Rebel Hero – A Brief History of Blasphemers – VIDEO UPDATE

The following was a talk prepared for Skepticamp DC, October 3rd, 2010. I made a few on the spot changes, but the talk presented was largely true to the following text.

This was my first time speaking with a PowerPoint presentation, and I couldn’t stand the limitations in the program or my ability to use it to get the effect I wanted, so I designed everything in Adobe InDesign and then imported them all as flat .jpg images.

I was holding out to publish this until I had audio from the event (why I decided not record it myself is a mystery), but I can always post that later anyway.
Thanks to JD for posting the video online and adding (most) of the slides!


Satan as Rebel Hero:
Henry M. Tichenor and the Radical Anti-Religious


My name is Kevin I. Slaughter. I’m the publisher of a book just released on the 122nd Anniversary of the publication of Nietzsche’s “The Anti-Christ”, and what is referred to as International Blasphemy Rights Day, September 30th.. This is the day the cartoons of Mohammad were published in a Dutch newspaper, triggering a wave of violence and mayhem by Muslims who have found their most precious beliefs rocked by… editorial cartoons. The book is titled The Sorceries and Scandals of Satan, and the author was Henry M. Tichenor. ↻

I caution you now, if you’re offended by strong words, take an early break. We will be pushing our time limit here and ask that you reserve any questions or comments for the end. If you have a question that isn’t answered, please feel free to approach either of us during the break.

Now, I would like to present the author of the forward to “The Sorceries and Scandals of Satan”, Robert Merciless, to discuss this unique book and it’s forgotten author.↻

Pt.1 – Henry M. Tichenor: Progressive Era Skeptic and Muckracker

(ROBERT MERCILESS SPEAKS, HIS TALK HAS NOT BEEN TRANSCRIBED)

Pt.2 – A Brief History of Blasphemers

What short memories we humans have, our collective view of the world likes to create visions of the past free from harm or hate, except when explicitly advantageous. Because of this, our newspapers, blogs and television news report stories as if America is a tabula rasa, swept clean every night, to be shocked anew every evening by the days events. When people bemoan the brusqueness of the “New Atheists”, they do so out of some seemingly willfull ignorance of the Old Atheists – and I’m not talking about James Randi, though he is pretty old.

I hope, in this short time to provide a sort of intellectual and poetic framework for understanding that Tichenor and his book are not an anomaly of the early 20th century, but part of a larger current of Western radical philosophers and muckrackers who openly took the fight to Christianity and the superstitions of the day.

Evolution may or may not have planted the seed of faith – or believing in something even contrary to evidence otherwise, but the here is the story of our most obvious target, one you’re probably familiar with, I’m sure, so I won’t belabor the obvious too much. ↻

“In the beginning, there was…”

…well, I’m not sure, and nobody really knows, but everyone has always wanted to know, because that’s a frustrating predicament, and our minds like answers over unknowns, folks decided to make a story up. It’s been done thousands of times, but only occasionally does the story stick, or the people prosper enough. The short and simple explanation was that there was an invisible thing, awesome in power and timeless. Why are we here? ↻

“He did it”.

Because it was people, who made this creation story up, they needed to add to the story how, after everything else, the invisible all powerful uncreated creator then finished the job by making people. In the Judeo-Christian version of the story, the one we’re dealing with here, there were two perfect people.

Now, everything was perfect, just as long as those two folks stayed dumb. They had but one rule to follow – don’t eat the magic fruit.

That magic fruit was from the tree of knowledge – one bite and you’d no longer be the pollyannas and milksops that the all-powerful wanted to perform as sexless and stupid pets in his garden of perfection.
No, the two listened instead to the talking snake, and the talking snake said this: ↻

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Now this story, as accurate to reality and history as a Garfield strip in the Sunday paper, has permeated Western Civilization for thousands of years- much of it at the end of a sword, or threat of the fire – a central story coming from the religion of Jews to the splinter-sects that cover the globe. From the Mohammedians of the middle east and Africa to Mormons of the middle US, Adam and Eve have varying importance, but are always present.

And of course, they bite, and of course, the invisible baby in the sky threw a tantrum, because man has strayed from his law, his vision of paradise made real…

In short, the philosophy espoused by the invisible god-baby in his official handbook is as follows – and I’m paraphrasing this a bit: ↻

“The natural world is wicked, the flesh is evil, thinking is really bad..”

But this story from the official handbook is old and has been told time and again, and has been changed and misrepresented, and misunderstood. But that it is only a story, and a fantastic one at that, has not stopped those millions and now billions of one-book lovers from using it as an excuse to do what comes naturally to all animals without excuse – to prey upon their fellow man, to help their own above others – and often at the expense of others – all the while congratulating themselves as being righteous and self-less, on the path of goodness and love.
Now this philosophy, to any eyes not distorted by the contradictory clap-trap espoused by the invisible one’s book, is absurd and often gastly. Some of them have had such a strong response they’ve decided that not only are they appalled by such human-hating philosophy, but they are angered. In the pious posturing of the religious potentates, they express scorn and ridicule. In the laws put into the mouth of the all powerful invisible monster, they have proudly snarled: ↻

“I question all things. As I stand before the festering and varnished facades of your haughtiest moral dogmas, I write thereon in letters of blazing scorn: Lo and behold; all this is fraud!”

We’re talking about skepticism born of resentment, a feeling that a confidence game has been perpetrated on humanity, and the skeptic and those he loves have been taken for more than just money – they’ve been taken for their dignity and the very urges that make them human animals.
These are skeptics that not only take a step back to inspect – coldy, sternly, objectively, – but to accuse – boldly, mockingly, and with derision reserved for all those things that are thoroughly hateful to the world and the ego.↻

They are Satan.

They will not wait idly because they’ve been offered some sham paradise once they’ve died, but will reside in the world, eyes open, in search of knowledge. They have seen Satan not as some pure evil as the followers of Christ would paint him, but as something more dashing, challenging, and often… dare I say, romantic. ↻

Certainly, kind hearted humanists and literalistic secularists will bristle at using this mythological figure to oppose another mythological figure, however symbolic it might be used- but for me, for some of histories most creative and challenging artists and thinkers, and certainly for the author of the book that my partner will elucidate on, it is a poetic tribute to the individual, the rebel, the world as it is, man as an animal — life as finite, fallible and real. ↻

These are men who have bitten the fruit, symbolically, they have opened their eyes intellectually, and they have set about learning what god knows, and that is the secrets of the world and life itself.
In 1676, in Surrey, Enlgland yeoman John Taylor offended the ears of the ruling class by speaking aloud the following words in a fit of hedonistic rebellion: ↻

“Christ is a whore-master, and religion is a cheat, and profession is a cloak, and they are both cheats, and all the earth is mine, and I am a king’s son, my father sent me hither, and made me a fisherman to take vipers and I neither fear God, devil, nor man, and I am a younger brother to Christ, an angel of God and no man fears God but an hypocrite, Christ is a bastard, God damn and confound all your Gods, Christ is the whore’s master.”

These blasphemies were punished by a mere hour in the pillory, and Leonard Levy claims that the townsfolk afterword carried Mr. Taylor on their shoulders to the local tavern to celebrate. However joyous the immediate celebrations may have been, the case, known as Rex v. Taylor, have had long reaching implications. Lord Chief Justice Hale’s brief opinion on the case was reported secondhand, but it reads: ↻

“…such kind of wicked blasphemous words were not only an offence to God and religion, but a crime against the laws, State and Government, and therefore punishable in this court. For, to say religion is a cheat, is to dissolve all those obligations whereby the civil societies are preserved, and that Christianity is parcel of the laws of England; and therefore to reproach the Christian religion is to speak in subversion of the law.”

These words by Hale have served as the foundation for dragging blasphemers into court in England and later the United States. Even today, that the phrase “Christianity is parcel of the laws of England” has given the Religious Right precedent to claim, however wrongly, that the Bible is the source of our common law here in the United States.

Most of the morality tales we’ve been told have been tales woven by the advocates of the invisible one in the sky though, stories to scare the children and the elderly. ↻

“An apology for the devil: it must be remembered that we have heard one side of the case. God has written all the books.”

Samuel Butler wasn’t the first to note that it is mainly the Christians who have written slanderous stories of Satan, and wondered who has told the other side of the story. But it was also Twain, in his “Letters From the Earth”, who puts the following words into the mouth of Ol’ Scratch himself: ↻

“(The Bible) is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”

By aligning oneself with the rebel hero, it is a rebuke to those mired in a childish dualism, of good vs. evil, a morality bereft of subtlety or circumstance. If we are to build a philosophy in the devils spirit, would not the enemy of dualism advocate non-dualistic thinking? It isn’t those who are ignorant of a God that demand this dualism, it is the proponents of God: ↻

“For the doers of sin there is another leader; they choose another patron and pattern : ‘He that commits sin is of the Devil.’ …Sin is Satan’s domain, his sphere, his work ; and every sinner is his ally and instrument. The committer of sin makes himself of the Devil’s party”

If the Bible is the document of God’s will, it is the job of any reasonable and sane man to reject not only him, but this disjointed book. It is the joy of an even fewer number of men that they do so by picking the other team, at least symbolically.

We can find New York journalist and author, Benjamin De Casseres, in the very same year of 1904 writing in The Metropolitan an essay on cynicism in the theater titled “The Dramatic Devil’s Advocate”. In it he opines on one of the supposed mortal sins: ↻

“Envy is not moral, but it’s right. The difference between moral and right is the difference between doing what you ought to do and what you want to do. Morality was invented in deference to the policeman. Right is might and springs from nature. Morality is polite. Right is brusque. Morality says by “your leave.” Right says “Up and at you.” A mere difference in breeding. One is urban; the other is not even urbane. Well, envy is right. It gives us pleasure; it is stimulating. It promotes health and induces pleasant dreams. The beggar envies the king, and the king envies the beggar. The wise man envies the fool, and the fool envies the wise man. Envy is the basis of that divine discontent praised by the delegate who walks. Envy is ennui on a strike. To pine for what your neighbor has got shows taste. If his wife is beautiful, it would show a total lack of aesthetic appreciation did we not pine for her. Envy is the sincerest flattery.”

DeCasseres came out swinging even harder 24 years later in the literary journal The American Mercury with a piece entitled “Hymn to Satan”: ↻

“The grandeur of America today is satanic, materialistic, irreligious, unethical… The settlement of America was the birth of a New Reality. It began the dethronement of the mystical God and the rejuvination of the Prince of This World — prince of this world not in the Old World theological sense, but as the spirit of the Will to Material Power.”

As proof of this idea of America as a new Satanic empire, he states: ↻

“Read the preamble. There is not an ounce of imagination, religion, metaphysics or poetry in it… the Constitution came into this world like a prolonged cynicism in the mouth of an atheistic lawyer… The Constitution is the cold sun of Reason.”

The publisher and editor of that magazine, HL Mencken deserves to be mentioned as well. In his memoirs from his youth he posited the following: ↻

“I made up my mind at once that my true and natural allegiance was to the Devil’s party, and it has been my firm belief ever since that all persons who devote themselves to forcing virtue on their fellow men deserve nothing better than kicks in the pants.”

Eventually our journey from the rabble-rousing blasphemer in the 17th century, through novelists and journalists in the 19th and early 20th centuries – entirely skipping the decadent poets and erotic writers, Carducci, Voltaire, Byron, DeSade – bringing us to 1966, when a man took this idea of the earthy and rebellious Satan to another level.

Anton Szandor LaVey shaved his head and founded a religion in the spirit of Twain’s Satan, Tichenor’s Satan, Mencken’s Satan. He founded, of course, the Church of Satan, an anti-religious religion, an anti-church church. Instead of a revelatory text of divine inspiration, two years later he published a collection of writings that celebrated the ego, the flesh and pursuit of knowledge. He promoted the occult in the true sense of the word- the things that are hidden by the platitudes of the politicians, the hypocritical piety of the Christians and social uplifters, and the shallow respectability sought by any means necessary by the booboisie. Those who, in Mencken’s words, devote themselves to forcing virtue on their fellow men.

It was bombastic, sarcastic, and spoke of a hard-nosed philosophy of pragmatism and Epicurean delight mingled with a carnival barkers knack for the dramatic.

He couldn’t have expressed it more clearly in his Satanic Bible: ↻

“All religions of a spiritual nature are inventions of man. He has created an entire system of gods with nothing more than his carnal brain.”

LaVey’s successor, Peter H. Gilmore, has been just as, if not more more explicit and outspoken in his own collection of essays, titled The Satanic Scriptures. A book I was also proud to design and publish in 2007.

Five years after the media frenzy surrounding the founding of an organization dedicated in name to the Lord of this Earth, another figure among the counterculture penned a guidebook for political activists. Saul D. Alinsky released “Rules for Radicals”, subtitled “A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals”.

Following the dedication page are three quotes, the first by the super-Jew Rabbi Hillel, the second from our Godless founding father Thomas Paine, advocate of reason, and the third was penned by the author himself: ↻

“Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”

Ol’ Saul has seen quite a resurgence in popularity in the past few years, being linked to the rise of our current President, and the Religious Right has been absolutely delighted to find this homage to the dark one, so they can predictably use it to scare the pious Christians into believing Barack Obama is in league with the Devil… you know, when he’s not bowing to Mecca five times a day.

But lest you think that only poets, novelists, journalists, political activists and cynical outsiders tend to tip the hat to the Dark One’s rule of this world, you may be familiar with the quote from Charles Darwin: ↻

“What a book a devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature!”

And this, at least from the big picture view, is the advocacy of a genuine Satanic worldview. In a nutshell, there is no god who loves you and looks out for your best interest. There is no heaven or hell waiting for you when you die. The earth doesn’t love you nor does it need your love. At the end of the day, we are left with the greatest offense that one can give to the invisible monster baby…

… that we humans must love ourselves, and when we look outside of ourselves, it is into the eyes of another animal, and not bent over gazing at the feet of wooden idols. ↻

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  • Paul

    I’ve recently discovered the writings of Benjamin DeCasseres, and I was wondering if you know whether he was a favourite of LaVey’s. Amazingly his name doesn’t appear in the original dedication pages of The Satanic Bible or the Satanic Rituals.

    • http://www.kevinislaughter.com/ Kevin I. Slaughter

      I only came across him by happenstance, and have no idea if LaVey ever read his work or not. One can make assumptions, but I have no solid evidence one way or another.