By Joseph Gonzalez
Last week Andrea Potti, who goes by the alias "Jex Blackmore," in her official capacity as chapter director of the Satanic Temple in Detroit, was interviewed by Detroit's Fox 2 News alongside Pastor David Bolluck of the Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church concerning the satanic statue to be unveiled on July 25 in Detroit.
Blackmore insists her religion has the same rights as any other and that people are biased against satanism because they don't understand it — but her own words condemn her. Without any reference to Catholic teaching, let's examine three of her key points during the interview.
First, Blackmore says the purpose of the Satanic statue is to "stand in contrast and conversation with religious icons such as the Ten Commandments." Religious icons never stand for conversation. Icons stand for beliefs. As Pastor Bolluck pointed out, "You can't have a conversation with a statue." When people want to have conversations, they organize discussion groups. When people want to profess their beliefs, they put up icons, flags, pictures and statues.
Take Blackmore's own example: the Ten Commandments. Nobody thinks the Ten Commandments are calling for conversation and dialogue. They're not the "Ten Conversation Starters." The only symbol that has ever stood for conversation is the white flag, and it's precisely because it's blank that it can stand for something neutral.
In fact, Blackmore's defense of the statue contradicts the Satanic Temple of Detroit's own mission statement.
We bow to no god or gods. …The Satanic Temple disdains rigid, centralized authority. …We are a sincere movement that stands in defiance of the unopposed, dogmatic moral legislation from a singular powerful religious voice. We refuse to be enslaved by a theocratic system ... .
Clearly, the Satanic Temple organization is diametrically opposed to any theistic belief system, which means it's diametrically opposed to any Christian faith. If its mission opposes moral legislation, then it follows that its statue stands for the same thing. It's not a "contrast"; it's a direct opposition to theistic religions. Blackmore is trying to hide the vehemently hostile nature of her organization with honey-coated, politically correct language.
Second, Blackmore insists the Satanic Temple is a legitimate religion despite being "non-theistic." She says, "We have all the defining features of a religion minus supernaturalism." In other words, Blackmore is insisting we redefine religion to allow her version of Satanism the same rights and privileges as real religions. But theism has always been the essence of religion.
In fact, the word religion comes from the Latin word religio, which literally means to "bind again." The idea of religion is that a supernatural being binds people to certain moral obligations, practices, rituals, etc. This is clearly the common understanding throughout all history and still is today.
For instance, we've all heard people say, "I'm not religious but I consider myself spiritual." Everybody understands this statement as "I might think about spiritualism, but I don't belong to a religion, precisely because I don't worship a deity." In common parlance, nobody says, "I'm a non-theistic religious activist." That's nonsense; it's like saying, "I'm a baker, but I don't make bread." What people do say is, "I'm an atheist."
Where is Blackmore's argument that we should change our common use of language to accommodate her Temple of Satan or any so-called "non-theistic religion"? She says the idea that religion must be theistic is "offensive." So what? That's like saying the idea that a triangle can only have three sides is offensive. Either you believe in a deity or you don't. If not, then you're not religious; you're an a-theist.
In fact, the idea of theistic religion is so offensive to the Temple of Satan that it openly mocks it in its mission statement.
Are we supposed to concede that only the superstitious are proper recipients of religious exemption and privilege? In fact, satanism provides us all that a religion should, without a compulsory attachment to untenable items of faith-based belief ... .
In other words, Blackmore's organization thinks people who worship God are "superstitious" and that religions should not have compulsory faith-based beliefs — which all religions have by definition.
So which is more offensive: to distinguish atheism from religion so that our words actually mean something, or to mock religious people for believing in God? Blackmore is trying to sell her organization as an innocent marginalized group being picked on by theistic bullies. But in reality, she is the one grievously offending Christians by her mockery of religion.
Third, Blackmore claims her organization does not believe in a real spiritual devil. Instead, it views Satan as a literary figure, a "cultural hero, a liberator, a rebel against tyranny." The Temple of Satan's mission statement also claims that this literary interpretation of Satan predates Christianity and Judaism.
Yet once again, Blackmore fails to offer any justification for her claim. In the first place, where is the historical evidence to prove the ridiculously unfounded statement that the literary Satan predates Judaism and Christianity? The devil has always been understood as precisely that: a devil.
The words Satan, devil, demon all refer to evil spirits. Even Blackmore herself can't help but use the term correctly. She said the term satanism has been used "as a political tool to demonize individuals who rebel against authority." Apparently Satanism doesn't equal evil anymore, but demon still does.
Secondly, if the organization doesn't believe in a real devil, then why does it call itself the Satanic Temple? A temple is a house of religious worship. Atheists don't have temples because they don't worship deities. Think about this: We've all met people who say, "I don't believe Jesus was God; I think he was just a good teacher." Those people never put up statues of Christ. Only Christians put up Christ statues because the whole point of icons is to assist in acts of worship. The unveiling of a "religious icon" is completely hypocritical for an allegedly non-worshiping satanist organization.
The point is this: Either Blackmore's organization worships a demonic spirit or it doesn't. If it does, then (a) they're liars, and (b) every Christian has the right to protest the unveiling of the statue. If it doesn't, then it isn't a religion and therefore has no right to publicly display a religious icon, especially one that mockingly offends authentic religions. In either case, there is no justification. As Pastor Bullock asked, just what are Blackmore and the Satanic Temple of Detroit up to anyway?
Joseph Gonzalez is a staff writer for Church Militant. He is a graduate of the Lyceum in Cleveland, Ohio. He also graduated summa cum laude from Christendom College, where he earned a B.A. in Philosophy and received the 2015 Award for Outstanding Philosophy Major.