Tag Archives: Christianity

Satanists Unveil Oklahoma Monument

Satanist Monument

So, for those of who who haven’t been following this story, a Satanic Temple based in New York has applied for a permit to erect a monument at the Oklahoma state capitol building, arguing that if the state can install a monument to the 10 Commandments, then it’s basically open season for other faiths to erect statues of their own. It’s not like they are the only ones — a Hindu group and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster have also gotten in on it.

Anyhow, the temple unveiled the design for its monument this week, depicted above. The temple’s spokesman, Lucien Graves, explained that the monument “will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation.”

Which, you know, fair enough. I’m not sure the statue of a seated Baphomet is any different from any other deity, when you get right down to it. Some people see God (especially Old Testament God) as a pretty scary dude, and others see Satan as a positive force — or at least one much less negative than he’s made out to be in Christian theology. It’s a matter of perspective. And in this instance, what the temple is trying to do — aside from make a point — is suggest that the Christian perspective isn’t the only valid one, especially not on taxpayer-funded property.

What do you think? Should the monuments — all of them — be built? Why or why not?

UK pony death: Satanists? No, hungry animals.

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Photo by Flickr user treehouse1977.

Shortly after a pony was killed in Dartmoor, England in July, journalists were quick to report that a Satanic cult was involved. The pony was found dead “with its tongue and eyes cut out, and its genitals and right ear sliced off at Yennadon Down, a remote, bushy area of the Devon National Park,” the Telegraph reported. “Experts,” including the area’s animal-protection officer, said Satanists were to blame.

However, after a police investigation, a more likely culprit has come to light: wild animals took bites from the pony, causing the wounds described in the Telegraph. Here’s what they said:

Devon and Cornwall police concluded earlier this week that the pony had died of natural causes. The much-discussed “mutilation” was not, in fact, mutilation at all, but instead the normal result of wild animals eating the pony’s organs and scattering its entrails.

“Initial media reports linked the death of the pony to satanic cults and ritualistic killing,” the police said in a statement. “The police have sought the advice of experts and have come to the view that the death of this pony was through natural causes. All the injuries can be attributed to those caused by other wild animals. This incident received significant media reporting, some of which was clearly sensationalist.”

If this sounds in any way familiar to you, that may be because it’s similar to what forensic experts found in the West Memphis Three case — more than a decade after three teens went to jail for their supposedly “Satanic ritual” killing of three young boys. Originally, experts claimed that the marks on the boys’ bodies were caused by a ritual knife; that turned out not to be the case. The teens, now in their 30s, were later released under an Alford plea.

July’s pony killing is not the first time rural England has been gripped with speculation about an equine death linked to so-called “occult” practices. Last January, a shadowy (and likely made-up) group was blamed for a horse’s death, mainly because it was killed on a supposedly Satanic holiday that turned out to have been fabricated by conservative Christians. In another instance, Satanists were blamed for a horse’s beheading last May. I will grant that in the latter case, the activity of wild animals seems less likely. But Satanic activity is just as unlikely, considering most most Satanists don’t practice animal sacrifice.

The larger problem, of course, is that hardly anyone knows that. There’s so much misinformation about Satanic and other occult practices — misinformation that seems plausible enough that people actually believe it — that folks have little reason to dig deeper before they start pointing fingers. As the Livescience article says:

One problem is that most ranchers and livestock officials have no idea what occurs in a real animal ritual sacrifice, so they can hardly make a valid comparison. Though animal sacrifice has been a part of many religions (including Christianity, Judaism and Islam), these days, the practice is mostly limited to Afro-Caribbean religions such as Santería, which has very specific procedures and rituals for the sacrifice (and typically sacrifice chickens or goats, not horses). … Of course, with something as mysterious and clandestine as suspected satanists, anything could be assumed to be the result of their sinister actions.

Satanists make a convenient and exciting scapegoat for such incidents. But these kinds of allegations can result in very real consequences for practicing Satanists, who are suspected, as a whole, of brutally slaughtering animals. That isn’t accurate and it isn’t fair.

Pat Robertson: Killing people in video games is the same as killing someone in real life

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Minister and television personality Pat Robertson and his television show, the 700 Club has been around since I was a kid; I remember him railing against the supposed evils of Tarot cards sometime in the 1980s.

Well, he’s still at it. Recently, he responded to a viewer who wrote in to ask Robertson what he thought of violent video games. Although he’s never played a video game, violent or not, he decided to respond, bringing all the wisdom of his religious beliefs with him:

“If you’re murdering somebody in cyberspace, in a sense you’re performing the act, you like it or not.” Robertson exclaimed on The 700 Club, comparing playing a violent game to other acts of “virtual sin” like lusting after a woman.

Instead of commenting on his thoughts, I want to ask you guys: do you agree or disagree? Why?

Is “Twilight” turning teens into wannabe vampires?


According to one father, “Twilight” inspires kids to dabble in sex, the occult, and home-style vampirism.

Just in time for the final Twilight movie to hit the theaters, we have a worried dad (and pastor) attempting to connect the films with a subculture that, frankly, has been around a lot longer than Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. He somehow stumbled across the various “vampire” communities on the Internet, began (as many parents do) casting his 15-year-old daughter in that scene, and got scared.

He writes:

There, girls the same age of my 15-year-old daughter are talking about “awakening,” which is their word for converting to paganism (like the Christian word “born again”). In a perverted twist on Communion, their sacraments include the giving of your own blood by becoming a “donor.” This is entirely pagan. These storylines offer eternality without God and salvation; in the place of Jesus’ shed blood, girls and boys shed their own blood to be awakened to their own salvation of a new spiritual way of life filled with sex and occult behavior.

We heard a lot of similar chatter around the Harry Potter books and films: that they would turn young children into occult-obsessed heathens, that their souls would be lost. Even the Vatican changed its mind about that theory once it became clear that millions of kids hadn’t taken up the wizarding life.

Here’s the thing about teens, paganism, sex, and “vampires.” When I grew up, teens were reading Anne Rice’s books and playing Vampire: The Masquerade. They played at being vampires, dressing in dark clothing and wearing faux fangs. Few, almost none, drank anyone’s blood. It was a game, a role play like any other. A chance to try on a different identity, one that’s more mysterious and powerful than, let’s face it, just about any drab-feeling 15-year-old.

What I’m saying is this: teens (and adults) have been playing with this trope for a while now; it didn’t start with Twilight. The fact that Twilight took off suggests that there’s something in the cultural zeitgeist right now that makes it a good fit. What we need to do is analyze what that is — actually talk to kids about why they love the books and why they may be imagining themselves in some of the roles — and go from there. It isn’t about the Devil or the Internet/Mormon authors luring them to their doom. It’s about something that’s part and parcel of adolescence — coupled with the way the world is right now, and has been for the past 30 or so years since Lestat emerged from Rice’s imagination and hit the pages of a book — that’s driving people’s interest.

Fortunately, the author of this piece more or less does the right thing with his own daughter:

I do not shelter my children from these sorts of things. Pop culture is too pervasive to hide from (on a recent trip to a Barnes & Noble with my daughter we noticed an entire section of books dedicated to “Teenage Vampire Romance”). My wife and I talk to my daughter about these things so that she can be discerning, informed, and safe.

I don’t agree with him that media is “a potential threat to her well-being,” and would encourage him to let his daughter use her own discernment to seek out what she needs, and keep the lines of communication open so they can talk when she’s pursuing something that gives him pause.

I don’t think he’s wrong to worry. That’s what parents do. They want their kids to grow up safe, healthy, and happy. And, because he’s a pastor, he enters that role with a pretty specific worldview, and maybe even an obligation to keep his kids on the straight and narrow. But it isn’t Twilight tempting them — or anyone’s kids — to role-play as vampires.

So what is it, then?

Why not ask them, instead of judging them?

Exactly how many kids has heavy metal sent to Hell?

Recently, someone calling themselves “April and Wayne Show” (it’s not clear whether that’s the name of a couple of the name of their show) began posting videos to YouTube purporting to expose metal bands as “Satanic Illuminati.” Although the dictionary says “illuminati” means “those who are enlightened,” many people colloquially use the term to refer to something cult-like.

As I’ve said before, while some metal bands use anti-Christian symbolism as a theater prop, very few are actually Satanic. Still, some people look at these bands and see nothing else. At first, it seems like April and Wayne Show’s videos might seem tongue-in-cheek, but the tone comes across as fairly serious and straightforward. Which means we’ve got some debunking to do.

Some of their claims include:

“Metal destroys the lives of many youth and leads millions of souls to Hell.”
“Metal has caused many youth to turn to drugs, become rebellious, and become sexually promiscuous (including bisexuality).”
“Metal promotes self-destruction (including suicide). Rock music gets millions of youth to experiment with drugs.”
“Metal artists have sold their souls to the devil and Satan uses metal bands to lead millions of souls to Hell.”
“Metal … promotes witchcraft and Satanism, demonic possession and rage, violence, blasphemy …”

Note that all of this is presented without a single shred of evidence. There’s no science backing their claims about drugs, sexuality, or even suicide. To say nothing of their more spiritual claims. Sure, it’s hard to prove whether “millions of souls” have gone to Hell, or that Satan’s using the music to lead them there, but you could at least try.

Let’s assume for the moment that these teens get to Hell by committing suicide. Roughly 4,400 teens a year succeed in killing themselves. Even if every single teen who committed suicide since 1970 — the year proto-metal band Black Sabbath released its first album — and we assume that every teen who commits suicide a) did so because of metal, and b) went to Hell because of it, it comes to 184,800. Unfortunately, that’s a lot of kids, but it’s by no means “millions.”

They go on:

“Metal artists are under demonic control during performances. These demons not only control artists’ performances, but enhances (sic) their skill.” (Quotes from artists ensue.)

Their example is a drummer they describe as “faceless,” who plays with his eyes closed (how does he have eyes if he doesn’t have a face?), but somehow plays perfectly, as shown in the video. Have these people never heard of dubbing? Or, you know, muscle memory? Many skilled musicians can play with eyes closed; it has nothing to do with demons. Also, since when are demons good at performing music?

Then there’s a narrative from a “regional bride of Satan,” named “Elaine,” who claims that numerous musicians told her that they sold their souls to the Devil, and that she attended “numerous ceremonies” in recording studios to place “Satanic blessings” on the music recorded there. And that the demons appeared on the records, especially in the “backmasked messages.”

I think it’s worth saying that we probably shouldn’t trust a woman who believes she was married to Satan. Even if you get beyond the idea that Satan is a real being who can get married, it’s not like such a marriage would be legally recognized anywhere. At this point, it’s safe to assume that “Elaine” was imagining or hallucinating pretty much everything she claims. The red herring is the “backmasked messages” comment, considering that the metal bands accused of backmasking messages were exonerated in court, after it was found that the “subliminal messages” were imagined, not intentional.

Part 2 of the video series gets into the idea of a “secret society.” “What secret society?” “The Illuminati!” — mostly old, rich guys. Who, as we know, are serious and hardcore metalheads:

I won’t go through the whole thing line-by-line, but needless to say these videos are not worth trusting. I hope parents who come across them while searching for information about their kids’ interests don’t give them too much credence. If anyone has questions about what they’re seeing in these videos, please ask in comments.

Or, if you see something in one of these videos you’d like to debunk, please do. Cite your sources!

Is 7 years in jail enough for stomping a goth’s face?


Melody McDermott, right, and Stephen Stafford, outside the court where their attackers were sentenced this week.

Just how much jail time is enough to punish someone for pushing a stranger to the ground, kicking her, and stomping on her face?

Less than seven years, apparently.

That was the sentence for Kenneth Kelsall, the 47-year-old UK man who attacked Melody McDermott and Stephen Stafford last year on a Greater Manchester tram. His accomplice, 43-year-old Gareth Farrar, was sentenced to two years and two months.

The sentences came after a judge witnessed the attack via closed-circuit television; video has since leaked to the press. The attack comes out of nowhere, and begins and ends so quickly you’re left wondering what happened. Judge Elliot Knopf called it an “explosion of violence.” (The man who gets on the tram during the attack, and then gets off: Did he go for help? I wonder.)

McDermott survived, fortunately; other young goth women, such as Sophie Lancaster, weren’t so lucky. But McDermott’s face was so badly damaged she says she can no longer smile. Long after the attack, she suffered panic attacks on crowded trams at night.

Not having covered many UK trials, I can’t comment on how Kelsall and Farrar’s sentences compare to those in similar crimes. They both pleaded guilty, so I’m assuming the sentences were reduced. Although McDermott believes she was attacked for her goth appearance, such attacks are not considered “hate crimes” and aren’t met with enhanced punishments.

So, how much jail time is enough? Is it enough to get these men off the streets (and trams) for a few years? Will jail make them better, or worse? Will it heal McDermott’s trauma? Will it prevent other young women from being brutalized?

I don’t know the answers. I don’t know if we’ll ever know.

That said, prejudice against goths appears to be alive and well in other parts of England. Also this week, I read a post by a goth woman titled “An open letter to the Church of England,” in which she describes the discrimination she experienced recently when she went to church. She writes:

My experience has not been one of welcome but of whispering, pointing, and people generally wondering how I dared to come into their church – a recent experience involved being shaken warmly by the hand by a welcoming committee member who then turned to her neighbour, without bothering to lower her voice as I walked away, and asked “we won’t get more like that, will we?”

More than anything else, I would implore churches not to call themselves inclusive, and not to claim to be welcoming to all people and all demographics, until they have considered whether they are actually capable and willing to welcome the individuals who may then walk through the door.

I can — to some extent — not feeling wholly safe on public transit. But not feeling safe and welcome in church? Yes, church is a place where ideals and reality can be pretty different. But something seems very wrong with this picture.

How can we fix it?

Are Cornwall schools teaching kids paganism?


Schools in Cornwall, home to some of the most beloved stone circles in Britain, may soon start teaching students about paganism. Or will they? Photo by Flickr user iknow-uk.

The ever-sensationalistic Daily Mail ran a story this week claiming that teachers in Cornwall will now be required to teach paganism in religious education classes.

They write:

Paganism has been included in an official school religious education syllabus for the first time.

Cornwall Council has told its schools that pagan beliefs, which include witchcraft, druidism and the worship of ancient gods such as Thor, should be taught alongside Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

The requirements are spelled out in an agreed syllabus drawn up by Cornwall’s religious-education advisory group.

They add that the council’s advice has made Cornish Christians unhappy that the school system would give attention to what they call “a fringe eccentricity.”

Jason Pitzl-Waters already vetted this story over on his blog, The Wild Hunt, and brought some of the Mail’s claims into alignment with reality:

1. This isn’t a mandate; the recommendations of the religious-education advisory council are non-binding.

2. The syllabus maintains that 60% of religious education should be devoted to Christianity. The other 40% would be devoted to all other religions — Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, paganism, etc. Pitzl-Waters wrote, “I would be surprised if this lead to even a full day in any British school on modern Paganism.”

The only other item the new syllabus recommends is some coverage of Cornwall’s pre-Christian sites, such as stone circles and their importance for modern-day pagans. I certainly hope that’s being taught, since Cornwall is home to dozens of stone circles, such as the Merry Maidens and the Hurlers, which are certainly important to Cornwall’s tourism industry even if their importance to the pagan community is sometimes left in the dust.

Cornwall is also home to the Museum of Witchcraft, which documents the long history of pagan and folk practices in the region.

One has to wonder whether the ubiquitousness of these ancient circles has made the Cornish people blind to the pagans living in their midst, not to mention their peaceful practices. After all, when a beloved horse was slaughtered, some locals were quick to blame local pagans and/or Satanists. Better religious education could nip such horrible rumors in the bud before they make it to the BBC. Today, there are similar rumors in Edinburgh, Scotland after horses’ manes and tails were cut off.

It would be wishful thinking to believe that Cornwall will begin to teach local schoolchildren about paganism in a way that is fair, respectful, and accurate. It’s certainly nice to see such teaching recommended, but will it happen? Time will tell.