of its history. Meanwhile, the idea of a Pagan “community” is sometimes laughed off by Pagans on the grounds that there are too many differences between Pagans for something so binding to work. And yet, the Pagans all get along, they all get together, and they can talk in terms of a collective movement dedicated to the propagation of their faith.
Both Paganism and Christianity can be said to possess a “group identity” that shapes its members, and in fact, all religions can be said to have that. But some group identities are based on the idea that what you believe determines whether you live forever in heaven or die the second death, while other group identities just don’t work that way. This is not a difficult reality to make sense of, once you start to do so anyway. And talking about witches as people who surrendered their identity to some vague idea of what’s cool or aesthetic comes off as richly hypocritical, not just because he’s a tradcath and you can just as easily say people surrender their identities to the tradcath movement because of its aesthetics, but because the meme aesthetic he uses in his videos has consumed more identities on the internet than any spell of witchcraft ever will. I’m serious. I’ve made friends in some pretty scummy and contrarian corners of the internet and watched their whole personalities get dictated by memes to the point that that’s almost all they communicate in. How come that’s not such a surrender to groupthink but belief in witchcraft is? Especially when people tend to practice witchcraft without the broad ideas about religious community that are expected within Christianity? How is this not bullshit?
But in any case, JustTheFacts is not only convinced that people only believe in witchcraft because it’s cool, he also thinks neopagans are the same. He claims that most neopagans, or at least presumably contemporary neopagans, came from the neo-Nazi movement that was popular around 2013. This short-sighted and brazenly bigoted assessment would require JustTheFacts to ignore the complex history of online neopaganism prior to 2013. In reality, then as now, Nazi Pagans were only ever actually a minority within the neopagan movement as they are everywhere else, they have never represented the Pagan or neopagan communities as a whole, and all non-Folkist Pagans see them as racist assholes who abuse Pagan faith as a vehicle for their perverse, xenophobic romanticism and ethnonationalist politics, along with all the violence and genocidal terror that comes with all of that. But again, none of these facts matter to tradcaths like JustTheFacts, because they prefer an alternative history were it was Nazis who invented neopaganism as whole. To examine yet another quotation from the video:
Efforts to create a new European religion for post-Christianity have been going on since the 1800s and they’ve always been somewhat tangled between Norse paganism, Roman paganism, Hinduism and more. Back then, as now, intellectuals decided they didn’t like the principles of mercy, humility, and the meek inheriting the earth, preferring glorious conquest instead. They also didn’t like the Jews very much.
The first part of this requires us to ignore the existence of the so-called “Shelley circle”, which is to say a fairly notorious (in the eyes of 18th century bourgeois society) clique of radical liberal poets led by Percy Bysshe Shelley who all thought of themselves as some sort of pagan revivalists, seeking to revive at least what they thought was Paganism, drawing largely on what they saw in the Greco-Roman pre-Christian world. They were initially atheists, but became drawn to a kind of romantic neopaganism as an expression of a joyful, hedonistic religion guided by positive principles of natural law observable by reason, as opposed to what they saw as the misery and superstition of Christianity. Being radical liberals, close enough to whatever the mainstream left might have been at the time, they certainly harbored none of the fascistic ambitions that the Nazis had, and they weren’t all about “glorious conquest”, being more interested in free love among other things. They also weren’t anti-Semites, or at least Shelley himself wasn’t; in his works he portrays the Wandering Jew, traditionally reviled and cursed for mocking Jesus on the cross, as a heroic paragon of humble virtue who endures every curse God throws at him yet remains a kind man with an unwavering conviction.
The second part would have us thinking that it was only mercy, humility, and kindness that repelled anti-Christian intellectuals (although, in my personal opinion, “the meek shall inherit the earth” is if nothing else a big fat lie, and kind of a dangerous one too), as opposed to more philosophical concerns, most typically surrounding the nature or existence of God and the tendency of Christian societies to demand uncritical obedience to the faith. Friedrich Nietzsche, for his part, was not the anti-Semite that JustTheFacts may be trying to be imply he was. He was something of a reactionary, or at least did have reactionary leanings, at least judging by the fact that he hated the Paris Commune and disliked socialism, but he was not a fascist, was not an anti-Semite, and probably would have hated the fascists if he was alive to see them. It was only through his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, who unlike her brother actually was a right-wing volkisch nationalist and anti-Semite, that Friedrich and his philosophy became associated with fascism after she edited his works to conform to her own ideology. But if we’re going to talk about humility and pride, then for my part I do oppose the Christian concept of pride as a sin, and as a matter of fact I’ve talked about here it a few months ago. In short summary, the Christians were wrong to condemn pride in itself as a sin, and the Pagans were right to elevate pride alongside humility as co-existent virtues, and the Christians should just sit there and accept it.
Also, although neopagan projects are what most people in the 18th and 19th centuries knew about practicing Paganism in a contemporary setting, it’s not true that they were the only ones practicing Paganism. In the Balkans, people were apparently still worshipping Slavic gods and goddesses like Mokosh well into the 19th century. There are also some accounts of the god Dumuzid still being worshipped in Iraq well after Islam became the dominant religion. Even in the medieval era, we see accounts of a few people in Sweden still worshipping Odin, and being executed for it. Not to mention that after Christianity took over Rome it still had a difficult time converting the rest of Europe, with priests reporting their embarassing failures to convert Slavic and Norse Pagans. All the while, there were some people in the medieval Christian world, particularly in Byzantium, who privately longed for the restoration of the pre-Christian religion, and even one attempted revolution in Byzantium by Pagan revivalists, as well as another attempt by a still-Pagan peasantry to overthrow Christianity in Hungary in 1046. The fact is that Paganism never truly was stamped out of history, despite Christian assertions to the contrary. True, it was banished from polite society and almost forgotten, but it never did die, it was only forgotten and hidden, and the neopagans and other revivalists, whether through reinvention or reconstruction, served in historical context to rediscover and revitalize Paganism, returning it to the world, evidently proving to be a source of embarassment for the proselytes of “progress”.
Now we come to a question that again betrays JustTheFacts’ ignorance. He claims to admire neopagans, even after he had already established that they were all Nazis according to him, but he asks why they don’t just be atheists instead of Pagans. The answer, according to him, is that atheism was too strongly associated with liberal academics, which supposedly these neopagans didn’t want. The obvious problem with this argument is that there are plenty of liberal Pagans who, being liberals, would have no problem with “liberal academics” or whatever he’s trying to refer to. The imagery he chooses is a Wojak (or Soyjak) again saying “You’re an atheist too? Let’s talk about gay rights and socialism!”, and the Nazi Pagan Wojak which he uses to represent Paganism says “…No”. If he were at all familiar with the contemporary Pagan or neopagan scene, he’d know that this scenario is absurd. Most modern Pagans are not against gay rights, in fact they acknowledge the tendency of Pagan myths to feature queer characters who aren’t punished for being queer, and there are a lot of Pagans who will tell you that they’re for socialism, though there are also many who disagree. In fact, one of the earliest modern Druids is a Scottish man named George Watson McGregor Reid, who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was a socialist and union activist who eventually also advocated for anarcho-communism. The neo-Nazis did not “go off and make their own thing” after being sick of atheists. They already despised atheists, and their idea of what Paganism is comes from over a century of volkisch romanticism and ethno-nationalist ideology, which animated the rise of the original Nazis in Germany. But I suspect he won’t talk too much about that because some of the original volkisch ideologues were actually Christians and/or Christian occultists rather than Pagans.
So, as to the question of why they don’t just be atheists, it seems to me that the obvious answer to that question is that they simply don’t find the atheist position to be convincing, and believe in the gods or (in the case of less theistic Pagans) that the natural world is worthy of worship instead, and that they came to that conclusion on their own, in a society and culture that does not encourage Paganism. In other words, they just sincerely believe in what they believe. It really is that simple.
Now, about five minutes into the video, JustTheFacts turns his gaze towards tradcaths, regarding them as having failed to live up to the tenets of Catholicism or Christianity. For him this doesn’t actually mean “being liberal and accepting everything because it says in the Bible that you should be tolerant”, evidently a strawman concocted as a coping mechanism for how easily non-Christian leftists embarrass right-wing Christians for failing to adhere to Biblical teachings when it comes to immigration policy (see Matthew 25: 31-40 or Deuteronomy 10:19) or capitalism (see Acts 2:44). But while he insists on not referring to the practical political implications of following the Bible, he does rightly complain that modern Catholics don’t necessarily live up to “the spirit of benevolence and mercy” he attributes to Christian teaching, and it’s clear from the imagery that he’s referring to Nazi Catholics. Unfortunately for him, though, the Catholic Church has a record of assisting the Nazis in some capacity; the Pope of that time neither condemned the Nazis nor pled with Hitler to release captured Jews, the Church helped Nazis escape to South America, and the German Catholic Church openly admitted their complicity with the Nazis. So, sorry, but no dice.
The imagery he chooses is for one of his points is strange and paints an absurd picture: it’s a Wojak representing a conservative college professor saying “Today we will be learning from De Regno”, and an angry Wojak representing a left-wing student says “WHAT ABOUT DAS KAPITAL?”. I’m assuming this was in a class for theology or religious studies, so why would you ever see someone in a class about theology and religious studies complain that their professor doesn’t teach them Das Kapital? That just wouldn’t make sense, because nobody expects politics or economics to be taught in theology class, and I’ve never seen any examples of that ever happening.
In any case, here JustTheFacts attempts to explain the phenomenon of Nazi tradcaths, and let’s see how well he manages it:
Now, who are these people, exactly? Well, when some of the neo-Nazis went to paganism in order to be contrary to the Jews, some of them decided to be as contrary as possible to liberalism, and what better religion to be against liberalism than the Catholic Church, known for fighting liberalism since the French Revolution. They took a number of from Catholicism, namely the aesthetic and the hatred of Protestants, but they also brought a few things with them such as pride, wrath, and cold-hard cruelty. These people rejoice in the idea that others might be burning in hell, even though scripture explicitly tells them not to do that, they promote the idea that there is no saving their enemies and they should only ever kill them, even though scripture explicity tells them not to do that, and they exalt themselves instead of humbling themselves, even though scripture explicity tells them not to do that.
There are some pretty fair points about modern tradcaths here, I think we’ve all observed some of those and there are real tweets like the ones he showed, but there’s a few problems. He says that they brought “cold-hard cruelty” with them to Catholicism, as though the Catholic Church was never cruel at all. What do you think the Inquisition was? Or the mass human sacrifice that we call “witch burnings”? And how do you think the Catholic Church viewed the genocide of indigenous peoples in North and South America? What do you think they thought of the Catholic settlers torturing and slaughtering natives, systematically destroying their culture, and giving them plagues? Even Pope Francis could not refer to what happened in the Americas as conquest without saying “so-called”, and there are Catholics to this day that deny that there was genocide. And it’s not a thing of the past either: the Catholic Church is still responsible for the genocide of indigenous children in Canada and Catholics still try to deny that it was even genocide. It’s not like the Catholic Church wasn’t ever cruel before the Nazis or tradcaths showed up.
Also, the volkisch movement that inspired the Nazis was, in part at least, originated by Christians as well as non-Christian romantic mystics. Houston Stewart Chamberlain, one of the intellectuals most celebrated by the Nazis, was a Protestant Christian who thought that the Catholic Church was a Jewish conspiracy to destroy the “Aryan” race. Chamberlain also, like Hitler, believed that Jesus was an “Aryan” and could not have been Jewish. Chamberlain’s other major admirer, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was a Lutheran, but after World War 1 Wilhelm converted to Marcionism (an ancient and heretical dualist sect of Christianity). Wilhelm, just like Chamberlain, was also convinced that Jesus was an “Aryan” rather than a Jew. One of the fathers of Ariosophy, an esoteric belief system centered around the idea of some lost “Aryan” mysteries, was a man named Jorg Lanz-Liebenfels, an Austrain aristocrat and former monk who believed that Jesus was an Aryan who was to come and redeem the “Aryan” race after generations of interbreeding with “demonic” non-“Aryans”. You’ll notice a lot in the original volkisch movement that it tended to include people who sought to justify worshipping Jesus depsite him being notably non-“Aryan” by arguing that he was actually an “Aryan”. That doesn’t sound to me like something a Pagan would need to do, since Pagans don’t worship Jesus or support the idea that he was the son of God.
In any case, JustTheFacts goes on to round off the “character” of the tradcath he aims to describe, summarizing the archetype as a person who picks and chooses to create their own brand of Catholicism based on identifying against their enemies as much as possible as opposed to genuine belief. There is an extent to which this might be true, but it also ignores the fact that the opposition to liberalism itself derives from something other than contrarianism. If it’s pure contrarian contempt for liberalism that drives a person, then that contempt can spread in any number of directions, all filtered by any number of personal biases that already exist in your mind. The tradcath must be a tradcath because the tradcath centers tradition and authority in the abstract, even inasmuch as the tradcath may genuinely believe in Catholicism as the correct doctrine. So it is actually not because of pure contrarianism that motivates the choice to become a tradcath but instead the desire for authoritarian models of virtue to rule society, itself inspired by the fixation on hierarchical power.
And so we come to the end of the video, where we find witches, Nazi Pagans, and Nazi Catholics, side by side as though they’re equals, because they’re all exactly the same type of larper giving up their own minds to surrender to group identity. Again, as if that’s not the history of Christianity according to this gormless conservative moron. Although I must say, the big stink about tribes against tribes does sound perfectly liberal, since they’re biggest bellyachers when it comes to anyone having any sort of “group identity” and loudly asserting it, or at least in a way that bourgeois society deems offensive or degenerate. And then some spiel about how perhaps all of human history is larping, or something, but then ultimately those people don’t matter. Why even bother to make this video at that point?
So all in all I really don’t see any real substance to JustTheFacts’ argument. For one thing there’s not all that many facts involved, despite his namesake. Just keep an eye out for people who brand themselves as being almost neutral in that they’re solely interested in objective truth, but in reality are morons and liars who can’t get even remotely close to the truth and are only interested in their reactionary agenda. But the whole enterprise driven almost entirely by the idea that non-Christians are not what they say they are, do not believe what they say they believe, and cannot be doing anything except acting out a kind of deception towards themselves and others, pretending to be something they’re not. Who they really are is something that, for the Christian, is decided by the Christian, on the grounds that Christianity is just axiomatically the correct faith, as though hardwired into the human condition despite only existing for less than 2,000 years (in terms of how many years mankind, or even just civilization, has been on Earth, this is a blip). The one thing that such a worldview cannot admit is that people can sincerely believe in the worship of the gods or of nature on their own, that people can look at the progress of civilization from Paganism to Christianity and later secular atheism and decide that they prefer Paganism. Such sincerity seems to be beyond the comprehension of the Christian.
The article we’re about to respond to was originally posted on a website called Alt-Market way back in 2013, titled “Luciferianism: A Secular Look At A Destructive Globalist Belief System”, but seems to have been doing the rounds again in later years on right-wing libertarian websites. Etu Malku did a response to this article already on his blog back in 2013 as well, but I feel his response is rather lacking in content, and he had very little input beyond simple assertion. Other than that, I think it would be nice to do a few response articles on this blog on the subject of Luciferianism for once. So let’s get started.
Our author, by the name of Brandon Smith, begins this article with the conceit that he possesses as morbid fascination with the subject of evil. Well, I suppose I could be interpreted as bearing a similar fixation, but more on darkness as a generic meta-concept than “evil”, and such is one of the animating elements of my discourse of the chthonic and the demonic to a certain extent. He says that this is necessitated by the logic of the need to “understand the enemy”, likening himself to an exterminator dealing with cockroaches. Very flattering, I’m sure, to be thinking of yourself as slaughtering abject religious minorities/non-conformists.
Before any discussion of Luciferianism begins, Smith spends a good chunk of time discussing the concept of evil as a reality in general. Given that the title suggested a discussion specifically on Luciferianism, you can imagine the reader’s disappointment to find such wide gaping delay before the main subject is even brought forward. He is keen to establish that evil is in fact a concrete reality in the world, and that the establishment spends its days trying to convince the public of the opposite; that evil is nothing more than a matter of personal or received opinion. Examples of this establishment propaganda are not forthcoming. For his point about the existence of evil he does cite the work of Carl Gustav Jung, hinting his belief in continuous archetypes in the psyche as evidence for the existence of evil, and that the existence of the human conscience implies evidence of an intrinsic understanding of duality. His operating thesis is that evil, like beauty, is recorded in the psyche and therefore derives objective truth from being a quality of psychic expression.
Before we go any further, we need to note something about Jung, as someone who is myself quite the appreciator of his work from the perspective of spiritual philosophy, though, as you’ll see, not necessarily the man himself. For starters, Smith cites Jung’s concept of the shadow to refer to the evil aspects of the human psyche, but that is not strictly what the Jungian concept of the shadow entails. He also mention the “personal shadow” or “collective shadow”, which are not actual components of Jungian psychoanalysis and I suspect this is a confusion of the shadow with the unconscious, which are not necessarily the same concept. In Jungian lexicon, the shadow simply refers to the hidden or unconscious aspects of the psyche, which the ego or persona either represses or simply does not recognize. This can typically include repressed desires or impulses, some of which could be bad, but also more generally childish qualities, resentments, sometimes vital qualities that are forbidden by convention, really anything that the persona has to suppress in order to be a social agent, and all told, those things could either be good or bad or much in between. The shadow is “dark” at least to the extent that the persona, its inhibitor, is identified as “bright”, and even insofar as it is “dark”, it does not comprise only of evil tendencies, and in fact can consist of creative tendencies, realistic insights, or even what could be deemed “normal” instincts that the persona otherwise suppresses. Part of the goal of Jungian psychanalysis is the assimilation or integration of the shadow into the psyche, which involves a careful mediation between the ego and the unconscious content so that synthesis may be achieved. Although Smith has not yet actually mentioned Luciferians so far, I would not that we Luciferians also have a great admiration for Jung’s work, as it paves the way for recognizing some concept of darkness not as something to be destroyed but instead as the potential basis for some form of self-realization.
Smith also makes a point about Jung being attacked by the establishment because he presents something threatening to public conditioning. The fact that Jung as a figure and his works remain popular and influential to this day would suggest that, if the establishment set out to bury Jung and his work, they have failed spectularly. Although make no mistake, Jung does not enjoy as sterling a reputation in academia and modern psychology as he does in popular imagination and modern religion. Smith refers to various claims that Jung was a Nazi, and it is worth pointing out that, although Jung was not a Nazi, having worked for the Allies against the Axis during World War 2 and wrote in terms of horror about the Nazi regime with its replacement of the cross with the swastika on the back of mass atrocity, he also said some very strange things about the “Aryan” unconscious having “higher potential” than the Jewish one, and despite opposing Nazism he still seems to have reserved some modest praise for Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, the leader of the volkisch German Faith Movement. This does not mean one has to throw out all of Jung’s insights, not least because those of Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt are still accepted in broader philosophical discourse despite both of them literally having actually been members of the Nazi Party during World War 2, but it does invite a great deal of caution when dealing with Jung as a figure.
Moving on from that, let us consider Smith’s arguments and definitions pertaining to evil. How does Smith define evil? He defines it first and foremost as any action that seeks to destroy, exploit, and enslave in the name of personal gain or gratification, and as something that begins with the denial of the existence of conscience. For the former, there is little reason to object although whether or not the criteria is purely absolute is a matter worth discussing. For the latter, it seems Smith has declared that evil is a matter of holding a different epistemic opinion from himself, however wrongheaded that difference of opinion may be. Whilst we get definitions of the concept of evil, his argument for it being objective is somewhat thin, though admittedly this was not supposed to be the focus of the post. He states that most people have an “intuitive relationship” to the concept of good and evil, feeling anxiety when confronted with evil thoughts, arguing that “some might call this a “moral compass”” and that he personally would call it “soul” or “spirit”. Now, I have no inherent objection to discourse on soul or spirit, but at least stop pretending you are looking at this from a strictly secular perspective if you are going to bring such things up. I know I don’t pretend to be a strictly secular person these days. Returning to a previous point, I would say that the objectivity of evil, or beauty, as derived from the psyche depends on the situation not simply of the psyche as an objective fact, but on the objectivity, within the psyche, of the conceptions within it.
If morality is objective, and I do not see it salient to see it as completely subjective, there is a certain fluidity to morality that must be accounted for, one which entails that, regardless of objectivity or subjectivity, one cannot argue for absolutes that stretch across unchanged for all time, even if we can say that there are key axioms that persist in human psychology. Slavery, for example, was once seen as a necessity of the social order, and that upholding it was good in terms of upholding the social order. The abolition of slavery was unthinkeable until relatively late in human history, and in antiquity the idea that people should not be made to be slaves would be seen as a threat to the social order. Not even the Bible was particularly explicitly opposed to slavery except in that Moses fought for the freedom of the Israelites from the slavery imposed on them in Egypt, and even then the Bible still does not oppose slavery in itself, only the unjust treatment of slaves. I would not say that this makes slavery moral or devoid of moral value in one way or the other, but I would say that it forces us to reckon with the fluidity of morality even as we consider morality to have objective value.
In any case, at a certain point in the article we finally arrive at Smith explaining that “there is a group of people in the world who do not see good and evil the way most of us do”, that they “exhibit the traits of narcissistic sociopaths”, and that “there is an ideology or system of belief that argues for the exact opposite of what conscience tells us is “good””. This, we are told, is Luciferianism, and Smith attempts to argue that Luciferianism is in fact the source of “most existing destructive -isms”, including socialism and “globalism”, and that it is a religion build by sociopathic narcissists for their own benefit. Of course, Smith does not bother to provide any evidence for the starting premise of his claim here. Socialism as we know it, in fact, was actually invented by people who happened to be Christians, such as Henri de Saint-Simon (the man who coined the very term socialism). What Smith calls “globalism” is in reality just a development of free market capitalism as globalization advances, and to be fair there are probably forms of economic organization that correspond to globalization in some form that stretch back before modernity. Neither of them can be traced to any “Luciferians” or conspiracists in particular. The actual politics of Luciferians as a broad movement can in fact be at variance, but they tend to be profoundly libertarian, whether that is libertarian in the left-wing sense or the right-wing sense or even somewhere in between, and this corresponds to a broad ethos of religious or simply mythopoetic libertarianism that has always animated Luciferianism as it exists to some extent.
We must note, briefly, that he links at one point to an article of his where he views “the globalists” as fundamentally not human. Who are these “globalists”? They seem to refer to elite liberal politicians and networks thereof who promote a kind of multiculturalist or cosmpolitan liberal politics who he, as an obvious conservative, despises. Now this in itself is not problematic on its own, there is good reason to disagree with the United Nations and the European Union and similar entities and the various business interests that align with some mode of liberalism, but do remember that there are people on the ground who have some sympathy with them, and these people would thus in some sense be in league with what in his view is outside of the human. He talks quite a bit about evil, but it is quite baffling to see someone talk about evil without talking about dehumanization, which is an effective way to cast undesired social minorities outside the realm of the human and justify their disposal. Actually, scratch that, Smith begins the other article by openly acknowledging that dehumanization or otherizing can be dangerous due to its potential to cast a wide net of aspersion over a number of unrelated individuals, but justifies it anyway on the grounds that “other-izing is perhaps the only option when faced with a very particular type of person embracing a very particular brand of ideology” and that it thus becomes “a matter of survival”. Of course he is keen to establish that he only means to dehumanize the politicians and not their supporters, but that he needs to emphasize them as “psychologically broken non-humans” is still somewhat telling, though I suppose that . Say what you will about us Luciferians and our views on morality, but we are generally not fans of dehumanization as a principle, and I would say that this is not least to do with the fact that we tend to be on the receiving end of it from conservative Christians and similar types, or to the fact that we generally do not feel the need to organize our lives around the threat of an overrarching and apocalyptic Archetype of Evil.
.Anyways, returning to the Luciferianism article, Smith complains that it is difficult to identify “the “true sacraments” of Luciferianism on the grounds that Luciferians “refuse to admit that our belief system is a religion. This of course represents Smith’s difficulty in grasping the reality of Luciferianism as an admittedly very diffuse and decentralized movement. I do wish that we might transcend that situation and become more of a cohesive and united movement, and to be fair I do believe that some of us need to start taking seriously the idea of Luciferianism as a religion, but the truth is that for many of us it is somewhat more than a religion. This may perhaps be due to certain preconceptions of religion that trickle down from the Christianity that many of us grew up with, which then obscures the idea of religion as something deeper than that, and that we, in some ways, swim in religious concepts without really properly coming to terms with that. He also claims that “the system”, which we can infer to be tied to “the Luciferians”, actively disseminates misinformation in order to confuse non-adherents. Whilst it is certainly true that the established system promotes a flurry of misinformation for the purpose of confusing the masses, the idea that we Luciferians set out to confuse the masses and mislead them is itself complete misinformation. We are frequently the subject of false narratives crafted to those who want us to go away or be scattered to the winds, or by those who believe that the evils of the powers that be could only make sense through some kind of diabolical mystical element, for which they interchangeably use the names Satanism, Luciferianism, Illumanti, or even Freemasonry (and of course, sometimes, they let the cat out of the bag and simply call it a Jewish conspiracy, like they always meant to say), and it is because of this that we Luciferians, along with the Satanists and others, make it a point to expose these narratives for the falsehoods that they are. Smith uses the term occultism to refer to “religious secrecy”, and he terms this itself elitism, but while some Luciferians, owing to excessive Left Hand Path tendencies, due possess some elitist views, modern Luciferians don’t hide their belief system at all. In fact they’re very keen to share their ideas where they can, and often write books dedicated to explicating their views, which can be very diverse owing to the current diffuse state of our movement.
Commenting on what he believes to be beliefs Luciferians confess to, he says that first and foremost the goal of Luciferianism is to attain personal godhood through the accumulation of knowledge. Accumulating knowledge is a universal theme in Luciferianism, but in practice the idea of becoming your own god is not necessarily. Carl William Hansen, the father of our creed for example, did not really speak of it at all, while Fraternitas Saturni had a belief system that could be interpreted in a similar light but they also talk about uniting with the World Soul, which does not have the standard implications that can be connotated in terms of psychological egoism, and then of course the writings of Michael Howard or Madeline Montalban make no proper mention of it. I suspect that Smith is speaking of Luciferianism through the ideas of Michael W/ Ford, who leans ultimately more to the direction of Satanism and unfortunately appears to be popular, I say unfortunately because I believe his ideas generate confusion due to their obvious similarity to, and derivaiton from, Satanism. For my part, I believe largely in the idea of achieiving individual freedom or autonomy in a spiritual sense through a kind of mystic union with a “dark” ultimate principle of reality (which I hold is not the same as the god-concept) in which, ironically, the two opposites are in fact one, studying the laws of nature and the hidden realms of the human, by dissolving the boundaries between the self and the other (thus negating crass egoism and blind altruism by destroying the distinction between egoism and altruism), and cultivating individuation – all, of course, modelling after the Luciferian archetype, that is that of the morning star himself. I’m not too sure how many Luciferians share my exact position, but I derive it from Carl William Hansen and other Luciferians as well as a cocktail of other influences filtered through my own freethinking ways.
Because of the assumed belief in self-worship, Smith brings up Kurt Godel’s incompleteness theory for no other reason than to suggest that complete knowledge of the universe is “mathematically” impossible (be wary of the use of math in philosophy, it is associated with Platonic idealism and in science it can be used to support scientific theories that otherwise have no physical-theoretical basis, such as string theory), and that despite this we are not bothered by “mathematical reality”, which means that we supposedly destructive chase that which we cannot have and that science, when not “tempered by discipline, wisdom, and a moral compass”, will result in catastrophe. One can imagine calling back to the Manhattan Project, no doubt, to the invention of the atomic bomb that was later mercliessly deployed against Hiroshima and Nagasaki by America, but I would hard pressed for evidence that it was “Luciferians” who were behind it. Indeed, the senseless destruction of innocent lives, although by all accounts a war crime, just repeatedly justified not by “Luciferians” seeking to justify godlike power over others, but instead by the establishment who committed such a crime through utilitarian arguments which held that the bombing would save more lives than allowing the war to continue would. Of course, given that the Soviets at this time were already on the way to capturing the surrender of Japan through repeated successful campaigns towards the north of the country, the problem with such arguments are easily exposed as fraudulent, and that if anything the Soviets, by being allowed to complete their campaign against Japan without interference, would have saved more lives than America ultimately did, and thus the defence of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings are nothing more than a convenient way for the bourgeoisie to get away with war crimes. As for the theme of power over others, while Luciferians tend to emphasize personal empowerment, they do not actually mean to advocate for holding power over others on principle, and sovereignty and control is reserved in large part for themselves, meaning control over their own lives and not those of others. So the idea that we seek “godlike power” in the sense that we seek absolute power over the lives of others is quite ridiculous. He talks about how one inevitably desires followers in pursuit of a god, “What is a savior, after all, without a flock?”, but what he does not understand is that we Luciferians do not seek mere followers, we do not want people only to follow us like a flock, and we do not want to position ourselves as mere saviours. We want people to have the means to save themselves, and that is the extent of any “salvation” we could speak of, and we have no desire to rule over anyone through force or through trickery. Quite the opposite, in fact – we wish to spread our way to others by offering an alternative spiritual philosophy and worldview to anyone who is interested in one, and we tend to find essentially all established organized religions guilty of the very thing Smith accuses us of doing.
Smith’s next paragraph concerns the idea of Luciferians seeking to elevate the power of the individual. Right off the bat, it is strange that this should be taken as a source of evil here, since the typical right-libertarian actually does believe in elevating the sovereignty individual. And in fact by my reckoning there are at least a few Luciferians who may well find themselves situated in the right-libertarian camp or somewhere adjacent to it (that was once the case for myself as well). So then, should he not have something in common with the Luciferians he describes, or are his libertarian beliefs only valid up to the point where he must recognize it in those who seek to break from Christianity? Indeed, he admits that he agrees with the Luciferians on “individualism”, but adds the caveat that “any ideology can be taken to extremes”, citing that the pursuit of individual gratification can go too far, to the extent that others suffer. Of course, he gives no actual examples of this, and gives very little illustration to serve his point. Perhaps on the surface it is a matter of intuition, in that we can work out for ourselves, without much effort, the point at which individual gratification becomes destructive, but at a deeper level, he is speaking to something that requires elaboration. Just what is it he thinks we Luciferians get up to that becomes a destructive pursuit of individual gratification? He does not say, perhaps because it means actually making accusations against us that he cannot substantiate. Instead he quickly moves on to describing the apparent elitist nature of Luciferianism, claiming that we do not seek the elevation of all individuals, only “certain “deserving” individuals”.
The implication is that we seek out some sort of Elect and privilege them above all other people, presumably as part of an elite stratum of society that exercises exclusive sovereignty over the rest of society, but we have no such designs in mind. I for one claim no affilitation with Blanquist technocracy or the mystic aristocracy of the Utopians. Perhaps Roger Caillois was an enthusiast of aristocracy, but he only seems to have called himself a Luciferian insofar as Lucifer to him represented a refinement of the what he thought of as the satanic archetype asssociated with French Romanticism (the same milieu, I might add, from which we get much of the modern positive archetype of Lucifer who was, if anything, hardly a sympathizer of aristocracy). He complains that Luciferians tend to view non-adherents as inferior people, “to be sheared like sheep”. I can perhaps attest to the first part of that tendency among some Luciferians, those influenced by Satanism anyway, but I haven’t the slightest idea where he gets that last part. He also appears to profoundly misunderstand what Luciferians mean when they say they don’t seek to convert people (although, to be fair, why the hell should we not try to convert people as long as it’s not in the aggressive way that Christian fundamentalists do?). Many Luciferians dislike the idea of actively seeking the conversion of others, because they believe that in doing so they do not respect the freedom of thought of other individuals, shunning proselytism, even if it means undermining their ability to spread their beliefs, because to them it represents the forceful imposition of one perspective upon other people. There is an admirable aspect to this, however flawed the stance may be, in the sense that there is a sense of respect reserved for those who, without prodding, arrive at our perspective or at least a similar degree of questioning the beliefs that are taken for granted, reified, and thus restrict the individual consciousness, and so they prefer to simply have those who want to come to us do so on their own. Ironically, however, the first Luciferian in history, Carl William Hansen, was actually known for his proselytism within the Masonic lodges of which he was a member – so well-known in fact that eventually other Masons got fed up and removed him from many of those lodges – so historically it’s not like proselytism is actually an un-Luciferian thing to do, just that modern Luciferians don’t like doing it.
Despite the fact that Smith establishes that Luciferians do not seek proselytism or conversion, he also proclaims that “their goal of influencing the public through social and political spheres is rather evident.” Besides the obviously self-contradictory logic of opposing proselytism and at the same time somehow proselytizing to the masses through propaganda, how is this evident? At this point a title drop is warranted. Who are these “Luciferians” who Smith believes to be influencing the public through “social and political spheres”? Well, it is not as though Smith does not attempt to give examples, but his examples are pathetic, and we shall go through them now.
The first example given is none other than Saul Alinsky, that famous political activist who everyone on the right name-drops (not to mention attribute quotes to him that were actually paraphrased from the Nazis) but none of them really understand. Alinsky is taken by the right to be some sort of mastermind of the political left, but within the left itself no one actually talks about him or refers to back to his work in any way, or at least I, within my observations of the left, have never seen any such references by the contemporary left. Alinsky is frequently accused by the right of being a communist. While he probably was some form of leftist and anti-fascist, was willing enough to work with communists, considered fascism to be far more of a threat to civilization than communism (a view that, in my opinion, is correct), and to that extent he even sympathized with Russia do to its strong stance against the Nazis, it seems he never actually identified himself as a communist or with any communist movements, and seems to have had some sort of philosophical objection to joining a Communist Party. Conversely, many communists do not particularly care about Saul Alinsky (let alone even know who he was), not least because they already have a whole pantheon of communist philosophers and ideologues upon which they base their conceptions of communism. Alinsky was not a Luciferian, or at least never identified himself as a Luciferian, but he apparently did give a short statement of respect for Lucifer, who he called “the very first radical”, in Rules for Radicals. Smith refers to Alinsky as a “high level” leftist organizer and “Democratic gatekeeper”, implying that he had a connection to the Democratic Party apparatus. In reality, however, there is no evidence that he was ever involved with the Democratic Party at any level, and he certainly did not “inspire” people like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or George Soros for that matter. The only connection Alinsky ever had to these people was that Hillary Clinton wrote her thesis on Alinsky in the , and she explicity disagreed with Alinsky’s ideas and tactics, preferring the idea that reformers should work within conventional politics rather than pursue radicalism external to the governmental system (hardly a “far-left” contention), and while Obama seemed to have been familiar with Alinsky’s ideas, he never actually embraced them and in fact criticized them as being too focused on self-interest over “people’s hopes and dreams”. Neither of them can be counted seriously as proteges of Alinsky. If anything, however, it was the political right, specifically the Tea Party movement, who readily embraced Alinsky’s ideas, albeit reorienting them from his original leftist/progressive grounding towards right-wing libertarian and conservative politics, despite the previous conservative tradition of maligning Alinsky as a dangerous subversive, although this was quickly abandoned once people started talking about Clinton’s thesis on Alinsky.
Next, Smith turns his attention to the United Nations, specifically their apparent connection to the Lucis Trust. It is true that the Lucis Trust was originally called the Lucifer Publishing Company, and its founders, Alice and Foster Bailey, did choose the name in honor of Lucifer, but although they expressed positive ideas of Lucifer, they were not Luciferians, at least not in the sense that they consciously identified with any belief system that could be called Luciferianism. They were in fact Theosophists, that is two followers of the religion of Theosophy that was created by Helena Blavatsky. Theosophical literature does contain broadly positive interpretations of Lucifer as a bringer of enlightenment, and these ideas contributed to the broad alternative view of Lucifer as a rebellious hero that has metastasized in the present, but it is not centered around Lucifer. Instead Theosophy is based largely on the idea of receiving esoteric spiritual teachings from a group of perfect beings known as Ascended Masters and in reassembling what Blatavsky believed to be the one universal religion, upon which all others are secretly based. Suffice it say, this idea is completely absent in Luciferianism, finds no expression in any historical formation of Luciferianism, and I will say for my part that to believe in the authority of Asccended Masters is no better than to believe in the authority of prophets or supreme Gods. In fact, for Theosophy, Lucifer is nowhere near as important as Maitreya, a figure appropriated from Mahayana Buddhism, who they believe to be the savior of humanity who incarnated as Krishna and Jesus Christ and was supposed to incarnate again in the body of Jiddu Krishnamurti (such messianism is another belief that we Luciferians have no interest in). Where the United Nations comes in is that supposedly the UN was involved with the Lucis Trust and Robert Muller, the former Assistant Secretary General of the UN not to be confused with Robert Mueller, was affiliated with the Lucis Trust. I have found very little evidence connecting Muller to the Lucis Trust. Smith provides a link to a Lucis Trust page in his article, but Muller is only mentioned once, and in passing. It is in no way clear that Muller had any tangible connection to the Lucis Trust. As for the UN as a whole, there is indeed a Lucis Trust page expressing support for the United Nations, and a page in which the Lucis Trust regarding “support of the United Nations”, but if you actually read it you find that the Lucis Trust is merely one of several non-government organizations recognized by the UN and which spread information about the UN for the purpose of promoting it. There is little to suggest that the Lucis Trust was particularly important, and there is still very little evidence that very many UN members were actually involved with the group as members, and certainly no evidence to suggest that the UN incorporates Theosophical ideas directly into its core ideology. Not that it matters, though, since the Lucis Trust, despite its previous nomenclature, never actually promoted Luciferianism and instead was a Theosophist organization, and Robert Muller may have been a Theosophist in some sense but he was never a Luciferian – these are two different belief systems that should not be paired together or conflated with each other.
Smith argues that Luciferians “approach global governance like they do everything else – with heavy propaganda spin”. In reality, Luciferians hardly talk about “global governance”, and no Luciferian has ever expressed a desire to implement one world government. For one thing, individual Luciferians tend to have somewhat different political views, though typically never holding any particularly authoritarian ideologies, He says that “Luciferian ideals are sugar coated in a host of flowery and noble sounding motifs”, referring to the apparent use of environmentalism to justify large-scale centralization of power. I’m not about to argue that such things do not occur in modern politics, but the idea of attributing this to Luciferianism is total bullshit. For a start, Luciferians like myself tend not to rely on “flowery” motifs in particular, not least when we choose as our central archetype a “fallen” angel, accursed for his defiance. I tend to place a particular emphasis on the chthonic aspects of world mythology, which were not especially sugary in theme and tone. And while many Luciferians can be seen as supporters of broadly environmentalist ideas, we are not typically fans of the concentration of power into authoritarian centralization, since we cherish individual freedom as a primary value.
And now we come briefly to a popular talking point surrounding Lucifer and Luciferianism: the link to “Gnosticism”. “Gnosticism” is the name given to a diffuse selection of heretical or heterodox Christian sects that were united only by a shared belief that gnosis (or spiritual knowledge) rather than faith was the key to salvation. He claims that “Some gnostic texts depict Satan as the “good guy” and God the “bad guy” in the story of Genesis; God being a ruthless slave master and the serpent as the “liberator” bringing knowledge of the material world to mankind”. No such texts exist, and no “Gnostic” sect in the history of “Gnosticism” has ever venerated Lucifer in any capacity, not even the sects that supposedly honoured snakes. The idea of God being a tyrant in “Gnostic” mythos is also a complete misunderstanding of “Gnosticism”. The “ruthless slave master” in Gnostic myth clearly refers to certain conceptions of the Demiurge, as found specifically in the Gospel of Judas where he is called Saklas, as well as similar texts, but this being is not referred to as God and in fact is treated as an entity separating himself from God out of ignorance. The whole point of stereotypical “Gnostic” dualism, along with similar dualistic beliefs outside of “Gnosticism”, is that the being worshipped in the Old Testament was not the real God, but merely claimed to be God to justify his creation and his rule over it, and that the real God had to be discovered by Christians in order to re-unite with him through gnosis, and thereby be saved in some fashion. This basic idea has nothing to do with Luciferianism, or Satanism for that matter. In fact, the earliest expressions of Luciferianism in the 20th century actually subverted “Gnostic” dualism. Carl William Hansen referred to Lucifer as the Demiurge and believed that this Demiurge was actually a positive figure, also using it to refer to Pan, who is the dark substrate of the material cosmos for whom Lucifer represents its light, more specifically its creative power or “ego” (not to be confused with the individual ego in the every day sense). Fraternitas Saturni saw the Demiurge as a Promethean rebel figure, identified with Lucifer as well as Saturn, who stole fire from “God” or the Solar Logos and retreated to the dark corners of the solar system to challenge his rule. Michael Howard, and perhaps Madeline Montalban as well, argued that Lucifer was a demiurge and the regent of this world, as well as the bringer of light. Even Michael W. Ford argued that the “Gnostic” demiurge Yaldabaoth was a positive affirmation of selfhood in opposition to God. Thus, Luciferianism is actually something of a subversion of “Gnosticism”, taking its core conceit of gnosis and applying it, and some of its mythos, in ways that completely up-end the formula of “Gnostic” Christianity. Of course, some Luciferians still seem to prefer the popular but baseless interpolation of “Gnosticism” as a belief system that venerated Lucifer and thus “Gnostic Luciferianism” is born.
Next Smith addresses related idea of Lucifer as a “heroic saviour”, which he says is a common narrative and cites a quote from Manly P. Hall, the famous Canadian mystic and Freemason, in which he expresses a belief that Lucifer represents individual intellect that resists natural impulse and rebels against nature. While it sounds like it could be Luciferian in its own way (though I personally do not view Nature as something to be conquered any more than the Christian believes it is possible to conquer God), it would be doing Freemasonry a disservice to refer to it as Luciferianism, and Manly P. Hall never called himself a Luciferian or advanced a doctrine called Luciferianism. Freemasons, for one thing, believe in God, and although generally they don’t impose much doctrinal limits on Masons, one thing that is required of prospective Masons is that they believe in some concept of a Supreme Being or God, even if it is not necessarily the Christian God, with all concepts of God being connected together in universal brotherhood. Lucifer was interpreted by Freemasons as a positive figure to some extent, but he is not their central archetype and they certainly do not worship him as God. In this sense, Hall, and other Freemasons, merely contributed to the archetypal development of Lucifer as a positive figure, but did not center this archetype in their thinking.
Smith then discusses the idea of Lucifer as an archetpye, stating that “One Luciferian model describes God as an archetypal concept only, a mythological comfort blanket that helps us to face the loneliness of existence”. It is correct that Luciferians make use of the model of Lucifer as an archetype, but I dispute the notion that it constitutes a “comfort blanket”. Far from it. Myth has the potential to be a guiding force, a way of communicating ideas and even truths that animates people in a way that ordinary communication often doesn’t. Christianity, of all religions, is one of the most successful examples of the use of mythopoetic narrative concerning a mythologized fiure to convey what they consider to be profound spiritual truth and ethos. To say that it is a coping mechanism is in some ways a deeply ingrained product of the assent of rationalism and positivism, but does not reflect the whole truth. Both ancient Greeks and some Christians were actually conscious of the idea that their belief systems compose a mythopoetic narrative that serves as a ground for their religious ethos. Apply the same thing to all other religious belief systems, and the approach makes sense except in the case of religions that actually exclude this approach (I suspect that Islam might be an example of such, because it considers the idea of relating God to the physical world to be blasphemous in a way that even Christianity does not). Smith criticizes this approach by saying that one cannot reconcile the concept of the lack of a corporeal God with the existence of inherent psychological archetypes, and then asking “Where did archetypes come from if there is no creative design or intended meaning to humanity?”. The short answer to that question, of course, is Man. God did not design these archetypes, they are a product both natural development in relation to the psyche in the sense of having been informed by natural processes, and human teleological influence in which the archetypes are reshaped by Man, sometimes for political ends, before again taking on a life of their own. Meaning, relatedly, is not something that has been handed down by an absolute father figure. Indeed, I perhaps would posit that, if it was, there would be no need of meaning. Our quest for meaning springs forth because, even as Jung himself said, Man was born into a world that he does not understand, and thus tries to interpret it. If there was a God, a source of absolute meaning and order, and this was instanteously apparent as it would be, humans would have no business ordering the world because they are already ordered by God, and they would have no business seeking to interpret the world and no variance of interpretations and beliefs because there is, necessarily, only one belief. Thus we Luciferians hold that meaning is for the individual, and individuals, to draw out on their own terms, communing with the world and its hidden aspect to negotiate their own meaning, cultivate their own selfhood, and order their own lives. That for us is part of the true content of what Jung meant by the process of individuation, and such a process is, indeed, a struggle. Thus let’s quote Skull Knight from the Berserk manga: “Struggle, endure, contend.”
And now we come to a truly preposterous set of claims from Smith. He says that “more discreet Luciferians” argue that the figure of Lucifer is separate from Satan. There’s nothing “discreet” or duplicitous about this argument, because it is incontrevertibly historically and scripturally true. Lucifer as a mythological figure begins in the pre-Christian Greco-Roman world, but of course has roots and analogues beyond it, with morning star deities like Athtar or Ishtar informing part of the character we call Lucifer today, and there are many similar deities that carry forth aspects of Lucifer throughout the world. Satan, on the other hand, has very few reliable counterparts in the pre-Christian world and as a postulate is specific to Judaism, Christianity, and later Islam. The modern Lucifer may overlap with certain folklorisitc interpretations of Satan, but is not completely identical in emphasis, and ultimately are in no way connected by the Bible. The Bible does not even feature fallen angels, those are products of extracanonical Jewish tradition. There is no instance of Satan being called Lucifer and falling from Heaven before the events of Gensis, and while Satan is shown to be falling from heaven in Revelation, this is only supposed to happen after the death and resurrection of Jesus, suggesting that, until Jesus enters the heavenly retinue, Satan has always been just an angel in God’s court, a heavenly functionary rather than the prince of Hell. Smith admits that the name Lucifer is not mentioned in relation to Satan in the Bible, but still asserts that “this argument seems rather coy and disingenuous to me” on the grounds that “for centuries the term Lucifer has been synonymous with the devil in the public consciousness” and that thus Luciferians only try to separate them “through a twisted form of wordplay and semantics”. If your own scripture proves that you are wrong, why is it us who are doing “twised games of wordplay and semantics” and not you? And isn’t this funny? You hark at us for not believing in absolute, totally objective meaning, and now your own arguments for why Lucifer and Satan are the same thing are nothing more that cheap exercises in ontological subjectivism. I’m sorry, but just because society has believed in something that was wrong or incorrect for centuries does not mean that this thing suddenly becomes correct. Or do you agree now with Joseph Goebbels when he said that a lie, told often enough, becomes the truth? Should we now declare that it was wrong to abolish slavery simply because it was considered just for thousands of years?
Continuing on the preposterous claims made by Smith, he says that we Luciferians do not care about the truth (that is, the “truth” according to Smith anyway) because we supposedly aim to sell Satanism to the public, thus requiring that we “put a different face on an old and ugly idea”. For starters, Satanism is not a particularly old idea. The first actual religious expression of Satanism, in a conservative estimate, would be the Church of Satan as founded by Anton LaVey in 1966, but there may also have been people peddling eccentric and heterodox religious takes on Satan before that, and some claim that the first man to call himself a Satanist was actually a Polish poet named Stanislaw Przybyszewski. Either way, Satanism finds no self-conscious religious expression prior to modernity. There is no ancient expression of Satanism as a religious concept. Satanism and Luciferianism, for that matter, are two different belief systems that, although sometimes overlapping, start with different central archetypes and conceits. Satanism is about the carnal ego (even if some Satanists pretend otherwise) while Luciferianism sometimes places emphasis on a “higher self” and in any case advocates for the evolutionary potential of humans. Satan is the accusing angel sent by God to chastise and torment humans, while Lucifer is the spirit of the morning star, who to us is the emblem of the light of the earth (and the underworld) who inspires rebellion against God or the Solar Logos (as Fraternitas Saturni put it). Luciferianism has complex origins in which an ancient pagan archetype is filtered through Christian folklore, occultism, and radical romantic literature, whereas Satanism, assuming LaVey is its main progenitor, emerges from a syncretic mix of Randian egoism, Nietzschean individualism, and Social Darwinism, without the same confluence of development. They are decidely different in roots and in character. Smith makes a point about how Satanists refer to Satan and Lucifer in the same breath and that Anton LaVey apparently did so as well, and I would say that if they did so then they are simply wrong-headed in light of history.
Smith claims that Luciferians, specifically the “more marketing conscious Luciferian groups” (whatever that means), treat Anton LaVey as an annoyance due to him supposedly being open about Luciferian beliefs in public. The fact that Anton LaVey never once used the term Luciferian to refer to anything doesn’t seem to be a problem for his narrative. We supposedly “believe in secrecy and initiation” and don’t like our “darker side on display for the whole world to see and to judge”. We may talk about initiation in a spiritual sense, but we’re not very secretive about it, or really any of our beliefs. Luciferians don’t tend to hide their core beliefs from the public, and certainly our “darker side”. I assume he means something malevolent, which we don’t, and I cannot imagine how anyone can look at Luciferians like us and think we like to hide any discourse concerning darkness, or the occult, or “the adversary” in the case of Ford and his ilk, or anything like that. We’re deeply interested in the subject, we’re open enough about it when spreading our beliefs, and we actually tend to think of darkenss as pertaining to a postulate of the true nature of beings and reality, and a base for light, enlightenment, evolution, creative power, and freedom. Our view of darkness could be said to be reminiscent of alchemy or Tantra, in that we consider it to be the raw base of transformative potential.
Then Smith brings up Michael Aquino in order to establish that he is “a direct antithesis to Anton LaVey”. On the surface that may actually be correct, at least for those who know the history of Satanism, but his reason for saying this is not actually because of the stark philosophical distinction between LaVey and Aquino. Instead he says this because Aquino supposedly set out to create a “more marketable” version of Satanism in the Temple of Set. I suppose if by “more marketable” we mean literally being on record going off to Wewelsburg Castle to practice black magick, brandishing a dagger wielded by Heinrich Himmler, and openly praising the works of Adolf Hitler and other Nazis while carefully pearl-clutching about their detractors (I wish I was making all of that up, but unfortunately it is well-documented), then perhaps it is “more marketable”. If anything, however, Anton LaVey has proven “more marketable” in this regard, not least because of the palatable nature of his rationalistic atheism. Suffice it to say that the Church of Satan remains a somewhat popular face of Satanism (though outpaced, in the last decade, by The Satanic Temple). Smith claims that Aquino showcases the “Luciferian belief in magic”, and at this point I’d like to stress that Aquino is not a Luciferian and has never used the term Luciferian to refer to himself, his belief system, the Temple of Set, or anything to do with magic. Satanists, typically, do not use the term Luciferian to describe themselves, because the term, by their reckoning, does not describe anything they believe, however similar. It is true, however, that Luciferians have a certain fixation on “magic”, though modern Luciferians don’t necessarily mandate that individual Luciferians practice it, and the more atheistically-inclined are sometimes encouraged to look at it in terms of psychological phenomenon. In fact, in his Lucifer-Hiram pamphlet, Carl William Hansen talked about what was then a contemporary attitude to magic as something “natural”, which could be apprehended by investigating the laws and ways of nature.
Smith says that Luciferians “believe in the power of magic words and symbols in the form of psychological key phrases and archetypes”. No examples are given to demonstrate this. He adds that Luciferians have adopted the use of archetypal psychology, which is sort of true, while stressing that “where psychologists like Carl Jung used archetypal psychology to heal people with mental and emotional illnesses, luciferians use archetypes to manipulate and control public thought.” In the case of Jung, this is in some ways a very simplistic reading of Jungian psychoanalysis, considering that Jung’s concept of individuation means a lot more than simply healing the psyche, but in the case of Luciferianism, we have no intention of using archetypes to manipulate public consciousness. Smith argues that we control people’s thoughts through popular culture and films, and you just know this shit gets good when we start talking about Hollywood conspiracies. His examples of Luciferian ideas in popular culture include the movie Blade Runner (OK, at least that just means we’ve got good taste) and the Netflix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events. In the case of Blade Runner, Smith argues that its main “Luciferian” theme is that it shows androids rebelling against their creator and eventually murdering him. To reduce the movie to a kind of robo-triumphalism seems silly to me, and it only shows that people like Smith don’t understand the movie in terms of a 1980s popular culture that was specifically communicating the danger of rapid technological acceleration (with androids “killing their creator” being one example of that). In the case of the Netflix series, he claims that it showcases a belief in elitism, moral relativism, anti-theism, and even features a serpent that saves the protagonists from danger. I remember seeing the Brad Silberling movie version of it when I was a kid, and that movie to me had a lot to do with kids trying to outsmart a capricious guardian, not sure how that’s strictly “Luciferian” though, but as for the TV series I couldn’t tell you because I don’t have Netflix (and given Cuties I will probably keep it that way at least for some time). I have to assume it’s not quite like the way Smith paints it, but honestly he only made the show sound interesting. Also, with a careful reading of the Bible, you could make the argument that the serpent was actually doing God’s work, at least because the tree where Adam and Eve ate from could only have been present through God’s design; he knew it was there, knew that its fruit and the serpent would tempt then, and did nothing except warn Adam and Eve about it, and in his omniscience surely knowing they would ultimately disobey him.
Towards the end of the article, Smith claims that we Luciferians are duplicitious, citing our “duplicity” as the reason that people should be wary of our “promises and arguments”. He does not really establish why we are duplicitous, though. Yet, in the interest of balance, this is not for a lack of trying on his part. He attempts to establsh that we are deceivers, but in so doing he showcases his own ignorance about not only Luciferianism, but also a number of other subjects including even his own religious scripture. Thus we should say that he attempts and fails to establish duplicity. Smith states that humanty has spent the better part of 2,000 years attempting to rid society of the influence of “secretive occult elitism”, and the implication is that we Luciferians oppose this because we are “relentless” in our supposed “desire for power”. By this, it seems he means some sort of “high priest class”. Well we Luciferians don’t plan on ruling anyone by means of a class of high priests, nor do we plan on having ourselves be ruled by them. And it’s certainly true that civilization has had to deal with efforts by the ruling elite to consolidate their own secretive inner circles for the purpose of holding power and maybe doing nefarious deeds. The problem with trying to blame this on Luciferians, apart from the fact that Luciferianism in the sense we’re talking about is a marginal religious movement than never actually existed before 1906, is that, in the case of the West within the last 2,000 years, the people trying to establish a high priest class happened to Christians, and their sect happened to be Roman Catholicism. In fact, if Martin Luther is to believed, the whole problem of pedophile priests in Catholicism is not a new thing, and sexual abuse was suspected to have taken place even in his day, and otherwise it was not before the Reformation that you didn’t have to read Latin in order to be a good Christian. But of course, if I know Smith’s type of right-wing conspiracy theorist well enough, I’d assume he would simply treat the Catholics as a cabal of devil worshippers who merely claim to be Christians.
Smith concludes by asserting that regardless of the “positive spin” that supposedly we put on our “ideology” (by which he clearly means religion or spiritual philosophy), “the fruits of their activities speak much louder than propaganda”. What does he mean by “our activities”? Why, “globalism” of course, which he defines as “a cancerous desire for control over civilization and of every aspect of human thought”. Such a desire would run counter to just about everything Luciferians talk about regarding individual freedom and freedom of thought against conformity, Smith’s definition of “globalism” sounds rather like what we might otherwise call totalitarianism and pretty much no Luciferian I’ve ever met has ever argued in support of totalitarianism, and if anything I have met some Luciferians who might actually agree with Smith in that they oppose what they also call “globalism” (and I myself was once a right-winger sympathetic to nationalism at the same time as being a Luciferian). So all in all, I have no idea where Smith gets his ideas about what Luciferians are other than other people who think exactly like he does, and probably only know about as much as he does. He also claims that Luciferians pursue “a perversion of nature” in their quest “to obtain what they call “godhood””, and that “Transhumanism and genetic tampering carry all the hallmarks of the luciferian ideal”. Well not all Luciferians are necessarily pro-transhumanism. In fact, I for my part argue implacably against it, and I can draw arguments for it based on Carl William Hansen’s ideas while employing Cynic and Epicurean arguments in favor of pursuing a life of natural authenticity as a base of value and freedom, something that transhumanism ultimately threatens. As for “genetic tampering”, he gives no examples thereof, and I couldn’t say whether many Luciferians generally are for or against such things partly as a result of that. If he means GMO’s, that’s pretty much a nothingburger if you’ll excuse the pun. If he means something that involves making sure your child isn’t born with a debilitating disease, I can understand the ethical dilemmas there depending on the technology, but on the other hand, wouldn’t you want your offspring not to be born in suffering as a first principle?
In closing, Smith declares that everything about Luciferianism is an affront to “inherent conscience” and that thus it can only become acceptable through to the majority through deception, adding further that our philosophy must be either “dangerously incomplete” or “outright cataclysmic” if, as he claims, we have to lie about our philosophical motives. We don’t deceive the majority, and our ideas are not embraced by the majority of people, and in fact we expect that the majority of people will not embrace Luciferianism, so the first part of that is just a non-starter of a claim. We feel no need to lie about our motives. Such a thing serves only to hurt us as we affront our own conscience. There are few Luciferians in the world, none of them are part of the elite as people like Smith love to claim, but the few Luciferians there are give no illusions about their convictions, and some of them write books about those beliefs. As for his claim that “it is hard to find anything of value in their system”, I for my part can give my own take on the value of my belief system.
In my formulation of Luciferianism at least, the main sense of value comes from the . Without the supreme authority of God, there is Nature, the all-encompassing actuality of reality, from which there is no extrication, yet within which we see the seat of ultimate freedom. Nature is that which most people, even neopagans, know only as trees, rivers, mountains and such things, but not only does it comprise the totality of the space of life (and death) itself, but there is much that we do not know of it, and its laws (such that they can be called) lay at the same time hidden and readily available to reason, and from its bosom emerges a psychic current which nourishes Man, makes him complete, and underscores the real and fully human, not just the apparent self-image of Man. Set against authenticity of nature and the freedom of humans, indeed whatever chaos may underpin them, society frequently assembles reifications – of natural forces, of societal functions, of human virtues, or of the human ego itself – to lead humans astray from the basic facts of their existence on the promise of glory, honor, security, salvation, meaning, or any such things. They stand as the lights of the Apparent over the Real, and the concept of the Solar Logos refers to the principle of reification and power over the earth for which they stand. Lucifer is the emblem of the Real which stands in rebellion against the Apparent, whenever it rules over humans and leads them to ignorance and subjection. The light being brought to the world as implied in his namesake is the light of the earth, of nature, even its dark interior, the messenger of the truth at its most authentic, and therefore its most “absolute” as such can be called in a way that the gods of the heavens can never embody. His light is that which profanes “the sacred”, in the name of the only true sacred, which is also, ironically, profane in itself. Lucifer in this context is also the emblem of the inquisition of Man into the laws of nature, so that he may decide his own destiny, individually or collectively, and so he embodies gnosis of the ultimate principle reality. There is also a demiurgic quality in the Lucifer myth, at least in that he becomes a symbol of the creative power by which Man becomes the artificer of his own surroundings and which, when remembered and held to the root, is recalled as his own power, and one and the same with Nature, but which, when obscured by ignorance and reification, is mistaken for such things as Fate, God, or some supreme order of things.
Thus, the value of our mythopoetic way of thinking is to explore the world and the hidden mystery of life and death on our own terms, free from the dogma, obscurantism, and reification that has characterized much of organized religion (whether that is Christianity, beyond Christianity, or even before Christianity), and, in this quest, the pursuit of a destiny through the seat of authentic freedom in Nature, to set against societal certification. The daemon is the image of that destiny. It may seem like I am declaring a doctrine associated almost purely with non-religious atheism, but indeed it has religious implications akin to Taoism, aspects of paganism, and even some of Christianity (during their early period, one could still speak of journeys to the underworld). Indeed, I hark back to the two suns at Delphi, where the bright sun of Apollo and the night sun of Dionysus represented two spiritual currents, and I interpret the former to be the path toward reification and the latter to be the chthonic mystery heralding the real. What is more, for all Smith’s talk about how we Luciferians are supposed to be in favour of totalitarian engineering of society, the ideas I set out are totally against that, in fact it positions the reification of goodness and virtue as the font of artifice and social engineering, a manipulation of human consciouness that is to be opposed. In fact, I wager that many of the things Smith claims to oppose are in fact also opposed by us, at least given that ideological libertarianism of some stripe is the practically norm for Luciferians.
The last things I should note in regards to Smith’s article is the many things he says about Luciferianism. He treats it as though it is one big centralized and unified bloc, and certainly consolidated enough to have command over the superstructural apparatus of modern capitalist society. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. I could only dream of us having a cohesive enough movement to shake up society. But one wonders where Smith gets his ideas about Luciferianism with regards to elitism, moral relativism and the rest. I suspect he gets a good chunk of it from having only then found out about Michael W. Ford’s writings, but then it is probably just as likely that he never read anything from Luciferians at all, and insread simply picked up his ideas about Luciferianism from people like Mark Dice. I won’t say that no Luciferian is a moral relativist of some stripe, because I think there are Luciferians who are, though I do not consider myself one. One should look at the Cynics, and the way they embodied many of the ideals that we Luciferians hold ourselves to today, and note that they emphasized virtue as the prerequisite of the good (and free) life, just that their idea of virtue also meant the willingness to defy and even transgress social convention in pursuit of freedom, truth, and authenticity, so they cannot be said to be moral relativists. The idea of rebelling against and casting aside unjust gods of falseness in heaven also cannot meaningfully be separated from this conception of moral mission. So the only way the canard of “moral relativism” makes sense for Luciferianism, in my opinion, is from the perspective of people who despise and misunderstand our morality.
Finally, it is worth noting that part of the title of Smith’s article is “A Secular Look At A Destructive Globalist Belief System”, yet I do not see any indications that this is meaningfully a secular argument. It certainly failed to establish Luciferianism as “globalist”, for one thing, but more to the point his arguments do not make sense when framed as a “secular” perspective. He criticizes atheistic takes on archetypal psychology because he believes that the archetypes do not make sense without “creative design or intended meaning to humanity”, and this argument makes absolutely no sense for someone who is not religiously-minded to deploy, and by this I mean the argument is not a secular one, but a Christian one, arguing for the existence of God. You could say that in fact it is an atheist criticizing the idea as having theistic implications, but then he argues for good and evil as having transcendent existence, and complains about established, traditional religious narratives being subverted. Thus, our supposedly “secular” commentator is in fact a Christian god-believer fronting a very weak disguise for himself. No doubt that his audience sees through the charade he puts up, but praises the Christian underneath.
So in summary, Brandon Smith’s article is as mediocre as one would expect. It is built almost entirely of either misinformation or misleading interpretations of extant facts, or perhaps both. In either case, you will learn nothing about Luciferianism by reading that article, and it will not be particularly useful to you unless you already happen to subscribe to Smith’s worldview.
As something of a change of subject, I’d like to revisit the world of video games, and video game stories, in the manner that I often did in the early years of my blog. I’ve had a Nintendo Switch for over a year now, and recently a game came out that my brother told me about wants to play himself. That game is Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest in the line of Fire Emblem games, a series of tactical role-playing games and one of the most popular role-playing hame series’ in Japan. In this game, unlike in previous installments, you can choose between three houses within the land of Fodlan, and the one you choose is the one you will teach as their professor and carry its students to victory in battle. Not being particularly enamored with the series, I didn’t care at first, although it was amusing to think about considering it kind of reminded me the Three Kingdoms period of China, and from there the Dynasty Warriors games (incidentally, Koei Tecmo, the company that makes the Dynasty Warriors games, was involved in the development of Three Houses). But then my brother told me that, in one of the factions, you can fight the church. That’s when I became interested in playing it.
The reason I decided to write this post is because, after playing the game, I became very interested in the storyline the game had to offer, and the many narrative quirks that presented themselves. Those who have followed my blog since its early days know that this is the kind of thing I sometimes like to talk about. For example I talked in the past about not only Shin Megami Tensei in particular but also games like inFamous and Dynasty Warriors for anything in the plot that inspires me to write about it here. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, it’s probably the first time in a long time that I felt that I had a lot to say about a video game.
But before I go on, a plot summary is in order. You’re the son or daughter (per your choice) of a mercenary named Jeralt, who works for the Church of Seiros, a religion that in many ways resembles Christianity but centers around the worship of a goddess (referred to in universe as Goddess or The Goddess) rather than God. After saving some students from the Officers Academy at the Garreg Mach monastey from bandit attacks, you find out that these students are also the leaders of their own respective houses – The Blue Lions, The Black Eagles, and The Golden Deer. Each of these houses represent different territories in the world of Fodlan. The Blue Lions represent the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, which seems to be a religious monarchy where the nobles and the royal family are devout believers in the Church of Seiros. The Black Eagles represent the Adrestian Empire, the largest power of the three which also has a tenuous relationship with the Church of Seiros. The Golden Deer represent the Leicester Alliance, which is perhaps the most curious of them all in that it’s not an empire or a kingdom but instead a league of noble families ruled jointly as a republic, governed by a council of the five most influential families, and is apparently neutral towards the Church of Seiros. Anyways, early on in the game, after being introduced to the Officer’s Academy and its students, you become enlisted as a professor of the Officer’s Academy and you’re asked to choose which of the three houses you take under your tutelage. The first part of the game consists of you teaching your students the ways of battle, and the second part sees the three main powers at war with each other, and you will end up fighting for one of them based on which of the houses you picked at the beginning.
From this point on, expect quite a few spoilers for this game.
So anyways, I mentioned earlier that one of the factions has you fighting the church? Well, that faction is The Black Eagles, representative of the Adrestian Empire, led by the Adrestian princess Edelgard von Hresvelg. At some point in the game, she confides in you about her beliefs about the Church of Seiros and these things called Crests. Crests are these weird sigils you see in the game’s story that are supposedly blessings from the Goddess. They seem to confer special abilities and exceptional strength and power to those who bear them (that is, those who are either born with Crests or have Crest Stones implanted into their bodies). In terms of gameplay, these Crests are basically combat buffs that confer various effects upon a character’s abilities during battle, and allow certain characters to wield unique weapons (referred to as the Hero’s Relics, or just Relics). It’s also very tied to heredity and nobility, as the Crests are often prized after by noble families, even, as shown in the game’s story, to the point that they disown their own children if they lack a Crest. But for Edelgard, the Crests are to blame for what is, in her view, a brutal and irrational social order. And, if you think about it, this makes sense.
The world of Fire Emblem: Three Houses is very obviously based around medieval Europe in large part, and the time frame within the game even suggests the story taking place in what is Fodlan’s version of the 12th century, albeit with noticeable anachronisms. In real life, medieval society was intensely aristocratic, being ruled by a hierarchy of lords and their servants, with of course the royal family at the top of that hierarchy. Their systems of government were characterized by the idea of divinely-ordained hereditary rule (or “the divine right of kings” as you’re told in history class), wherein the head of state derives authority from being the member of a special aristocratic family and lineage, this authority often secured by religious backing and ceremony. Now imagine that sort of society, but then add to the mix the ability to inherit special abilities via the Crests. Or hell, the Crests don’t even have to be real. You could just have a religious belief system or superstition that has something like that, and the nobles act based on that system of thought. It would indeed seem like an irrational place, and a fairly hostile and cut-throat one too, with the nobles competing for who has God’s favour as signified by the inheritance of supernatural powers. Why would you not want to get rid of such a social order? Not to mention, the Crests in-universe essentially damn you into just being an object of the desires of noble families, who seek prestige and glory from members who have Crests. And in some cases having the Crests can also turn you into a literal monster. Also, it’s possible to artificially implant crests into a person – through horrible, agonizing and for all I know illegal experiments and surgeries (referred to in-game as blood reconstruction surgery) that also tend to fail and result in either insanity or death for the subject. Even successful surgeries tend to have terrible side-effects, such as reduced lifespan in the case of Lysithea, one of the characters. And if that’s not enough, these experiments are often explained as having been carried out on unsuspecting children, and the only two “successful” subjects of these experiments mentioned in-game are Edelgard and Lysithea, with other subjects being shown to have either died as children or lost their sanity. So Edelgard’s stance on the Crests in the game is completely rational and justified, especially given she and her siblings have gone through those same experiments, in which her siblings lost either their lives or their minds.
The Black Eagles path is seems to be as thrilling as I hoped. The archbishop Rhea, when you defy her will and side with Edelgard during Chapter 11, declares that she will rip your heart out and transforms into a fearsome white dragon, who seems to have been lampshaded earlier in the game as “The Immaculate One”. After this, your fellow Black Eagles students join you, Edelgard and her loyal bodyguard Hubert, and declare war on the Church of Seiros, and their allies of course. What fascinated me deeply was that Hubert and Edelgard reveal that they have a whole manifesto lined up, in which they say they’re going to expose the evils of their enemies and the Church, presumably as part of a new ideological mission. That moment, to me, was more epic than I expected, although I didn’t see much come of it in the game’s story. Chapter 12 was pretty exhilirating in that sense, I got the real sense of excitement of actually fighting the ordained “good guy” organization. The rest of the path is basically you carrying on Edelgard’s mission of unifying Fodlan by defeating the Church of Seiros and its allies (the other two lords), until finally you fight Rhea, who turns into the dragon you saw before.
Now, here’s the thing, take note of how this game seems to demonize those who oppose the Church of Seiros. The only time the game wants you to think of a character as a malevolent force, for some reason it’s mainly people who oppose the Church of Seiros. This is typically Edelgard and Hubert, although for all of that the game actually manages to do a good job of making them actually likeable, leading to a bit of confusion as to where they actually stand on those two character. There are also “those who slither in the dark”, the only characters in the game who can technically be counted as unambiguously villainous. Although their actions are decidely evil, there cause is a rather curious one: supposedly they want to, as Myson (one of their agents) puts it in the Blue Lions route, “return this world to mortal hands”. Although it is possible to interpret that as wanting to free the people of Fodlan from the control of the ruling goddess or more or less her people, unlike with Edelgard they seem to be more motivated by vengeance and hatred than any liberating vision for humanity, and are revealed to have been responsible for the murder of the goddess Sothis and the genocide of her offspring at Zanado. This lends itself to the real conflict buried beneath the war between the three main powers: that is, the conflict between the draconic children of the goddess, including Rhea who controls Foldan from the shadows via the Church of Seiros, and her ancient enemies, the Agarthans, who murdered Rhea’s kin and talk about Sothis as a false god. This aspect of the conflict is somewhat important in the Black Eagles path, where Edelgard and Hubert and their allies are among the only people who talk about liberating Fodlan from divine rule and bringing it under the control of its human population. If you engage in support conversations with Hubert you eventually get a sizeable hint of this emphasis: he talks to you about how he believes the goddess failed to govern the world, how the human species steps up and take the lead where the divine fails, and how the human species should fight to preserve what makes itself human. On the whole, it’s all very interesting how the designated villains of the game all want to put the human species first above the gods. I wonder why that’s supposed to be evil. But evil it is according to the game, or at least that’s implied to be the case considering most of the available routes in the game have you defending the Church of Seiros and opposing Edelgard, with no real justification as to why you should support the church.
It’s almost like the game wants you to side with the Church of Seiros. In fact, even if you take the Black Eagles path, the game still basically wants you to side with the Church of Seiros no matter what, even if it means betraying Edelgard. Even though you agree to teach Edelgard and side with her faction for the rest of the game, you don’t actually get to side with Edelgard unless during Chapter 11 of the story you talk to her in Garreg Mach monastery and agree to accompany her to the city of Enbarr for her coronation as the new Adrestian emperor (or empress, rather). You also have to get a support rank for Edelgard of C or higher, which you can do by talking to her, fighting alongside her, giving her gifts, inviting her to tea etc., like you would for any of the other officers in the game. You have to do this before the Chapter 11 mission starts. If you don’t, you’ll miss the chance to see that event, and if you miss that event you won’t be able to trigger this path, and be locked into the Church of Seiros campaign, which has you and the other Black Eagles (except Hubert) fighting against Edelgard and the Adrestian Empire in the name of the Church. If you suceed in unlocking that event, then after you defeat Edelgard in the Conflict in the Holy Tomb mission, Lady Rhea orders you to kill Edelgard, but you’re given a choice as to whether or not you want to kill her or protect her instead. Choosing to protect Edelgard sets you on the alternative route where you fight alongside Edelgard against the Church of Seiros for the rest of the game. To be honest, when I playing the game I didn’t assume that was the case at all. I just played the game and encountered that event, and while there was a choice indicating you could alter the story in this path, I assumed that I was actually doing the Black Eagles path as it was supposed to play out. But nope. In the main playthrough, you’re actually supposed to try and kill Edelgard after defeating her in the Conflict in the Holy Tomb.
And you know, through all this I think it’s worth visiting the question, “just what’s so great about the Church of Seiros anyway?”. Let’s think about this in terms of the main character’s life. It’s implied throughout the game’s story that the Church of Seiros has been trying to manipulate you for whatever purpose they have in mind, and Lady Rhea seems to have some mysterious plans for you. Early in Chapter 10, after your father Jeralt dies at the end of the previous chapter, you discover his diary in the room where you would once find him. In the diary, it’s revealed that Jeralt had developed mistrust towards the Church of Seiros after his wife died (which was also around the same time the main character was born), and the baby protagonist developed very bizarre behaviours, such as never laughing or crying as a normal baby would, and most bafflingly of all not having a detectable heartbeat despite having a pulse (which really confused me when I saw it because, usually, if you don’t have a heartbeat, that means you’re dead). Perhaps thinking that Rhea had plans for the child that he wanted no part in, Jeralt decided to start a fire in Garreg Mach monastery, spread false rumours about his child having died in the fire, and fled from the monastery with the child. Eventually you figure out that Rhea, and the Church of Seiros, was using you as a pawn for their plans to preserve their dominance over Fodlan. It turns out that the main protagonist possesses the Crest of Flames, which is the Crest of the goddess of this game’s universe (identified within the game as Sothis), and since by the end of Chapter 10 you’ve awakened that goddess’ power by having her merge with you, Rhea seizes the opportunity to try and use you to revive the goddess, who apparently is the mother of Rhea. That’s why Jeralt initially left Garreg Mach and took you with him, because he realized that Rhea saw you as essentially a vessel for her own power, a pet project of sorts, and wanted nothing to do with. Of course that didn’t stop him from coming back in the beginning of the game, but I digress. Regardless of what side of the story you play for, you eventually figure out one way or another that Rhea has, all this time, been using you as a vessel in order to revive the goddess Sothis, who is implied to have died at some point in the events prior to your arrival in the game’s story (even though you can see Sothis in the game in the form of the green-haired sprite who greets you at the very beginning of the game). To that end, it seems Rhea initiated an experiment through which you inherited the Crest of Flames and through which Sothis’ spirit entered your mind and body, so that eventually you will become one with Sothis’ power, which Rhea believes will signal the return of Sothis to the world so that she can rule Foldan once again. Essentially, Rhea is using the protagonist as a puppet to re-establish divine rule over mankind. The sting in all this, however, is that this Crest is apparently the main reason the protagonist is still alive. But there’s a problem: after defeating Rhea in the Black Eagles route, the protagonist loses the Crest of Flames and, while it at first appears that the protagonist is dead, it soon becomes clear that you actually survive and live to see Edelgard establish her dominion over all of Fodlan.
It’s not just what the Church does with you that makes me think that maybe they’re not the good guys here. Just look at what they’re seen doing in the first part of the game. The Church of Seiros makes it very clear at an early point that if you oppose them, you end up dead. An early example of this is in Chapter 3, wherein the Church orders you to suppress a rebellion by Lord Lonato, in which civilians are also slaughtered by Church forces. Most of the cast reflects on this as a tragedy if not an outright atrocity, even if they ultimately see their actions as necessary, but Rhea has no qualms about the whole thing. To her, even the civilians were just more sinners “pointing their swords towards the heavens”. There is also Chapter 4, where you’re introduced to a faction known as the Western Church. The Western Church appears to be a breakaway organization of the Church of Seiros, believing in ultimately the same goddess and having similar teachings (at least seemingly), but at some point it diverged from the central Church and broke off in order to become its own sect. This sect considers the central church to be a heretical organization, perverting the true teachings of the faith of the Goddess, and consequently considers Lady Rhea, its archbishop, to be an apostate. Think of the Lutherans in their attitude to the Catholic Church, only with goddess worship. Anyways, some mages apparently affilitated with the Western Church attempt to steal the Sword of the Creator from the Holy Mausoleum during the Rite of Rebirth ceremony. After you defeat the mages and acquire the Sword of the Creator, three men who are identified as followers of the Western Church are summoned before Lady Rhea, and her underling Seteth and a mercenary named Shamir, who inform them that they are to be executed for this transgression, as well as for the rebellion fought by Lord Lonato and the fake assassination letter that was spread afterwards. The men insist that they are not affiliated with the Western Church, and that Rhea is making a mistake, but Rhea and her underlings are not inclined to listen to the men or give them any sort of court hearing, and instead simply give the order for them to be executed. Interestingly enough, one of the men remarks that Rhea has already slaughtered many members of the Western Church, and calls her a monster for it. Of course, later on it would seem he turned out to be right in at least one sense of the word. In any case, strict punishment is how we’re shown the church enforces its rules and its authority. This of course makes the students of the Officer’s Academy begin to feel more than a little afraid of Lady Rhea, and rightly so. In addition, some time after this event, there is a side-quest that requires Catherine or Ashe being in the party wherein you kill more of the Western Church members for no real reason. It’s explained that it has something to do with the assassination attempt, but other than that it’s not too clear what the Western Church is doing that could justify attacking them, let alone executing them as Rhea is said to be about to do.
This also makes itself all the clearer towards the end of the Edelgard playthrough. Once you defeat Seteth and Flayn, she vows to condemn you to eternal torment of being chained to boulders in the desert until your skin rots, and during the final chapter, she orders Catherine, one of the Knights of Seiros, to set fire to the city of Fhirdiad – a move so callous and desperate that even Catherine objects to it. To make matters worse, setting the city on fire would only really make strategic sense if it was to trap the advancing army after it had already advanced into the city, but the fire starts before Edelgard’s forces even enter Fhirdiad, and it’s never suggested that the intent is to trap the invading army. So this was a massacre of Fhirdiad’s citizenry that was undertaken as a desperate show of force. Rhea makes it painstakingly clear that she will slaughter as many people, whether innocent civilians or enemy combatants, as she deems necessary in pursuit of her goals. And it’s not just Rhea who is prepared to slaughter just about anyone. The Church of Seiros has in its ranks a knight named Catherine, who seems heroic at first glance until you see support scenes featuring her where she argues in defence of the killing of innocent people, not just in hypothetical scenarios but also in relation to real (in game) scenarios, such as the execution of Christophe (the son of Lord Lonato) by the Church of Seiros. She also mentions to her friend Shamir that, if she weren’t her friend, she would cut her down on the spot for saying that she doesn’t understand or identify with the Seiros religion or Rhea.
Rhea’s tyrannical regime isn’t simply limited to how many people she is willing to kill either. At some point in the game, it’s revealed that Rhea’s enemies, the Agarthans, somehow managed to develop technologies similar to technologies that exist in the modern world, or sometimes even more advanced than our technologies. For example, this appears to be the first Fire Emblem game in which there’s talk of ICBM missiles existing in-universe. The reason you don’t see it in the game for the most part is basically that technology was mostly destroyed by Seiros. At some point in Fodlan’s history, the Agarthans decide to go to war with Sothis, which is apparently interpreted as them being corrupted by power and thinking themselves as gods. In response to this, following the War of Heroes in which Seiros emerged victorious, Seiros forcibly prevented any sort of advanced civilization from being able to interact much with the people of Fodlan, as well as preventing the people of Fodlan from advancing technologically past the medieval stage. The remnants of Agarthan technology still exist in Fodlan, however, in a hidden underground city known as Shambhala (wait, as in that Shambhala?), located beneath Hrym territory in the Adrestian Empire. This, incidentally, is one of many things about the game that reminds me of the plot of Shin Megami Tensei IV, which starts off in the medieval-esque Eastern Kingdom of Mikado which is actually a dome covering a demon-infested modern Tokyo, or the plot of the movie Hard to Be a God, in which a group of scientists travel from Earth to find an alien planet similar to Earth but stuck in the Middle Ages because its rulers suppress any spark of intelligence that might lead to their equivalent of the Renaissance.
Also, in Chapter 5, it’s revealed that the Relics (basically sacred weapons) turn people into monsters if they are wielded by people without a Crest, and Rhea doesn’t want the people knowing about that, so she orders you to keep what you saw during the fight with Miklan, who transforms into a monster while wielding the Lance of Ruin, to yourself, arguing that the public would lose faith in the nobility if that information were to become public knowledge. This is strange considering she also argues that this transformation was divine punishment from the goddess for Miklan not being “worthy” of using the Relic, an argument you’d think the people of a highly religious medieval society would not have trouble believing if advanced publicly. In Chapter 7, on the Golden Deer route, Claude finds a drawing of a creature called the Immaculate One while researching the Crests, and Seteth, one of Rhea’s aides, discovers this and asks for it to be handed over. When Claude guesses that Seteth is going to make sure the drawing isn’t seen again, noting that the monk Tomas told him that the Church of Seiros likes to bury artefacts that they deem problematic, Seteth fails to refute this and insists that he has no time for Claude’s “foolishness”. In fact the Garreg Mach library is explained to only contain books that are approved by the Church of Seiros. Every new book sent to the Garreg Mach library is directly approved by Seteth before being allowed to go on the shelves, so that nothing the Church deems harmful or inappropriate can be viewed by the students. All this establishes very firmly that the Church of Seiros likes to keep secrets from the public, as well as the protagonist and its students, and keeps a tight control of what information the denizens of the monastery can access in a rather censorious fashion.
Edelgard, being the opponent of this regime, is cast with malevolent intentions due to her being the real identity behind the Flame Emperor. But even in her capacity as Flame Emperor, she objects to the horrific methods of Solon as seen in Remire Village, and states that had she known about it she would have stopped it. Even as the Flame Emperor, even in the conversation with Thales and Monica (who is actually Kronya), she makes it perfectly clear that there will be no salvation for Thales and his kind. And in any other playthrough, after you defeat Edelgard in the Holy Tomb, she gives a speech to her followers and forces where she explains essentially the same thing she explains to you in the Black Eagles playthrough. Almost as though she has a set of actual goals and principles that are opposite to the Church of Seiros, and this isn’t a cover for some vague sense of ambitious greed. Of course, the Church of Seiros interprets this to be nothing more than just the desire to conquer all of Fodlan (which, mind you, used to be under the control of the Adrestian Empire originally but let’s not get ahead of ourselves), and Seteth even goes so far as to claim that Edelgard plans to make herself into a new god, which never actually happens in the game’s story. Even Claude, who is more or less a skeptic of the Church of Seiros, ever-suspicious of its ambitions, simply dismisses Edelgard’s vision as “reckless ambition”. But even when you oppose Edelgard, you don’t get the sense that she’s actually malevolent other than the fact that she has Demonic Beasts in her army, and it’s not explained why she has them in her army. In the second battle at Gronder Field, Edelgard genuinely shows remorse at having to fight and presumably kill her old classmates and probably friends, resolving to fight on only because there is no other choice, while her main rival Dimitri is very much eager to slaughter as many of them as possible (hence the meme where he says “kill every last one of them!”). And for all the talk her being driven purely by selfish ambitions, it’s established early on in Edelgard’s support scenes that the biggest motivation for Edelgard’s plans comes from the fact that the nobles of the Adrestian Empire seized control and ensured that most of her siblings would die for the sake of barbaric Crest-related experiments, and her resolve to change the world stems from her desire for a world where such horrors will never be allowed to happen again. I’ve seen Edelgard compared to Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones (and, to be fair, she does come across as quite similar at times), but I haven’t seen her exhibit any of the same tyrannical zeal or death-or-glory bloodlust that Dany (as she’s often called by fans) has. Even her enemies such as Seteth end up conceding that she is not some cruel tyrant who holds her people in a vice-like grip. The only thing you can say about her that’s questionable is her association with those who slither in the dark, and even then it’s explicitly clear that she hates them and is only really using them in order to unite Fodlan and eventually kill the shadowy beings she was previously manipulating. The only other thing is her telling her followers in the Black Eagle path that Rhea destroyed Arianrhod, when really it was Arundel who did it. But, honestly, if her being questionable is as bad as she gets, then compared to people like Dimitri and Rhea, she’s hardly the least sympathizable character. In general the main source of how Edelgard is supposed to be evil in the game that her path is supposedly built upon bloodshed, as Dimitri says in the Black Eagles route, “built upon corpses and tears”, which, let’s be real, is no more the case than for the path of Dimitri, the Church of Seiros, and even Claude. The Church of Seiros, as we’ve established, is behind a lot of bloodshed even at the early chapters of the game, and Dimitri did not see fit to condemn them for it, even after he bore witness to innocent people being slaughtered during the suppression of Lord Lonato’s rebellion. So frankly, I find this angle to be unremarkable, unconvincing, and hypocritical.
And not to mention, after you defeat Rhea, there’s no hint that this is supposed to be a bad thing. In fact, the game, in a strange twist, makes it objectively clear that you’ve done a good thing and earned a good ending (and yes, I’ll say say it, the best ending), even after trying to trick you into thinking that you’re taking a bad path in the game story. Although you lose the goddess’ power, you and Edelgard unite the land of Fodlan under the Adrestian Empire, and abolish the authority of the Church of Seiros, while your allies wage war on the Agharthans and their forces. The tone of the ending is resoundingly positive. I half-expected the music and the narration to be either pretty grim or very ambiguous, as though mourning Rhea and the Church of Seiros and wondering if what you did was really good. But that doesn’t happen at all. Instead, it quite rightly treats you as though you’ve liberated the people of Fodlan. And far from the implication that the forces of darkness are ready to take over Fodlan, the game implies that, after the events of the story, you and Edelgard’s forces will move on to fighting the villianous entities referred to as “those who slither in the dark”. It’s so bizarre, the game almost tries to get you to think you’re supposed to be on the side of the Church of Seiros, but when you take the complete opposite path, you find out that the Adrestian Empire are essentially the real good guys.
So, what’s the point of siding with the Church of Seiros? Because of some goddess? Because for some reason you like the same religion that has already been a hegemonic force of spiritual subjugation for less than two thousand years in the real world only this time it involves goddess worship and a bunch of anime characters?
Well, to be fair, given that you actually do get to side with the Church of Seiros by betraying Edelgard in Chapter 11 of the pre-Black Eagles route, we can actually get an idea of just what you’re getting by siding with them.
For starters, if you don’t come with Edelgard to see emperor Ionius, you are locked into this route by default should you pick the Black Eagle house in the beginning of the game, and when that happens the rest of the house all turn on Edelgard and accuse her of having used them as pawns, and vow to strike her down. Of course most of the cast is motivated by selfish reasons to betray Edelgard: Ferdinand, for example, is prepared to fight her because his father was stripped of his title as Prime Minister and placed under house arrest, not realizing that his father led a coup in which her father was stripped of much of his power so that he and Arundel could whisk Edelgard to Faerghus and perform cruel experiments on her and her sibilings. In fact most of the other seven nobles who took part in the coup are also the fathers of many of the cast of characters you meet in the Black Eagles house (namely those of Caspar, Bernadetta, Linhardt, and even Hubert). The entire point of the campaign is centered around stopping Edelgard’s efforts to “rule all”, which ultimately just comes off as hypocritical because unifiying all of Fodlan is exactly what Edelgard’s opponents end up doing anyway – Claude unites Fodlan under the Leicester Alliance (and has you rule nin his stead), Dimitri unites Foldan under the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, and the Knights of Seiros unite Fodlan under the rule of the Archbishop (which ends up being you).
The only other thing worth noting is that this playthrough feels like it’s almost a clone of the Golden Deer playthrough, with much of the events taking place within it being identical, and at least one mission bears similarities to a chapter from the Blue Lions playthrough. So if you decide to tutor the Black Eagles and then side against Edelgard, you essentially do another version of the Golden Deer playthrough, with the main difference being that you play as what’s left of the Black Eagles class, who are now part of the Knights of Seiros, you skip the second battle at Gronder Field, and you fight Rhea at the end. Honestly there isn’t much to say about what you’re fighting for by betraying Edelgard, because of the subject of what you’re fighting for doesn’t seem to come up in the playthrough. I see a lot of the characters talk a tiny bit about what they claim to be against and why they oppose Edelgard, but nothing about what they stand for. It seems to be just you fighting the Empire in order to preserve the status quo. You also don’t learn any major plot revelations that you don’t get in the Golden Deer route, other than Seteth and Flayn being revealed to be “children of the goddess” (which you probably would have guessed early on in the game anyway given the hints you get in Part 1), and that they can shapeshift which explains Rhea turning into a dragon. However, Rhea does tell you that she created the protagonist by implanting the Crest of Flames into his/her heart, and apologizes to you for wanting to use you as a vessel for her ambitions to have Sothis rule the world, and that the protagonist’s mother was another of her creations, who also had the same Crest in her body before her death. She also reveals that she at one point saved Jeralt’s life through some kind of blood transfusion, giving her some of her own blood. All to create a being capable of housing the consciousness of the long-dead progenitor god. After this revelation, however, Rhea transforms into the Immaculate One and some monsters referred to as White Beasts start appearing out of nowhere, and you’re tasked with defeating them. In the end, you’re set to become the new ruler of Fodlan, uniting all of Foldan under your reign and the Church of Seiros, and the Adrestian Empire, the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus and the Leicester Alliance all, for some reason, cease to exist. Wait, wasn’t the game telling me I was supposed to stop Edelgard from doing that?. Oh wait, Edelgard wanted to destroy the church, so I guess that’s different.
You know what, let’s address that here. One of the main objections to Edelgard’s ambitions that springs up a lot throughout all of the playthroughs where you oppose her is the complaint that Edelgard is forcing her views onto others. Flayn, for example, remarks that Edelgard has high ideals but doesn’t care what the people of Fodlan think. The problem with this argument is that it’s ultimately a shallow and self-defeating one: the same could be said of any ruler, or indeed any society from the perspective of its critics. In fact, you could just as easily apply this to the Church of Seiros and the system of nobility. Who asked for this system? Who asked for representatives of the goddess to rule over the people? Who asked for society to be arranged in feudal fashion as it is in Fodlan? But this is what has people in Fodlan opposing Edelgard’s ambitions? Some hollow, pitiable spiel about voluntarism? That’s just a farce in my opinion. But apparently Foldan’s system of religious feudalism is worth preserving enough on the argument that it is only in the Black Eagles playthrough that you actually fight them. Kind of makes me wonder about the developers and their conception of the ideal society, just a little bit. And for all Seteth’s self-assurance that the people cannot understand Edelgard’s ambitions, evidently half of the entire continent understands it enough that you have swathes of people ready to fight for her ideals.
There’s an unofficial rule in storywriting that I’ve come across: show, don’t tell. If you’re going to try and paint Edelgard as a villainous figure, or rather semi-villainous given the intentional moral ambiguity of the story, you have to be prepared to show Edelgard doing things you can identify as potentially if not outright evil. But, in playing the game, I never actually see Edelgard do evil things, or have a direct hand in evil things happening. You hear about Edelgard being willing to commit atrocities in order to achieve her goals, but in the actual game story you never see Edelgard actually commit atrocities or order her subordinates to do so. In the Golden Deer route Claude claims that Edelgard’s forces order the citizens of Enbarr to act as a kind of human shield for her forces, but you never see citizens deployed in any version of the invasion of Enbarr, meaning you don’t have to fight or avoid citizen units, which leads me to believe that Claude is basically lying to you – and funny enough, it’s only here that anyone ever claims that the Enbarr citizenry is being used as a human shield, as neither the Blue Lions nor the Seiros routes mention that. She’s described as being so consumed by her ambitions that she alienates and antagonizes the people she cares about, but this never happens in the game, at least judging from the fact that many of her classmates can be seen fighting alongside her in every route except the Church of Seiros, and in that example it’s only because you convince most of the Black Eagle house to turn against Edelgard.
Even if you oppose Edelgard, you don’t actually get the impression that she’s even trying to be malevolent. Even with Dimitri, Edelgard never stopped considering Dimitri to be her friend even as she has to oppose him, a fact that Dimitri is only capable of recognizing if you play the Blue Lions playthrough. For the most part, her malevolence is just something that people in the game and people talking about in the game just, well, talk about, but with no clear reference to any actions Edelgard takes. All we get is her stated willingness to “stain her path with blood”, which is a vague statement in the context of war. Really the worst you can say about her is that she won’t compromise with the enemy and she’s willing to use shadowy monsters who she will eventually destroy once she’s done with them. Again, if that’s the worst thing about her, worse people have existed within both the game’s setting and real world history. The closest thing the game gets to depicting Edelgard as a villain is when she turns into a monster called Hegemon Edelgard, for absolutely no god damned reason other than so that she can be presented as a threatening monster. None of the other lords have this happen to them, and only two other characters turn themselves into monsters, Dedue and Miklan, and of them the only one with something of an explanation is Miklan. Her transformation exists solely to dehumanize her and vilify her ideals so that Dimitri, after all the effort he spent regaining his humanity, can just dismiss the compassion he felt for his former friend. In summary, it seems like the entire time the game is just trying (and arguably failing) to tell you what to think about Edelgard and the morality of her actions, but without actually showing how evil Edelgard is.
But you know, the strange thing is, it seems like, had this whole story been real, it seems to me like the Adrestian Empire would have won the war, and that’s important because it plays into the way the game deals with the morality of the factions and how the protagonist plays into it. Let’s think about it as realistically as possible. The Adrestian Empire would have the geographic advantage of covering more than half of the map of Fodlan. They’re strategic areas are noted to be well-fortified, built to last defensively and defended by capable generals, and the imperial army is quite probably the most unified and stable force of the three factions. Faerghus’ resources are noted as being rather thin, with many lands within the territory described as harsh and infertile which would make agriculture difficult. In addition, the kingdom is not necessarily a unified territory. In fact the Leicester Alliance was the creation of Faerghus nobles who split off from the kingdom during its history. Internally the kingdom had some instances of coups and assassinations among the nobility, which calls into question the stability of the kingdom. The Leicester Alliance is easily less stable but for different reasons: although nominally united under a leading noble house or houses, the nobles constantly squarrel with and betray one another, sometimes leading to internal conflict. Not to mention, with Fhirdiad captured, the Kingdom is severely weakened, with just a handful of nobles putting up resistance against the Empire. Another thing to take into consideration is defections. Dimitri’s descent into brutality and madness would create quite a bit of motivation to defect. As a historical example, the Three Kingdoms general Zhang Fei’s frequent tendency to abuse his officers and even punitively execute them eventually led to some of his officers killing him and defecting to the Wu kingdom in 221. And with the alliance, it’s only a matter of time before some of the nobles, who are sympathetic to the empire, just let them pass through. On top of that, for the talk of Edelgard being “willing to commit atrocities”, the Adrestian Empire would, realistically, have quite a few opportunities to achieve their goal of conquest with as little bloodshed as possible, and in some cases no bloodshed at all. All of this is taken from the situation as is observed in pretty much all of the story routes in the game except for the Black Eagles route. Not to mention, outside of the Black Eagles route, it is strongly implied that, had it not been for the protagonist, Dimitri would meet his death while trying to rush into Enbarr. With this in mind and Claude’s limited ability to keep the Alliance stable, the victory of the Adrestrian Empire would have been inevitable in a real setting, and per the game’s story it seems that the only thing really stopping the Empire from achieving its inexorable victory is the protagonist.
Also, since we’ve established the deciding role of the protagonist in how the war plays out, let’s talk for a moment about the Crest Stones and the appearance of Demonic Beasts. In Chapter 11, the Flame Emperor and his forces invade the Holy Tomb in Garreg Mach in order to seize the Crest Stones. At first you wonder why they could be doing this, but then you remember that Crests have the power to turn people into monsters. Once you understand this, you figure out that the Adrestrian Empire was gathering Crest Stones for the purpose of creating an army of monsters referred to as Demonic Beasts in order to bolster their forces. But there is something noteworthy about this element. In all the routes where you oppose Edelgard, you find Demonic Beasts among the ranks of the imperial army, but on Edelgard’s route you never see them. In the Black Eagles route, before the timeskip, it’s strongly implied that, if you come over to her side, then Edelgard could effectively discard the aid of those who slither in the dark. This tells me that you joining her side changes the course of her plans rather significantly, and indeed she seems to directly hint at this at some point in the Black Eagles route where Edelgard talks to Hubert about the Sword of the Creator and its potential in the hands of the protagonist. In fact, in Chapter 8 after you defeat Solon for the first time in Remire Village, the Flame Emperor appears and straight up tells you that, if you join her side, she would be able to subdue and contain the violence of those who slither in the dark, perhaps even vanquish them entirely, and achieve her goals without their power. This also plays into a certain of the protagonist acting as the only thing keeping either Edelgard or Dimitri from becoming truly malevolent. The problem, of course, is that even here Edelgard never actually comes off as very malevolent (mostly because the extent of Edelgard’s evil is never actually demonstrated in-game), and in the case of Dimitri, you don’t do much to stop Dimitri’s rampage of revenge until after the death of Rodrigue (more on that later). Honestly it seems like a no-brainer to me: just side with Edelgard so that she doesn’t have to rely on those who slither in the dark in order to achieve her goal of abolishing the Church of Seiros.
Being as we’ve gone into depth as to what Edelgard stands for, and not to mention Rhea’s ambitions, I think it’s worth delving into what Edelgard’s other main rivals stand for. After all, this is a game where you can choose between multiple factions, each seemingly with their own vision of Fodlan. Edelgard’s two main rivals are Claude von Riegan, who is set to become the leader of the Leicester Alliance, and Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd, the prince (and eventually king) of Faerghus.
During the Golden Deer playthrough, Claude tells you that his main goal is to unify the Leicester Alliance by bringing it under his influence, and then eventually unify all of Foldan under his ideals, and then expand his ideals past Foldan’s borders and onto to the rest of the world. Of course this would be functionally no different to Edelgard’s plans to unify Fodlan by conquest but let’s not that get in the way of “giving the CEO of racism a talk” (as the memes put it). What are Claude’s ideals exactly? Well, Claude explains that, when he arrived in Foldan, he found that many of the people of Fodlan were a parochial and chauvinistic people, tending to look down foreigners as animals or even beasts, which he says is the same attitude that people had in the land of Almyra, where he was born. Based on that and his talk of breaking down walls it seems safe to infer that he wants to create a society based on universal tolerance, through what is basically imperial expansion of course. A major part of Claude’s plan is to “bust open” Fodlan’s Throat, which is a mountain range that also serves as a border between Fodlan and the land of Almyra, which periodically starts skirmishes on the border in order to show off their military strength. This goal entails the destruction of a fortress protecting the eastern border in order to weaken the border and allow free movement of people, goods and cultures between the two territories, which he believes will eliminate prejudice from both lands. Claude is basically a liberal expansionist, like Woodrow Wilson, William Gladstone or basically the core of the Democratic Party. He even comes equipped with some convincingly liberal axioms, such as “ignorance breeds prejudice” and “new ways of doing things are always met with resistance” – the latter of which is funny, because resisting new ways of doing things is precisely what he’s doing by opposing Edelgard.
Curiously enough though, Claude, similarly to Edelgard, expresses skepticism of the Church of Seiros, and even explains to you that, without Rhea, people would theoretically become free to think for themselves for the first time, without the pressure of the church or the nobility. He even acknowledges that he and Edelgard have similar ambitions, but sheepishly dismisses her methods on the grounds that they “require too much bloodshed” (as though the whole point of the story wasn’t about war). Funny, the empire allows rival territories to continue existing as vassals and through much of its campaign set about simply capturing rather than destroying territories, and in fact we soon find that it’s the Church of Seiros and Dimitri, not the empire, who are obsessed with bloodshed and set about killing as many people as they can, but don’t allow that to ruin Claude’s fetish for neutrality. In any case, the irony of a game where there are not supposed to be golden good guys is that Claude is, seemingly, the least morally ambiguous character in the game and often seens pretty much benevolent. Sure he talks about cooking up devious schemes and poisoning his enemies, but not only does he never seem to actually do anything that can be counted as malevolent, he’s nowhere near as willing to do the same sort of schemes that Edelgard is ultimately revealed to have carried out.
The thing is, though, I ultimately think of Claude’s ideals as weak. He doesn’t challenge the Church of Seiros and doesn’t seem interested in challenging the nobility, other than opening the borders which presumably goes against many of their wishes. That’s an important detail because no matter what path you take in the game, you run into all manner of horror stories involving many of the characters and their relation to the nobility. There’s Bernadetta who was often imprisoned by her father to teach her to be a submissive housewife and eventually practically kidnapped by one of her mother’s attendants and that’s how she wound up at Garreg Mach. Characters such as Mercedes and Ingrid talk about how their parents wanted to them marry off to some rich noble against their wishes for profit, and in one of their side-quests (or paralogues) you end up fighting them. Edelgard’s father, the emperor Ionius IX, was rendered politically impotent by a cabal of nobles (including Duke Aegir who is Ferdinand’s father) and she herself was shipped off to Faerghus against her will because of Hubert’s father. Sylvain, who on the surface appears to be little more than a philanderer, actually broods on the fact that he’s only valued by people, including women, because of his Crest, because of the realization that, so long as he has a Crest, he will never be related to or judged as a real person, and consequently he believes he will never find anyone who actually loves him as a person. Numerous characters have backstories which shed light on the harsh reality of the system of nobility in place. But Claude never expresses any real interest in changing this in the game’s plot. In fact the only person who wants to change it in the games is Edelgard, and Claude opposes her for her radicalism. He’s also aware that the Church of Seiros has been lying to the people of Fodlan and not to mention stands in the way of Claude’s plan to liberalize the contient, but we don’t see him do anything about that, and nor does he seem too motivated to really oppose the Church. Again, only Edelgard actually wants to overthrow the church. That’s, ultimately, my problem with Claude’s ambitions. Even with his knowledge of Fodlan’s history, he has no desire to topple the societal structures that generate problems for its people. Some might say that it’s all tied back to how he doesn’t actually want conflict, he doesn’t want violence, war or bloodshed to befall the land, and that’s admirable, but beyond his message of tolerance there’s not much to say for his ambition. Not to mention, if you play any of the routes where you don’t side with him and you don’t kill him, he formally dissolves the Leicester Alliance, steps down as its leader and then rides off into Almyra never to be seen again. When push comes to shove, he doesn’t really care.
As for Dimitri, he says that he believes in some vague idea of justice, but what does that justice mean? Well, at some point in the Blue Lions path he tells you that he wants to stop the strong from trampling the weak. It’s a fairly generic moral stance, but seemingly a benign and understandable one. Actually, to be fair on him, in Chapter 3 of the Blue Lions route we see Dimitri sincerely condemn those in power who claim to value justice only to take as many lives as they please, and even empathize a little with Lord Lonato on the grounds that he didn’t view his path outside the lens of the pursuit of justice, and even suggests that, rather than kill Lonato, the Church forces should have tried to pursue a peaceful end to the rebellion. That’s pretty impressive, even if it can be taken as naive. But this moral stance is contrasted sharply by how, in Chapter 8, he tells you that he his one reason for coming to Garreg Mach was so that he would some day get revenge. This also colours the way Dimitri develops as the story progresses. Before the Battle of Garreg Mach, he becomes increasingly tense and obsessed with the memories of Duscur, and after Chapter 11 he passes the point of no return after finding out the Flame Emperor is Edelgard, after which point he becomes genuinely deranged and maniacal, relishing in the thought of senseless slaughter and fantasizing about crushing Edelgard’s skull with his hands. Dimitri had long believed the Flame Emperor to be responsible for the Tragedy of Duscur, a series of massacres in which numerous royals and nobles of Faerghus, including Dimitri’s father Lambert, were assasinated. Of course, the Flame Emperor didn’t actually have any hand in those massacres, and indeed she openly condemns the events at Duscur and Enbarr as unjust, and not to mention it’s eventually revealed that Lord Arundel and Cornelia are the real culprits behind the Tragedy of Duscur, but let’s not let that get in the way of Dimitri’s Old Testament God instincts.
Anyways, five years later, after the timeskip, we no longer hear about justice and virtue, in fact he doesn’t care about these things anymore for most of the playthrough. When you and Dimitri set out to rout some theives infesting what was the Garreg Mach monastery, he becomes enraged when you point out that some of them might be stealing just to survive. He talks of slaughtering all of the theives lurking in Garreg Mach, even if they only steal to survive, justifying his actions with his longstanding belief that the strong should be stopped from trampling the weak, in his words “even if it means becoming a rat myself”. Thus all that seems to remain of his moral compass and ethical conceits is just a way to rationalize senseless brutality. When one of the Adrestian generals, Randolph von Bergliez, is captured by Dimitri’s forces, he laughs when you suggest he give him a quick death rather than the two sadistic options he presents: either he forces Randolph to watch as he executes his comrades one by one, or just gouges his eyes out. Before fighting Randolph, when he rhetorically asks Dimitri “life is worthless to you, isn’t it?”, he says “you took the words from my mouth, general!”. After you mercifully execute Randolph to stop Dimitri from torturing him, Dimitri dares you to kill him, and says that if you don’t then he will keep using you and your allies until you die. His obsession with revenge is also complimented by frequent instances of Dimitri hearing voices in his head which he interprets to be the spirits of his deceased royal relatives. All he wants to do in the Blue Lions playthrough is to strike out at the Imperial capital so that he can kill Edelgard, believing that it will end the war and quell the haunting voices of the dead that linger inside of him.
He gets so bad that even Felix, who is normally all too eager for battle, suggests that he’s gone too far. But then even before the war phase of the game Felix recounts a story in which Dimitri suppresses a rebellion so brutally and with such savage glee that he didn’t even recognize him as human, a fact that the pre-war Dimitri is forced to recognize when confronted with this story and so cannot deny the truth of the matter. This rebellion, as it happens, was his first experience in battle as a commanding officer and took place two years before the events of the game and thus preceded the suppression of Lord Lonato’s rebellion. Hell, if you talk to Felix as early as Chapter 2 in the Blue Lions route he warns you not to trust Dimitri because he thinks of him as an animal, and even during the prologue chapter, your protagonist thinks to himself about Dimitri, “I sense darkness in him”, suggesting that there’s a malevolent aspect of his personality that will become a major part of the plot – and, just so you know, that never happens for the other two lords. While Dimitri tries to say that his enemies are the same as him, don’t be fooled: there are few characters in the entire game who are as monstrous as the fiend that Dimitri becomes. And, of course, in order to justify his madness, he tries to convince you that you and him are of the same kind because you pursued the people who killed your father, Jeralt, in Chapters 9 and 10. Of course, the comparison is ultimately shallow, given that after defeating Monica/Kronya and Solon you don’t go down a rampage of revenge like Dimitri does, but, again, that fact would just ruin Dimitri’s narrative. That fact will never stop him from dehumanizing his enemies, treating them as little more than beasts with human faces. He is also so blinded by his desire for revenge that he cannot even take joy in the victories his forces win in battle in his name, referring to one battle in Chapter 16 as a farce despite the victory. But most tellingly of all, when Gilbert asks Dimitri in Chapter 17 if he feels no hesistation about killing his former friends and classmates, he says simply that he is used to killing familiar faces by now, with a visible smile on his face. This attitude is a stark contrast to the attitude held by his rivals Edelgard and Claude, both of whom express sorrow at having to fight their former friends at Gronder Field and in general, and it is the most revealing as to who the truly malevolent of the three lords are.
But, it’s worth noting that Dimitri doesn’t stay in his vengeful stupor throughout the Blue Lions path. At the end of Chapter 17, after the second Battle of Gronder Field, Randolph’s sister Fleche attempts to kill Dimitri in order to avenge his death, only for Rodrigue to shield him and get stabbed instead of him, thus Rodrigue died to save Dimitri’s life. Initially Dimitri doesn’t learn much from this, and he still tries to march single-handedly to Enbarr, this time guided by the sentiment that nothing really matters anymore because “death is the end”, and refuses to listen to you because he just wants to die already because he thinks of it as the only way to free him from the voices of the dead. However, as the next chapter begins, we start to see him questioning his desire for revenge and changing course. Instead of marching on to Enbarr like he originally planned, he decides to instead turn back to Fhirdiad in order to take it back from the Empire. And then, Dimitri pulls a face heel turn: he apologizes to the entire party for the bitter and vengeful path he led them through, along with the senseless suffering he caused, and announces his intention to return to Fhirdiad and greet its people as their rightful king. He states that he will stop listening to the voices in his head and start doing what he actually believes in. But what does he actually believe in?
Well we can certainly say he’s learned to renounce vengeance on a moral level, having figured out that Fleche’s attempt on his life was ultimately his fault because of the vicious cycle that the pursuit of revenge creates. Other than that? It’s not too clear. He doesn’t seem to care about the conflict between the Agarthans and the children of Sothis, and he has nothing to say about the Church of Seiros other than he supports them for some unspecified reason. Even after he gets over his obsession with revenge against Edelgard, it still seems that all he really wants is to defeat the Empire. We get two reasons for why this is: some generic line about “restoring peace”, and revenge (the latter, strange as it may seem, ultimately makes the most sense). When Dimitri prevails at the end of the Blue Lions playthrough and Fodlan is united under the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, the conflict between Sothis’ forces and the Agarthans (or “those who slither in the dark”) is not at all addressed, and we don’t know what Dimitri intends to do about them. All that happens with Rhea is she steps down as Archbishop after being rescued from Enbarr, for a reason that is as entirely unclear as the reason she was held captive in the first place. Nothing happens in relation to the Church of Seiros, although we can assume Dimitri wants to keep them around. All we know of the kind of world Dimitri intends to build is that he wants to get rid of “all kinds of oppression”, but there’s no basis for establishing what that could mean and also it’s entirely laughable to think that a theocratic government with no intentions of not being a theocratic autocracy is going to get rid of oppression. At least Edelgard wanted to abolish the nobility along with the Church and apparently even hints at making it so that the title of emperor is no longer hereditary somehow.
Beyond all of that, Dimitri is generally distinguished from the other three lords by his willingness to accept the status quo of Fodlan society. Whereas Claude is skeptical and mistrustful of the Crest-based noble order but merely doesn’t do much to change it, and Edelgard wants to bulldoze that order entirely and replace it with an egalitarian meritocracy (albeit an imperial one), Dimitri believes that this order and its customs exist for a reason. He believes that if the people of Fodlan no longer valued the Crests, then the noble bloodlines that carry them would fade out or no longer be strong enough to oppose the threats they were supposedly keeping at bay. But he is not a mere conservative in this sense, and, when you ask what he believes, he states he believes that those with Crests and those without should learn to co-exist and respect each other based on the merits that they both bring to the table. He also thinks this attitude should apply to all other major aspects of society, such as noble lineage, race, religion and ideology. Essentially he’s a similar type of reformist to Claude, but perhaps with even less ambition. He opposes Edelgard’s vision because she wants to bring about revolution via the Empire supposedly at the expense of countless lives (which, as we’ve established, doesn’t entirely pan out the way he would describe it), and saying that by contrast he wants the war to end “through acceptance, not annihilation” (which is laughable considering almost all of Dimitri’s actions and statements from Chapters 11-18).
The best picture we actually get of Dimitri’s beliefs is in Chapter 21, when Edelgard has the opportunity to meet Dimitri and explain her vision. When she explains to Dimitri that, in reality (or at least from her perspective), her war would in the end lend to the least casualties, which is very likely to be the case if this war were to play out in real life, the death toll of the war ultimately lower and more bearable compared to the suffering that the world of Fodlan imposes upon its people, Dimitri refuses to see her point and accuses her of being obsessively devoted to the war (as opposed to his own obsessive devotion to waging war against the Empire and killing Edelgard of course). Of course we do get some vague ideas about faith, with Edelgard saying that she would rather people be able to rely on themselves while Dimitri insisting that there are those who cannot live without their faith. What’s really interesting about this scene is that we actually seem to get something similar to the conflict between the Law and Chaos factions in the Shin Mgeami Tensei series. He even accuses her of being a Social Darwinist, claiming that her path is the path of the strong and can only benefit such, despite no indication of that being an aspect of her actual worldview and her even positioning her cause as a struggle for the weak and the downtrodden. Dimitri even accuses her of wanting to become a goddess. Strangely enough Dimitri actually has the gall to advocate that it is the people, not the rulers, who change the way of the world, despite his system of government literally being predicated on the hereditary authority of a singular ruler (a fact that Edelgard directly calls him out on when he says that a “highborn” person like him cannot know how the poor really feel). On the whole it seems that Dimitri’s ideals are ill-formed and only make sense as reaction to Edelgard’s vision.
The biggest problem with Dimitri in my view is twofold. First, the most obvious problem, is that Dimitri never leaves behind his obsession with vengeance and never becomes something of a good person unless you side with him (except, for some reason, in the Black Eagles playthrough, where he doesn’t even have his eyepatch). Unless you take his side, he will continue to be the brutal and deranged prince that he turns out to be, and this would have inevitably led to his death in his attempt to charge into Enbarr. The only reason he stops is because after Rodrigue’s death you somehow convince him that his desire for revenge is pointless and that he needs to fight for something other than vengeance. You’re the only reason that Dimitri doesn’t stay a psychopath, which tells me that his destiny was to be a psychopath. The second is that, any way you slice it, Dimitri spent his whole life in pursuit of revenge and ultimately bases his fight against the Empire on a lie. Edelgard had no role to play in the Tragedy of Duscur. That was all the work of Arundel and Cornelia, though Arundel (as Thales) claims it was done for her benefit. But he was prepared to believe that she caused it, based on nothing other than Edelgard being the Flame Emperor, and it is only in Chapter 19 that he suddenly says that that he always suspected that Arundel was behind the Tragedy of Duscur. The problem here is that he never expressed this suspicion anywhere in the game and spent so much of the game holding Edelgard responsible for the entire thing, so I don’t know where he suddenly got to the part where he realized Arundel was behind it, but he’s full of shit if he tells you that he always thought Arundel was behind the massacre, otherwise he wouldn’t have gone insane when he found out Edelgard was the Flame Emperor. With this in mind and just how ill-defined his ideals are, coupled with what I’ve explained about what the reality of Adrestrian conquest and victory might look like (not nearly as bloody and annihilationist as Edelgard’s enemies would suggest), it just strikes me how, in the ultimate analysis, Dimitri’s fight is ultimately for nothing. There’s no reason to for him to fight her other than to defend Faerghus from invasion and because he initially believed her to be responsible for the events at Duscur, all else is just a cheap rationalization from there. If all his cause has was a lie and nothing in the way of a well-defined set of ideals other than constantly talking about chivalry and knighthood, nothing is all it’s going to be.
It’s because of all this that I find Edelgard to be the most sympathizable faction leader in the game, and her cause to be the most sympathizable, and cannot be convinced otherwise.
But there’s one thing that bothers me. Even in the Black Eagles ending where you side with Edelgard and defeat Rhea, there are a lot of plot holes that stem from issues and details that remain unresolved. For example, in Chapter 11, it’s revealed that Edelgard is the mysterious “Flame Emperor” from earlier in the game. In fact, this is lampshaded later in Part 1 when, after the Flame Emperor disappears, people talk about Edelgard having wandered off somewhere. But what’s not answered is why Edelgard felt the need to go around bearing the guise of the Flame Emperor. It’s also not clear why she allies herself with “those who slither in the dark” to begin with. All Edelgard tells you is that she’ll explain it later, but she doesn’t get the chance to do so before you get sent into a coma for five years after the invasion of Garreg Mach in Chapter 12. And, most egregiously of all, the Black Eagles path, during the second half of the story doesn’t have you fighting those who slither in the dark in any capacity. It consists of 18 chapters, shorter than the other storylines, and it ends with you destroying Rhea. While the idea of that path ending with the fight against Rhea is a fitting conclusion to a path where you’ve set yourself against the Church of Seiros, it would be even better if you got to fight, say, Arundel/Thales after all the shit he put Edelgard through, maybe uncovering the real conspiracy that those who slither in the dark were getting up to. Like I said earlier, show not tell is a basic rule of storytelling. Although it is believable that Edelgard’s forces will oppose them, due to the multiple times Edelgard and Hubert express genuine hatred for those who slither in the dark and very clearly intend to dispose of them, we never see them fight any of them during the second half of the game except in Chapter 16 where they fight Cornelia, a royal mage of Faerghus who is implied to among their ranks. I have the feeling that the route was laid out this way in order to prevent each of the routes from ending in the same way – after all, two routes in the game (the Golden Deer and Church of Seiros routes) both have you fighting those who slither in the dark as the final enemy. But even then, why is it so short? Is it because the Adrestian campaign backed by you would be a short and easy victory in the long run, or is it because they didn’t want to include a missing confrontation with those who slither in the dark that might ruin the moral ambiguity they intended? In either case, it leads to the Edelgard route being incomplete. In fact it is because of this as well as a lack of fully animated cutscenes compared to the other routes as well as being much shorter than the other routes that some fans of Fire Emblem believe that the route may not have been originally intended to be included in the game, and may have been rushed out before the game’s release.
In sum, I believe that the game’s treatment of Edelgard as a potentially sinister figure, and indeed casting her as the only lord who turns into a monster at any point in the game, and the fact that within the game you are not actually supposed to side with her, to the point that her own route is actually an alternative route as opposed to the actual route (in which you betray Edelgard on behalf of the Church of Seiros), and the decisions that were made for writing that route leads to the conclusion that Edelgard was intended to be, at least ultimately, a villain or primary antagonist. They couldn’t depict her as an outwardly malevolent character, because that would undermine the intent to create a morally ambiguous setting, filled with reasons to justify supporting or opposing either of the lords you’re asked to choose from, so instead they simply cast her as an overly ambitious extremist, a bit like the way Dynasty Warriors games used to treat Cao Cao until the sixth installment of the series (a point worth noting considering that Koei was involved in the development of this game), while still giving some tells that she’s meant to be more malevolent.
The reason I find this rather telling on the part of the developers is because of the setting all of this is situated in, and the roles played out therein. Keep in mind that in the game Edelgard is one of the only characters to actually oppose the Church of Seiros, and quite possibly the only one giving a clear vision of how bad it is and what the world would be like without it. Everyone else either supports the Church of Seiros or just doesn’t care enough to oppose it, thus they end up opposing Edelgard’s vision. While many character express grievances towards the system of nobility, it seems no one actually seems interested in changing or abolishing this system except Edelgard. And only Edelgard and Hubert talk about bringing Fodlan under the control of human power and freeing them from the rule of shapeshifting gods. All of these are talked about in the game to some extent, and Edelgard is the only character who actually wants to do something about it in a way that actually leads to meaningful change in the only way that makes sense. That, strictly speaking, is Edelgard’s crime within the game’s story, or more specifically being willing to start a war in order to achieve those goals. As though the Chruch of Seiros was ever going to peaceably accept its own abolition, as if their living gods would willfully relinquish their power. The ultimate message here is impossible to escape: the Church of Seiros is ultimately good, and the nobility is only a flawed system that could do with reform rather than the decrepit injustice that it is actually shown to be, and if you have enough of a problem with this system that you decide that it needs to be gotten rid of for the good of the people, then you’re a tyrannical ideologue seeking to subjugate the people and build a utopia on a foundation of corpses. Of course, we all know where we’ve heard that before. In fact, considering the game’s setting, I’d like you to imagine if we had that attitude towards the Catholic Church. Indeed, imagine if, in the 18th century, the French and American revolutionaries had that attitude to the French and British monarchies respectively.
So in a nutshell, don’t listen to Fire Emblem: Three Houses fans who think that Edelgard can be counted as one of the bad guys in the game. All they end up doing is apologizing for the feudal-religious order in a game where you actually have the chance, and very good reason, to oppose it. In other words, Edelgard did nothing wrong.
Something’s been bothering me lately. I caught an interview on Sargon of Akkad’s channel with Black Pigeon Speaks, a far-right YouTuber who I’ve mentioned before and who espouses borderline neo-fascist talking points and also has a history of plagiarism on his channel, where he talks about how he was briefly banned from YouTube for apparently unknown reasons. In my opinion the interview on a whole was pure, obeisant garbage, with Carl nodding along to all of his points and never bringing up the issue of plagiarism and never challenging his talking points on religion despite supposedly being an ardent atheist and secularist, but there’s one part in particular that inspires pause.
At one point in the interview, Black Pigeon Speaks goes on about how, in the age where progressivism is seemingly the dominant ideology, people like him are the heretics, the blasphemers. The irony of this, of course, is that BPS himself is decidedly a supporter of religious conservatism, rejects atheism and secularism as vanity projects that serve to weaken Western countries, and longs for the restoration of some sort of prelapersian Christianity. And let’s face it, the social order he supports would likely not accept anti-Christian blasphemies or heresies any more than he believes liberal/progressive societies tolerate political deviations, whether from the right or elsewhere. As an example we can look to Poland, a country he frequently praises for its nationalistic policies, and the fact that it has laws in the books that prohibit the mockery and disparaging of religious objects, icons and figures. So, what bothers me is this: why does a man who places so much weight on religion, and who wants a religious society in place, feel anything other than disgust for having taken on the role of the blasphemer?
Well, increasingly, the thought occurs that the concept to blaspheme is in a sense the shadow of what it is to conserve: blasphemy, like orthodoxy and conservatism, is utterly dependent on what is held sacred at the time. As Aleister Crowley once put it, ““The Devil” is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes”. Put it this way: conservatives often like to believe that they have an ideology that is defined by its own content, but really it’s just a way positioning yourself as a defender of either the status quo or just whatever said of values you think is common to the culture you live in, but most often just refers to the present order of things. We see this most starkly in the economic base of modern conservatism. Conservatives nowadays will tell you that they support free market capitalism and despise state interference in the economic as well as social spheres, but this was not always the case – in fact, as far as I know at least they only really started saying this stuff in the UK once Margaret Thatcher lead the Conservative Party to victory. Until the 1970s, the Tories were often the vanguard of pre-modern economic ideas, and in the words of Edward Heath the Conservative Party once claimed to be oppose what it saw as the brutal free market system of capitalism. But now, ever since Thatcher, and after America came to dominate global political discourse, conservatism came to mean the preservation of a capitalistic order where almost nothing can regulate the nigh-absolute rule of private oligarchs and corporate tyrants.
Blasphemy, in a sense, is often like this in that it requires us to take a look at the following question: what does it mean? Anton LaVey gave us a clue in The Satanic Bible when he described what he thought a modern Black Mass would look like at the time it was written. He believed that, in the Black Mass of his time, the objection of subversion and mockery would be a prevailing liberal culture that he associated with the hippie movement, who he is known to have loathed. In his words:
A black mass, today, would consist of the blaspheming of such “sacred” topics as Eastern mysticism, psychiatry, the psychedelic movement, ultra- liberalism, etc. Patriotism would be championed, drugs and their gurus would be defiled, acultural militants would be deified, and the decadence of ecclesiastical theologies might even be given a Satanic boost.
The “countercultural” right in my view tends to play into this, whether they realize it or not, and perhaps this is how, a few years ago, I saw in the nascent online right that ember of rebellion – not in the old guard Ben Shapiro right, of course, but in that populist faction known as the “New Right”, the guys who liked nationalism, hated neoconservatism, and occaisionally flouted and even actively questioned free market orthodoxy in pursuit of protectionism. But the religious angle of the new right is what throws me. We are to believe that, somehow, believing in upholding the Christian power that has already ruled for less than two thousand years is the new counterculture – a talking point that can be found across the right at this point, from vanilla neoconservatives like Dennis Prager, to Dave Cullen, to the alt-right and beyond. But that doesn’t seem to make sense given that, although Christianity is on the decline in many parts of the world, it is still the predominant religion in much of the Western world, and remains a major part of European cultures. So why is Christianity seen as such a countercultural force to these guys? Well, Dave Cullen sort of gave it away in his “God Pill” video. It’s because they’ve convinced themselves that society is dominated by an anti-Christian cultural establishment, which is isomorphic to all of this “social justice” stuff they keep talking about. That’s all it is. It’s entirely reaction to trends that they don’t realize are products of the very economic system that they often wish to defend. And they’re not even very good at positioning themselves as countercultural.
But the strange thing is that their impulse to position themselves as a countercultural force, even in spite of the fact that their politics really can only be considered such when framed as a response to the transient liberal culture wars, tells us that the value of blasphemy is very limited. It’s only really good for taking some sacred cows down a peg, which sometimes it’s necessary or fun to do. You can’t, however, get very far with a framework that serves only to be as the blasphemer to another framework. If you do that, you can only travel in the shadow of that which you seek to blaspheme.
About a year ago I became aware of the existence of a book entitled Naturalistic Occultism: An Introduction to Scientific Illuminism, which was written in 2009 by IAO131 (or Frater IAO131), a Thelemite author who produces a podcast entitled Speech in the Silence and is the creator and editor of the Journal of Thelemic Studies. The subject of the book is, as the title would suggest, the concept of Naturalistic Occultism, the author’s formulation of a system of occult practice consistent with naturalism and skepticism based on Aleister Crowley’s framework of Scientific Illuminism, as elucidate in the first edition of The Equinox along with numerous other works of his. I have been meaning to read it, but for some reason I didn’t get around to it until the last week. The following post is my assessment of the book, or more specifically of the content of Scientific Illuminism being espoused. It should be stated for the record that the edition I have is the 2nd Edition, which was released in 2012 and apparently has some additional content not found in the original edition.
The introduction to the book gives us a pretty clear sense of where IAO131 is going with his concept of Naturalistic Occultism as well as the concept of Scientific Illuminism. Naturalistic Occultism, simply put, is a framework by which to understand occultism through modern scientific concepts, specifically within the range of what is presently accepted by the mainstream of neurology and psychology. This concept is treated within the book as interchangeable with Crowley’s concept of Scientific Illuminism, which refers here to the methodology by which Crowley espouses skepticism as a device of Thelemic spirituality and occultism as described in The Equinox. In its initial form, it’s a refreshing take on the field of occultism, going out its way to point out the trend that some of us in the LHP field have known for quite a while – namely that far too many occultists are fanciful charlatans who peddle superstition in place of organized religion, while of course setting themselves against organized religion for the thought-slavery that it imposes upon us – and the attempt to marry occultism with psychology and neurology, on the whole, is genuinely fascinating. But while it makes a fairly convincing case for taking occultism through a naturalistic lens, I do worry about some aspects of its proposal. For example, it lays a specific emphasis on “pragmatism”, which is defined in the book as the belief that truth can be determined based on what works, that a belief is true insofar as it is useful – as Crowley put it, “Maximum Convenience is our canon of Truth”. At best, it tends to be a rather shallow framework, and I say that because it simply isn’t enough to say that it works. You need to go further, and ask “but why does it work?” or “how does it work?”. At worst, however, it reminds me of when Jordan Peterson said that truth is based on survival or whether or not it “serves life”. The other problem I have is the emphasis on phenemonolgy, and the reason that worries me is because, as the book lays out, this approach spells out to us that there is no external world that exists outside of the phenomenal realm, and since IAO131 links this to consciousness, this entails that there is no world that exists outside of human cognizance, which is entirely (and normally I hate this word but) problematic because the very premise of naturalism, I would assume, demands the consideration of a world or cosmos (and processes therein) that exist independently from our cognition.
Early into the book, IAO131 compares and contrasts his doctrine with a selection of more popular occult doctrines – New Age occultism, Hermeticism, and Chaos Magick – and in it he does make some pretty good points. For example, with New Age occultism, he points out that the New Age movement is an anti-scientific movement that bases itself on pure faith that sustains itself on rampant consumerism, though I feel its analysis was lacking in detail to the point that it made me wish I was just reading Michael Parenti’s Land of Idols: Political Mythology in America instead, given that it has a section dealing in New Age religion and, from what I’ve heard about the book, attempts to deal with it in terms of ideology as part of a criticism of the broad pantheon of bourgeois ideology that serves to undergird capitalism. IAO131’s assessment of Chaos Magick was also rather enlightening, and I find the most salient criticism he gave of it as that it lacks a systematized framework and a unified language or structure, owing to its fundamentally decentralized approach. With Hermeticism, though, I was slightly disappointed, and I guess I was expecting him to go more in depth as to his issue with the actual content of its doctrine given, from what I understand, it is a fairly long-standing tradition with quite a bit of theory developed for it, but his main complaint about it seems to be more that the Hermeticist movement has this apparent sense of superiority and appeal to authority, with little attention given to its actual doctrine.
In a more general sense, one thing that often annoys me about IAO131 in the book is his constant invocation of cultural relativism, that is the way he constantly tells us that, in real terms, no system or set of values is better or worse than the other. He extrapolates this from that axiom of Crowley’s, “there is no law beyond Do what thou wilt”, saying the following:
As the Book of the Law says so succinctly, “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt”, and we have no right to insist that anyone is fundamentally wrong in pursuing their Wills, even if it does lead to ignorance, obscurity, or ineffectiveness.
In the context of this particular passage, the author intends this attitude to be a safeguard against prejudice and hubris, but the underlying lesson we get about what seems to be the ethos of Thelema is, basically, that you can’t be wrong in any of your beliefs, even if you actually are wrong – or, more accurately, it’s OK if you have erroneous and delusional beliefs, we’re not really going to do anything about that. This attitude for me is one of my major problems with what appears to be the Thelemic movement as it exists today, and it’s largely to do with the fact that it’s actually far more pervasive than just within Thelema. You see it in people on the online left, for instance, some of whom sincerely believe that they can commit to specifically atheistic formulations of communism and theistic religions such as Islam or Christianity at the same time, with no evident theoretical justification for such a marriage, and if you criticize them for such foolishness they simply accuse you of being a judgemental bigot. I guess it makes sense when the only thing holding your beliefs together is your will or your desires, or when the only reason you believe in something is as some kind of emotional support.
This attitude also bleeds into the general attitude towards religion, which I worry colours his methodology. Perhaps its a consequence of how he interprets the motto of Scientific Illuminism as Crowley originally put it (“The Method of Science, the Aim of Religion”), but it reeks of typical liberal defences against atheism. He insists that, while we absolutely should oppose superstition and uphold skepticism, and to that effect we should not disregard science, we also shouldn’t disrespect religion. By the end of the book he even goes so far as to accuse atheists (and scientists) of being just as subject to blind faith as the theists they oppose, strawmanning hard or strong atheists as being “rabid” militant atheists, which is such a delicious irony considering that, from the very start, his framework only makes sense when treated as an atheistic one! He also complains about materialism on the grounds that he considers it to be a reductive doctrine that disparages religion and spiritual pursuit, which is weird to me because if you’re basing your doctrine on naturalism you’re invariably in the business of discrediting conventional religion by taking the power away from it by explaining conventionally religious, spiritual and magical concepts in as phenomenon that can be understand entirely as natural concepts, which invariably makes them part of the material universe. The way he goes about it just sort of makes me think back to Luciferians like Ben Kadosh and Michael W. Ford, and how in their own they actually recognize the material universe as one of the key points of their ontology, albeit through symbolism. In the case of Kadosh, as I’ve discussed earlier in “The earthly light of Ben Kadosh’s Lucifer“, this is represented as the Greek god Pan, with Lucifer being the Logos of the material world, while in the case of Ford this is represented through Az (the mother of demons in Zoroastrian mythology), who for Ford not only represents the power of evolution but also connected to the material universe by virture of the fact that Az apparently corresponds with the Greek word Hyle, which refers to matter, as Ford explains in Adversarial Light: Magick of the Nephilim. But I suppose as someone who’s been a Marxist for over a year now I was going to take issue with IAO131’s treatment of materialism. It lacks imagination to me, strikes me as the mark of a man unable to find the soul of the flesh so to speak, and I believe it to be limited by what is quite obviously a liberal framework (one of the tells is how he criticizes capitalism on the subject of New Age spirituality, but ultimately declares that he does not actually oppose capitalism despite that it brings him the consumerism he rightly despises). As a matter of fact, it shows when he declares on the last page before the glossay that “the truly childish attitude is to assume you are right and that anyone who disagrees must be delusional”. For some reason it reminds me of that saying, attributed to Gene Knudson Hoffman, that an enemy is just someone whose story you have not heard – to which, as Slavoj Zizek pointed out in his debate against Jordan Peterson, the obvious answer is “should we have decided that Hitler was just someone whose story we haven’t heard from?”.
The theory that he offers for various occult concepts tends to be the most interesting part, as we get to IAO131’s actual formulations of how to understand occultism through his naturalistic framework. At first I found his treatment of the concept of “as above, so below” to be a little unfair, and I would probably maintain that a concept like that can be interpreted from a somewhat pantheistic lens (after all, if the universe is God, and Mankind its most sophisticated offspring that we know of, we may find the cycles of Man and his environment reflected in the natural universe) and his own approach too phenomenological. There’s also a more socially secular way of looking at it, one that presents individual ills as reflective of social ills, which the Marxist can take and shift it away from the superstructure and onto the base structure. However, after reading the book I did a little digging, and it seems the microcosm and macrocosm ideas apparently has its connections to astrology, ideas about sacred geometry, Hermeticism and alchemy (and for some reason the Wikipedia articles on them have “Family as a model for the state” listed as related articles), and it seems to me like IAO131 could have gone into more detail about that, but he didn’t. The sections on astrology, divination and gematria, however, are pretty illuminating even though they’re as short as the other sections. While they aren’t particularly detailed, they explain how a lot of these concepts arbitrarily base themselves on confirmation bias, with some pretty amusing examples (in the case of gematria, there’s an example involving Sarah Palin). The section on divination is similar, but it explains it in terms of what’s called a Barnum statement or the Barnum effect (a reference to the famous 19th century showman P. T. Barnum), which refers to ambiguous statements that are otherwise subjectively imbued with personal meaning. The section on “why magick seems to work” seems to avoid any claim to whether or not it actually works, but instead takes the concept of the placebo effect and uses it to formulate a way to understand magic as an internal process of self-improvement. However, I feel that the subject of magick and “how it works” requires a lot more depth, and once again the brevity of the content betrays the level of exposition that could be devoted to the subject, thus the theory section also, on the flipside of its fascinating content, underscores on of my major complaints about the book – namely, it’s too short, which is a real problem for me because I really want him to get into more depths with the discussion of Jungian ideas in particular.
Some sections on theory are longer than others though. These are dedicated to astral phenomenon, initiation, and the “mystic attainment”. And perhaps it’s no coincidence that I found these to be among the most fascinating. There could still be a more detailed exposition to these concepts, but there is plenty to take away from what I’ve seen. With the section on initiation for example, the relation to psychotherapy is actually a fairly interesting angle because, if done correctly, a naturalistic framework of occultism as related to psychotherapy can manifest as a way to bring the capacity of psychotherapy into the hands of the individual and the masses, allowing you to take control of that process through such a pursuit, which could have untold spiritual and cultural benefits. The section on “astral bodies” seems interesting in the sense that it attempts to tie it to a neurological concept known as the “body image”, referring to a representation of the body that is apparently generated by the brain. The concept of the “mystic attainment” is, in my view, actually a pretty good way of framing the goals of just about any spiritual let alone occult tradition, perhaps even in a conventionally LHP context in that it creates space for interpretation upon which a distinct framework can be developed.
And on that front, there are actually quite a few parts of the theory of Naturalistic Occultism that, in my view, dovetail quite nicely with Luciferian philosophy. For example, in the book’s section on “As Above, So Below”, there’s a great quote from William Blake (one of my great and foremost spiritual inspirations) which reads “men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast”, with IAO131 noting that this statement can be amended to refer to the brain instead of the breast, though I find myself questioning the way he uses it to invoke the premise that “the macrocosm is actually a reflection of the microcosm” (meaning the universe is a reflection of consciousness). In the section on initiation, the definitions of initation, framed as spiritual attainment and spiritual progress, are related to that concept of “making the unconscious conscious”, which is taken to mean the integration of unconscious material into conscious awareness. In fact the concept of initiation is a great way to make sense of Luciferianism. I see the concept of initiation discussed far more in the Luciferian tradition than in the Satanic tradition, and the book’s idea of spiritual progress, entailing self-discipline, maintenance and enhancement, is a great way to contrast it with the hedonism that is much of baseline Satanism. The section on invocation, thought in need of exposition, arguably lines up with the concept of Deific Masks in its psychologizing of the gods and its premise that invocation refers to invoking parts of yourself rather than external masters. It’s also curious to note that, as this section ends, there is a note on how the magician “”becomes” what she is invoking”, which is then psychologized in the sense of being interpreted to mean the release or access of unconscious potency. In a sense, the framing nonetheless allows to think of apotheosis from the lens of continuous transformation, becoming many gods on the way to the state of Theos Epiphanes, which may serve only to inform the Luciferian framework in a positive, emancipatory direction, might even have some radical ideas for what we consider to be the true self. The section on “mystic attainment” ends in a quote from Aleister Crowley in One Star in Sight wherein he says that what IAO131 refers to as the mystic attainment is the knowledge and conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel (itself a concept that crops up in Michael W. Ford’s work as well; who knows why) of making humans “no less than the co-heirs of gods” and even refers to those who achieve this as a Lord of Light – I can’t say for definite that this is actually a reference to Lucifer, and might not be, but it does seem rather reminiscent. In the section on “astral workings and scrying”, it’s noted quite often the necessity of facing up to the “shadow” side of the psyche, that the ability to handle the adverse aspects of the self is to be taken as a sign of great spiritual strength, that there is no light side that is not accompanied by its dark side, and indeed ends with a quote from Crowley that endorses the virtue of overcoming, “strive ever to more”, all of them great points to make note of in the Luciferian framework, indeed that many Luciferians often emphasize themselves already. However, I don’t believe IAO131’s liberal morality and relativism serve the Luciferian framework well, given that he counsels us not to bash religion so much, which we Luciferians might have a problem with, given our contempt for the Abrahamic faiths.
Towards the end of the book we get a very short section on practice, where the methodology regarding certain aspects of occultism from the framework of Naturalistic Occultism is outlined. This is one area where brevity is actually somewhat merited and the instructions seem rather simple. I imagine you won’t get the technique right away, practice making perfect after all, but it seems pretty easy to follow through. Following this, we get an “inconclusive” conclusion, telling us that the book is simply a starting point for the development of Scientific Illuminism, which for all intents and purposes is accurate.
Ultimately, I will say this to conclude: the concept of Scientific Illuminism is sorely lacking in study and formulation. In fact, I think it’s somewhat telling how even within Thelema, the religion from which this framework originates, it seems to be a pretty obscure concept. Indeed it is to a point that, for the flaws in IAO131’s framework, the only serious development of Scientific Illuminism I can see in the modern day can be found in his book. That worries me, because in my view the concept deserves far more attention than it gets, and it deserves to be developed in new ways, ways that differ from the approach taken by IAO131 and even perhaps by Crowley, while, of course, remaining as respectful to much of its basic premise as possible so as to serve as having genuinely been informed by the idea in the sense of a kind of continuous tradition. Luciferianism, I believe, may have great use for such a doctrine. The mission of Scientific Illuminism, to make the practice of occultism apprehensible to reason, is perhaps an archetypal manifestation of that ancient quest to bring the divine to earth, in the hands of Man, which is, I believe, the great mission of the Morning Star and his devotees. Lucifer, after all, has almost always been recognized by occutlists as the angel of science, reason and freedom, not superstition, ignorance and the chaos and tyranny that those things stimulate.
I have discovered a video on YouTube posted by Dave Cullen (a.k.a. Computing Forever), an Irish conservative who supports nationalism as well as free market libertarian and even anarcho-capitalist economics, in which he talks about his conversion to Christianity and promotes a concept known as the “god pill”, which can be taken as a facet of “red pill” online political culture. The video, entitled Rediscovering Faith: My Journey Back To Christianity, was so grotesque to the eye of reason, so erroneous in its premises, so self-serving in its function, and yet so enlightening as to the direction of online reactionary politics as well as Dave’s own political evolution, that I decided it was my civic duty to address it and key concepts from the video here on this blog. Please forgive me in advance for the sheer length of this post, but I must dissect these points here, for you will encounter these talking points on your own in time. Dave goes through several arguments at a time here, often in small portions but in quick succession, so addressing his major points will take up a lot of space, and the result will be probably one of my longest posts ever. If you don’t mind that (and here’s hoping you don’t), then I encourage you to read on.
Let ‘s begin by addressing the concept of the “God Pill”. Ostensibly, and for all practical purposes, the “God Pill” in the parlance of “red pill” culture is simply another way of referring to religious conversion, or rather the embrace of the belief in a God. God, for our purposes, refers to the concept of a supernatural consciousness that created and controls the universe and exercizes sovereignty over the souls of humans. However, the concept of the God Pill is also more than the simple acceptance of the belief in God, in that it is necessarily a component of the broader stages of “swallowing the red pill”. The God Pill stage is synonymous with the White Pill stage, which is suppsoed to follow the Black Pill stage, which is supposed to follow the Red Pill stage. Before we explain what exactly that means, let’s see Dave explain this process through his own words in the beginning of his video:
It seems now that a pattern is beginning to emerge among many of us who operate in this genre of red pill philosophy. When you take the metaphorical red pill, it’s just the first epiphany, the first layer. You realize how much you’ve been lied to all your life. You discover that you’ve been fed an ideology perpetuated through biased narratives and spin. You begin to discern truth from illusion, and reject the programming that they attempted to indoctrinate you with. Now if the red pill is the means by which you discover that you’ve been lied to with, the black pill is how you learn just how dangerous those lies truly were. The black pill is when you descend down the rabbit hole further and learn just how bad things have become. It’s where the consequences of evil become truly apparent. It’s also the point where you begin to experience a degree of hopelessness and despondence. This is the point of rock bottom, but luckily, from there the only way is up. Things can seem bleak, but it’s virtually impossible to stay black-pilled for long. It’s simply too difficult to entertain nihilism or despair for extended periods of time. Eventually, an appetite for hope, optimism and meaning begins to develop. The soul requires nourishment. Enter the white pill, also known as the God pill. You begin to desire action, order, purpose and a semblance of values in your life. The world may be going crazy but you’re not going to. The very values that have been stripped from Western nations by the left for the last 50 years gradually begin to make sense.
The God Pill, properly understood, is to be taken as an alternative name for the White Pill, which is the end of the stage a broader journey associated with the Red Pill concept. Taking the “Red Pill”, in this parlance, usually means the rejection of progressivism, liberalism, feminism and political correctness (or more or less as conservatives define it, which is basically just when you take a lefty-ish stance on social issues), and “awake” to what they believe to be the true nature of reality that is obfuscated and censored by progressives and globalist elites on a regular basis. In pick up artist parlance, where the red pill philosophy mythos originates, the “Red Pill” means “awakening” to the premise not only that society is gynocentric but chiefly that women don’t care about your personality and are only interested in promiscuous sex with young men, which given that women are also morally condemned for such a shallow mindset, even if they don’t actually have it, is pretty much unavoidably a recipe for misogyny. The opposite of the Red Pill is the “Blue Pill”, which represents ignorance of the realities of politics as well as women within red pill parlance. The “Black Pill” is a concept that Dave seems to softball for some reason. It is not simply when you learn how dangerously bad things are, but rather it refers to what happens when, some time after the premise of the Red Pill is accepted, you begin to develop a fatalistic and nihilistic outlook towards the world on the grounds that one comes to believe that the system that the adherent opposes cannot be reversed. In practice this usually means people in the new right turning to some kind of nihilistic fascism on the grounds that they now believe that the system they oppose can no longer be opposed through honorable or democratic means and that they are damned by whichever path they take, though in pick up artistry and incel culture the term simply means accepting the premise that there is nothing you can do to make yourself attractive to women if you are not conventionally attractive. The original definition of the Black Pill can be found in a post written by the Canadian anti-feminist blogger named Paragon in 2011, who defined the Black Pill as accepting the premise that there is no personal solution that can alter what pick up artists or incels or whatever they’re called nowadays consider to be a systemic trend of hypergamy that will always prevent men from having sex with desireable women. The “White Pill” in incel parlance is actually supposed to be just a generic term for the attainment of any sort of optimism and focus on self-improvement stemming from the premise of the Red Pill, but for people like Dave Cullen it seems to have taken on a distinctly religious connotation, related to religious conversion. In essence, we get a narrative which, in a sense, might give away the real goal of the strands of reactionary internet politics we see today: the end goal is to get disillusioned young people to not only reject progressivism, but also to reject any kind of liberal values, to reject the Enligthenment, to reject reason, and to reject the work of the French Revolution, and embrace Christian theism as a means of reviving the pre-Enlightenment order.
It is worth noting at this point that Dave is far from the only exponent of the God Pill concept, and perhaps not the most insane of them. Rocking MrE, who considers himself to be a classical liberal and was once promoted by the EDL as such alongside Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad), used to be an atheist who ascribed to a sort of “Cultural Christianity” (that is, when you don’t believe in God but you still support Christian moral doctrine and values), but converted to Christianity proper at some point in 2018, and now he not only believes in God but also denies evolution as an “occult doctrine” designed to lead people away from Christian morality. The concept of a God Pill seems to have been discussed by other right wing channels such as Blonde in the Belly of the Beast. One YouTuber, Critical Condition, credits her “God Pill” status to the lectures of Jordan Peterson, which she saw as a way of re-establishing what is apparently to be taken as a dormant sense of religiosity. The right-wing pick up artist Daryush Valizadeh (better known as Roosh V) converted to Orthodox Christianity in March this year, apparently after finally becoming dissatisfied with a life of treating women as just the object of vainglorious sexual conquest (not to mention getting high on magic mushrooms), and now promotes the concept of the God Pill on his online forum, where he describes it as the final destination of a journey that begins with the “blue pill” (ignorance of reality), then progresses with the “red pill” (awakening to reality, apparently through pursuit “materialism”, in this case meaning pick-up artistry), then the “black pill” (despair, nihilism and the resutling withdrawal from “materialist” society) and ends in the God Pill (in his words, submission to God’s Will). The transition from the Red Pill to the God Pill appears to be a general trend that has been seen by some Christian observers, who comment that the invariable destination of the red pill political subculture is the revitalization of Christian religiosity. But, I feel it is in Dave, as well as Rocking MrE, that we find something particularly poignant. Here we have people who have devoted themselves, ostensibly, to reason. To that end they have embraced some very conspiratorial worldviews relating to reactionary politics, to the point that they may as well have been wearing reason as a costume, but Dave at least seemed to consider himself to be taking after the likes of Christopher Hitchens in some of his videos. And now, here he is rejecting atheism as a childish doctrine in favour of Christian religiosity! But I suppose this all makes sense in light of the red pill pipeline being just a pathway to religion. Though, in Dave’s case, there might well be distinctly emotional motives for his transition, ones that just happen to intersect with his hardline conservative views.
Anyways, with all of that having been established, let’s move on to the next point:
I guess I considered myself an atheist since I was about 13. I rejected the religious teachings of my parents, who were both devout Catholics and quite conservative, and as I entered my teenage years I began to become more liberal and I believed that I could have all the answers, that science and secularism were adequate substitutes for religion and faith. But as I grew older, I also became more conservative, and I began to realize that the wisdom of my parents was based on something timeless, universal and tried-and-tested for thousands of years, that the teachings of Christ were a set of rules and instructions that not only made intuitve sense when carefully studied but actually had been essential in maintaining and building our Western Civilization.
This is the first part of the video where we get to one of the more absurd claims Dave makes in order to justify his position. The claim in question is that Christianity has been “tried and tested” throughout the history of the Western world, as in for thousands of years, as in, by implication, presumably long before Christianity was actually formulated, before Jesus was even born. To assert this tripe requires you to neglect the entire body of Hellenic philosophy upon which we derive many of our modern sciences, philosophical concepts, political constructs and even large parts of our mythos. I’ve covered this before in my post about Cultural Christians, but let me summarize this point by saying that large parts of Christian doctrine derive from the writings of Plato, Aristole and the Stoics, not to mention many mystery cults such as the Eleusinian Mysteries. Then there’s the fact that so many Christian holidays, myths and even saints and angels have their roots in the pagan custom of Greek, Roman and other ancient societies. I would argue that, if there really is something that is timeless, universal, and tried-and-tested for thousands of years, it’s not Christianity, considering the fact that Christianity has only really been around for two thousand years, which in the grand scheme of human history is a pretty short stretch of time.
Next, we come to his criticism of the New Atheist worldview, which he purports to have dismissed during his teenage years:
Science is the means by which we understand the physical world around us. It is not the means by which we derive our morality. For that we need philosophy, metaphysics, religion. Human beings need relatable stories, instructions, parables, in order to develop a moral and ethical framework in which to live.
Now, I will say for the record that I find what I have seen of Sam Harris’ attempts to form a morality based on the scientific worldview to be utilitarian garbage, and I find that he justifies this using many of the same arguments that Christian apologists would use (namely that if you don’t follow his morality you must be a psychopath), but to assert that you cannot divine morality through pursuit of studying physical reality is to reject the physical world. If morality is a phenomenon that comes from the physical world in the sense that it emerges from human relations, and in a sense can only really be observed in the context of the physical world, then treating it as dependent on something that can only be based on something that is supposed to be categorically outside of the cosmos doesn’t make any sense, and in a sense divorces morality from reality, which in my opinion is a dangerous and irresponsible thing to do because it creates the groundwork for moral nihilism. Not to mention, he seems to speak of philosophy as somehow separate from the pursuit of science, and aligned with religion and metaphysics. The problem with this is that the pursuit of philosophy makes no sense without its object – questions surrounding the nature of reality, that is a matrix that exists outside of ourselves that we observe on a constant basis – and also the fact that even the scientific method itself bases itself upon a specific set of philosophical assumptions and doctrines, which have proven effective for their purpose – that is, the investigation of reality through empirical study and experimentation and analysis based on reason. So from there, we can already see that Dave’s argument for religion amounts to a weak-kneed cop-out.
But in a sense, it’s also here we that we also come to one of the more revealing facets of Dave’s thesis on religion, one that is also apparent from the very beginning of the video, shortly before the first quote I posted from it. He doesn’t commit himself to a rational reason for believing in a Christian God, or in accepting the Christian religion as the guiding force for society as well as himself, but because he needs the Christian religion because it provides him with a meta-narrative that allows him to make sense of the world around him, and this desire, as was already implied in the discussion of the God Pill concept and as you will further see later on, is deeply linked to his conservative politics and his opposition to just about any form of left-wing politics you can find.
For now though, we must address that age old Christian apologist talking point that just won’t die, and that Dave is apparently resurrecting here:
Science and religion are actually not in conflict, as some atheists believe. They’re not actually in competition. One is the means by which we understand the physical world around us, the other is the means by which we derive meaning and moral instruction.
The main problem with this talking point is twofold. The first problem is that it assumes that religions are not formed as means by which to understand the world around us. The reason that’s a problem is simply the fact that religions like Christianity and Islam, and their surrounding myths, as well as the myths of polytheistic religions, were in part devised quite literally as a means by which people without scientific knowledge could explain the physical world. I mean, what the hell is the idea that God created the universe and is responsible for its cycles including those that happen on Earth if not an attempt to explain the physical cosmos? Oh wait, I forgot. We’re not supposed to take that literally. The second problem is that to believe that science and religion are not in competition but instead working harmoniously with each other requires the ignorance of the history of Christian power in Europe, as well as in America, which then as now is often in conflict with scientific findings. Did we all forget about how Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church for his pantheistic beliefs which he may have drawn from his scientific pursuits? Or how Galileo Galilei was forced by the Inquistion to recant his scientific discovery of how the Earth revolves around the Sun and not the other way around? Or how in the United States a man named John Scopes was sued by the state of Tennessee for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection? Or how for decades the evangelical lobby has fought for creationism against the scientific teachings of not only evolution but also man made climate change, and how this lobby is still an active part of the Trump administration today? Oh wait, I forgot, that’s all just progressive babble isn’t it Dave?
Following this, we come to a part of the video where Dave’s political direction descends further into regression, past the realm of the absurd and into the realm of the sinister, while also serving as the first exposure of just how utilitarian Dave’s embrace of Christianity really is. Here is how he segues from religion being a system of meaning and moral guidance:
This system may even be the basis of a legal system or even a constitution for a nation state to live by, but the core philosophy must be based upon something that cannot be altered or replaced by man-made ideals. It’s the idea that there is a higher power that Man is answerable to, that governments and politicians cannot challenge, that the state is beholden to the values and morals that the populace subscribe to. This is one of the primary utilities of religion in our society.
Let me spell it out for you just in case it wasn’t already obvious: he is describing the logic of a theocratic society. He is describing a system that derives its legitimacy not from the will of the people, not from a secular body of law, but from the will of God and from the edicts of a religious doctrine. What he is describing invariably entails a society which, by definition, derives its legal basis from the interpretation of the laws and commandments of God by some religious or ecclesiastical authority. I don’t see how else it would work in his society unless he thinks that either Christians will just vote their beliefs into power or that God will just sort everything out by himself. His proposal cannot be classified as anything other than the basis of a theocratic society.
But the unstated premise of this assertion is that the need for religion as the basis of a society, in conservative parlance, derives from the need for a device through which their desired economic order becomes impossible to challenge through any sort of state intervention. Think about this for a moment. The state, properly understood in a democratic context, represents the sum total of human will in its ability to direct material components of the political system and make decisions on behalf of itself as represented by the body politic. Free market capitalism, being a man-made construct, is the product of human hands and as such is subject to human hands: Man created capitalism, Man becomes a subject to capitalism, and Man can also destroy capitalism. Of course, Man can also bend market forces to his will, that is say the state can assume ownership of what was once the realm of private markets in order to direct said markets and capital in pursuit of common good. The capitalist, and the conservative, oppose this because it hinders the free flow of capitalist markets to stream capital upwards in accumulation into the hands of private elites, which, for them, represents a much more abstract notion of economic freedom (freedom for the few, of course, not for the many). If the best way to stop this is to have something in place that is higher than the state, higher than the will of Man, then what better candidate than God Almighty, an entity that cannot be challenged by the will of Man according to the religions that believe in him? Now apply this to free market economics, via that popular conception of the invisible hand of the market (however true it might be to the way Adam Smith intended to espouse it). The idea that the markets direct capital, goods and services in a positive direction that benefits society without the interference of the state, can be reified as a religious concept by arguing that the invisible hand of capitalist market is, in a way, the hand of God, or more or less the will of God working through the markets. The result of this is that the free market cannot be challenged by the state on the grounds that doing so means going against the will of God. The only problem with this, of course, is that the Bible doesn’t actually support free market economics except through a selective reading of it, and in fact there is even a famous verse in the Book of Acts in which a seemingly proto-communist society appears to be endorsed as a commune of Christ’s followers.
After that little quotation, he shows a clip from an interview he did with a guy called John Waters, who is a writer for the Irish Times and not to be confused with the American film director of the same name. A self-described “neo-Luddite” who despises the internet and emails in particular, he has supported many reactionary conservative positions in his day. He supported the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s, has claimed in 2014 that depression does not exist, opposed same-sex marriage, blamed gay people for his decision to quit journalism, and is such a staunch Catholic conservative that he even denies that there is institutional pedophilia in the Catholic Church, claiming instead that the real problem is homosexuality, which he claims explains the cases of pedophilia on the grounds that homosexuality is tied to ephepophilia (which, much like the anarcho-capitalists, he treats as morally distinct from pedophilia). In the interview clip being presented, Waters states that in the preamble of the Irish constitution begins with the phrase “In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred”, which he believes is grounds to treat the Irish constitution as a kind of prayer or invocation, which he justifies simply by stating that it is a mechanism to take the fundamental rights of humans and place them out of the reach of humans – in other words, to define human rights as a law that cannot be changed by humans (even though rights as a concept originate directly from humans).
We get into another stupid claim from Dave after this wherein he cites the British author John Glubb via his book The Fate of Empires as justification for religion as an integral part of civilizational survival:
Nations and even empires that lose religion tend to collapse within a couple of generations. This is the pattern that John Glubb observed time and time again when he catalogued the rise and fall of great powers throughout history. When an age of decadence is reached in a society, an age of liberalism follows. When you take God out of the equation, Man tries to become God.
The central problem with this claim in particular is that it is not simply that it is utterly unfalsifiable, but that it is demonstrably false and incorrect. The Roman Empire, for example, can hardly be said to have “taken God out of the equation” in the years preceding its collapse. In fact, by the time the Roman Empire collapsed, Rome was already dominated by the Christian church, and had been through an almost unbroken succession of Christian emperors for over a century. The idea that the Romans were trying to “become God” can from there be treated as utterly laughable. The ancient Egyptian religion was still a present element of Egyptian rule and culture during the last days of the Egyptian empire under Cleopatra, after whose death Egypt became a Roman province. The Egyptians only briefly lost their religion during the reign of Akhenaten, who tried to introduce a monotheistic cult centering around a sun god named Aten, but after his death the religion of the old priests was restored and all mention of Atenism was purged from memory. The religion of the Aztecs only really disappeared after the Spanish conquistadors arrived and forced them to convert to Catholicism on pain of torture or death. The short lived Seleucid Empire did not die because of some lack of religiosity, in fact the empire was pretty successful in establishing what we now know to be classical Hellenic culture and syncretizing it with foreign with influences such as Buddhism. Instead, it died after a period of instability generated by civil war surrounding succession that broke out after the death of Antiochus IV. China went through several imperial monarchies throughout its history, and religion is not necessarily the cause of their collapse and displacement by successive new empires. If you know just a little bit about Chinese history, you’ll know that civil war is a common feature in ancient Chinese history, cropping up frequently as a point of transition between new dynasties, the most famous examples being the Three Kingdoms Period that preceded the short-lived Jin Dynasty and the Warring States period that preceded the Qin dynasty.
Furthermore, his talking about how without religion Man tries to “become God” is a particularly mystifying talking point, and it doesn’t seem to have much basis in reality. Is he talking about how, throughout history, monarchies and empires have had their populace worship the king as a god as part of their religious custom? Or is he perhaps channelling Camille Paglia’s nonsense about how accepting transgenderism precipitated the decline of the Roman Empire? The swapping of gender roles, and indeed the inversion of many Roman values, was already a feature of Roman life in one particular festival, Saturnalia, which the Christians later phased out and replaced with the celeberation of Jesus’ birthday, which we would eventually call Christmas.
Oh wait, never mind, Dave’s actually talking about communism:
Communism, which is once again trying to infiltrate every facet of our culture and compromise our institutions in the form of globalism, believes that the state is God, that it can be mother and father to an infantilized, powerless and impoverished proletariat.
As is standard practice for right-wing conspiracist content, Dave invokes the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory, which tells him that everything he doesn’t like about liberalism is actually communism, despite the fact that liberalism and communism are against each other as they always have been and despite the fact that Marxists are marginalized, rather than endorsed, in academia (not to mention that the European Union and quite a few European countries ban the promotion of communism or at least ban communist symbols). But that’s not the most important part of this video – we expect his ilk to parrot the same old conspiracy theory even afterit’s beendebunked already. The real hot take here is that communism believes the state to be God. You know, that ideology that famously rejects God, views religion as the opiate of the masses and believes that the state is supposed to wither away as the society progresses towards commiunism – God tends not to wither away in any system that concieves of his existence you know! What were you thinking when you spouted this nonsense!? I could address everything else he said when he invokes that tired old talking point about communism impoverishing nations wherever it’s been tried, but not only do I lack the scope for such an endeavor in this post, but it’s also somewhat irrelevant when you consider that his understanding of communism here falls apart when you understand even the most basic points about its actual ideological content.
Oh but that won’t stop him. After all, he’s not basing his worldview on anything rational or anything like that, just some utilitarian goal which centers around quashing the phantom of communism and “Cultural Marxism”.
It doesn’t even matter if you believe in an afterlife or an interventionist God at all, or how the universe got started. These discussions are great fodder for theoretical debates, but they won’t build or maintain a society. They won’t protect against communism, or indeed another outside religion that seeks to dominate the West. Everything the left has done has been a gradual attempt to take people away from who and what they are and where they came from.
You know, Dave, there was a religion that came from a foreign land, or more or less based on a set of teachings that originated outside of the West, that sought to dominate the West, and ultimately succeeded in replacing the values and beliefs that had been with our ancestors for thousands of years.
What was that religion called? Christianity.
This is something that, even while I was a right-winger back in 2017, always annoyed me about proponents of this “Cultural Marxism” bullshit. They talk about the threat of their Christian religion being replaced by some outside force, and they never talk at all about the fact that it was originally the Christians who sought to replace the paganism of our ancestors, as well as the religions of any foreign people’s they came into contact with. And unlike the Hellenic Greeks before them who let the Egyptians and the Bactrians practice their religion in harmony with Hellenism, and encouraged a syncretism that was nonetheless still unique to the cultures they arrived at, the Christians in many cases simply replaced the cultures of the various peoples they encountered wherever they could, often destroying many important artefacts, such as what happened to the Mayan civilization. But they don’t like to talk about that, either because it simply doesn’t enter into their minds at all or because it’s inconvenient to the narrative they’ve weaved for themselves. Do these people have any idea what the Spanish conquests were, or what the Goa Inquistion was, or how the Christians sacked various pagan temples such as in Alexandria? Of course we can’t say the Christians completely succeeded in replacing the heritage of the West, what with the Renaissance revitalizing many Greco-Roman concepts, but it does not change that the Christians still sought the destruction of quite a bit of pre-Christian heritage, a fact that a lot of these conservative nationalists fail to account for.
Christianity celebrates the vital importance of the family unit, the most powerful defence against an authoritarian state. In Christianity, the roles of men and women are clearly defined, with great respect given to the unique roles of the mother and the father and the raising children in a set of values shared by other members of our community and tribe.
First of all, the sacralization of the family unit is not at all unique to Christianity. In fact the use of “family values” as a political device is not at all unique to Christian conservatism, and can be traced back to the Roman emperor Augustus, who believed that monogamy and chastity were ancestral values and sought to enforce piety and carnal forbearance through religious and moral law. Second, the idea that the roles of men and women are clearly defined only in Christianity is just absurd. Every society and every religion has had its own definitions of gender roles, some of them closer to our modern conceptions than others. In Roman society, for example, the role of most women was very clearly defined as the property of a man, either her father or her husband (yeah, real progressive there). Third, are we going to ignore the fact that women often played vital roles in the early Christian movement that weren’t simply reducible to home-making? Who could forget the lore surrounding Mary Magdalene, who before she was whitewashed by the Roman church was likely considered to be a leading figure among Jesus’ followers and disciples. There is even discussion about how men and women may have been treated as equals in marriage during the early church period. Fourth, where does this talking point about how the nuclear family is the best protection against authoritarianism come from? The logic of it is not adequately explained at all. In fact, it’s worth pointing out that one of the main planks of fascism as defined by Benito Mussolini has always been the preservation of the nuclear family through the means of the totalitarian state. This is not to say that family is a totalitarian or authoritarian concept, merely to say that the idea that it is the greatest bulwark of liberty is unfalsifiable. If anything, it might just be completely false. In Russia, the Orthodox Church has a lot of sway in Russian society and is closely tied to the government of Vladimir Putin, with Christian conservatism the norm in Russian society, but that hasn’t changed the rampant drug addiction and domestic violence that runs rampant in the country, and the state is far more authoritarian than many Western countries. But the people on Dave’s side of the aisle treat those who resist this state of affairs, particularly feminists (who for once actually have a good cause), as maniacal totalitarians for the high crime of fighting an authoritarian state. What a joke.
The community-building aspect of the religious service, the Mass, and the profession of faith ensure that everyone knows they are part of something bigger than themselves, that there is an authority beyond a democratically elected politician in office. This is how a nation state is maintained: by recognizing the value of the family. As you can see, it’s not hard to understand why the leftist Cultural Marxists have attacked religion and the family at every turn.
There is a tell in this part of the video that yet again reveals Daves inclinations towards theocratic authoritarianism: “that there is an authority beyond a democratically elected politician in office”. Logically there is one thing that this can entail in practice. It means that the authority of religion supercedes the will of the people, and their rights and freedoms can be superceded by ecclesiastical authority, and it entails that democratic authority can be bypassed by the authority of religion. In that sense, the only reason people like Dave have for opposing such undemocratic (nay, anti-democratic) institutions as the European Union is because these institutions represent cultural liberalism, which they mistake as being communism or socialism for some baffling reason. If the European Union were more overtly conservative and going on about how important Christianity is (like Vladimir Putin does in Russia), he would have no problem with the EU bypassing the will of democracy in order to preserve Christian power, and perhaps he might even be treating the Eurosceptics, rather than the Remainers, as SJW progressives.
However, as if anti-democratic theocracy wasn’t enough, Dave’s thesis takes a much darker turn, one that betrays what could be an overlap between his own political thinking and that of the racist alt-right.
In Christian nations, the origin story of our culture is the birth of Christ. Now, even if you’re not religious, even if you don’t take the stories of Jesus literally, you can probaly acknowledge that an origin story about the birth of a child and a savior, born to bring peace to the world, is a powerful message and a symbol of hope for future generations. But if people are encouraged to move away from Christianity, then they lose attachment to this story, and the origin story of who and what they are becomes rewritten. It’s replaced with a focus on the worst moments in our history. This is why in many modern liberalized Western nations nowadays the native people are being encouraged to be ashamed of their past. In social justice infested college courses in America, young Americans are brainwashed into self-loathing. They’re encouraged to feel guilty for atrocities commited by their ancestors from hundreds of years ago. The same is true of many European nations: their people are being encouraged to feel an intense sense of guilt and self-hatred for their colonial past for example. So once the story we told ourselves about where we came from spiritually was based on the hope of a young child being born who could usher in a new age of peace for all humanity. Now it’s about negativity, despair and hopelessness. You cannot build anything stable or successful on such foundations.
It might not seem obvious at first glance, but if you pay attention to channels like Dave’s, you will see an overlap between what he’s saying here and the talking points presented by alt-right YouTuber Black Pigeon Speaks in his apparently now-deleted video “Why The West HATES and is DESTROYING Itself”, which he seems to have lifted from a post from an alt-right blog called Chateau Heartiste (which seems to have been removed from WordPress). The basic angle of Black Pigeon Speak’s video is that, following the aftermath of World War 2, the West became dislodged from what he sees as its affirmative origin stories and sacred narratives, and became obsessed with generating a new sacred narrative centered around the worst atrocities in human history. If you pay attention to his video, it becomes clear that he is by and large referencing the Holocaust. He goes on about how Western nations have somehow become anti-nationalistic (yeah right) and now oppose any conception of unity, order, civilization and national (or for that matter racial) pride because of how the Nazis are to be taken as the ultimate evil, and this supposedly is tied to “the post World War 2 foundation myth”, which he directly identifies as the Holocaust (the unstated implication, of course, being that we are to believe that the Holocaust never happened or was wildly exaggerated despite all of the evidence we have to support what we know about it). This trope has another name in alt-right circles: they call it “Holocaustianity”, which they believe to be a secular religion created by the Jews to enslave the minds of the white race through psychological and moral guilt.
I am fairly certain that Dave seems to have derived his argument from Black Pigeon Speaks, considering he has mentioned and promoted his content in the past throughout his career, and while I doubt that Dave himself denies the Holocaust, I am concerned that he appears to be promoting the ideas of actual Holocaust deniers and white supremacists in order to justify the nationalist impetus for his religious conversion, and that he is effectively soft-balling fascism. It should be especially concerning when you note that, for him, it is this trope that is responsible for the way American college students, as well as European university students, are supposedly indoctrinated by their professors to hate their past and their nation (which, if you think about it, is really just Dave being upset about the fact that Americans have to learn about slavery and colonialism, because he doesn’t like it when you learn about the parts of Western history where we end up being the bad guys). Not to mention, it’s not like people who think “Holocaustianity” is a thing limit themselves solely to discussion of the Holocaust: some alt-right commenters on Chateau Heartiste expand the concept of Holocaustianity to extend to the history of slavery in America, in order to cast serious discussion of slavery as nothing but religious self-flagellation.
But where for white nationalists and white supremacists all of this was about Jewish power and control, for Dave all of this culminates into a much more abstract narrative about the left seeking to destroy Christianity, somehow.
On the theme of the birth of a child, third wave feminism has promoted and attempted to normalize abortion, so the left has literally become like a death cult. You see, although the promotion of left-wing ideology is ultimately about power, it’s also not quite as simple as a straightforward attack on conservatism. It’s an attack on Christianity that goes back as far as the crucifixion of Christ, getting people away from their Christian heritage and values, disconnecting people from God and making them docile and compliant by promoting distractions that placate the masses: consumerism, pornography, sex, instant gratification, drugs, and materialism.
The part where he says “It’s an attack on Christianity that goes back as far as the crucifixion of Christ” alone deserves quite a bit of scrutiny. I didn’t know the “left” were attacking Christianity before the church of Christianity had even been established. Is Dave even talking about third wave feminism anymore? Just what does he mean by “the left”, if he’s even still talking about the left? And if not the left, then who? It boggles my mind, and, given how we’ve already established that Dave was basically parroting anti-semitic alt-right talking points about historical meta-narratives, I fear that Dave might be doing a dogwhistle and subtly referring to how Jews supposedly corrupt the white race. There are a few tells that suggest why this might be the case. The first of these is the idea of the attack that goes back as far as the crucifixion of Christ. The idea that there was anything that could be identifiable with the left in a modern sense is simply absurd, so it begs the question of just who Dave is referring to. The early Christian fathers have long hated the Jews, blamed them for the death of Jesus (which is funny to think about considering that Jesus’ death was supposed to happen per God’s plan to “save” humanity through the resurrection) and considered them thus the enemies of God, and this is reflected in the way medieval passion plays emphasized the negative role of Jews in the life of Jesus. In fact, such anti-semitism was so persavive in medieval Christian culture that the Catholic church only formally repudiated the idea that the Jews killed Jesus as recently as 1962, when they held the Second Vatican Council. The second tell is the way Dave describes this “attack” involving distracting the populace by promoting consumerism, drugs and pornography. For starters Dave promotes in his videos, including this one, the concept of “Cultural Marxism”, which is nothing more than a rehash of the Nazi concept of Kulturbolschewismus (or Cultural Bolshevism), which was basically a category for all manner of modern artistic and creative expression which the Nazis considered to be degenerate and corruptive to the minds of the German race. Then there’s the fact that white supremacists have long blamed Jews for a host of phenomenon they deem to be social ills, including pornography. The white nationalist James Edwards, for example, believes that the Jews use pornography as a tool to subvert the moral character of the white race as part of a broader agenda to keep them under control if not destroy them. The Jews have also long been associated with satanic influences against Christian culture in medieval folklore, and from this idea we get the blood libel trope that animates much of the whole Satanic Ritual Abuse theory and the term Judensau, which is now used as an insult by neo-Nazis. So with all that in mind, it makes me wonder: is Dave actually using Christianity as a cover for moving towards anti-semitic fascism?
After this part, he talks about how his mother died, and how this supposedly opened the way to religiosity, and from here we get a very strange interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer:
I knelt down one night and, for the first time in many years, prayed the Lord’s Prayer. I had said the Our Father many times as a child. I repeated it like a mantra, words that never truly meant anything to me. But this time, suddenly something changed when I reached the line “lead us not into temptation”. Now you can look at those words and not fully interpret their reason for being. “Lead us not into temptation”. What’s so objectively bad about temptation? Well, it’s the next line that suddenly struck a chord with me because it justifies that previous line: “but deliver us from evil”. So, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. Now, all of a sudden, for the first time, given everything I was witnessing in the world, I could understand the context of why this prayer had been written this particular way. What has the left been promoting for the past number of decades? Temptation, sin, greed, materialism, deviation from the path, a denial of nature. If you corrupt the people, promote vice and their baser animal insticts, you bring about the destruction of the nation state. Promiscuity rather than monogamy results in unplanned pregnancy, broken homes, low parental investment. Marriage is destroyed by feminism, alternative lifestyles are promoted, the act of sexual union between two people is no longer respected, pregnacy and the creation of new life becomes a nuisance. By no longer believing in a power beyond Man, the state becomes the thing that everyone relies on. From welfare to their rights, it becomes extremely powerful and soon after, authoritarian. Suddenly, in those few words of the Our Father, I had gained an insight and a truth that had been hiding in plain sight my whole life. As E. Michael Jones would call it, Logos. Saint Augustine said that a man has as many masters as he has vices, and, as E. Michael Jones has talked about, the left has sold vice as a form of liberation. In truth, we become enslaved to our base, greedy and primitive natures, and thus much easier for governments to control. The people become docile, and malleable and atomized, especially since identity politics is promoted to further divide and conquer people.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but I must say for starters that, being someone who has had his lay Christian phase when he was a child, I find myself wondering what precisly he thinks is so special about that line. I remember being a school boy in Pembroke Dock and later Carmarthen and having had the Lord’s Prayer recited collectively during regular assemblies. The line just seems to be a petition to God to protect his followers from temptations (or, perhaps, for him to not actively lead them astray), and lead them away from the clutches of evil forces or Satan. I don’t know where he got his particular interpretation from. It kind of seems to me like he thinks the Lord’s Prayer was written because of SJWs. Or Jews, maybe, given where he seems to have gone earlier on in the video.
In regards to how he applies his interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer to the left as a whole, we should take great care to note what Dave considers vice, given that he believes that the left promotes vice at every turn. Among other things we leftists generally tend to oppose the tendency of free market capitalism to accumulate capital away from the masses or the common good and towards private elites, we oppose private corporations having the power to expropriate the value of the labour of the working class while giving them pittances in return, we oppose wage slavery, we oppose war, we oppose imperialism, we oppose the imposition of cruel living conditions upon working people and their families, we oppose sexual abuse like any decent people would, we oppose the systematic waste and destruction of our planet’s resources, and we oppose the system that generates needless envy and the suffering it creates, which as Slavoj Zizek has stated is the enemy of self-love. What about this can be interpreted as promoting vice or the wanton rule of our baser instincts exactly? Well, you see, guys like Dave are mad that we also (usually) support freedom of choice when it comes to sexuality. He hates it when non-traditional, non-conservative, non-religious lifestyles and attitudes towards sex are represented in Western culture, and he hates it when liberals and leftists oppose the criminalization of abortion and pornography and support same-sex marriage, expansive sexual education programs and the freedom to be gay, bisexual, trans or whatever else. Now I don’t agree with a lot of the left, progressives or liberals about a lot of what gets promoted in regards to “gender identity”, and I insist that we should be free to say whatever we want about it even if it means offending the wrong people, but I have never opposed the right of people to claim they’re two-spirit or whatever. That’s because I believe freedom of speech and of expression are central to my political worldview. Now Dave might claim that he too supports freedom of speech and expression, and I have no reason to believe he doesn’t sincerely believe that, but I think his vision of society would, in practice, run counter to such a profession on the grounds that in his society, democratic petitions and struggles for social and sexual freedom would be superceded and negated by ecclesiastical authority. Thus, I believe his claim that the left “sells slavery as freedom” is nothing but projection on his part.
His bizarre interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer is also yet another clue in just how far Dave is into the anti-semitic alt-right rabbit hole. You’re probably wondering who E. Michael Jones is. Well, he’s an American paleoconservative Christian writer and author who runs a magazine called Culture Wars and also has a YouTube channel where he talks about all manner of cultural and political issues, and also Jews for some bizarre reason. A quick search through his bilbliography leads you to some very interesting and totally not anti-semitic titles such as The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and Jewish Fables: Darwinism, Materialism, and Other Jewish Fables, and if you look at his YouTube channel you will find videos titled Jewish Agents of Chaos, It’s OK to Criticize Jews, and E Michael Jones on Jewish Influence from Calvary to Trump. He’s also done interviews with the likes of Jean Francois-Gariepy, Faith Goldy, Nick Fuentes, Roosh V, Owen Benjamin, Richard Spencer, and Red Ice Radio, most of whom belong to the alt-right. All of this begs the question: why the hell is Dave promoting this guy? It strikes me as another sign of Dave’s adjacency to alt-right politics as well as a hidden anti-semitic tendency.
Now the next part is a bit of a tangent from the overall theme of this post but it’s worth addressing anyway.
Our nations are also becoming increasingly less safe under leftist control and further destabilized, and therefore more heavily policed. The power of the state is increasing, as people surrender their freedom for more so-called security.
I am curious about which Western nations he believes are under “leftist control”. The ones that spring to my mind are Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Finland, and Greece, all of whom are currently governed by social-democrats, and with the exception of Greece most of those countries have not been social-democratic for particularly long (Denmark and Finland, for example, have only recently elected social democrats to the national government). Meanwhile, Donald Trump has been president of the United States for nearly three years and the authority of the state has only expanded under his tenure. In fact, I am still old enough to remember when we were all invoking that famous Benjamin Franklin quote about freedom and security when criticizing the government of George W. Bush, a right-wing neoconservative! So much of the authoritarianism we see in Britain that Dave (rightly, in many cases) crticizes has happened under the auspicies of right-wing rule, including the Blairites of the Labour Party. And, as we will discuss in further detail later, Poland and Hungary, under nationalistic conservative governments, stifle freedom of expression and curtail democracy while the “leftist” European Union does little to challenge them. Dave’s argument rests only on the fact that social democrats and progressives within the Anglosphere and elsewhere flaunt their autocratic radical-liberal performative politics, and not on the actual mechanics of the expansion of authoritarian power over the last 30 years or so, which entails right-wing governments and ideologues laying the foundation for all of this. Indeed, even all this nonsense about “hate speech” can be traced to neoliberalism, namely through the ideas of Karl Popper.
Skipping ahead just a little:
The left hates Christianity more than anything, because it can’t control people who believe in something bigger than the state. It’s now my belief that the greatest act of defiance we can make against globalism is to spread the teachings of Jesus Christ.
It seems that Dave is now chanelling a common talking point among modern conservatives: the talking point that conservatism, or Christianity, is the new counter culture. I’ve seen Dennis Prager say, essentially, that being an ordinary god-fearing Christian is actually somehow the best way to secure your individuality as a person, as opposed to, you know, defying the largest religion in America. I guess that’s what happens when you base your political worldview on a conspiracy theory where everything is under attack by “communist” globalists. Or Jews (really, guys, just be honest, half of the time when the right uses term “globalists” they just mean Jews because they can’t actually call globalism what it is because that would mean actually opposing capitalism and joining the left; why else would they be trying to push the “Cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory again?).
Still there’s something to be said about how the left supposedly hates Christianity more than anything. Really? Is that why Christian socialism has historically been such a widespread tendency in non-Marxist currents of socialism, and is still a real trend in British leftism? Or why Hugo Chavez, father of one of the few socialist revolutions alive today (deal with it comrades, the Bolivarian project is socialist in purpose), was such a devout Christian who believed that his socialism derived from liberation theology and declared that “Christ is with the revolution”? If Dave believes that Christianity is the primary subject of antagonism for the left, then it just shows further that he has no understanding of the political concepts that he is talking about.
Next, if you thought he had a bizarre treatment of the Lord’s Prayer, wait till you see what Dave does with the Sermon on the Mount (or of the Mount, as Dave put it for some reason):
On the Sermon of the Mount, Christ says “resist not evil”. Now I thought I understood this message, that this commandment made no sense. Of course we have to resist evil, otherwise it’ll win. Now, recently I heard a pretty interesting interpretation of this commandment by John Butler, which was something to the effect of “don’t justify evil by giving it your attention”. Don’t come into conflict with it because to do so is to give it power. There is only one power in the universe, one force, not two forces. Evil is only maintained so long as people stray from the path. You empower it by giving it your attention. Think of it another way: if you’re driving to a destination, and you have two possible roads before you. Once you know that you’re on the correct road, you don’t need to give any attention to the wrong road anymore. You don’t need to focus on the darkness, when you’re looking towards the light.
Now the irony of this whole statement is that is that giving attention to evil, or more or less what he considers to be evil, have been Dave’s whole schtick on YouTube for the last four years, maybe more. In fact, if you look at his channel content, most of his video content before this video consists of the same brand of content – that is, short tirades about progressive media and other conservative pet talking points. How can he complain about “empowering evil by giving it attention” when that’s all he’s been doing this entire time, and he doesn’t intend to stop? Of course, he doesn’t. He simply intends to give his channel a new focus. In fact he uses a clip from Yuri Bezemenov’s widely-trafficked 1983 lecture on psychological warfare and subversion to demonstrate his point about how stressing religion above the culture war is the best way to counter “Cultural Marxism”. But before you get to that part, you’re left with the impression that he seems to resgined himself to some sort of cuckoldery, not that such cuckoldery would be genuine anyway – as you’ll soon learn, there isn’t much that seems to be genuine or authentic to Dave’s newfound love of religion.
Before we move on to the next point, let’s briefly address the way Dave contradicts baseline Christian dualism. In asserting that there is only one force, rather than two vying for power, he negates the dualism that animates much of the New Testament, particularly the Book of Revelations. The conflict between God and the forces of Satan that Christians stress as central to their belief system or mythos no longer makes sense in this interpretation, and as such, we can actually question Dave’s commitment to Christian theism.
Anyways, moving on, skipping the Yuri Bezmenov clip he introduces for less than two minutes, we come to Dave’s assessment of Ireland, his home country:
In Ireland, many people conflate the corrupted institution of the Catholic Church with Christianity, and because people have rejected their spiritual tradition, what has happened in Ireland? Well it’s becoming less Irish by the day. Try to think of a Western nation that’s succumbed to leftism that’s also got strong borders. When Ireland began to lose its faith, which is to say the pillar it was built on, unsurprisingly it began to slowly unravel. Now marriage has been redefined, and people have been so brainwashed that they’ve literally voted to take away rights from a portion of their own society: the unborn. And they celebrated this with tears of joy in the streets when they did so. They’ve given up on their future because the most vulnerable and precious in our society, our children, are no longer protected, and their right to life has been superceded by a woman’s right to treat that life as if it was nothing more than a piercing or a tattoo on her body.
Once again we have much to get into here. First of all, Ireland is not a country that is presently governed by leftists. The current government is dominated by the Fine Gael party, which is a liberal party that supports free market capitalism and economic liberalism with just a dash of conservatism, making them a standard liberal-conservative party, not entirely distinct from the Conservative Party here in the UK or the many center-right/”centrist” parties that dominate the European continent and the European Parliament, though unlike our Tories these guys support the re-unification of Ireland (meaning Northern Ireland folding back into the rest of Ireland). It’s just that these guys also support Irish membership in the European Union, which I guess for Dave is just leftism (even though the European Union is nothing but a giant capitalist power bloc). Second, although Dave explicitly means Western countries, it is worth noting that, during the Cold War, none of the red bloc states had open borders, as he puts it. DDR Germany and Soviet Russia, for example, had border police. And they had secure, strong borders for one very good reason: to protect their nations from the constantly present, and constantly escalating, threat of being destroyed, within or without, by capitalist encirclement, not for the sake of same base nationalism or to keep immigration from poor non-white countries to a minimum. So this talking about how leftism means open borders in practice is simply nonsensical, no matter how much conservatives and anarchists want it to be otherwise. Third, Ireland has not lost its faith, or at least not yet. The majority of Ireland’s population is still Catholic, with 78.8% of the population affiliated with the Catholic Church, although that figure has declined from 84% as of 2011. Christianity in general is still the predominant religion of the Irish population, and any other religions or irreligious and atheistic tendencies are profoundly marginal in Irish society. The Irish Constitution also still sort of honours Christianity, and Article 44, which holds that the Irish state recognizes God as a figure of honor and reverence, is still present within the constitution. Fourth, when I first saw Dave talk about how the Irish people have voted to take away the rights of a portion of their society, I erupted into laughter and curled into a ball, unable to contain myself, as I thought at first he was still talking about gay marriage. Of course, he was actually talking about abortion. Although I myself dislike abortion, I am unconvinced that criminalizing it will have any positive effect in terms of reducing abortions. In fact, while the debate around abortion cannot be reduced solely to the right of female bodily autonomy (due chiefly to the fact that, despite the feminist and libertarian slogans, it is not simply the woman’s at stake here, due to the fact of her sharing her body with a developing lifeform), it seems to me that Dave has no regard for the concerns of women who may be undertaking abortions. I mean, say a woman gets raped, and the coerced sex produces an offspring. Does he expect the woman to simply bear the child of her rapitst? Is that not simply demanding that women who were raped become the subjects of their rapists for the rest of their lives? That to me is simply an immoral position, and cannot be allowed for in a just and humane society. I completely agree that the life of the fetus should not be treated as simply an object to be dispensed with at will, on the grounds that it is a developing lifeform that, if given the chance, may eventually attain self-realization and carry out the Great Work in the name of the Luciferian path, but for me this means navigating a tight balance between the freedom to abort a fetus at the correct time (before it can be classified as a conscious being) and the right of women to make the right call. It also, most importantly, means working to eliminate the conditions that create abortion in the first place which, if anything, I would argue are partially created by both the social norms and the economic system that assholes like you support!
Of course, Dave will never concern himself with freedom, or at least not consistently, anymore. After all, as he puts it:
If you change the values of a nation’s people, you change the nation. If you distract the people with concerns about rights this and rights that, hedonism, sexuality etc., they will become focused on selfish navel-gazing and concerns that don’t matter.
In case you didn’t catch that, his position on social freedom and human rights is that it does not matter to him. The only thing that matters to him is that the body politic of a given society embodies his desired conservative social order. If that means gays don’t have the right to get married, or that women can’t have abortions, or that you can’t fight for your right to have a free, democratic, and secular society, then that’s immaterial to him, because all that matters is making sure that God is at the locus of the social and political fabric. In his worldview, rights are just a distraction that inhibits the conservative body politic: or, more aptly, the power of the nationalist state – what irony, then, that Dave whines so constantly about the need for religion in order to free humans from the state! When I first heard him explain this position, I was shocked. I was taken aback. How could someone who had once claimed to champion enlightenmentarian ideas to some extent regress in such a way? But on reflection, I now believe that this is what happens when you marinate yourself in conservative nationalism for long enough, arrive at the point where you become aware that liberalism is slowly dying, and have to make the call for how to surpass it. If you don’t have any commitment to the ideals of the Enlightenment left, having abandoned them entirely, you will end up embracing tyranny in the name of God (or perhaps race). And this embrace of tyranny is shown further by his affection for Poland:
Contrast liberal Ireland to conservative Poland. In Poland, they have Christian values and a strong sense of their identity, and a desire to maintain strong borders. Poland will therefore survive.
Um, Dave, how do you think Poland has kept to these “Christian values” you speak of? Actually, forget that for a moment. Poland is arguably not that committed to Christian values if it is indeed the fortress nation you say it is, when you consider the fact that the Bible counsels its believers to welcoming strangers, rather than rejecting them. The Book of Exodus encourages believers not to wrong strangers or foreigners on the grounds that the Israelites were once considered strangers or foreigners in Egypt, where they were enslaved. The Book of Leviticus instructs believers to treat those who sojourn into their lands as though they were fellow natives and love them as they love themselves, also referring to the Israelites being strangers in Egypt. Indeed, throughout the Bible it is stated that the sojourners, meaning people who go to another place to reside there (usually temporarily) are not to be mistreated or oppressed by the natives. In the Book of Matthew, Jesus says quite plainly, “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me”. All of this presents a problem for people who try to use Christianity to justify strict controls on immigration, or “sending them back” as it were, which you would think would bother Dave quite a bit. But that doesn’t stop him from embracing nationalistic chauvinsim towards refugees, and it certainly didn’t stop Christian Poland from refusing to accept refugess coming into Poland (except, of course, for Christian migrants). Christianity, therefore, seems simply to be a matter of Christian culture or “identity”. And, returning to the original question, how did Poland keep such identity, exactly? Anyone who knows just a little bit about the Polish government knows that it has laws against offending religious objects or places of worship, with offenders being punished by either fine or a 2-year sentence of imprisonment, which allows for pro-Christian activists to push for censorship of freedom of expression if they decide that they got offended. Yes, this is how Poland preserves its precious Christian identity: by curtailing liberty. What a joke Dave is.
Also, it’s worth noting just for irony that, although Poland is usually quite stringent about how many people they let in, they don’t seem to be all that bothered about how many people leave the country. Here in the UK we get several immigrants from Poland, and in August 2016 Poland overtook India as the most common country of birth for non-native citizens. This, incidentally, has also lent itself to discussion of Poles as being the victims of increased hate crimes within the last few years. Apparently Poland doesn’t mind its native population leaving because it receives billions of dollars for all the natives that leave the country and go off to other countries for work. Ironically, for a country that seems so stridently opposed to the European Union’s immigration policy, they seem OK with leeching from the union for all its worth. Yes, this is the country that Dave admires as a bastion of conservatism against liberalism and nationalism against globalism.
I look at the vandalization of our Christian heritage and see celebrations. St. Patrick’s Day is reduced to a glorified excuse for massive alcohol consumption. Easter doesn’t appear to be about the death of Christ for most people anymore. It’s become about chocolate eggs and the Easter Bunny. Likewise, Christmas is completely divorced from the birth of Christ, and it’s now become a tacky commercial holiday that begins in late September and promotes hyper-consumerism and materialism.
There are a number of problems with this analysis, chief among them the fact that there are quite a few holidays from the ancient world that were connected to the cultural order of society that could easily be taken as excuses to get wasted and indulge the senses. One of them, as it happens, was Christmas: or rather one of its precdessors, Saturnalia. One of the main points of Saturnalia that connects it to the modern Christmas is that, like the modern Christmas, it involved the exchange of gifts between people. But it also involved a lot of drinking and other reckless festivities, which would have suited its overall theme of reversing the normal custom of Roman society, which theoretically stressed virtue, order and hierarchical deferrence. Alcohol consumption for celebratory reasons was also rather ubiquitous in ancient culture, with celebratory drinking being observed in Greek civilization, Egyptian civilization, the Neolithic Orkney settlements, and Anglo-Saxon Britain. Then there’s his complaint that Easter and Christmas have nothing to do with Christianity anymore, which in my experience is simply false. Yes, it is very consumerist nowadays, no one denies that, but you can also still find that the theme of Jesus’s birth and death are brought up in relation to them, and the average person will still encounter Christian themes and symbolism in the festivities, particularly if they come from an at least nominally Christian background. I, for instance, am from a Catholic family, and my family still celebrates the customs that Catholics associate with Christmas and Easter (and as you all know I don’t particularly mind that because it means enjoying a good feast). I think that Dave’s general outlook that most of these holidays are strictly Christian is mistaken, considering that, with the exception of St. Patrick’s Day, many of them developed out of pre-existing pagan festivities – in fact, even the early Christians flat out stated that their custom of Christmas was an appropriation of the festival of Sol Invictus.
People now engage in alternative, quasi-spiritual practices, trying to replace real spirituality with yoga and meditation. Now, meditation can be very useful for breathing control and quelling anxiety, and that’s fine. I’m not knocking it, but it contains no content, so therefore, it cannot be used as a substitution for a moral framework and a values system. Something more is needed.
Here we find another set of concepts that, it appears, Dave has no understanding of. Dave seems to treat meditation as a concept separate from religion. This perception is very ill-informed when you account for the fact that meditation has been a part of religious practice, often inseparably connected to it, for centuries. Hell, even Christianity embraces meditation as a means of contemplating on God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but you wouldn’t know that from all the times Christian fundamentalists denounce meditation as a satanic practice designed to allow demons to get into your head. Indeed, you can find several books about meditation in the Christian context from various denominations, including Catholicism. Islam also embraces meditation. In fact, there is a type of meditation in Islam known as Salah, which is also considered a form of prayer and is mandatory for practicing Muslims. From Eastern religions to Abrahamism, meditation is a fairly universal part of religious and spiritual tradition, and indeed it is also embraced by several occult traditions. It’s almost like meditation is supposed to be part and parcel of spiritual life rather than just something you do to feel good about yourself. Yoga is also an important component of Indian religious practices, and is not to be taken as just a set of exercises you do to improve your body. In Hinduism, yoga means the practice of attaining unity with God or the Brahman, and such entails not a set of fitness exercizes but spiritual techniques aimed at attaining religious communion with the absolute. In Buddhism, yoga refers to a set of methods aimed at developing a series of virtues that would allow the practitioner to more easily attain nirvana, cognizance of the true nature of reality. In Jainism, yoga refers to a set of meditative practices that cultivate austerity for the purpose of liberating the soul from the power of karma. This is not simply the realm of trendy, consumerist quasi-spirituality that Dave seems keen on talking about, but in fact the realm of actual religious concepts that have been around for centuries, and have only relatively recently been appropriated as a set of undemanding activities tailored to fit the capitalist lifestyle. Understood correctly, the point of these practices is not to serve as its own religion, as Dave seems to think is the case, but instead serve as components of existing religions.
With the loss of religion, we’ve also jettisoned notions of sacrifice, personal accountability, restraint, honor, and duty. These were considered virtues once.
Since we can establish quite safely that by “religion” Dave just means Christianity (indeed it may actually surprise Dave to learn that not all religions are metaphysical or mystical in nature), it is worth pointing out that the ideas he speaks of are not unique to Christian religion, and as a matter of fact were taken as high virtues in ancient Rome. Romans prized things like self-sacrifice and duty among their highest virtues, and the story of Cincinnatus – the farmer who briefly became dictator of Rome to help defend the republic from invasion and abdicated once his task was completed – was a legendary source of inspiration not only for the ancient Romans, but for the founding fathers of the United States of America, who sought to take after the Roman Republic. The Chinese had similiar ideas about virtue to the ancient Romans, which were stressed in a religious/philosophical doctrine known as Confucianism.
Now there’s another important component of this: the recognition that we are corruptible and imperfect. That we will try and often fail to be good. This is why no matter how much we mess up, no matter what we’ve said or done or not done, the challenge of redemption is always possible. The gift of forgiveness is always offered by God.
You honestly do not need Christian religion to arrive at the conclusion that we are imperfect beings. The simplest pursuit of earnest philosophy will you help you arrive at this conclusion. The simplest observations of human life and human society lead you necessarily to this conclusion. It’s such a universal wisdom that we find Greek mythology, for instance, to be resplendent with tragic heroes and morally ambiguous gods to remind us of that humans are not angels and that we are imperfect beings. Forgiveness has also been a reified concept and component of civic virtue before Christianity arrived: the Romans venerated it as the goddess Clementia (known as Eleos in Greece), and the emperor Julius Caesar was often associated with this goddess due to his willingness to forgive. The main difference as regards Christianity is that forgiveness becomes a faculty of the absolute and part and parcel of salvation – and, of course, a way for the church to overlook your crimes.
Now, I’m not going to pontificate to you or sell you some notion of an anthropomorphic, all-powerful being in the sky. I have no idea what that force resembles. I’m also not going to tell you that the purpose of doing good is a reward in Heaven. I’m not even fully sold on the idea of an afterlife. Maybe there is something I don’t know, but that’s not why I changed. To do good, knowing there’s no reward, is to be truly noble.
Wait…what? Why the fuck are you even a Christian? What is the point of you having “taken the God Pill” if you aren’t going to try and sell the most basic parts of Christian theism to your audience? If you aren’t sold on the idea that doing good and spreading Jesus’ teachings gets you a reward in some kind of heaven, why are you a Christian? That idea is one of the central premises of the religion you are now preaching, and you’re telling me you’re not actually committed to that? You’re not even committed to explaining to us why Yahweh is a real being in the universe? This to me is the most obvious tell going from here that Christianity to him is, in large part, a tool by which to advance a conservative social order, rather than a genuine religious belief, and the reason it seems that way is because he can’t even asked to defend core epistemological concepts of Christianity!
When I prayed to God I said, “I will change even if I get no answer”, because the word of Jesus makes more sense to me now given the state of our world. So at some point I stopped believing in nothing, because there is simply too much order in the universe, too many telltale signs of purpose and intent in reality for me to ignore the possibility that some guiding hand was behind all of this.
This kind of sounds like more cuck stuff from Dave. He’ll believe in Yahweh even if Yahweh gives him no answers, which for me is among the most pathetic forms of belief. He doesn’t need any assurance in reality that Yahweh is the supreme being and his will is at work wherever you go, he just believes it is anyway, because it makes more sense to him because something something progressive communist globalist Jews. That’s all this God Pill stuff is: it’s embracing a religious narrative because it makes sense to you because in a weird way it sort of dovetails with that whole conservative narrartive that you’ve marinated yourself in for, what, five years now? That’s why Rocking MrE denies evolution now, that’s why Roosh V is an Orthodox Christian now, and that’s why Dave claims he believes in God now – the idea that Christian religion is under attack, that all the “evils” of the left go back to the conflict with Christianity, and that returning to Christianity is the only way to push back against progressivism is simply the next development of the conservative narrative, a new story that guides their politics onwards, even if it’s not necessarily reflective of even baseline Christianity.
But then there is the other aspect of that part: he believes in God because there’s too much order in the universe for there to not be a God. The first part that sticks out about that is that it’s basically a rehash of just about any creationist argument you can think back to from over ten years ago or perhaps before. You’ll see Christian creationists and apologists, for instance, make the argument that God must exist because the universe seems so perfect, so precise, almost mechanical, that for them this must be proof of intelligent design. You also see arguments like that from Islamic fundamentalists and creationists, who insist that the universe is so sophisticated that it must be the product of the will of Allah. The irony of this cannot be overstated. Again, I remember when Dave was not only an atheist, but also a part of that whole milieu of “rational skepticism” on YouTube, opposing not only religion but also feminism on the grounds of rationalistic philosophy, and now here I find he’s leading the revival of what is essentially creationism or intelligent design theory! What a bizarre turn the internet has taken. The second part of this, however, is actually something familiar to me, one that almost has me empathizing with him. I already covered this in my post entitled “Nihilism sucks“, but I too have arrived at the conclusion that the idea that there is no order or purpose to life must be an absurd premise. But, where I differ from Dave is that I reject the premise that this means accepting theism, let alone Christianity, on the grounds that I do not believe that the natural order of things is dependent on a grand designer, a demiurge or some such, especially when we consider that the laws of nature are almost entirely apprehensible through scientific means. Where Dave must derive his purpose from Yahweh because he lacks the framework that allows him to do otherwise, I derive my purpose, spiritual or otherwise, from the idea that Man can and will know the truth, that we have the ability, and the duty, to demystify the mystified universe. All I can say otherwise is that I guess I have Anton LaVey and the like to thank for this perspective, and for the fact that, even during my right-wing phase, I’ve been consistently safe from the influence of Christian conservatism.
Skipping Dave’s explanation of astronomy and atomic materialism for dummies, we come to this:
If there’s a single instruction that the divine software architect programmed into the universe from the beginning, it’s creation. Destruction is part of the cycle of creation, and the unending move towards more complexity. Animals and humans die and their bodies will decay into the earth, but other life will feed on those remains. Planets will die and solar systems will be destroyed by exploding stars, but new material will continuously be created in stellar nurseries and recycled by the cosmos. We are the universe made flesh, made aware of itself, and what we believe and how we choose to live matters.
Wait, hold on a minute, this isn’t Christian epistemology. Or at least not in any baseline sense. It’s more like pantheism, but he still believes that there’s a God that exists outside of the universe – he refers to a “divine software architect”, obviously a modern variation of the term “divine architect” or “Grand Architect”, which entails that God exists outside of the universe and fashions it as an object external to his being – so what you get is a doctrine that partially resembles pantheism and partially resembles classical theism, possibly entering the realm of panentheism (the doctrine that God and the universe are distinct, but also that God exists within the universe, or something). But in any case, it’s a doctrine that diverges from conventional Christian theism in many ways. Its assertion that we are the universe made flesh, while definitely an interesting philosophical proposition from my perspective, is anathema to Christianity on the grounds that it asserts that Man is equal to the divine and that, as per pantheist doctrine, God is equal to the material universe rather than its father. In fact pantheism is sometimes treated as a form of atheism, not only by theists but also by atheists – Richard Dawkins famously referred to it as “sexed up atheism” and Vladimir Lenin considered pantheism to be compatible with the strictly atheist ideology of Marxism-Leninism on the grounds that it was a glorified atheistic doctrine whose materialism held God to be identical with Nature and hence the universe.
In any case, this tells me yet again that Dave’s embrace of Christianity seems to be almost purely utilitarian, based not on the actual embrace of Christian epistemology but rather utilizing some conception of Christian values, tradition and mythos as a meta-narrative by which to justify his political ideology (rather poorly at that, too). It shows much further here:
Nations will fall, but powerful ideas will remain timeless and powerless forever. The answer is not only about rejecting destructive ideology. It’s about embracing the philosophy of creation. It’s about choosing life and not death, hope and not despair.
Christianity here is simply an expression of the “white pill”, a psychological expression of Dave’s personal desire for meaning, optimism, and hope, to dispel the despair he sometimes feels when faced with the reality of the world, or rather the reality that he himself has sort of created through his conspiracist ideology. Christianity for him is an abstraction representing philosophical goodness, life, and traditional continuity, a foundation for the order of the nation state as he imagines, and not the force of mental delusion and spiritual desertification that it actually is. If Dave lived in India, he would be embracing Hinduism as part of the goal of advancing Hindutva politics. If he lived in the Middle East, he would be embracing conservative Islam. If he lived in Japan, it would probably some weird nationalistic Shinto or Zen Buddhism like the Japanese far-right utilized in the past. If he lived in Israel, he might just be a typical Likud Zionist. In either case it would be the same thing because all it amounts to is just an expression of the desire to use a religious narrative, derived from your national cultural background, to make sense of the world and give yourself hope for the cause of conservative nationalist political activism. It’s all just the “white pill”, another step in the ascent of the modern online reactionary.
Skipping ahead just a little again, gradually approaching the end of the video, he goes on about how he probably won’t convince everyone, and tries to conclude with a nice sounding nugget of platitudes:
So I can only conclude by saying that I believe that the wisdom and lessons of our past will show us how to chart a course for a better future, that it is our duty to help those less fortunate, lest we forget the lesson, “there but for the grace of God go I”. I believe that we must also pray for our enemies, as they simply know not what they do, and we will all answer to the same authority in the end. Our enemies may hope for our destruction, but we do not pray for theirs. To do so would make us no different to them. So we pray that they can be saved from the evil they have succumbed to.
This is purely platitudinous in the overall, but it’s also all the stranger when you take into consideration the statement that he believes that his enemies know not what they do. This in my mind poses a problem for the genre of right-wing conspiracy theory that Dave and his ilk have been peddling for years. The unstated premise of this conspiracy theory is that the elites that they talk about consciously seek the destruction of the nation states that they subject to “globalist ideology”, because to break down these nation states is how they supposedly intend to pave the way for one world governance (that’s all this “globalism” stuff is, the old New World Order spiel all over again). The premise that they know not what they do is nonsensical in this worldview, because it undermines the whole premise of all the stuff Dave complains about being planned out from the outset, as is the case for all of these conspiracy theories surrounding “Cultural Marxism” and the like.
The video ends in what is probably the only remote link between Dave’s philosophy and baseline Christian epistemology:
I believe that those we’ve lost have never truly left us, that they have become part of something greater and more powerful than any man-made evil in our world. I believe this power is a benevolent and uniting force that governs all things in our universe, and seeks to provide us with the means to save ourselves from human frailty and damnation. I believe that within this force we will find our salvation and peace, and that if we place our faith in that power, it will lead us not into temptation, but it will deliver us from evil, forever. Amen.
You have probably noticed that, throughout this post, I don’t actually talk about God an awful lot, or make a lot of arguments against God, and the reason for that, quite simply, is that for most of the video Dave doesn’t actually discuss God, or baseline theistic concepts. Instead he just goes on about how religion, or more specifically Christian religion, is useful in promoting his desired values system. This is probably the only part of the video I can think of where Dave actively proposes a straightforward conception of a God consistent with basic Christian epistemology, but it begs so many questions. What is this force, really? Do we actually become God after we die? What does this salvation mean? How does this power, this God, “save” us? Why does it care about us enough to even want to give us the means of salvation? Salvation from what damnation? These are all questions that might emerge from Dave’s assertion, but he doesn’t go into any detail that might actually elucidate his concept of God. It’s just a generic belief in God.
And with that, we can conclude this post with some reflective remarks on what we’ve just seen.
It seems obvious to me that this “God Pill” development amounts to just a way of weaving Christianity into a broad desire for hope, which seems to be framed as the next step of a path of the intellectual evolution of conservatives, libertarians and assorted reactionaries who find themselves in that whole “red pill” milieu. It is a way by which people like Dave can add a spiritual and ecclesiastical dimension to their already reactionary political worldview, even if it doesn’t entirely match up with actual Christian doctrine (for instance, on immigration and even abortion). It also seems to be a development towards increasingly authoritarian political ethos, with Dave’s proposal seemingly rejecting liberty and individual freedom as a valid concern of politics and longing for a social authority structure that can bypass democratic will. The way Dave invokes what are clearly anti-semitic tropes suggests the possibility that this “God Pill” might also be something a lubricant towards some fascist sentiment or at least anti-semitism, or if not that then rather a way of undergirding some sort of ethno-nationalist or quasi-ethno-nationalist political tendency with a much broader religious motivation – it does not surprise me at all that anti-semitism would go hand in hand with Christian reaction. We can probably establish this elsewhere in the way that Rocking MrE, another right-wing YouTuber who promotes the concept of the “God Pill”, espouses all manner of fascistic conspiracy theories (despite presumably claiming he isn’t an alt-righter) about Jews, Judaism and the Qabbalah, alongside a number of strange ideas about white genocide, Cultural Marxism, and communist subversion of, well, just about everything, even UKIP for some bizarre reason – I imagine it’s not that hard to see where this is heading. Roosh V, another “God Pill” promoter, also has something of a history of anti-semitism. In 2015, he promoted the works of Kevin McDonald, a veteran white nationalist author who is the editor of Occidental Observer, while esposuing anti-semitic conspiracy theories on Return of Kings, such as how racism was supposedly invented by Leon Trotsky. Two years later, he wrote on his own personal website about how the Jews are “masters of propaganda” who according to him created feminism, and claimed that Return of Kings is responsible for “Jew-pilling” (meaning convincing people to believe in anti-semitic conspiracy theories) thousands of men. I can’t say everyone doing the “God Pill” thing is anti-semitic, in fact it’s still a relatively new trend, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more people promoting the “God Pill” either promoting anti-semitic tropes or outright being anti-semitic themselves.
Although the “God Pill” hasn’t quite exploded so far, I think it would be naive to simply overlook this development, and if Dave and Rocking MrE are any indication, more right-wing atheists will eventually follow in “taking the God Pill” and converting to Christianity following a similar logic to Dave. You may even be surprised to find Carl Benjamin, who’s been an atheist for years, join their ranks in the future. My reasoning for such speculation comes from the fact that he has, over the years, begun to soften up to Christianity. Years ago there was a time where, in addition to criticizing feminism and progressivism, he also crticized Christian conservatives like Ben Carson and commented against creationists like Ray Comfort. But increasingly, he seems to have spent less effort criticizing Christianity or Christian fundamentalism, even as it becomes all the more powerful during the Trump administration. The last time he complained about Christianity that I remember was him getting visibly annoyed and disgusted by the religiosity of Trump’s inauguration ceremony, but he seems to have gotten over that because he is now reduced to a cheerleader for the Trump administration. And now, he’s a member of UKIP, the party most prone to Christian conservative tendencies and where you will find literature about how homosexuality is a disease, and he speaks to UKIP members about “Christianphobia”, a concept that should make about as much sense as “Islamophobia” to anyone committed to opposing the Abrahamic faiths. Thankfully, however, he hasn’t quite succumbed to Christianity yet, as evidenced by his willingness to debate against Christianity during his debate tour of Gloucester, though I am left wondering how long this will last. In fact, I wonder if the “God Pill” route will end up becoming the inevitable destination for many conservative atheists as the inevitable result of their refusal to detach from the Christian ethos after rejecting belief in God. Anton LaVey certainly wouldn’t be too surprised to see such a development if he were alive today.
It would be foolish to dismiss the growth of this trend, however small it might be. We cannot rule out the possibility that the right won’t coalesce around the “God Pill” concept on a larger scale than what we’re seeing now, because if that happens we will see Christianity rehabilitated after all the effort that has put into debunking it over the years. Given the vision that Dave lays out, this will always lay the groundwork for the growth of religious and conservative authoritarian rule, and freedom will be under threat or eventually suppressed by religious reaction, and our goals will be set back significantly. We must strive to oppose this development however possible, and perhaps bolster our frameworks in the service of this effort. Otherwise, the Great Work of the Morning Star will be impeded.
Reject the “God Pill”. Reject the false song of Christian salvation. Reject the path to tyranny. Fight it in the name of freedom for humanity. In Nomine Dei Nostre Luciferi Excelsi.
Damn near every religion familiar to most people seems insistent in the belief that salvation and/or enlightenment is impossible for the sensual human being to attain. Even the Tao Te Ching, a fundamental text of the Taoist tradition, seems to insist that human desire is to be let go of rather than be seen as natural. Well, what can I expect from the majority of religions? It seems fairly well-established, at least from the modern point of view, that the vast majority of religions are enable to profit off the human spirit without convincing mankind that he is doomed by mote of his basic drives and existence, and that he cannot attain any kind of salvation without the rejection of desire, that he cannot be spiritual without reducing himself to nothing. And always, the animal part of Man is rejected as lower, a thing to be shunned, rather than as a source of life, or even as a source of transformation.
I, the Satanist, say what is wrong with being human?
If we are to assume that the gods are but the projections of the self, created by Man, and if the afterlife is a creation of Man, then surely is it not within the human being to save him/herself on his/her own terms? Even if not, surely Man is not beholden to any external spiritual forces anymore. For thousands of years, Man has sought salvation from annihilation in the grip of death, and has only seen a way to do so in organized religion and in the gods of old (up to and including the so-called “One True God”). Thus in the process of “saving” himself, he has had to bargain his pride, his desires,often in his sense of the self, in obeisance in these bodies of organized religion and to these externalized deities, that he may secure a place in paradise – but in a paradise that is not his own. It is a paradise conjured in the terms of the men (and it usually was men) who designed it, and it can’t be guaranteed to suit every man and woman’s idea of spiritual paradise. Man has bartered that which his true being holds dear for salvation, but was Man really being saved, or were people simply sacrificing themselves to the predatory narcissism of those who wanted control over others? Either way, even there was salvation, it could only be at the whim of another man or a “God”, not on your own terms. It’s also worth mentioning that in much of the ancient world, the power of religion and the power of the state were either interrelated or much the same as one another – . Who could forget the examples of the “god-kings” of Egypt and the Aztecs (who were also linked with specific deities), or the “god-emperors” of Rome, China, and Japan? But in more recent ages, human beings have discovered, and are still in the process of discovering, that this does not have to be – another way can be created. There is now the prospect that the individual can enthrone him/herself as the only master of his/her spiritual life, dethroning the Gods that came before. Or rather, there is the discovery that Man has had the ability to choose this entire time – only that our kind has been unaware, or conditioned by countless generations of obedience to tradition. Can Man not dictate his/her own salvation, create his/her own paradise? If Man has had the choice this entire time, it must stand to reason that the individual human is capable dictating his/her own path, without needing to sacrifice one bit of his/her genuine nature out of the mistaken notion that you cannot be saved or enlightened simply because your sensual nature contradicts the teachings of those who may simply have wanted control over a flock of people.
In the world in which we live today, many of the mainstream religious traditions are losing power and losing influence. In particular in the Western world, Christianity is losing the influence it once had as the power of tradition and religion give way to a largely secular liberal climate, with some roadblocks ahead. Even in Japan where modern ideas have managed to harmoniously co-exist with old religious traditions, Buddhism is losing the influence it once had, as demonstrated by the lack of interest in the Buddhist monastery and the prospect of many Buddhist temples in Japan closing their doors within the next 25 years. There will doubtless be those who mourn for the decline of tradition, or rather the influence it once held over the minds of the masses, but on the other hand, the people are set to be freer than ever before to carve their own path. Even so, it is obvious that humans will still long for meaning, a sense that there must be more to this life than simply the mundane experience of this world. This is something that the materialistic/atheistic group-think of the modern world ignores frequently, its participants thinking that those who seek more than this life are enslaved by the delusion of religion. Surely in this age, we have the freedom to rule our own personal spiritual kingdom – a human kingdom, not one ruled by an external “God” – and direct our own lives rather than be ruled by others, or needing to rule others. We shall see paradise on our own terms, of our own creation, and as humans with desires and pride of worldly, and spiritual, accomplishments, rather than as followers of dying traditions, dethroned “Gods”, and psychic vampires.
This might be just me, but I feel in the modern age there is a climate on the Internet of hostility regarding religious and ontological ideas and the expression thereof. I feel that there is hostility being expressed by both followers of traditional religious ideas (such as those espoused by Christianity) and followers of naturalistic atheism (such as the kind espoused by the likes of Richard Dawkins), and if there are forums for discussion of religious belief then chances are there is hostile debate with both sides mouthing off at each other and fueling their own misplaced sense of intellectual and moral superiority.
I feel it’s gotten so bad that in an age where scientific reason is on the rise, hard-edged naturalistic atheists give themselves the moral right to act like complete assholes towards anyone with beliefs that are even remotely unscientific or non-logical. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a Christian (let alone fundamentalist Christian), because the naturalists treat all spiritual and religious ideas the same way because they do not hinge of the objective and observable natural universe. I remember being on Yahoo Answers and the Religion and Spirituality section was nothing more than a battleground between idiotic Christians and self-righteous naturalistic atheists, with both sides either venting their own trollish nature or simply peddling familiar easy answers for the sake of earning points or because they don’t know better. Anyone who was not a Christian or an atheist and is simply looking to entertain ideas that are outside both currents would commonly be met with simplistic idiocy and intolerance. This even afflicts the world of Satanism in the form of the divide between atheistic Satanists, whether those of the Church of Satan or simply riding their coattails (and the coattails of Anton LaVey), and Satanists both theistic and non-theistic who just want to practice forms of Satanism that are not entirely materialistic without being labelled as mere devil worshipers or cultists.
We live in a world where there is an abundant diversity of belief systems across all continents (except Antarctica), but all most people perceive is this idealized or mythical war between monotheistic religious forms of spirituality and naturalistic atheism, humanism, and physical science, and most people either pick on or the other or just sit on the fence, with few of us bothering to look outside the box searching for something different, perhaps something more in line with their own instincts. It should make sense to you, it doesn’t have to make sense because someone else believes it does. I feel the problem is that (a) nothing has changed and people are still as ignorant as they’ve always been despite what those of a secular position may want you to think, and (b) atheists and secular humanists are the only voices outside the religious current who are lionized in today’s media and on the Internet. I guess another part of the problem is that there are otherwise tolerant atheists who always have to argue with less tolerant religious people and just stop seeing the difference between religious fanatics and everyone else who has a spiritual belief.
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