I Worship Satan and You Do, Too

So there’s a thing that happens whenever vocal Pagans show up in prominent public spaces, either online or in the flesh. The narrative is cliché and we all know it, whatever role we play. It goes like this:

BIG PAGAN THING OMG WITCHES AND WICCANS AND PAGANISM!

Pagan #1: OMG me too paganism witches so great!

Pagan #2: So great wait ‘til Christians see LOL awesome

Christian #1: SATAN

Pagan #2: NO SATAN DUMMY

Pagans #3-15: OMG NATURE GODDESS WICCA NO SATAN SO IGNORANT

Christian #2-Infinity: SATAN SATAN SATAN

Online Pagans (all of them):  LOL DUMB CHRISTIANS [cue this meme]pagan-satan

The above might be a Facebook thread (like this one), a series of notes attached to a post on Tumblr or Instagram, a conversation at Pagan Pride Day, or the banter that takes place over coffee or booze at a Pagan moot (minus the interjections from Christians, usually). But the crux of the conversation is the same: Christians are dumb because they mistakenly think we worship Satan. We either get mad or have a laugh, but we leave thinking that the root of the problem is simple ignorance.

I spent two years working on an ethnographic project with an evangelical megachurch and focusing on contemporary American Protestant Christianity. It is through this experience that I offer the following:

When a Christian accuses you of worshipping Satan, the issue is not their lack of knowledge about contemporary witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism, etc. The issue is a difference of worldview. From the perspective of many Christians, the religious options are simple: Christ or Not Christ. Everything in the “Not Christ” box is the playing field of the Enemy.

Trust me. Evangelicals know about Wicca, Neo-Paganism, the New Age, etc., etc. They are not misinformed. Many of these folks (especially the ones publishing books and preaching) are well-educated, thoughtful people.  When a Christian accuses you of cavorting with Satan, they’re not misunderstanding you. They’re disagreeing with you.

Arguing and asserting that you really worship nature or a Goddess or are secular or whatever is almost always a waste of time. You could tell them you were a Catholic or a Jew and the reaction would be comparable, because we’re all equally occupying the box of “Not Christ” (or “Doing Christ Wrong” in the case of Catholics) and are, therefore, operating in the realms of the Adversary. You cannot win a debate if your position is “But we don’t even believe in Satan.” Belief is not part of this equation. You’re in the “Not Christ” box. The whys are not relevant within the evangelical worldview.

As a Wiccan, from this evangelical perspective, I worship Satan, who has deceived me and lured me further from God. You probably worship Satan, too. At the very least, you’ve been deceived or otherwise prevented from accepting Christ. Personally, I don’t have any problem with being called Satanic. I know it’s not personal and doesn’t actually have anything to do with my Craft, my gods, or how I live my life.

So, as a community (or at least as an assemblage of angry people), we need to find another strategy for dealing with the whole Satan thing. Because the issue is not misunderstanding. It’s disagreement over the fundamental structure of the universe. We need another game plan aside from the idiotic memes that mostly do nothing but advertise our own failure to grasp the basics of Protestantism.

As a sidenote, Internet Witches, let’s stop using this meme to defend our communities:

10911462_10205795121068102_2284239552457400829_o

The above illustration is from an edition of Florence Laughlin’s children’s book The Little Leftover Witch (1960), which my mom used to read to me when I was little.  It’s the story of baby-witch Felina, who finds herself living with blond white suburbanites after being stranded. After struggling with the grossness that is witchcraft, she finally finds love and happiness at the end of the book when she gives up and joins the status quo. So irony. Find something else.

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21 thoughts on “I Worship Satan and You Do, Too

  1. Heather

    Good point. Thanks for the perspective. I usually tell people that we don’t believe in an ultimate source of evil, but given the Protestant viewpoint that doesn’t really matter either.

    You cool with me sharing this?

    Laters,
    H

    Reply
    1. G. B. Marian

      Well, it also isn’t true that Pagans categorically don’t believe in an ultimate source of evil. There are pre-Abrahamic “devils,” too, like the Zoroastrian Ahriman and Zahhak. Many of us who follow the Egyptian pantheon, for example, regard the demon Apophis in a way that’s similar (though not identical) to how Christians interact with Satan: as an evil force that should never, EVER be worshiped by ANYONE and that must be regularly execrated from our lives. The theology is very different, but it’s not so different at a practical level.

      Reply
      1. Heather

        I will take your word for it. I was referring to general neopagan standpoint where I believe my overall statement stands relatively correct. Being that I am not Kemetic the avoidance of Apophis doesn’t mean much to me.

        H

  2. Davin Raincloud (@druidcrafty)

    I think, as most of us know, the witch/wiccan community is not exactly an elite club for people of high intelligence. I think if we are going to live in this space, we are going to have to make peace with that. I have to understand that someone who uses the same religious identitiy as me is going to be free to say some pretty bonehead/outdated and incorrect ideas about the religion.

    To be honest, the “Pagan Police” trying to enforce who call themselves Wiccan or Druid or whatever is just as ‘unwise’ and ‘foolish’ as the Mummy Wiccan FB blogger with a 10th grade education.

    So for me, the Dudeist saying: “Fuck it, let’s go bowling” is the philosophy I take. I understand my friend is a bonehead who says incorrect things, but i love him anyways, and just let it rest.

    Because at the end of the day it’s all just woo.

    Now, Thorn if you could get those Atheists to stop posting stupid memes, I’ll be thankful! Atheism is another group that doesn’t require an education/IQ test to enter, and the illogical and irrational stuff a lot of them repost all the time makes the average 10th Grade Wiccan look like a super genius!

    That’s my story 😛

    Reply
  3. Raven

    Reblogged this on The Raven Scribe and commented:
    I don’t normally do reblogs, but Thorn has managed to capture in words something that has been in my head for a few years now. I read this and the only thing that went through my head was “YES!” So, I had to share. ❤

    Reply
  4. Corvus (Corvi) Black

    “When a Christian accuses you of cavorting with Satan, they’re not misunderstanding you. They’re disagreeing with you.” While I agree, I think there is also a tremendous amount of misinformation mixed in.

    Reply
  5. Chris Mann

    You’ve described the situation quite well. It’s nice to see that someone understands the other side. To make it more precise, I’d say that you’re worshiping Satan ‘in disguise’. As the prince of lies, he is letting Wiccans believe that they are worshiping forest-strolling, deer-hugging, moon-gazing nature deities when they are in fact worshipping him.

    I wonder what meme could solve this problem. Or could this be a problem that memes can’t solve?!

    Reply
  6. Cosette

    I dislike all those memes. They make the poster look lazy, inarticulate, and immature. I also find it odd when polytheistic Pagans and Witches adamantly claim that they don’t believe in Satan. They can believe in Loki, Zeus, Bacchus, Brigid, Shiva, Yemaya, and every other deity and egregore out there, but not in Satan, Jesus, or other figures of the Abrahamic religions.

    Reply
  7. Verdant Radicle

    First, I agree with Cosette: we can believe in any and all deities or religious figures without actually following them or revering them, or disrespecting those who do so based upon a difference of belief. For those living in a relatively free society, the law is on our side just as much as it is on anyone else’s: people are free to believe what they want; but when some people expect that their beliefs enable them to run rampant over everyone else, this needs to be challenged openly in a court of law. The media can help with this, as well; but one has to keep in mind that the media often nourishes itself from sensationalism, and this can be a detriment. Otherwise, don’t take the bait. We don’t need to be ‘in your face’ about our faith – our faith, like theirs, belongs in our hearts and not in someone else’s face. It’s not all Christians who are so extreme and confrontational, it’s a minority of them. The problem is, when we get confrontational in return, it’s easier in a lot of cases for the majority to identify with the minority of its own faith, than it is for the majority to identify with a minority outside its own faith. The fundies know this, and they use it without hesitation. If they want a debate, ignore them. If they cross a line, take them to court, then ignore them afterward. When we play their games with their rules, we are distracted from our own faith. Who benefits from this? Not us.

    I think another point to keep in mind is that many of these people act the way they do for a pretty simple reason: despite their zeal, they don’t have Jesus in their hearts, because their fear and hatred take up too much room for their own lord and savior to enter. There is no arguing with such people, there is no debating so as to get them to see reason as we see it. We could stand around and wait for them to finally process all that they need to process so they can leave us alone; or we can simply move on and concentrate on our own faith.

    Reply
    1. Selena

      The only thing I would disagree with in your post is that Christians should keep their religions solely in their hearts and out of the faces of non-Christians. If we are to be understanding and tolerant of other religions, especially Christianity, then we must also remember that proselytizing and conversion are at the very heart of Christianity; it’s what their religion calls them to (unfortunately for us, but fortunately for them) do. Like a virus, they live to multiply and require hosts upon hosts of individuals to continue on.

      Reply
      1. Verdant Radicle

        I don’t agree that proselytizing and conversion are at the very heart of Christianity, I think this is an error many people (Christian and non-Christian alike) are laboring under. Christianity is a call for adherents to live according to the lessons and examples set forth by Jesus. Jesus did not seek to convert, he preached to Jews in an attempt to reform the Jewish religion of the time. The book of Acts, chapter 10, shows us the first time Simon Peter broke ranks with Jewish tradition and preached to Gentiles. This took place after the death of Jesus. Therefore a Christian, following strictly the example of Jesus, would rather reform his or her own faith than try to convert non-Christians. Even when Peter began to convert Gentiles, he did so reluctantly. What that says for those who, following in the precedent of Peter, feel driven to convert at any and all costs, is a matter of perspective.

        When I wrote about keeping religion in the heart and not in everyone else’s face, I was actually talking about us Pagans and leading up to a point about not trying to play along with a game that is already stacked against us. I understand where your comparison to a virus comes from; but at the same time, I have ancestors and friends and living family members who are or were Christian. They are not viruses, they are not proselytizers, they are perfectly good people; and I am thankful to have encountered them and had them in my life as they helped me by their own example to see a side of Christianity I might not have otherwise seen. Were it not for them, I might have found myself nodding quite vigorously while reading your virus comparison. Part of our outrage at the way we are perceived by some Christians is that this perception seeks to minimize us and tries to dehumanize us in the eyes of many. Does comparing Christians to a virus not do the same? How does this lead to the tolerance and understanding you wrote of in your reply to my comment?

      2. Selena

        Dude, I think you too way more offense to my comment than needed. I certainly wasn’t trying to offend you by saying prostyletizing is like a virus… What I didn’t say was that Christians are viruses, aka “the baddies infiltrating the goodness of our world who need to be squashed immediately.”

        In the book of Matthew, however, Jesus tells his disciples to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19), and to “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but rather to the lost sheep of Israel” (Mt. 10:5-6). So, yes, mission and proselytizing are at the heart of Christianity as much as their belief in Jesus as the Savior. Their proselytizing is supposed to come through in their good deeds, their charity, but in those actions they are supposed to spread the word of God. I guess in that way it depends on your definition of proselytizing…you either do it via words or via actions. Either way, the goal is to create more Christians who beget more Christians. I only used the metaphor of a virus to explain how there seems to be this primal need to multiply followers. Like you, I am very tolerant of Christians. My family is Christian, I have friends who are Christian, and I even attended an Episcopal Church for awhile. Really, and for real, I have no problem with the religion.

  8. theheathenwitch

    Good read. I take the lazy way out and just refuse to argue with them. If they come to me looking for discussion, then great, but if they come to me looking for an argument I just walk away. I don’t have the energy to spend on them.

    Reply
  9. Selena

    UGh, a Christian told me the other day that I had “opened a portal for the Enemy” in her life simply because I disagreed with her political views on immigration and health care. At first I thought it was a fucking weird thing to say, and then I remembered that I dance naked in the moonlight. I apologized for opening a portal but not for disagreeing with her only because I realized that whether or not I believe in her dogma, that reality (Enemy portals and such) is very real for her and I should respect it.

    Reply
  10. davidtmckee

    I have not read a better summation of the issue. The “great commission” is to proselytize and make disciples. If you are not “in” you are on the outside where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” as it were. I should know, I walked that path for some time. Your analysis and balanced knowledge of both sides of the issue is refreshing. I was never any good at proselytization – it is simply not in me to attempt to push someone into faith,… in anything. It seems bizarre to stand outside looking in now… Anyway, thanks! -DTM

    Reply

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