If you go to your local Pagan Pride festival, the odds are twenty to one that you’re not going to see a booth or table about Satanism, nor find books about it displayed above the table. If you inquire, and the person you asked was Wiccan, you’re likely to get a lecture about Satan being a Christian deity, and how Satanism was invented by Christians as an excuse to persecute witches during the burning times. Even if the person you asked was a veteran Pagan who has been around the Tarot deck a few times, it’s still even odds they’ll go all fluffy bunny and answer in vague generalities that say nothing and invite a change of subject... despite their knowing full well that both types of Satanism- those who worship themselves, and those who actually do worship the Prince of Darkness- are thriving here in America.
Why is this? Most Reconstructionist Pagans and virtually all NeoPagans hold religious tolerance as one of their core beliefs, giving “full faith and credence”; there is no rational or logical reason for refusing Satanists fellowship. The answer is simple: they’re an embarrassment. Whenever there’s a bad headline- really bad, as opposed to goofy- it’s bound to involve a self described Satanist. No church- with the possible exception of the Church of the SubGenius- is more controversial. (Although I find the honest narcissism of the Satanist much less obnoxious than the vicious “humor” of the SubGenius) The existence of Satanists is the confirmation of every fundamentalists’ sermon on the slippery slope of Paganism; they’re a living Jack Chick tract.
The rest of the Pagan community knows that if they publicly befriended and defended Satanists, they would lose much of the good will they have slowly built up in mainstream society. Many Christian churches and publications supported the Wiccan lawsuit demanding that the V.A. permit the Wiccan Pentacle on veterans’ headstones... but not one of them would have been onboard had the Pentacle been inverted. Therefore, many NeoPagans are willing to compromise one of their core beliefs- acceptance of their neighbors’ faith- in their pursuit of mainstream recognition.
It seems to me that we have exactly the same phenomenon going on with the UUA and Polyamory. As Philocrites points out, “When conservatives charge that polyamory is next on the slippery slope, how is it helpful to have liberals urging us to start slipping? . . .” We are already the Berkeley of churches; if there’s any bizarre or ludicrous new trend in religion, we tried it first. But we do have limits; the UUA does not want to become the poster boy for The Decline Of Morals In America. We do not want other liberal churches shunning us for fear of guilt by association... and so it seems we must pretend the Polyamorists do not exist.
But how can we do so without compromising our principles? Does “marriage equality” mean adopting the Christian Fundamentalists’ definition of marriage, with one slight alteration- “Marriage shall consist of one person and one other person”? Shall we demonstrate our acceptance of all faiths by telling fundamental Mormons and Muslims that their multiple marriages are immoral? Shall we send missionaries to Africa to tell them how unstable and dangerous for their children group marriages are? That might be problematical in Senegal, where 47% of all marriages are polygamous... And would we refuse fellowship to immigrants involved in such marriages?
Does it really make sense for us to take it to the streets over whether Heather can have two mommies, and then denounce Heather having two mommies and a daddy? With the epidemic of children being raised outside of marriage- and that being the best predictor of future drug use and jail time- does it really make sense to rule out yet another form of marriage? Do you truly, objectively believe one can make a case against Polyamory without sounding exactly like a fundamentalist arguing against gay marriage?