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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <>
To: "Dave"
Subject: Re: PA-via_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 2:28 AM

I constantly take flack for this position, but I stand my ground: If we atheists insist that theists stop misrepresenting us and our positions, then we ought at least to get this one right: Satanism, as advocated by Anton Lavey's Church of Satan, is clearly and unashamedly atheistic. To them, Satan is a metaphor for Self, and when someone says, "Hail Satan!" that person is really saying, "Hail Me!" No Lavey Satanist thinks there's any such thing as a literal, personal Satan, any more than they think there is such thing as a literal, personal God. Several of my personal friends are Satanists, and two of them reviewed my piece, "Ethics & the Æsthetic of Satan," before I published it. I specifically asked them about the Satanism as a form of atheism aspect, and they loved the part about fitting in to any Humanist or atheist group -- if Satanists were into joining groups.

I have no more problem associating Satanism with atheism (especially since Satanism is a form of atheism) than I have with associating the racist World Church of the Creator with atheism (since the World Church of the Creator fits all definitions of atheistic). In fact, I have less of a problem, since the only thing scary about the Church of Satan is what goes on in the imaginations of Christians: the Satanists just love to get Christians' goat and their favorite method seems to be to fire the Christians' imaginations about the evils of the Church of Satan.

If I wanted to be absolutely consistent with the views I expressed in the dialogue with John Love-Jensen, I'd call Satanism a form of theism simply over the language issue. I have backed off from this stand slightly, after reading George H. Smith's new book, Why Atheism?, wherein he calls this definition "superficial":

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  "Scholars continue to debate the question of whether Spinoza was really an atheist; and if this debate seems incapable of resolution, this is partially because the key term 'atheist' is rarely used in a clear and consistent manner. The question 'Was Spinoza really an atheist?' can be interpreted in (at least) three different ways. If we apply the label 'atheist' only to writers who never employ theistic terminology, then Spinoza was not an atheist in this superficial sense. If, by 'atheist,' we mean a thinker who explicitly disbelieves in any personal, transcendent, or supernatural God, then Spinoza was indeed an atheist. If however, we mean 'Did Spinoza view himself as an atheist?' then the issue becomes far more problematic."
George H. Smith, Why Atheism? pp. 198-9

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So, in order to keep Satanism within the realm of atheism, I must soften my stand on the semantic position, that the use of religions language, being all we observers have to go on, is enough to qualify someone as a theist. In the practical sense, that advocated by Smith, a Satanist is fully atheistic in every sense of the term.

I am not ready to abandon the semantic distinction described in the Love-Jensen dialogue, for the reasons stated in that dialogue. However, I do admit that my assertion that Satanists are atheists is inconsistent with the views I expressed in that discussion.

The association exists because there exists a valid parallel: Homosexuals were forced by society to remain silent about their homosexuality, just as atheists are still being forced by society to remain silent about our atheism. Also, homosexuals, as a group, are unjustly characterized as evil or "having an agenda" or lascivious or "weak-minded" just as atheist has always been a slander of vilification and the "cause" of numerous societal ills. If you wanted to vilify someone, you called them "an atheist." This still happens today, though it's more likely to occur in the Deep South than anywhere else.

During the past thirty years, homosexuals have united toward gaining public acceptance. One method that has proven effective is to "come out of the closet." This metaphor is no longer exclusive of the gay rights movements, but now means admitting something about yourself that is shunned by others but not necessarily evil.

Thus, I think it is important for us to do for ourselves those things that have worked for others. When we communicate this idea, the easiest and most effective is to use the very metaphor that originally sprang from that movement: "Come out of the closet."

Probably the word atheist.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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