Saturday, June 18, 2016

Satanists Confront "Satanic Ritual Abuse"

These aren't real occultists, though I've heard that the unmasked guy in the middle there is a Scientologist

So what happens when you hold a conference for people who believe themselves to be victims of a Satanic conspiracy and the Satanists actually show up? And then, not only do these Satanists deny having anything to do with this alleged conspiracy, but they present solid scientific evidence supporting their contention that the real abusers are the therapists who made these folks believe in a Satanic conspiracy to begin with.

It sounds like the plot of a movie, a sort of anti-"God's Not Dead" that would point out how ridiculous and hypocritical the fundamentalists still pushing "Satanic Ritual Abuse" really are. But it's not anything like that - it really happened, thanks once more to the solid activist work of The Satanic Temple. There are therapists out there who either still believe this nonsense is real, or are cynically unwilling to give up the reliable income stream of treating people for something that doesn't exist with techniques that don't work and never have.

Who goes to an event like this?

Some people believe they have suffered abuse they cannot remember, have alternate personalities of which they are unaware, or have even committed crimes they cannot recall, all because of sadistic rituals inflicted on them as a form of mind control. Who do they think is responsible for this psychological abuse? The usual suspects include unnamed “cults,” the CIA, and an alleged conspiracy of organized criminal Satanists.

These techniques of mind control are believed to be so insidious that conference attendees were apparently forbidden from touching their faces, for fear that any subtle hand gesture could be a cue that triggers a victim’s subliminal programming.

And then actual Satanists showed up?

They did. Amidst all this paranoia, Satanists actually had infiltrated the conference, and they recently went public with the reason why. In a twist worthy of a bad M. Night Shyamalan film, the Satanists claim that they are the ones exposing a dangerous cabal and that it is the conference organizers who are abusing their patients.

Who are these Satanists?

The Grey Faction of The Satanic Temple (TST). TST are atheists, and they do not believe in the supernatural. But they insist that they are an actual religion because they are a community with a shared body of symbols, rituals, and ethics. The group’s first tenet is to “act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.”

The Grey Faction is a division of TST that seeks to raise awareness about medical professionals who continue to promote conspiracy theories about Satanism. The Grey Faction protested a similar conference in April.

Now I don't want to give the impression that there are no theistic Satanists out there. Satanism does include both theistic and atheistic approaches. But while the theistic Satanists do generally practice some form of left-hand-path occultism, none of that stuff involves anything like the lurid nonsense that comes out of the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" crowd. In fact, I've never heard of any form of occultism that looks anything like it, aside from the bullshit version of occultism that shows up in Hollywood horror films.

Anyway, I'll repeat this one more time, because there are still a few people out there who refuse to accept it. Since Sigmund Freud's entire model of "repressed trauma" has never been observed in any scientific experiment, and is therefore as far as we can tell entirely wrong, you can't use it to abuse someone so much that they don't remember it. You also cannot create "Manchurian Candidate"-style subliminal sleeper programming. The CIA's MKULTRA program in the 1960's tried to do it with a basically unlimited black budget and unrestricted access to psychedelics, and they still couldn't pull it off.

Finally, during the last decade we found out why. Memory just doesn't work the way Freud said it did. When a memory is gone, it's just gone. It should have been suspicious, too, that when scientists studied Vietnam veterans with PTSD on the late 1970's, the problem wasn't that they couldn't recall the trauma (as Freud's model predicted). Rather, the problem was that they couldn't stop thinking about it. It also is true that conditioning loops - which are neither thoughts nor memories - can activate inappropriately, and the conditioning loops that help you survive in war don't translate well to civilian life and lead to maladaptive behavior.

But nobody has ever observed anything like Freud's "repressed memories." When you recall a memory that seems long dormant, neuroscience has shown that the memory is reconstructed from fragmentary bits and pieces and is often wildly inaccurate. This is especially true of memories "retrieved" - that is, created - under hypnosis, which is the technique the fundamentalists taught hundreds of therapists in the 1980's. People who believe themselves to victims of this sort of brainwashing really are victims, but of their therapists - not of Satanists.

Sadder still, many of these people may have been victims of child abuse, but rather than trying to work out what really happened, their therapists filled their minds with all sorts of fantasy crap that has no bearing on what they experienced in the real world. And because memory works the way is does, any accurate memories of the abuse are now probably gone. The brain doesn't "store" memories, after all. It keeps mixing them in with subsequent, ongoing experiences, and the process is probably not reversible.

The FBI investigated the "Satanic cults" perpetrating this widespread abuse, and released a report in 1992 concluding that no such organized groups existed. The whole thing was made up in an attempt to justify the ridiculous notion of making "Satanism" illegal on child abuse grounds so that the fundamentalists who believed themselves to have so much power over the Reagan administration could then move on to legally define all non-Christian religions as "Satanism." That would have effectively enshrined Christianity as the official religion of the United States, you know, if it wouldn't have been blatantly unconstitutional.

Most of the religious right seems to backed away from this idea, since the FBI report basically shot the whole thing down. Instead, they push things like state bills to declare their religion the official one - which are then shot down by the Supreme Court, along with sectarian prayer bills, sectarian monuments on public grounds, and so forth, which The Satanic Temple likewise opposes and which I spend a lot of time mocking here on Augoeides. It's quite fitting to see these same activists taking on the remnants of the Satanic Ritual Abuse panic and calling out those therapists still profiting from it.

Just like "conversion therapy" for LGBT folks, this needs to stop and it needs to stop now. The Satanic Temple;s activism has been quite successful at preventing fundamentalist Christianity from taking over the public and government spheres, and hopefully their actions here will help get religion out of the psychotherapy business as well.

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