SATAN IS A LIAR, THAT’S HOW YOU KNOW HE’S HONEST
Another tactic of Anti-Satanists is to allege you can’t believe what Satanists say about Satanism, since Satan is a liar and thus we must be lying.
This seems to pose the question of why we publicly admit to Satanism at all, and surely the outwardly faithful should be under suspicion of secret Satanism instead? In Children of Lucifer, Rubin Van Luijk even writes that medieval manuals for hunting heretics warned to watch for “outstanding piety, care for those in need, and seemingly god-fearing way of life” to catch the true unbeliever.
Poorly thought out though it may be, this is still a better vector for Anti-Satanists than the more common arguments about “evil,” because a lie may be tangible. You can’t prove whether someone is “evil” in concrete terms (barring a routine soul smear, of course), but you CAN catch them in a lie.
Or at least, you’d think. As we all know from lived experience, actually attempting this usually results in not much at all except denialism, cognitive dissonance, and being blocked by Ben Shapiro fans on Twitter.
And the real kick in the ass is: In many cases, the most effective way to be branded a liar is actually to tell the truth.
I’m sorry to break it to you, but the reason I’m bringing this up is topical: In a Guardian opinion piece this week, UK doctor Rachel Clarke testified “I’ve been called Satan” for her public statements about the COVID-19 pandemic. Not because she’s lying, but because she’s not.
“Last night a charming ‘skeptic’ sent me this,” Clarke writes: “‘You have clearly sold your soul and are nothing more than a child abuser destroying futures. […] I do not consent to your Satanic ways.” (Which of course that party will have to bring up with the Satanic ways and means committee.)
Her disclosures aren’t remarkable: Mostly just that the pandemic is real and doctors are having a hard time, all things that are not only true but self-reinforcing, like the rules about not petting the animals at a non-petting zoo. You can try to disregard them, but something will solve for that variable sooner or later if you do.
And yet they call her a liar and also the devil. Because while you can objectively prove the truth or falsity of empirical statements, in most cases you won’t.
This is not a recent problem. Writing in 1845, American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison noted that although the truth about slavery was right in front of people’s eyes, they simply chose not to believe it.
To be clear, I’m not comparing being a doctor in the UK to being a slave in the American South–I’ve spent too much time in the lab developing cancel cultures to trip into that. I just happened to read both of these sources on the same day, and they both happen to reflect on this theme.
“They are stubbornly incredulous whenever they read or listen to any recital of the cruelties which are daily inflicted,” Garrison writes. Anti-abolitionists just didn’t believe slavery was that bad, “And they affect to be greatly indignant at such enormous exaggerations, such wholesale misstatements, such abominable libels on the character of the southern planters.”
Abolition skeptics were of course perfectly aware that slaves were, you know, enslaved. They just posed incredulity at the suggestion that being a slave was an unpleasant or violent experience–as if, once crossing the moral boundary of slaving, slavers remained arbitrarily squeamish about other violence.
Frederick Douglass (for whose autobiography Garrison was writing a preface) testified that the lives of black slaves exposed a highly transitive quality about truth as well. Observing that his anonymous father was very likely his first master, Douglass noted that so many men forcibly fathered children by their slaves that it actually undermined the religious underpinnings of slavery. Or at least, it should have.
Such abuses “will do away the force of the argument that god cursed Ham, and therefore American slavery is right,” Douglass wrote. See, Noah curses his son Ham’s descendants in Genesis, and American slavers insisted that the whole continent of Africa descended from this one cursed man, and thus slavery had its roots in scripture.
But “if the lineal descendants of Ham are alone to be scripturally enslaved, it is certain that slavery at the south must soon become unscriptural, for thousands are ushered into the world, annually, who, like myself, owe their existence to white fathers.” And so the slave-owning class had no choice but to admit that the institution had strayed outside the bounds of Genesis.
Or so you’d think. In practice of course, they did no such thing. The facts were undeniable, but in the process of transitioning to an unavoidable conclusion the facts just kind of got lost for several hundred years.
So despite the technical definition of the word, a lie is not necessarily a falsehood. In practice if not on paper, a lie is that which is most inconvenient or (pardon the phrase) damning for the person making the judgment–whether it’s true or not.
And doubtless you’ve observed this is also the nature of the people’s discourse about Satan and Satanists, who always happen to most resemble whatever or whomever the Anti-Satanist is already the most likely to vilify. As we know from reading Pagels, this is precisely how the devil myth developed to begin with.
So of course we’re to believe that Satan is the “Prince of Lies.” He’s prince of whatever they want to safely undermine. Even the word devil derives from the Greek “diablos,” which can mean “slanderer.”
But as we also know, a lot of things they call lies turn out to be true in the end. Or more honestly, in the beginning.