THAT TIME THE CATHOLICS ACCIDENTALLY FIGURED OUT SATANISM
The last thing 2020 needed was a pair of Catholic apologists struggling to understand the Satanic Temple. And as it turned out, that was indeed one of the last things it got.
I meant to write about this baffling exercise back when it first manifested on the Catholic Answers podcast Focus in early December, but, ah, a lot of shit has been going down since then, so here we are now.
Focus host Cy Kellett is a former teacher and news editor who previously helmed a show on the Catholic Immaculate Hearts Radio, which no longer exists after merging with another Catholic network in 2017, apparently agreeing with me that America really, really does not need that many fucking Catholic broadcasters.
Karlo Broussard is a theologian who claims to have left “a promising musical career as a Cajun accordionist to embrace god’s call to win souls,” which I guess means we can all stop debating whether god wins souls via Cajun accordion.
The pair spent 34 long minutes talking Temple and nobody ended up burned as a heretic, making this historically one of the more successful Catholic treatises on Satanism. But as you can no doubt predict, the biggest insight the pair managed went distinctly over their heads.
Broussard admits at the beginning of the show, “I hadn’t done the reading and the research on the group,” which for some reason is not then the end of the conversation. Kellett insists he’s still the man for the job, since “Karlo loves philosophy,” which makes it sound like we were this close to getting Ignatius J. Reilly in to talk about Satanism instead. Shame.
Lacking much education on the topic, what precisely are these two going to talk about? Well, largely it’s a lot of dickering over the specific language of things like the Temple FAQ and the Seven Tenets, with mixed non-results that would leave anyone coming in cold more confused than ever (like most Catholic doctrine).
At first I thought this was just bad radio. Only after listening for a while did I start to realize that there’s a (pardon the term) fundamental disconnect in how the pair are even attempting to understand these materials–and perhaps even of what “understanding” means.
Of the Temple’s First Tenet, Broussard wonders, “Are they trying to insert in there that we need to have compassion toward non-rational animals such that we can never kill them and use them for our own good? If that’s what they’re getting at, then we’re going to have to disagree and we’re going to have to have a debate.”
Did you catch it? Broussard points out–correctly–that the reading of the Tenet is subjective, and that when people inevitably express contrary perspectives on it that this engenders debate. (Or shittiness, depending on which Facebook group you’re in, but let’s stay focused.)
But he’s framing this not as the inevitable byproduct of freewill and individual expression, but instead as some sort of fundamental weakness in the ideology. As if the exhaust port on this Death Star turned out to just be the fact that people have the capacity to disagree.
And then Kellett falls quite by accident into essentially the same revelation. “It strikes me right off with number one, there’s no authority cited for these,” he says, calling them “just assertions.”
Yes, he is right: There is no claim, for example, that Satan came up from Hell and inscribed these Tenets on a stone. Malcolm Jarry didn’t read them off golden plates in a hat. Emperor Constantine didn’t see it in a dream. If any of these were the claim, I wouldn’t believe it.
Just like his contrapart, Kellett tiptoes right up to the edge of an insight and then just…lets it lie there, like a sinful prophylactic he dare not touch.
Satanism doesn’t come packaged with some claim of magical authority or coercive dogma. There’s no reason for Satanists to believe these things…except that we might happen to believe these things. Kellett says “there’s no authority” as if that’s an oversight, but it’s actually why we’re here.
Doesn’t this, as Broussard realizes, make the meaning and value of these Tenets highly subjective and prone to argument? Well…yes. And that’s good. Or rather, that’s appealing.
Personally, I don’t trust the idea of compelling religious authority. I would much rather live in a world–or at the very least hang out in a social setting–where people use their reason and their emotional IQ to decide what right and wrong is. In part because I strongly suspect that if people never do this, they may be easily coerced into, well, most of Catholic history.
The big secret of course is that this is how all religions work, whether people know it or not. Folks like Kellett and Broussard believe that their beliefs are rooted in what they call “supernatural revelation”…but of course, they are mistaken. Like turtles, it’s subjectivity all the way down.
Late comedian George Carlin observed, “I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it.”
What he really meant is that if he had as many believers as the Pope, this would confer on him the exact same authority–because, like money, all authority comes from subjects’ belief in it.
You write down your tenets or your commandments or your pillars, people read them, and they will believe them or disbelieve, depending on their judgment. (Or, in many cases, their lack of judgment.) Beyond that, as he says, “There is no authority.”
If you’re unclear on these ramifications, it seems you might have the makings of a Catholic Radio host (or accordionist). And if you’re honest, or at least aware, about it, you could well be a Satanist.
The final lines hit on a point I’ve been making a lot lately. If you choose to make the meaning of your life following a supposed supreme deity, you’re still choosing the meaning of your life. Same with morality. Morality isn’t objective even if it is the opinion of an omnipotent demiurge. That we burn if we don’t choose it doesn’t make it absolute and objective. It just makes God a monster.
i hate to be *that* person, but it’s gonna bug me if i don’t say it: it was a rock in the hat, the gold plates weren’t even in the room. though the visual is great in it’s stupidity either way.
That’s a relief, I was starting to worry the whole story might be a little far-fetched. -D