Monday, July 09, 2007

Polyamory and Satanism

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?


Anonymous said...

Hmm; that's a brainful!l

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think it is entirely possible to make a case against polyamory without sounding like a Christian fundamentalist arguing against gay marriage. In fact, the non-fundamentalist argument is the ONLY type I've ever seen in UU circles.

Not a single UU, at least that I've seen, has referred to Biblical sanction of monogamy, suggested that plural marriage is an abomination to God, or proclaimed that polygamists are going to hell. No one has accused polygamists of trying to recruit school children, or suggested that the real goal of UU polygamists is pedophilia. There has been no threatened violence against polygamists or demand that they not be allowed in our neighborhoods.

So, it seems to me that the difference between fundamentalist anti-gay rhetoric and UU anti-polygamy reasoning is indeed substantial. I don't see how these two could possibly be conflated. There are married gay folks in my family and let me tell you, the frightening shit they take from Christians is NOTHING like the objections UUs have raised against polygamy, either in the structure of the arguments or the level of threat. I don't think they sound alike at all.

Joel Monka said...

I never said that the UU arguments went as you outlined- but it only took a few minutes to find these quotes, from various discussions around the UU blogosphere:

I think polyamory will be disastrous for kids.

Monogamy is a long-established cultural and moral norm in our society.

The enormous weight of cultural history and present practice is against you. there not room at the table for a good-faith argument that polyamory is morally and spiritually dangerous, both to its practitioners and to their children, and that it therefore should not be presumptively entitled to the same societal or religious acceptance and blessing that we freely extend to monogamous unions?

When I talk about moral objections, I'm thinking instead about the often unappreciated but nevertheless very real potential for deep emotional, psychological, and spiritual damage that can so easily occur in polyamorous situations despite all precautions. Not only to the consenting adults (if indeed they are giving their fully informed and free consent, which is another significant question), but especially also to their children or prospective children, who need to grow up in a stable and secure environment.

It permanently creates two kinds of marriage and is guaranteed to lead to vastly complex legal fights over children and property. It changes what marriage is and what marriage means. Since there are few institutions that Americans are more invested in that marriage, one can expect enormous, probably insurmountable opposition to such an alteration.

All of these things have been said about gay marriage by fundamental Christians, so what I said still, for the moment, stands. You said "In fact, the non-fundamentalist argument is the ONLY type I've ever seen in UU circles.", but you gave no examples. Can you give us the case against recognizing Polyamory without !.) stating that it would be bad for children without any stats to back it up. 2.) Using the "cultural norms" arguments without explaining why these norms are preferable to recognizing a loving relationship?

Anonymous said...

Joel, I think my post pretty much stands intact. You presented no UU quotes suggesting that polygamy was unbiblical, against God, or deserved damnation. Nor did you find any threats of violence or legal action. So, I still feel there's a world of difference between how Christian fundamentalists and UUs have approached and treated this subject.

Joel Monka said...

*shrug* I didn't say that UUs use ALL the arguments and tactics of the Christians, I said that the ones they DID use sound like the Fundamentalists- and you have not refuted that, nor have you produced any of the arguments that wouldn't sound like that.

Anonymous said...

Joel, what you said was: "Do you truly, objectively believe one can make a case against Polyamory without sounding exactly like a fundamentalist arguing against gay marriage?"

I don't think UUs sound "exactly like fundamentalists arguing against gay marriage," and have pointed out a whole range of differences that seem to answer your question. But it's your blog, I won't belabor the point.

Anonymous said...

As one who is not Pagan, but has had the joy of seeing the Christian ladies handing out literature at the local Pagan Picnic encounter the Satanist... It was quite funny. He happily accepted theirs, but they acted like his would burn them. They also didn't seem to like it much when he asked if he could come to their Church Garage Sale and handout literature. Guess it is "We can try to convert you, but you are not allowed to try and convert us.

As to Poly... Aren't most American families Poly? 2 or more dads, 2 or more moms. OK, so they don't live in the same house, normally, but otherwise isn't the part where the kids are loved the important part?

Ellis said...

You know, I think it's interesting that people want statistics on whether polyamory is good or bad. I doubt that these statistics exist or ever will exist. But even if they did, they're not what I'd base my judgment on. Statistics are easily manipulated and misunderstood, for one thing. For another, I make most of my decisions based not on someone else's statistics but on my own experience. I just don't trust a study the way I trust my own experience.

Anonymous said...

I think I have to agree with Jeff W that the arguments aren't "exactly" like "fundamentalist" Christian arguments.

I think the key word here is "fundamentalist." The points you quoted below are not the arguments of *fundamentalists* but sound like the arguments of folks who are more culturally Christian (or Muslim). They don't even bring God into the equation, which a fundamentalist would do immediately.

Joel Monka said...

You're right, Hafidha, I had missed the point that the fundamentalists would go straight for God first; I was thinking of, as you said, the culturally Christian and Muslim, who may be adamant in their opinions but not technically fundamentalist.

Rex Mondo said...

Two points...

One, it is extremely difficult to maintain a healthy long term polygamous relationship without the presence of deep-rooted cultural institutions and ideals. Polyamory is a lot easier because it tends to be restricted to emotional and physical bonds. Actual marriage involves issues of money, joint-ownership, legal status, logistics, parenting, etc. Because our culture doesn't provide time-tested methods for resolving those issues, western (read euro/american) couples who engage in polygamy are pretty much left to reinvent the wheel with little or no cultural support.

That having been said, we are already pretty close to functional polygamy in our widespread practice of serial monogamy (marry, divorce, repeat).

Secondly, the "vicious 'humor' of the SubGenius" (thank you for the proper spelling, b.t.w.) grows from the same soil of honest narcissism that the Satanists' anti-social tendancies do, but we don't take ourselves so damned seriously.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thread. I like how it all leads back to humor. I found this humourous take on Jack Chick. It's a series of films based upon real Chick tracts. I think you guys will dig it.

Jenny said...

Actually, I don't see that Satanism should be a part of a Pagan pride festival, just as I don't see that Catholicism should. If the festival is about Paganism, it makes sense to have Pagan participants and no others. And Satanism isn't Pagan; it's based on an inverted Christianity.

That said - if the festival includes non-Pagan religions at all, then all non-Pagan religions should be allowed - including Satanism.

Religious tolerance doesn't mean saying "all religions are Pagan", and it doesn't preclude having some meetings restricted to people of a certain faith.
I won't crash a Christian prayer meeting and I don't want anyone else to crash our rituals. I don't see how this goes against religious tolerance.

As for the polyamoury argument, I'm entirely on your side!

Joel Monka said...

Jenny, not all forms of Satanism are inverted Christianity, although that was once true, and in fact the modern Satanists outnumber the old so much that it's pretty much impossible to find anyone who would still do a medieval "black mass". The modern Satanists would meet the dictionary definition of "Pagan",

Jenny said...

Joel - thanks for the information! The Pagan scene is a bit different here. I don't know of any Swedish Satanists that would fall under the Pagan definition, but I should have realized it would be different where you are.

I still find it strange that anyone would want to use the word Satanism to describe something having nothing to do with Satan - but then, I (a wiccan) occasionally call myself a witch even though what I do has little or nothing to do with any traditional witchcraft.

In conclusion, I should probably try to talk only about stuff I know about. But then, if everyone did that, what would happen to the blogosphere?