January 26, 2016

Is Satanism Ethically Superior to Christianity?

the fallen angelToward the end of November, Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) wrote a post with a great title that I meant to address here. It appears that I filled it incorrectly in my poor excuse for an online bookmarking system since I just found it this weekend by accident. The title of the post was The Satanic Temple's Seven Tenets Are Far More Ethical Than the Ten Commandments. It is a great title, but is it accurate? Are the seven fundamental tenets of the Satanic Temple really ethically superior to the Ten Commandments? Could Satanism have an ethical edge over Christianity?

One of the consequences of Christian privilege is that I can rest assured that you are far more likely to be familiar with the Ten Commandments than with the Satanic Temple or their tenets. So let's take a look at the seven tenets and see what we think:
  1. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
  2. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  3. One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  4. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.
  5. Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
  6. People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
  7. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.
No matter how many times I read through this list trying to find something that sounds evil or unethical, I can't do it. I think Hemant is right. If one were to live by these tenets, it seems like one would likely be more ethical than someone trying to live by the Ten Commandments. It isn't that they are awful, at least not all of them; it is just that these seem to produce a more ethical result.

Hemant links to an article by Valerie Tarico about how Satanists often behave more like Jesus than Christians that makes similar points. I will not link you to the same source Hemant used because it is Salon.com, but you can find an earlier version of Tarico's article at AlterNet (which may or may not be much better than Salon). Tarico concludes her article by suggesting that Christians consider updating their commandments for the modern world. Love it!

The best thing in Tarico's article, though, has to be this:
While self-righteous or fearful Christians have been busy making themselves and their faith look ugly, Satanists have maintained their equanimity, followed the Golden Rule, and even, in the words of Jesus, “turned the other cheek.”
Clearly, she is talking about Satanists associated with the Satanic Temple and not necessarily all Satanists. But when one takes a look at the seven tenets, it is easy to see what she's getting at with this comparison. Satanists who follow these tenets are bound to behave better in many important ways than Christians who follow their commandments.

It has been many years since I gave Satanism a serious look. At that time, the version of Satanism I looked into was LaVey's Church of Satan. I could understand why it had appeal for some, but it didn't have much appeal for me. I had a number of problems with it, but the main one was the streak of narcissism and lack of empathy for others that seemed to run through much of it. This, combined with their hierarchy and various supernatural trappings, helped me to realize that this form of Satanism was not for me.

The type of Satanism practiced by the Satanic Temple is one that I find far more appealing. Admittedly, I do not know nearly enough about their group to evaluate it in any comprehensive manner. I'm not sure what else they might believe that is not reflected in the seven tenets. I do think that they have been doing some great work to advance secularism. And when I look at their fundamental tenets, I see some really good stuff. I'd like to learn more about them and what they believe.

I have been somewhat disappointed but not terribly surprised to find that some atheists appear to suffer from many of the same misconceptions some Christians have about Satanism and appear to regard it with a similar degree of hostility. I am not going to let that deter me from learning more about the Satanic Temple and what appears to be an interesting form of non-theistic Satanism. After all, I wouldn't be much of a freethinker if I didn't exercise my freedom to explore new and interesting ideas.

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