WHEN ASKED “WHY SATAN?” THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE: BECAUSE IT’S US
Bolted doors and windows barred, guard dogs prowling in the yard, won’t protect you in your bed–from being asked once again, “But why Satan?”
Most Anti-Satanism relies on either misinformation, belligerence, or a dead-end cocktail of both. But when an obstinate opposite both listens to and cognizes basic facts about Modern Satanism, “Why Satan?” remains the go-to rejoinder.
And the answer? Well, that’s the secret: There is no answer.
Or more accurately, there are countless answers, but none that will satisfy the questioner. Because their problem is usually not that they don’t have answers. Their problem is the question itself.
One of recovering missionary turned Satanist Stephen Bradford Long’s readers popped the question back in May:
“I had assumed that anyone who affiliates with any Satanic group is doing so to worship evil, but, you are informing me otherwise. Yet I wonder, why Satan, a word/entity that elicits fear and revulsion in many people?”
If you ask me–which nobody did, but here I’m poaching Long’s commenter anyway–the answer is baked right into the query.
Satan creates “fear and revulsion” for “many people.” But we’re not “many people,” are we?
And we’re not working off of what this reader acknowledges are misconceptions from the nonce. What this question actually boils down to is, “But if none of my damaging assumptions about Satanism were true, then why are you a Satanist?” Absurd.
If instead of fear the name “Satan” inspires feelings like comfort or aspiration, then the most pressing question becomes not “Why Satan?” but instead “Why not?”
“Many people” are not going to share these values. But that’s why they’re not Satanists, and we are. The questioner assumes that as atheists, Satanists can just pick and choose any religious imagery, as if it were all valueless and interchangeable. What a bizarre idea.
Long points out among other things that “Satanism is a tradition rooted in the Romantics: Hugo, Shelley, Blake, Byron.”
He continues, “As Ruben Van Luijk notes in Children of Lucifer, ‘For sympathizers with the revolution, Satan was no longer an evil insurgent against righteousness but the mirror image of the revolutionary standing up against despotic power.”
The myth of Satan assumes that the audience will venerate an eternal, divine king and vilify a revolutionary. Our cultural assumptions about what inspires “fear and revulsion” still harken to the Bronze Age.
And this is not an entirely old-fashioned idea. Exvangelical thought leader Chrissy Stroop took pains to point out a few weeks ago that many modern Christian congregations still cling to that inherent fundy fascism.
“The greatest threat to democracy in the United States is undoubtedly the Christian Right and the Christian nationalist ideology,” Stroop writes, thus kicking off your family’s most confrontational Thanksgiving yet.
Sometimes people pose the question in utilitarian form. Commenting on a 2017 blog about the Satanic Temple’s suit against Missouri abortion access infringement, one reader tsk-tsked, “Perhaps if they had chosen a different name, more pro-choice organizations would have joined them.”
I’m sorry, do pro-choice organizations need some kind of special handholding all of a sudden? Here I thought people had a job to do.
More importantly, this is another classic case of missing the forest for the log in your eye–or something to that effect, I get my idioms crossed when people act patronizing.
If being a Satanist was just a baffling means to some obscure tactical end, yeah, people might rethink the name.
But that’s how you can tell it’s not.
Imagine asking, “Would more people join Zoroastrianism if it weren’t associated with those scary Iranians?”
Someone might say yes. Or they might say fuck you. Probably they’d say fuck you. Because that’s the answer you’d deserve.
Back in 2014, the Daily Dot posed this same puzzler to Satanic Temple cofounder Lucien Greaves, asking “Wouldn’t you be more effective as a secular organization with a different name?”
His response was effectively just “no,” arguing that the Satan name is an important message unto itself.
It will probably not surprise you that I again consider the question itself malformed. It’s like asking, “Couldn’t you have married someone other than your spouse?”
Technically the answer is probably yes. But the fact that you didn’t is very significant, and certainly not arbitrary.
Could all of the people who compose Satanic Bay Area and Black Mass Appeal be united by some different cause? Would we find solace in some alternative idea? Could another incentive motivate us to these same ends?
Maybe. World’s a crazy place, after all.
But one thing we do know: nothing else did. And another thing: that’s not an accident.
You ask me, Satanist mom blogger A Hot Mess & Godless had the right idea when it comes to cracking the old “Why Satan?” chestnut.
Her reply: “Simply put, I am a Satanist.” Other answers may also be sufficient, but this is the only one that’s necessary.
St. Thomas Aquinas said, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”
Not having faith myself, I guess that should leave me on the outs with that one.
But somethings tells me a Modern Satanist understands that sentiment much more powerfully than old Tom boy would suspect.