Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Prayer for Atheists & Devil Worshipers

As Magus Peter H. Gilmore explains in The Satanic Scriptures, Satanism's current watchword is: Justice.

As it turns out, it goes both ways: a Justice can watch words. Bear with me.

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court debated the issue of prayers at town board meetings. Normally, this would be of interest exclusively as a matter of separation of church and state. That principle is always significant, and has special implications for Satanists. But, in this exchange, what caught my ear was the conspicuous absence of the very term "Satanist."

Justice Samuel Alito asked for an example of a town hall prayer that would be acceptable to an assortment of religions, including, among others, Christians, Buddhists, and Wiccans. Justice Antonin Scalia, playing Devil's advocate, added atheists and devil worshipers to the list. Despite the laughter in the courtroom, this successfully illustrated that it would still be insufficiently inclusive to address town hall prayers to a generic "almighty."

Getting to my point: Scalia mentions "atheists" on the one hand and "devil worshipers" on the other. Phew! Living up to his title, the Justice did not drag Satanists into this. Since we're already covered by "atheists," Scalia's use of "devil-worshipers" in this case introduces a welcome specificity that doesn't risk conflating Satanism and, lehavdl, devil worship.

It seems like an almost deliberate choice. After all, public figures usually love the word "Satanist." It's even the more efficient choice, being two syllables shorter! But the Justice put in about 66.6 percent more effort, resulting in a much clearer argument that kept Satanism out of the whole mess.

Perhaps I'm more pleased than I should be. The truth is, most people probably still don't know that Satanists are atheists. Nonetheless, this vocabulary-obsessed Satanist was excited to hear a legislator managing not to use "Satanists" and "prayer" in the same breath. (Oops!) I'm very happy to be thrown in with the atheists and not mentioned by name, because the last thing Satanism needs is another ignorant association with theism.

This isn't exactly the answer to our – ahem. Even so, on some level, I think that this little moment demonstrates the potential for public discourse to approach Satanism in a more informed manner. But at the very least, as long as they aren't using our word, they aren't misusing it.