Religion As Illusion

The following essay was originally published as a forward in a limited edition hardcover publication of ‘The Last Illusion’ by Clive Barker

By Lucien Greaves

A stage magician, openly engaging in trickery, often masters an endless repertoire of precision sleights and deft misdirections only to be relegated to street busking or scrounging for tableside tips. The hustler, however, comfortable in the presence of the hopelessly gullible, can merely learn to poorly half-ass his/her way through one cheap trick, yet yield a cult of devoted followers willing to spill their life savings into an empty promise of salvation.

Scam mediums, grifter gurus, fraudulent faith healers, all retain a profitable market of those who care little — and are often openly hostile towards — the debunkings suffered by their false messiahs. “Psychics” — even those amongst the most sought — are often laughable in their feeble cold readings, which are nonetheless sufficient to fleece the willing rube.

Indeed, water-into-wine is well within the domain of amateur stage magic, making the history of illusion a potentially troubling topic for the religious supernaturalist. How many religious movements were predicated on exasperatingly simple stage sleights, concealed gimmicks, confusing misdirections?

The “honest” magician sells entertainment, claiming no supernatural command over unknown forces. They, like Clive Barker’s symbolic character, Swann, in The Last Illusion, might prefer the title of “Illusionist” over “magician.” Just the same, some observers will suspect (just as some will suspect trickery on the part of the mystic) that the magician harbors secret powers merely explained away as “illusion.” As an accomplished mentalist once observed, it makes little sense to raise the ire of debunkers and skeptics when baffled observers will interpret the illusion as reality despite any disclaimers given anyway. Read more “Religion As Illusion”

Why Non-Believers Should Embrace Religion While Fighting Superstition

The following article was originally published on Patheos, 06 Feb 2017

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Helping protest myself in Arkansas

American Christendom of recent generations has enjoyed an unprecedented ecumentical unity under the banner of the religious right. Sectarian differences have become all but invisible as “values voters” perplexingly align not with a political platform that most clearly represents most of their shared doctrinal values, but one that equally represents none of them at all. We have recently watched as religious voters devolved from an unconvincing struggle to find scriptural justification for their contemporary non-Biblical agendas (i.e. the “pro-life” platform), to even discarding their contemporary pious sense of “family values” and dignity altogether by aligning themselves behind a twice-divorced pussy-grabbing plutocratic president who seems to embody none of the alleged Christly values of charity and benevolence.

Once ardent supporters of the New Deal’s work relief and welfare programs, American Christians now embrace a bastardized “Libertarianism” that deifies the Free Market while in open contempt of charitable services. While this full about-face would seem to have revealed the capricious nature of “inviolable” beliefs, the theocratic right ardently asserts their tribal Standards of Conduct as immovable, sacrosanct and, in fact, the only rightful beneficiaries of Religious Liberty. Read more “Why Non-Believers Should Embrace Religion While Fighting Superstition”

Christians poison our kids’ heads with the fear of Hell – After School Satan is the antidote

Originally Published in International Business Times UK August 5, 2016

assc_colorblue_2This past Sunday, July 30, 2016, Washington Post reporter Katherine Stewart revealed that The Satanic Temple (an organization I co-founded and for which I act as spokesperson) is proposing to offer after-school clubs in American public schools nationwide. The “After School Satan Clubs,” we made clear, are being offered as a counter-balance in schools where evangelical organizations have established their own after-school presence. Of particular concern to us are “Good News Clubs” conceived by a zealous child-targeting sect of isolationist fundamentalists known as the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). Good News Clubs serve to indoctrinate children from ages 5 – 12 years of age into a superstitious paranoia of death, eternal torment, and Hell. Horrifically, they use their after-school clubs to train children to proselytize to other school-children to bring them into the CEF’s counter-productive, magical way of thinking. While the After School Satan Clubs’ curriculum contains no items of specific religious opinion, we feel that the very presence of self-identified Satanists in an environment where the CEF propaganda circulates serves to send a positive message that people can hold differing — even “blasphemous” — religious views without consequence. Read more “Christians poison our kids’ heads with the fear of Hell – After School Satan is the antidote”

Hail Satan and Happy Holidays

Originally published on Patheos, December 24, 2015

Jeremiah 10:2-4 2 Thus said the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.  — American King James Version

Greaves1Religious Freedom, as understood by the typical faith-deranged American, is dependent upon the unconstrained and exclusive right to proselytize and impose the Christian faith upon others. Only once you’ve understood this basic fact do the Culture Wars begin to make any sense at all. In fact, the debates concerning Gay Marriage, and the “freedom” to restrict the rights of homosexual couples, can’t be understood otherwise.

The “War on Christmas” — rather, the annual outbreak of hysterical persecution complex-driven conspiracy theories regarding secular/Satanic efforts to destroy a quintessential Christian holiday — must also be understood in this light. Surely, there are no serious efforts underway to prevent Christians from celebrating the holiday as they see fit. However, Bible-believing theocrats imagine their religious freedoms are being unconscionably abridged should they be in any way restricted from imposing their own interpretation of the holiday’s meaning, and their faith’s prescribed method of “celebration”, onto others. After all, ours is a “Christian Nation”, and preserving, proselytizing, and imposing Christian beliefs, are essential to the common Evangelical’s very practice of faith. Read more “Hail Satan and Happy Holidays”

Why After School Satan?

assc_colorblue_2Not long ago, a print magazine conducted an interview with Lucien Greaves, spokesperson for The Satanic Temple (TST), about a new TST campaign to place “After School Satan Clubs” in elementary schools where Evangelical “Good News Clubs” have established their own twisted and coercive presence. The published article ultimately contained but a few very brief quotes from the interview. Below is the interview in its entirety. The questions have been paraphrased

Interviewer: A question about a Washington Post article which quoted Principal Jose Olivas of the The Roskruge Bilingual K-8 School in Tucson as stating that the After School Satan Club “does not currently meet the minimum requirement of having a faculty sponsor.” What are the requirements and will you be able to meet them?

Read more “Why After School Satan?”

When The Satanic Temple Brought the Apocalypse to AZ

Originally published on the Friendly Atheist blog February 3, 2016

11178197_393931100815881_7060330606606165338_nTonight, the City Council of Phoenix, AZ convened to consider proposed measures aimed specifically at blocking The Satanic Temple from delivering any invocations in the “open forum” of their Council Chambers.

Media reporting was often scattered and unclear regarding how, exactly, the Council intended to block the Satanic invocation but indications were that certain Council members advocated for a rotating roster of Council-approved clergy. Clearly, the idea presented a fundamental misunderstanding of First Amendment freedoms and the government’s inability to act as arbiter of “legitimate” religious expression.

Tonight’s meeting began with three-minute public comments, which were kicked off by a citizen-veteran speaking desperately in defense of pluralism and free speech, followed by a tired and unconvincing Christian reading from the Book of Isaiah asserting that there is a Constitution “higher than the United States Constitution.” A fiery older lady then took the podium to declare that “Satanism is a not a religion; it’s a cult,” without ever defining either one. The Mayor interjected to insist that all testimony regarding the invocation controversy be withheld till the Council reached that particular item on the agenda. Read more “When The Satanic Temple Brought the Apocalypse to AZ”

Ignorance & Uproar: Glenn Beck, Herman Cain, & the Satanic Holiday Display

(09 Dec 2014) Last week, Florida’s Department of Management Services (DMS) resigned itself begrudgingly to approval of The Satanic Temple’s (TST) request to place a holiday h4ult2qy0mdh8eipeafgdisplay in the State’s Capitol Rotunda. It was the end of a year-long battle which, as spokesperson for and co-founder of The Satanic Temple, I explained to Jezebel’s Anna Merlan, began with the DMS’s refusal to host us one December ago:

The display that has been approved this year is exactly the same display that was rejected as “grossly offensive” last year. Florida’s Department of Management Services declined to comment as to what, exactly, they judged to be “grossly offensive”, and we were left to conclude that we were being subjected to blatant viewpoint discrimination. This time around we arrived with a cadre of lawyers working with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State [AU]. This apparently rendered our homemade holiday display more palatable to the DMS’s tender sensibilities. In any case, the correct decision was finally made, and we appreciate the opportunity to publicly wish a happy holiday season to all. Nobody holds a monopoly upon the season’s celebratory spirit, and we hope that our display, among the various others, will contribute to a general and growing understanding of plurality. If there is fun to be had, we’ll have it — and we wish the same for all, regardless of religious affiliation, or lack thereof. Read more “Ignorance & Uproar: Glenn Beck, Herman Cain, & the Satanic Holiday Display”

When It Comes to The Satanic Temple, Christians Seem to Love Bearing False Witness

Originally published on the Friendly Atheist Blog January 13, 2016

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Illustration by Jack Chick, from one of his infamous tracts

On December 30, we learned that the town council of Brookville, Indiana had voted unanimously to disallow a Nativity display that had, for the past 50 years, resided each holiday season on their county’s Courthouse lawn. This reaction was the result of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of The Satanic Temple (TST) and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The county had rejected our own applications for putting up displays near the Nativity, prompting the legal action.

The suit was settled, as National Law Journal explained, “with the condition that Franklin County will allow local residents and churches to erect nonreligious displays outside the courthouse.” Groups like ours only needed a local contact to file for the permit.

It was a victory in the name of pluralism.

That’s why it was alarming when the Christian Post completely rejected the very facts of the lawsuit and its outcome, framing the entire affair as a defeat for the non-Christian side and The Satanic Temple in particular. Read more “When It Comes to The Satanic Temple, Christians Seem to Love Bearing False Witness”

A Stone for a Stone: The Baphomet & the Decalogue

secular_nation_fall_cover-229x300Originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of Secular Nation Magazine

It started in 2009, when Oklahoma rep. Mike Ritze proposed a curious bit of legislation intended to justify erecting a monument to the Ten Commandments on the State’s Capitol grounds. As the monument would be a private donation — and the grounds available to other such generous offerings (so the argument went) — the 6-foot granite slab of graven Abrahamic edicts could certainly not be seen as an expression of religious preference or privilege. In fact, according to the bill, it would seem that the Ten Commandments aren’t actually of a religious nature at all, but a foundational American legal document.

The bill, which was effortlessly signed into law with bi-partisan support, asserts that the Ten Commandments somehow convey important historic American truths. To wit, that “God has ordained civil government and has delegated limited authority to civil government”, and also that it was “God” himself who “limited the authority of civil government.” (The question of whether or not it was God who came up with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, in an effort to maintain a separation of Church and State, must be dutifully ignored in this particular revisionist fantasy.) Read more “A Stone for a Stone: The Baphomet & the Decalogue”

A Satanic Invocation

Originally published in The Los Angeles Times, May 05, 2014:

“Let us stand now, unbowed and unfettered by arcane doctrines born of fearful minds in darkened times. Let us embrace the Luciferian impulse to eat of the Tree of Knowledge and dissipate our blissful and comforting delusions of old. Let us demand that individuals be judged for their concrete actions, not their fealty to arbitrary social norms and illusory categorizations. Let us reason our solutions with agnosticism in all things, holding fast only to that which is demonstrably true. Let us stand firm against any and all arbitrary authority that threatens the personal sovereignty of One or All. That which will not bend must break, and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared its demise. It is Done. Hail Satan.”

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