I. CHISEL v. BLOCK
It’s been dull for months—the chisel in my hand, the will to wield it, the hope for its utility—and yet I continue to plunge it forward. The motion is down and up and down again, side to side, diagonal, exes and arrows, but always forward somehow. And the goal, apparently, has been to deface a vision of smooth contours and soft edges, to make jagged and hard that which was once easy. But what of my overcompensation for such asymmetry? And what of the nothing that it inevitably leads to? If the block disappears would the mere memory of it still serve the intended purpose? Would it still come between me and some imaginary, blockless future in which I can express exactly what I want to?
But what exactly is that? What do I want to express? What expression can I make with or without the block? With or without the chisel?
The chisel is an instrument. It is not an extension of me, but rather an extension of both my will and my faith—my will to effect change, my faith that change matters.
But what of the block? What is it that defines it as “something in the way” rather than “a part of the way?” And what defines it as universally one or the other?
The block is also an instrument, and, like the chisel, it is not an extension of me. It is rather an extension of my ignorance and my fear—my ignorance of what lies ahead, my fear that finding out doesn’t matter.
II. WET v. WHET
And what of my tongue, which knows no romantic language? What of its cracks or bumps or sharpness? What of its crass root, fixed deep within the base of my dirty mouth? And when it is dry, is it better to wet it or whet it?
“Over here we speak American,” says a tongue that is claimed to belong to me (or is the claim that I belong to it?). But “American” doesn’t speak “we.” At least not according to Benedict Anderson.
Anderson, a political scientist and historian, writes in his 1983 book Imagined Communities that our idea of the nation, or rather, what we understand as the glue the binds millions of strangers together to form a singular national identity, is a fabrication. After defining the “nation” as “an imagined political community,” he argues that “all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined.” And the difference between separate imagined communities, he continues, is not based in any corporeal distinction, but rather “the style in which they are imagined.” 
Granted, Anderson is writing this in 1983—decades before Facebook and Pinterest and PornHub. But what he proposes as the defining characteristic of an “imagined community” still holds sway in the current age: the false perception of “a deep, horizontal comradeship.” 
Imagine that: One nation (under god?), with liberty and justice for all.
Ultimately, Imagined Communities serves as THE foundational text in the study of nationalism due to Anderson’s theoretical contribution to how we think about “the nation” as well as his insight into the history behind the rise and metamorphosis of nationalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But is it possible to apply Anderson’s theories about the nation to other institutions which have created and perpetuated some fictional idea of “togetherness” and “equality?”
III. RUB v. MEAT
I wasn’t drawn to Satanism for its community. I didn’t meet one or more Satanists and say, “Man, I want to be their friends!” If you ask most Satanists, they will agree that Satanism is about the self. It’s about individuality. It’s about saying “No” to the people who try to tell you how to live, what to believe, and why it’s important. Those people—the ones we say “No” or even “FUCK NO” to—can include other Satanists, too (especially when they’re trying to tell others “how to Satan”).
I relish in the friendships that I have made with other Satanists over the past couple of years. I have travelled to Tucson, Washington D.C., and Austin—mostly for work—and met up with Satanists who I had previously only connected with online. I even went to Little Rock last summer to attend The Satanic Temple’s rally for the first amendment, making even more friends and finding myself wedged deeper in the national Satanic community. But, again, I am not a Satanist for them.
The meat of Satanism—at least for me—is the individualistic aspect of it. I began identifying as a Satanist because I wanted to, because it was good for Me, because I wanted to express Myself in a way that fit My lifestyle.
The rub of Satanism—again, for me—is the communal aspect that one can (but doesn’t always) encounter with other Satanists. It can compliment the overall taste of the meat, but 1) it’s not entirely necessary, and 2) because it is subject to individual taste, there are a variety of rubs to choose from. Some people even mix different rubs together while others create their own. Ultimately, though, the rub is not equal to the meat.
My father-in-law prides himself on his barbecue. His family (and I) are less enthusiastic about it. The fact is that he uses too much rub and the taste completely drowns out the meat. It’s too salty, too spicy, and it ultimately makes for a bad experience for everyone who eats it…except for my father-in-law.
Similarly, there is a point where the communal aspect of Satanism can drown out the individualistic aspect, and that makes it bad for everyone…except for the people who control the rub.
IV. KILL v. MAIM
Oh, the fire it’s alright
The people touch it
I can’t touch it
Even though it’s mine
V. RELIGION v. RELIGION
I have long defined religion as one of humankind’s greatest evils. All of the world’s major religions are rampant with examples of exclusionism, discrimination, and outright genocide, all in the name of some supreme or supernatural plan for us all. Religion is fucking nasty. As such, I found myself conflicted when The Satanic Temple recently announced that the Internal Revenue Service had recognized TST as a religious organization for tax purposes. According to TST’s website, the group’s new designation “will help make sure The Satanic Temple has the same access to public spaces as other religious organizations, affirm our standing in court when battling religious discrimination, and enable us to apply for faith-based government grants.”  In other words, TST is embracing the new government-recognized status as a more validated means to insert itself into the milieu of religious politics and political religion in the U.S.
The phenomenon of “political religion” is a more recent development than most might think, according to historian Joseph L. Locke. In his 2017 book Making the Bible Belt: Texas Prohibitionists and the Politicization of Southern Religion, Locke argues that religion became politized in Texas during the Prohibition Era of the early twentieth century. Before this period, however, most Texans (and Southeners) “subscribed instead to what might accurately be called a culture of anticlericalism: in and out of the churches, a very real and potent fear of political religion scrubbed many public issues from the pulpit and cast scorn on ‘political preachers.’”  The Red Scare and the Cold War didn’t help matters much, as twentieth-century political preachers worked arduously to juxtapose the idea of the U.S. as a Christian nation against the godless ideology of communist Russia. By the mid- to late-twentieth century, political religion had manifested into religious politics, and today, amidst so much state and federal legislation that is rooted in evangelical ideology and is targeting the rights of women, the LGBTQ+ community, and freethinkers (or modern-day anticlericalists) everywhere, we are on the verge of living in a theocracy.
So, I get it. I understand the logic behind TST being onboard with the idea of jumping in the political religion pool in order to combat religious politics. BUT, this recent development has forced me to ask myself some big questions about my Satanism, my views on religion, and how I feel about religion being mixed with politics.
How do I define my Satanism?
Multifaceted. I became a member of TST over two years ago and, shortly after that, I joined The United Aspects of Satan. I am also a member of Ordo Lux Luciferi and (unofficially?) The Satanic Underground Network. My membership in these organizations does not define my Satanism, however. I do. My Satanism is atheistic, philosophical, leaning toward Romantic Satanism and Humanist values, but also having a strong alignment with The Teachings of the Church of Satan Anarchist.  But my Satanism is not religious.
How do I define religion?
Pure. Fucking. Evil. Religion has always been and continues to be a machine that is efficient at perpetuating misogyny, racism, anti-LGBTQ+ views, and a host of all sorts of other oppressions. Religions are typically started and led by men, and most of those that are have white men in these founder or leadership positions. Ultimately, I view religion as a tool of control and, as such, I get uncomfortable viewing Satanism (or my Satanism, more specifically) as a religion. The Devil’s Fane has an incredibly insightful series of articles that touch on the history of religion and the place of Satanism in general within that history, which you can access here, but I prefer to think of Satanism more simply as an antireligion. 
How do I define my stance on religion >Satanism< in politics?
It’s complicated. In a recent online statement, the Church of Satan had this to say about its lack of involvement in U.S. politics: “One does not get rid of religion in politics by putting more religion into politics.”  And in a recent interview, Satanist, activist, and overall badass Jex Blackmore argued that, “If we’re trying to mimic and mirror the same oppressive institutions we’re fighting against, we’re not doing anything.” She also quoted feminist scholar Audre Lorde, saying, “[T]he master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” 
If the battle is religion v. religion, in other words, then the only winner is religion.
I am more inclined to agree wholeheartedly with the positions of CoS and Blackmore on this matter, but doing so leaves me without an alternative to combat the encroaching threat of theocracy in the U.S.: If the inability to “beat them” leads to “join them,” does that automatically mean that refusing to join them leads to an inability to beat them?
There is one more perspective that might help here. Los Angeles-based Satanist author Benjamin T. Awesome calls Satanism a “Train Wreck” in a recent article on Medium.com. The reason why is, according to him, “[T]here is no solidarity to be found in Satanism.” He explains this point further:
Christians from different walks of life have completely different politics, and no solidarity between them will come from their shared Christianity. So, too, with Satanists and Satanism. … Much of being an adversary to religion comes from being an adversary to oppressive ideologies packed into religious practices and traditions, so any Satanist hoping to find solidarity on a large scale … is going to be largely disappointed. 
Awesome’s description of religion in general, and for Satanists in particular, is reminiscent of Benedict Anderson’s defining characteristic of imagined communities: a false sense of “deep, horizontal comradeship.” 
Ultimately, I am wary of seeing Satanism thrust into the political sphere as a federally recognized religion because politics corrupts, and corruption is politics absolutely.
VI. VI. VI. VERDICT v. JUDGMENT
I am a proud member of The Satanic Temple and I support many of the things that they have been doing and continue to do across the country which aim to chisel away at a rising theocracy—
the chisel is an instrument. It is not an extension of me, but rather an extension of both my will and my faith—my will to effect change, my faith that change matters
—but I fear that focusing on redefining the commonly accepted nature of religion in this country is targeting the wrong block—
the block is also an instrument, and, like the chisel, it is not an extension of me. It is rather an extension of my ignorance and my fear—my ignorance of what lies ahead, my fear that finding out doesn’t matter.
To be clear, it has never been, nor will it ever be my intention to tell someone else “how to Satan”—
it is better to whet than to wet
—but I fear that Satanism is not Satanism without individualism being the primary driver behind a Satanist’s praxis—
the rub is not equal to the meat.
And perhaps my perspective will change one day: I may eventually agree with every Satanist who genuinely refers to Satanism as a religion. But, ultimately, when it comes to fighting against the oppressors, the political religionists, the religious politicians, I believe that the best course of action is to execute the precedent—
“To be together, we must be alone.”
- Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (New York: Verso, 2006), 6.
- Ibid., 7.
- Joseph L. Locke, Making the Bible Belt: Texas Prohibitionists and the Politicization of Southern Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 3.
- Just for the record, I am a huge fan of The Devil’s Fane. The author is incredibly smart, a great writer, and has done their research. I trust their word on Satanism and you should, too.
- Anderson, 7.