Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Aggressive Satanism?

I suppose, if you really think about it, the opposite of "palatable occultism" might be "aggressive Satanism" - you know, if a significant portion of this alleged "Satanism" really had anything to do with actual occultism.

Here's the background. Father Francois Dermine, a longtime Roman Catholic exorcist, claimed in an article published in Crux that society is in grave danger due to the rise of what he calls "aggressive Satanism." The problem is that most of what he's railing against is only "Satanism" according to the literal definition put forth by conservative Roman Catholicism - that is, pretty much anything that's not Roman Catholicism.

Roman Catholic exorcists are some of the last practitioners of anything resembling ceremonial magick to be found among mainstream Christians, so to some extent I try to avoid making fun of them. On the other hand, they also say some pretty dumb things, like arguing that anybody who takes a yoga class incurs a significant risk of demonic possession. I can't say I've ever come across anybody who legitimately got possessed by these supposed yoga demons, so I think that argument is ridiculous.

Now it's not completely silly to point out that aggression and violence are major problems in society and are dangerous. But if you look around, it's not like being a Christian means you're any less likely to engage in them. Sure, it should, if you really are trying to follow the tenets of the religion. But the very existence of massive "Prosperity Gospel" churches should dispel any notion that all Christians pay attention to what Jesus actually taught.

“There are many groups of satanism,” Dermine said, noting that internet exposure has also increased, and references to the demonic are increasingly prevalent in videogames and school games such as the “Charlie Charlie challenge,” in which players cross two pencils on a grid with sectors marking ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and ask a supernatural being, “Charlie,” to answer the questions they ask.

Yeah, and that "light as a feather, stiff as a board" Satanic cult is really, really dangerous. The inclusion of silly stuff like the "Charlie challenge" under the umbrella of "Satanism" pretty much reveals Dermine's true colors right away. There are "many groups of satanism" because anything paranormal, spiritual, religious, or even "spooky" outside his church falls into that category. That's a lot of groups! There are about 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, which leaves about 6.5 billion "Satanists" to contend with.

“Satanism is getting much more aggressive and also diffused,” Dermine said. Speaking to Crux, he faulted growth in secularism, which he said retired pontiff Benedict XVI dedicated much of his papacy to fighting, as one of the main causes. An exorcist for the Archdiocese of Ancona-Osimo in Italy, Dermine says he’s been dealing with the demonic a quarter of a century, since 1994.

“Secularization leaves a void,” he said, explaining that alongside it is a “sort of spiritual, ideological and also cultural void. Young people do not have anything to satisfy their spiritual and profound needs. They are thirsting for something, and the Church is not attractive anymore.”

I never have really understood this argument, except from the standpoint of explicitly secularist groups like The Satanic Temple who call themselves "Satanists" pretty much just to freak out Christians. Most "secularists" don't believe in the paranormal, and they don't find the church attractive in part because they don't personally find much value in spirituality, especially when it comes with a lot of dogma attached. They aren't drawn to occultism for the exact same reason - they basically think it's all superstition.

Dermine's argument here is similar to the bizarre idea that atheists are atheists because they are "angry with God." This is literally the plot of the hit Evangelical film God's Not Dead and apparently is widely believed in Christian circles - and is something that I have never once seen in the real world. The atheists that I know are atheists because they don't believe in God, full stop. How can a person be angry with something that doesn't exist? The answer is that they're not - the ones that are angry and confrontational are generally angry with believers who keep trying to get their beliefs written into law and keep trying to convert them.

Dermine does point out something that has a kernel of truth to it, except that his idea of the pervasiveness of occultists, let alone the number of occultists who would describe their practices as Satanic, is goofily out of whack with the tiny numbers found in the real world. People who don't practice magick or any other form of spirituality don't have much in the way of defenses against magical attacks and the like, whether they come from spirits or human practitioners. Since magick is a technology and doesn't run on belief, whether you believe in it or not it can still affect you.

The easy solution there, though, is to pick up something like a basic meditation practice. You don't need to convert to any particular religion, and meditation has been shown to have measurable health benefits in scientific studies that a "secularist" shouldn't have any problem with. Greater resistance to magical effects is just an additional side effect, so there's a reason to pick up the practice whether you believe in such things or not.

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