THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR: WHAT FAKE SATANISTS TEACH US ABOUT REAL ZEALOTS
It was October 13 (a Friday) in 1307 when France’s King Philip IV arrested the Knights Templar as heretics, burning or imprisoning most of them.
It’s another Friday the 13th in October as I write this. It’s a different time and a different world, but some things persist.
Like in 14th century France, we’ve got wars in “the Holy Land.”
Like 14th century France, we’ve got misinformation at the highest levels of government.
And perhaps, we’ve got growing political danger for “heretics” too.
The Knights Templar were medieval crusaders, “Christian warriors devoted to chastity, poverty and obedience,” as TIME calls them.
For the record, I identify with the inverse of every noun in that sentence.
The Knights Templar are also where we get the name “Baphomet.” According to the charges against them, the order fell into deviltry and worshiped an idol by that title.
“To some the idol was a skull, or a reliquary, a cat, a painting, or the head of a man,” journalist Frank Sanello writes. “Although many Templars denied idolatry, those who confessed outdid their captors’ imaginations.”
Conspiracy nuts hang onto the idea of devil-worshiping medieval knights to this day. “Baphomet represented Satan, the powers of darkness, and the the regenerative fertility of the goat,” says the crackpot blog Cutting Edge.
(Note that Cutting Edge cites some Geocities Satanism page for that quote, but the alleged source no longer exists, since it’s not 1999 anymore.)
On the other end of the stupid spectrum, Neo-Nazi Satanist site 666 Black Sun agrees.
“The Knights Templar were said to have been very Satanic and worshipped [sic] Baphomet,” according to the site’s brainless blog claiming the Klan descended from Templars.
(I’m not linking to that, partly out of good taste and partly because it’s an Angelfire site and it’s not 1998 anymore either.)
Devil-worshiping knights is admittedly a neat story. But of course, it’s bullshit. Such that they might not even make bulls that big anymore.
As Cardiff University Professor Helen Nicholson told National Geographic, “As far as the Templars went, the evidence shows them to be extremely boring Roman Catholics.”
Phil Four’s gripe against the Knights Templar was political. The devil worship story was just a handy excuse.
“The standard [for] political enemies in the early 14th century was to accuse them of heresy,” says Nicholson. Because that played to the pervading prejudices, of course.
And that’s the standard today too. Don’t like kneeling football players? Say they’re attacking the flag. Don’t like a protest song? Say the singer hates the troops. Don’t like your red coffee cup? Call it a War On Christmas.
It’s all “heresy,” by one name or another. What’s different today is that heresy isn’t a crime. Most of the time the law even protects it, lucky for us.
But there are some folks who’d like to change that. Last week, loony anti-Satanist preacher Rick Wiles claimed that only Christians have religious liberties:
“The city council and the mayor say, ‘Well, these Satanists have their rights too.’ No, they don’t. They don’t have any rights. This country was founded by Christians.”
While back in May, Catholic fascist Gunnar Gundersen agreed, claiming, “protecting Satanism [is] foreign to religious freedom in the U.S. Constitution.”
Gundersen even whipped out the same abused James Madison quote Attorney General/Disgruntled Leprechaun Jeff Sessions used to prop up his latest federal order for more Christian privilege.
And while nobody can quite agree whether former President George Bush (the first) once said atheists shouldn’t be citizens, supposed current President Donald Trump told an anti-gay hate group this week that in America “we worship god.” Full stop.
The Knights Templar were not real heretics. In fact, they were bigger zealots than those who rounded them up.
But the example of the Templars shows what happens when zealotry gets to be the status quo. That’s why we can never stop pushing back on the zealots; the anti-Satanists, the fundies, the theocrats, Wiles, Gundersen, Sessions, Trump, Alex Jones, all the modern inquisitors.
In the courts, in the schools, on the State House lawn, anywhere. Wherever we give an inch, they’ll tie it into a noose.