Tag Archives: Bible

Polish metaller faces jail over Bible-tearing

Behemoth frontman Nergal, AKA Adam Darski, has been found guilty in Poland’s Supreme Court of “offending religious sentiment” over a Bible-tearing performance. He could go to jail for 2 years.

In 2007, Polish blackened death-metal band Behemoth took the stage in Gdynia, Poland, and did the exact same stage show they’d done everywhere else on tour. But that show included a moment in which frontman Nergal, also known as Adam Darski, tore up a Bible and called the Catholic Church “the most murderous cult on the planet.” As he tore up the Bible, he said, “they call it the Holy Book. I call this the book of lies. Fuck the shit, fuck the hypocrisy.”

Ryszard Nowak, head of the All-Polish Committee for Defence against Sects, took him to court. The crime? “Offending religious sentiment,” a law that remains on the books in Poland although some legislators would like to see it repealed. Darski prevailed when the judge found that his Bible-destruction was a form of artistic expression consistent with Behemoth’s style. But it didn’t end there; Catholics saw him booted from his role as a judge on The Voice of Poland, due to his “provocative behaviour, showing a lack of respect not only for religious beliefs, but also for illnesses and the disabled” in another performance in which he pretended to heal someone in a wheelchair.

The case against Darski went all the way to Poland’s Supreme Court where, late last month, a judge found him guilty of “offending religious sentiment,” a crime that can carry up to two years in jail:

The Supreme Court was asked to rule on legal arguments
thrown up by the musician’s trial in a lower court on charges of
offending religious feelings.

It said a crime was committed even if the accused, who uses
the stage name Nergal, did not act with the “direct intention”
of offending those feelings, a court spokeswoman said.

That interpretation closed off an argument used by lawyers
for Darski, who said he had not committed a crime because he did
not intend to offend anyone.

Both sides held their ground: “(The decision) is negative and restricts the freedom of speech,” Jacek Potulski, a lawyer for Darski, told Reuters. He said he was not giving up. “We are still arguing that we were dealing with art, which allows more critical and radical statements,” the lawyer said.

“The Supreme Court said clearly that there are limits for artists which cannot be crossed,” Nowak told Polish television.

Here’s Darski’s own take:

After emerging from court, Darski himself said that on the one hand “one should respect the court’s verdict.” However, he also claimed that his country’s mentality “is immature, trying to gag people,” and that he was in court for “the good cause”, namely the right to “freedom of speech.”

What do you think? In a country where laws against blasphemy rub shoulders with freedom of speech, which should prevail? Should people go to jail for these kinds of performances? Or should religious groups just look the other way?

Driving out the antichrist in Georgia

Some people intentionally choose to have “666” on their license plate. Others aren’t so keen on it. Photo by Flickr user msmail.

The state of Georgia has unrolled some new license plates, and some folks are in an uproar over the fact that many contain the number 666.

WRBL News 3 took on the story, and to be fair, they put together a relatively balanced look at the not-very-newsworthy story, though they couldn’t resist slipping in a few things that sensationalize the piece — and reduce its factual value in the process. This starts with the opening lines, where anchor Theresa Whitaker calls 666 “A 3-digit number with a Satanic origin.” In fact, keep an eye on Whitaker as she delivers her lines: she only says “666” once, and very quickly, like saying the words will hurt her or something.

The piece contradicts her pretty quickly; the whole 666/Antichrist/”Number of the beast” scene is, in fact, straight out of the Book of Revelation. That would make it of Biblical origin, not Satanic. In fact, it’s not even totally clear that the number is 666; it might be 616.

Fortunately, Racquel Rodriguez, the reporter who delivers the bulk of the segment, is smart enough to point out that most people’s squeamishness about 666 comes from two places: the Bible, and horror movies. The people she interviews are all over the map — amused, maybe a little uncomfortable, but can’t be bothered to switch to a different plate (there’s plenty more evil than a 666 plate, going to the DMV included). I like the fact that the only one who really doesn’t like it is the pastor — not because it’s evil, but because it looks weird for a pastor to drive a car with those numbers on it.

There are many theories why 666 was chosen in the Book of Revelation to represent the Antichrist. But they’re all speculation. The number is a pretty cool one in its own right, bring the sum of 1+2+3….34+35+36. Still, some people fear it. There’s even a word for that fear: hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia. (Talk about evil!)

What about you? Are you uneasy about this number, or any classically superstitious numbers, like 13? Would you want this on your license plate? What would you do if your license plate came with it?

“Satanic” singer booted from Polish reality TV show

Adam Darski, who performs as Nergal with the Polish metal band Behemoth, tears pages from a Bible. Photo by Flickr user mithrandir3.

Last month, I championed Polish metal singer Nergal, AKA Adam Darski, for appearing on a popular reality television show despite pressure from Polish Catholics that he be removed. Unfortunately, TVP, the broadcaster which airs Polish television show The Voice of Poland, yanked Darski from the program last week.

Recently, Darski was exonerated of “offending religious feeling” — a charge stemming from a performance in which he tore up a Bible on stage. A Polish judge said the act was a protected form of expression, and that Darski had not broken any laws. He recently earned more scorn for an onstage performance in which he dressed as a priest and “healed” several musicians from another band, all of whom were sitting in wheelchairs.

Following the Oct. 1 “healing,” TVP Chairman Juliusz Braun described the incident as “provocative behaviour, showing a lack of respect not only for religious beliefs, but also for illnesses and the disabled.”

Braun did not wait for another court challenge. Last week his station announced, “Adam Darski, aka Nergal, will not be given his own programme on TVP, nor will he be a juror in a second series of Voice of Poland, even if the network decides to commission one [a second series],” said spokesperson for TVP, Joanna Stempien-Rogalinska. Darski will appear in already-taped episodes, which will continue into December.

Poland has a longstanding tradition of freedom of religion — and is brand-new to freedom of speech — so it’s a shame that Darski’s theatrics would cost him a job. Even though he legally has the right to criticize religious institutions in this way (which has already been proven in court), apparently different rules apply when you’re a television star. What a message to send to Poland’s minority religions, and to the people who practice them in good faith.

Did Darski go too far with his staged “healing?” Should he — or other Thelemites and Satanists — be forbidden from appearing on television?

In Poland, Catholics go to war against Behemoth’s Nergal — for giving Satanism a voice

Catholic leaders in Poland took Nergal to court after he tore up a Bible on stage. Nergal won, but the fight isn’t over.

Catholic leaders in Poland, which has been a stronghold of Catholicism since World War II, have been on the warpath. Their target? Adam Darski, also known as Nergal, frontman for the Polish metal band Behemoth.

In 2007, a group called the All-Polish Committee for Defence against Sects circulated to political leaders a list of bands the committee claimed “promote Satanism.” The committee and its leader, Ryszard Nowak, hoped leaders would ban performances by these groups. They didn’t.

That same year, during a performance in the Polish city of Gdynia, Nergal destroyed a Bible and called the Catholic Church “the most murderous cult on the planet.” As he tore up the Bible, he said, “they call it the Holy Book. I call this the book of lies. Fuck the shit, fuck the hypocrisy.”

You can view the act, at roughly the 45-second mark, in this video:

You can’t hear about this without thinking of Sinead O’Connor tearing up a photograph of the Pope on Saturday Night Live in 1992. Even in America, where such acts have been protected for centuries, O’Connor’s move touched off a major controversy that damaged her career permanently.

The All-Polish Committee for Defence against Sects took Nergal to court over the Bible-tearing incident, claiming he “offended religious feeling.” On August 18 of this year, a Polish judge ruled that Nergal’s destruction of a Bible during a show was a form of artistic expression consistent with Behemoth’s style.

In a statement on the band’s web site, Nergal wrote, “I’m so glad to see that intelligence won over religious fanatics in my home country. Tho there’s still so much work to be done to make things right. But I’m sure that I’m on the right path to ultimate freedom! The battle is won, but the war ain’t over. Heil Satan!”

Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. Darski is starring in The Voice of Poland, a reality-TV show in which celebrities assist in the search for an outstanding singer. That offended Bishop Wieslaw Mering, head of the diocese of Wlocawek in northern Poland, who urged Polish television to pull the program from the air:

“A blasphemer, Satanist and lover of evil incarnate has the screen of public television at his disposal, and thus he will be able to spread his poisonous teachings more easily,” the bishop declared in a statement. “Non possumus! [This cannot be!].”

The Association of Catholic Journalists has circulated Mering’s statement.

Freedom of speech is a very new protection in Poland; censorship was abolished in 1990, while freedom of speech was officially added to the constitution in 1997. Freedom of religion, however, has been guaranteed by law in Poland since 1573. Of course, the same freedom of speech that protects Nergal’s right to criticize the Catholic Church also protects the Catholic Church’s right to criticize Nergal, his on-stage performances, and his negative views on Catholicism.

This whole situation is a reminder that, to many, Satanism is not a legitimate faith; it is one to be scorned, maligned, and silenced. Fortunately, Nergal is not backing down from the limelight. Particularly in his role on The Voice of Poland, he dresses pretty much like an everyday guy. Such visibility on what is likely to be a widely viewed television program, for someone who is a known Satanist, will hopefully show viewers that Satanists are normal, everyday people.

Readers, do you know any Satanists? What, if anything, have you learned about Satanism from spending time with them? Have your feelings on the faith changed because of it?

EDIT: As of October 17, Adam Darski has been forced to leave Voice of Poland. Read the update here: https://backwardmessages.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/satanic-singer-booted-from-polish-reality-tv-show/

Judge discriminates against Illinois prisoner’s request for sacred text

Kevin Halfmann, an inmate in the Centralia Correctional Center in Illinois, is serving time for predatory criminal sexual assault. He is a Satanist — the kind of Satanist who is an atheist following the philosophies laid out in books such as Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible. Recently, he asked to be able to have a copy of the book while he’s in jail.

A judge said no.

In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that prisoners must be allowed access to religious activities and texts, as long as they don’t disrupt order within the prison. Unfortunately, the Satanic Bible has been verboten in Illinois jails for more than 20 years, supposedly because it “has a potential to incite hatred and violence.”

You can, certainly, find places in the Satanic Bible that encourage, say, revenge. But you can also find passages in the Koran and the Christian Bible which can be interpreted to “incite hatred and violence,” too. Certainly more Christians have been responsible for hatred and violence — in the name of their holy book — than members of any other faith. Any federally funded institution caught banning these texts would find itself in serious legal hot water. So why is the Satanic Bible different?

The news on Halfmann’s request comes just as Wild Hunt blogger Jason Pitzl-Waters addresses the specter of Christian privilege. At a time when they are more powerful than ever, many Christians are behaving as though they are part of a persecuted minority.

… you see the valorizing of the very early Christian period, heavy on references to persecution for their faith (and the glossing over of the era when the empire was Christianized). In countless Christian sermons and documentaries that period is returned to time and time again. Instead of being used as a reminder to not abuse power, and to not let any minority be persecuted, this narrative has instead mutated for some Christians into a paranoia about a returning “pagan” persecution that they must constantly battle and guard against.

Unfortunately, this practice creates a number of problems. It keeps the focus on Christians, who already have more control than any single religion ought to have in a society with (in theory) full religious freedom. Worse, it delegitimizes real claims of religious persecution and discrimination experienced by those in minority faiths.

Only in a society where some religions are favored over others could a judge — whose salary is paid by the people — tell a member of one faith that he cannot have access to his holy text, when access to such texts while imprisoned is otherwise protected by law.

I seriously hope Halfmann has the resources to appeal his case.

Readers, what do you think? Should inmates have ready access to religious and philosophical texts that are core to their faiths and practices? Why or why not?

The Harry Potter debate: When is magic evil, and when is it a miracle?

Does Harry Potter’s use of “evil” sorcery to defeat evil make him good? Or evil? Even the Vatican can’t decide.

As I mentioned last week, the Vatican has had a change of heart regarding the occult overtones in the Harry Potter multimedia franchise. After years of claiming that the young wizard’s tale would lead impressionable readers to practice witchcraft and sorcery, someone in Italy must have noticed that that wasn’t really happening.

In a review of the final film in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2, the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reported, “evil is never presented as fascinating or attractive in the saga, but the values of friendship and of sacrifice are highlighted.” Another critic noted, “the saga champion[s] values that Christians and non-Christians share and provide[s] opportunities for Christian parents to talk to their children about how those values are presented in a special way in the Bible.”

The Catholic Register also has positive words for the film, though the critic is uncomfortable with some of the language surrounding resurrection.

However, it’s unclear whether this positive spin on the Harry Potter world trumps such statements as then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2005 letters discussing how the wizard’s saga contains “subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.”

There’s also the statement from the Vatican’s chief exorcist, Rev. Gabriele Amorth, who said, “You start off with Harry Potter, who comes across as a likeable wizard, but you end up with the Devil … By reading Harry Potter a young child will be drawn into magic and from there it is a simple step to Satanism and the Devil.” Again, this is a statement from a half-decade ago; has Amorth changed his mind?

Michael D. O’Brien, author of Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture, argues:

To believe that the Potter message is about fighting evil is superficial. On practically every page of the series, and in its spin-off films, evil is presented as ‘bad’, and yet the evil means by which the evil is resisted are presented as good.

Admittedly, I am on the other side of the aisle from O’Brien. Not only do I not believe magic is evil, I don’t even agree that the magic depicted in Harry Potter is intended to represent literal sorcery. Was Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus sorcery? After all, he says some magic words and Lazarus comes back to life after four days in a tomb:

41 So they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying.
Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said,
“Father, I thank you that you listened to me.
42 I know that you always listen to me,
but because of the multitude that stands around I said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
Lazarus, come out!

43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
44 He who was dead came out, bound hand and foot with wrappings,
and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.
Jesus said to them, “Free him, and let him go.”

I may get in trouble with Christian readers for saying this, but honestly, the only reason this isn’t considered evil sorcery is that it’s presented as a miracle — in the same collection of stories that says sorcery is evil. Yes, the Bible is full of contradictions; arguably this is one of them.

So, here’s the question: is O’Brien right? Is the good vs. evil message in Harry Potter “superficial”? Is the use of “evil” to fight evil the real message of the saga? What do you think?