Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Joseph P. Laycock's "Speak of the Devil"

Joseph P. Laycock is an assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State University. He teaches courses on world religions, religion in America, new religious movements, and the intersection of religion and popular culture.

He is the author of several books including Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic Over Role-Playing Games Says About Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds and The Seer of Bayside: Veronica Lueken and the Struggle to Define Catholicism.

Laycock applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Speak of the Devil: How The Satanic Temple is Changing the Way We Talk about Religion, and reported the following:
Page 99 contains a subheading called “Kinder, Gentler Satanism.” It is part of a chapter called “The Satanic Reformation: How TST is Changing the Way We Talk About Satanism.” Most people associate Satanism with libertarian politics and brutal Social Darwinism. This connection is entirely the legacy of Anton LaVey who formed the Church of Satan in San Francisco in 1966. LaVey was rebelling against the “hippie” values of love and egalitarianism, which he regarded as na├»ve and disingenuous. The scandal of The Satanic Temple is that they claim values like social justice and compassion as Satanic values. Page 99 quotes Satanist Steve Hill, a black comedian and political candidate who once said, “To invoke Satan is to invoke the struggle for justice and equal rights for everyone.” To defend these values as Satanic, The Satanic Temple looks past LaVey to nineteenth-century Romantic poets of “The Satanic School” like Lord Byron and Percy Shelley who re-imagined Satan as a character motivated by a sense of justice and empathy for humanity rather than malice. One Satanist even cited Isaiah 14 where a character called “the Morningstar”––whom early Christians later identified as Satan––expresses his intention to be God’s equal. In the Satanic reading of this passage, the Morning Star is not rebelling against morality but against social stratification.

I think the test works well in this case because page 99 gives a nice glimpse into how The Satanic Temple understand themselves. Some people think The Satanic Temple worships evil. Those people will either have to conclude that they were wrong and that these are actually scrupulous, or else double down on their prejudices and conclude that all my interview subjects were liars who somehow managed to deceive me. Other people think The Satanic Temple is just a big joke created solely to freak out Christians. They will see that Satanic Temple members have a philosophy of Satanism and think a lot about what it means to call oneself a Satanist. There would be no need to do this if they only wanted to outrage people.
Learn more about Speak of the Devil at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Seer of Bayside.

--Marshal Zeringue