We all know that Mississippi is the worst state in the union by most metrics, but it would seem that Oklahoma is now the most hateful state. It’s kind of like Texas but more backward. So this last week I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that Oklahoma Republicans allowed a privately financed Ten Commandments monument to be put on the capital grounds. But The Satanic Temple did not like this. So they have commissioned a sculpture of Satan with two children gazing up lovingly at him, which they want Oklahoma to put on their capital grounds.
Now we know how this is going to end. Oklahoma, after all, stopped providing spousal benefits to all National Guard personnel, rather than allow same-sex couples to also get them. Did I mention that Oklahoma is the most hateful state in the union? Anyway, in this case, the courts will find that if Oklahoma is going to allow the Ten Commandments on their grounds, they have to allow the Satan monument on their grounds. So Oklahoma will decide to have no monuments on their grounds.
Of course, first Oklahoma will argue that the Ten Commandments are not religious. They will claim that they are the basis for our common law and so forth. This is all nonsense, of course. Just look at the Ten Commandments. I think it is widely understood that the first three are only religious, having no content that we would recognize as secular law. But what is not as widely appreciated is that in terms of emphasis it is almost exclusively religious. Of the roughly 326 words in The Ten Commandments, only 77 (24%) are what we would think of as secular. What’s more, of those 77 words, 27 are taken up with a long list of things you cannot covet, when one word would have done. That would have produced just 17% of the text.
And really, much of the 77 words are not what we would think of as laws anyway. Being nice to mom and pop is 22 words; no sex outside of marriage is 5 words; not being jealous of your neighbor is 33 words. So there are really only 17 words out 326 that any modern person would consider part of the secular justice system—that’s just 5% of the text. But just read through it: the focus is on what you do for God.
My favorite part of the commandments is the first: You shall have no other gods before me. You ever get the impression that this was written during a transitional period when the Jews were moving from polytheism to monotheism? Because how can you read this as anything but, “There are other gods, but I’m the top banana!”? And this gets us back to Satan. Now the truth is that the Bible is kind of unclear which characters are Satan. Was it Satan that tempted Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden? Most Christians will tell you that it was, but the Bible doesn’t say so. What’s more, Satan in the Old Testament is not a foil for God. He’s more like a prosecutor, always testing God’s chosen ones. Think of Job.
It is only in the New Testament that Satan turns into a kind of god: yin to God’s yang. And that means that Christianity kind of slid back into polytheism, although no Christian I know will admit to this. I mean, what is the great war at the end times all about anyway? If it weren’t a close contest, why would anyone fight the war? Similarly, if Satan is a god just like Yahweh, how do we know which side is good? All we’ve ever read is propaganda from Yahweh’s side. And given what Yahweh does to us on a regular basis and how he acted throughout the Bible, I think we may be on the wrong side.
The satanists see the casting out of Satan as a symbol for all people who society treats as outcasts. So their mission is “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people.” And they have “seven fundamental tenets,” which make the Ten Commandments sound like the late Iron Age dogma that they are:
- One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
- The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
- One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
- The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forego your own.
- Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
- People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
- Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.
That sounds a hell of a lot better to me. It is also general. It doesn’t have to say that murder is wrong, because that follows directly from the third tenet. What’s more, it isn’t religious at all. Obviously, the Satan monument is trying to make a point about pushing religion on other people and about the separation of church and state. But I think we would have a far better society if the Seven Tenets were displayed on government land everywhere.