Podcasts/Sacred Tension-Process Theologybtlwt
Process_Theologybtlwt SUMMARY KEYWORDS theology, people, satanism, process, world, god, satan, evangelicalism, christian, satanic temple, satanists, meaning, anton lavey, question, satanist, theistic, purity, called, atheist, theist SPEAKERS Stephen Bradford Long, Mason Mennenga
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Stephen Bradford Long 01:02 This is sacred tension, the podcast about the discipline of asking questions. My name is Steven Bradford long and we are here on the rock candy Podcast Network. For more shows like this one, go to rock candy recordings.com. All right, well, just a few pieces of housekeeping before we get started. As always, I have to thank my patrons. My patrons are my personal lords and saviors and I truly could not do this show without them. They are keeping the show going. They are enabling my crippling content creation addiction and it really is like crippling it takes up so much of my life. So for this week, I have to thank Siri sanguine Benito, John bunny powered mistress, Nick, Emeril. And Ron, thank you all so much. It means the whole world to me. And if you're listening to this and you want to join their number, please go to patreon.com forward slash Steven Bradford long for dollar $3 $5 You get extra content every single week, including access to my live show House of heretics with the heretic, former pastor from the Salvation Army, Timothy McPherson and we talk about everything from religion to fisting to, you know, whatever's going on in the world. Also, this show is sponsored by the satanic temple.tv. If you enjoy my show, and the topics that I cover, the occult new religious movements philosophy, then I strongly encourage you to go to the satanic temple.tv and get one month free using my promo code, sacred tension all caps, no space. They have live lectures, music, feature length films, documentaries, shows, talk shows all kinds of stuff happens at the satanic temple.tv. Also, I understand that the economy is still on fire because of the COVID pandemic. And so you might not be able to give anything right now. And I completely understand I need you to take care of yourself first and foremost. So if you want to support the show, one of the best ways to do that is to just leave five stars on Apple podcasts, share it with your friends, and above all, listen to it and enjoy it because it is here for your enjoyment. All right, well, with all of that finally out of the way. I'm delighted to welcome Mason Mennenga to the show. Did I say your last name, right?
Mason Mennenga 03:34 No, you didn't. And it's probably the most common. I'm so sorry.
Stephen Bradford Long 03:38 I should have i Oh, I always asked before we start recording. Please pronounce your name for me. And I didn't this time. How do you pronounce your name?
Mason Mennenga 03:48 It's men-men-NGA.
Stephen Bradford Long 03:50 How are you?
Mason Mennenga 03:51 I'm doing well. It sounds like you're doing well. It seems like all your patrons are not real human beings. At least their names don't sell. They are all all of my patrons are mythical magical creatures. And they are wonderful. I bet your patrons are not as amazing as mine. That's probably true. That's just my that's just my guess. Mine also have very, very normal names. So I wish mine had as mythical and magical names as as yours. Perfect.
Stephen Bradford Long 04:18 Well, maybe after this, some of my patrons will go in and you know, give you some money and then you can get some of the magical Satanism.
Mason Mennenga 04:26 I would I would love that as well. Awesome. All right. So tell us some about who you are and what you do. So we are we follow each other on Twitter, I would consider us like Twitter acquaintances. You're a great follow on Twitter. Your your Twitter feed is fucking hilarious. And you're also a podcaster you are a content creator. You're in the content minds just like me. And you do really fascinating stuff. But while I have left the Christian world entirely You know, I still maintain ties with other Christians, but Christianity is no longer my primary identity. It's no longer my religious home. And I don't know if that's the case for you. But it definitely seems like you are. You're working with Christianity from within, rather than from without in the way that I am. And I find that really, really interesting. So tell us some about who you are and what you do. Yeah, you kind of nailed it. Yeah, I am a podcaster, I podcasts, or I host a podcast called a people's theology. And in it, I talk with lots of different people kind of like what you do. And mainly we talk about the work that they're up to which I consider inspiring and liberating theological work. So we talk about all the inspiring and liberating theology that they're up to in the world. I also make YouTube videos, although I kind of took a brief hiatus while I'm working on my master's. And, but I'm hoping to dive back into that very soon, I'm going to be writing just my thesis over the next several months. And so I'll have a lot more time. Now that I won't have any more classes. And so that is something I do. And so if you're a YouTube person, you can check out my YouTube videos, and a lot of them are theology based. And they're really fun to do. And kind of speaking of which I just alluded to it, but I also am a student. And so I'm getting my master's in theology, I also already have a Masters of divinity. But I'm now working on a master's in theology, which is a little bit more of an academic degree, which is why I'm about to write my thesis. So yeah, those are the things that I'm up to in the world, the things that I do, and, yeah,
Stephen Bradford Long 06:39 now, are you also a youth pastor? Or were you recently a youth pastor? Why was I under the impression that you're that you're a youth pastor,
Mason Mennenga 06:46 I was, I was about four years, it's Well, I live in the Twin Cities. And it's the reason why I moved to the Twin Cities. And then I still am a part of that church, and very much love being a part of that church. But with all the other things I work at the seminary I'm also student at, in so doing that full time on top of podcasting, and all the other things I'm up to the world, youth pastoring just was not something I was gonna be able to continue to do, which is fine. I enjoyed it. It was a great experience taught me lots of things. And it just was for a season of my life. And here I am now not a youth pastor anymore. Perfect. Yeah. So I find you really, really interesting because at least from Twitter, at least, like how much can you glean about a person from Twitter, but definitely from Twitter, you you kind of seem like a kindred spirit in that. It seems like you were given this thing called evangelical Christianity. And, you know, we didn't given is too soft a word it was, it was kind of forced, it was it was it was forced upon you. And now as adults, it's like we're figuring out what the fuck to do with this legacy with this with this thing in our life that was forced upon us, and how do we figure that out? And so if there's one of one theme of my show, I think it's that tell us some about your background? What, what led you to where you are now? Yeah, so like you mentioned, I grew up in evangelical Christianity, kind of in the heart of it, and really the Belly of the Beast, I grew up with James Dobson and focus on the family details. And so I really got the full dosage of it, purity, culture, you know, accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. All of those things were very much a part of my experience growing up, I also was very deeply invested in the Christian music scene and really cared a lot about we're just talking about your friend who used to be in a band called The Lebanese seventh deal is, he still is sorry, I didn't realize that there's still so still a ban. But anyway, you know, those, that was one of the bands that I grew up listening to. So yeah, I very much grew up in the belly of the beast of evangelicalism. And it really formed me for a significant part of my life. And I really got like the conservative dosage of it. My dad, I grew up knowing my dad listening to Rush Limbaugh every single day. And so that was the type of Christianity I grew up in. I also remember I think I was in maybe sixth grade, and we brought my church, my church brought in this guy who claimed to be a former Muslim terrorist, and he eventually converted to Christianity, and he would talk all about the evils of Islam. And anyway, like that was the kind of Christianity I was brought up in, and it really formed me for quite some time. But then around the time that I was in high school, I started having these kind of initial doubts. I was still very deeply conservative, both in my theology and in my policy. Tex, but I started having these doubts especially around like sexuality. And I really became kind of dis connected with purity culture, especially, you know, I was a teenage boy and I was like trying to explore like what that meant for me and it just was really really difficult being a teenage boy growing up in purity culture horniest fuck and I was born as fuck and I mean purity culture really does destroy people. Purity culture is anti human. And the way it it distorts people's relationship to their sexuality. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt, but I relate a lot to what you're talking about because I'm, whenever I meet someone who has also been through it, it is so apparent to me the ways it vilifies just human nature. Yeah, yeah, I totally agree. I actually I was just doing a recording with somebody who was asking me questions about my body. And that was one of the things I talked a lot about was how purity culture in particular, really, D humanizes us in such a way because it really, really focuses on vilifying our body. And that was a really tough thing for me as a teenage boy who was just you know, couldn't couldn't look at any person without like, black I need want to fuck you. So that was a really difficult part of my life. But then I started getting Yeah, I got I started getting to a point of it wasn't just like, these sort of like lustful thoughts as they would describe it. But it was really beyond that of like, I really could not reconcile it anymore. I couldn't reconcile being upholding purity culture, and honoring, honouring or trying to allow my body to experience the things that it was wanting to experience. And so that really was kind of the main catalyst for me starting to explore what does a Christian faith look like that is not a part of purity culture. And that led me down an entire path of starting to question things about like hell, and around LGBTQ issues around even like racial justice issues, and etc, etc. And so it really put me on a path to having questions around that. So by the time that I got into college, I really had a lot of these questions, but really nowhere to go and to look, because I had no idea that there were any other types of Christianity out there. I only knew of evangelicalism. And so when I got to college, and I went to a small like Christian college, it was super conservative, actually, but there was a few professors in which religion which college if I may ask, yeah, it's called Northwestern College in Iowa. The town that it's in is 5000 people. The school itself was 1200 students. So I was like, in a graduating class of 300 students, it was very, very small. And the most conservative County in America, my state representative was Steve King, if you know of, Oh, my goodness, politics at all. So used to speak at my chapel all the time. It's so funny because I went to Montreat College. In the mountains here, which has a student body of when I was there, 500 students at I've actually been there before. Oh, it's gorgeous. I still live in the area. And were you there for a conference? Yeah, there was like a youth ministry calm. Yeah, yeah. Roll your I went to Yeah, of course. So I went to the college, which is very conservative. And you're seeing while the the conference center in the town are less so. But that's a whole that's a whole weird drama, you know, minuscule tempest in a teacup that we don't have to get into? But yeah, so so far I am tracking with you went to a tiny conservative Christian College. And sacks was the beginning of your theological downfall. It was the beginning of the unraveling, they were right about everything. They always said that sacks is what would undo your faith and they were right. They were right. Like they aren't misguided and a lot of.
14:16 Yes, it's it's, it's true. Because they they understand, you know, it's so funny how they, there's this, I can't, I was never told exactly this by conservative Christians in my life. But I was I was basically told this, if you start questioning this specific Tenet, if you start questioning this specific doctrine, that is really significant to us in our community. If you start questioning that, then you will start questioning everything, so don't you dare even approach questioning sexuality for me it was homosexuality and all Were you know, it sounds like for you is purity culture for other people, it's things like evolution or whatever. And it's like once you start questioning that one thing, then the whole ball of yarn starts to unravel. And they are they know it, they know that that will happen.
Mason Mennenga 15:18 Yep. And they're absolutely right. Yes, they are. They really are. And it's not. One of the things that really bothers me from people from their perspective, evangelicals perspective of how they think about people and quote, unquote, deconstruction, I don't really use that term, but it you know, it's helpful for for Satanists who have no fucking clue what we're talking about deconstruction is a term often used in kind of the post Christian slash progressive Christian setting of deconstructing and re evaluating one's faith. Right. Yeah, so for those of us who went through that process from the evangelical world, a lot of times like evangelicals kind of look at us and think, Well, they were the ones that didn't do all the things you were supposed to do in evangelicalism that we were sort of like evangelical dropouts, if you will. But the problem is, is that's just the opposite. We were the ones that actually believed all of these things and bought into all of these things. And in a lot of ways, you could say that we in sort of, quote, unquote, we graduated from evangelicalism. And that's the reason why we ended up leaving the evangelical faith. And I really wish they understood that, you know, that I understand that they're not going to buy into what we believe whatever I get that the one thing I wish they would just sort of just sort of accept is that for those of us who left evangelicalism, we are not dropouts of evangelicalism, we are the graduates of it, because we were the ones who did all of the things right. We were the ones that were getting the 4.0 of evangelicalism, and that still was not enough for us to be convinced of that. That beast that is evangelicalism. That's absolutely right. And, you know, that's a point that I always make regarding people who abandon the conservative ideology regarding homosexuality. Be it ex gay, or what in the Gay Christian world, they used to call site B. Side, a versus side, B side, B being the belief that, you know, you know, it's okay to be gay, you just can't act on it that's contrary to God's will. And very often, when I was still active in the Gay Christian world, and writing a lot about that subject, there was always this sense of well, you became affirming, because you couldn't handle it anymore, and you dropped out. And I'm like, No, I was the poster child. I was the one who did everything. Right. And it is because I did everything right that I know this doesn't work. Either more I know it's a con. Yeah. Furthermore, you're the ones who are there are the experts when it comes to the sixth clobber passages, like that's one of the things that drives me nuts as if you get evangelicals that kind of throw out those verses as if gay Christians I've never once heard. I've
Stephen Bradford Long 18:34 never read them intelligent, explain to people what the clobber passages are, because people, a lot of people in my audience have have no clue.
Mason Mennenga 18:42 Yeah, so in the Bible, there are six verses that kind of mention, in some way, shape, or form around homosexuality. And for the most part, if you read them, kind of literally, they do kind of indicate a condemnation, condemnation of homosexuality. But there's only six. I mean, there's 1000s, upon 1000s of verses in the Bible, there's only six that addressed this, right? A lot of people when they think of Christianity, who for those who are outside of it, think of like, well, clearly, Christianity is so preoccupied about homosexuality, and must be a really big part of their scriptures. It really is not. It's just the little miniscule, to spec of what really is talked about in the Bible. And anyway, so there's six of those verses where homosexuality is talked about, and for a lot of conservative Christians, those are the six verses that they kind of weaponize against LGBTQ people. Yes, exactly. Very well said. And, you know, people would always quote them at me as if I've never read them. And it's still people quote the Bible at me. However, that's happening much less because people are usually too scared. Which is great. One of the best things about being a Satanist is that it's a filter for all of the worst people, like, atheism isn't quite enough of a filter you you also have to put on the Satanist filter. So then the only people who are willing to talk to you tend to be pretty fucking awesome or complete lunatics, one or the other, but usually very awesome. And so I get, you know, Bible passages get quoted at me less but ya know, they would always quote it as if I just never read it before and it was completely new to me. So, where are you now theologically? So you? You came out of kind of hardcore American evangelicalism, you were in the belly of the beast, you were raised with purity culture, you went to a conservative Christian College, where are you now? Yeah. So what's interesting is, even though I left evangelicalism, I actually became more Christian. And the reason why I say that is, as I left evangelicalism, I started encountering other Christians and you know, people like Nadia bolts, Webber, and Rachel Held Evans, for those who may know of them. And these are Christian people that are, I don't really like using this term, but are more or less progressive. And I was really intrigued by the way that they thought about their faith the way they thought about theology. And I really dove really deeply into reading all of them and, and kind of sort of being shaped theologically and in my faith by them. So yeah, I really initially kind of got started in a kind of new Christianity for myself while I was in college, by a lot of those folks. And then when I went to seminary and started encountering a lot of like, liberation theology, for those who are unfamiliar with liberation theology, liberation theology, really stresses that God is on the side of liberation for for the press, whether it's for people of color, or for queer people, etc, etc.
Stephen Bradford Long 22:05 It's the theological equivalent of critical theory is
Mason Mennenga 22:09 very similar. Yeah, there's a lot of similarity there. And I also got really interested in a theological system called process theology, which I'd love to talk with you a little bit. Yes, please. Your perspective as a Satanists. So anyway, I got really involved while I was in seminary with those two types of theology, and I really became more Christian as I studied them, which is really interesting. I really, I really kind of center my faith around the person of Jesus, that really matters to me. And I became even more fascinated by Jesus, as I left evangelicalism. And I got more involved in these heretical if you will, types of theology like liberation, theology, and process theology. And when you say you became more Christian, that means I think what I'm hearing you say is that for you, that means you became more fascinated and obsessed with the symbol slash figures slash Person of Christ. Yes, very much. So. Yeah, I became wanting to know what, what when we talk about Jesus, and we talk about Christ, like, what does that mean? And I just became more fascinated by it in a way beyond even just the theological, sort of conception of it. I was really wanting to center my faith and spirituality that actually embodied practices around this person, and being a part of that community that does just that. And I dove even deeper into it, as I left evangelicalism, and got more interested in all these other types of theology. Yeah, that's fascinating. And, you know, people are often surprised, I think, by the fact that I haven't cut ties with Christianity yet with the church. And honestly, it is because of people like the ones who you mentioned, Nadia, bolts, whoever, the late, Rachel Held Evans, David dark, who's been on the show a ton. He's amazing. I think it's confusing sometimes, to my fellow Satanists as to why I continue to engage. It's also confusing to Christians, because they're like, you're a Satanist. Why do you do this? But the truth is, there are a lot of people within the Christian tradition who are working towards justice, the best way they know how, and they're working towards justice within the symbolic structure of Christ. And, you know, I can find ally ship with them as long as they don't ask me to be anything other than who I am and vice versa, and I don't I won't ask them to be anything other than who than who they are. You know, so tell us some about process theology. Yeah. So Oh, my elevator speech of process theology. So if somebody got in an elevator with me, for whatever reason, they asked me Mason, what's process theology? This is the answer, I give them a long elevator ride because they can't do it in just one floor. But what I would tell them is, first off process theology believes that the entire world is completely open, meaning that the what's going to happen in the world hasn't already been predetermined. So in a lot of theology, especially in a lot of Christian theology, there's this idea that the entire world has already been predetermined. And we're sort of just like puppets, just or even like a video game, just being pre programmed to do those things in the world. But process theology things just the opposite, that the world is wide open for all possibilities to happen. Okay? The second thing, the process theology really stresses is that everything is in relationship, whether it's you, Steven, in relationship with me, or with the plants that might be outside of your home, or even with the atoms that make up your body. All things are in relationship. And process theology goes as far to say that not only is the entire world open, and not only is everything in relationship with one another, but that God, God's self is open to all possibilities. And God is in relationship with everything. So process theology often gets described as a pin in theist, theological system, meaning that all things are within the life of God. Okay, so process theology, although there are ways of thinking about process that are atheistic, there are from the theistic point of view process theology is a theistic theology. The other thing to kind of keep in mind, because I think for your listeners, this might be important is that process theology is not explicitly Christian. The person who even kind of was the founder of the philosophy that ended up influencing process theology was not a Christian person. He grew up in like a Christian home, but he himself did not identify as a Christian. Now many of the WHO IS WHO is that just out of curiosity? Oh, yeah. So he was an American philosopher. In fact, he's one of the most famous American philosopher, philosophers. His name was Alfred North Whitehead. Oh, of course, yes. Yeah, he was initially a mathematician and physicist, and eventually out of that work, developed this philosophy, which he called philosophy of organism, and that, and he wrote a very seminal text, that kind of all process theology and process philosophy grounds itself in called processing reality, hence, process philosophy and process theology. So he himself was not a Christian, he grew up in a Christian home, but he himself was not a Christian. He died probably in like the 1930s or so. So he was kind of around in like the 1910s 1920s. And so. But the early people, or the people that initially took his philosophy and kind of developed into a theology were Christian people, however, that eventually, at some point, that theology got kind of moved over to China, and actually most processed theologians today are Chinese Buddhists. So there are a lot of Buddhists who are process theologians. And there are a number of Muslim process theologians. There are a number of Jewish process theologians, and even like pagan and Wiccan process theologians, and Hindu process theologians. So process theology is a theology that is inclusive to all different types of religious traditions. But it is, at least in America, kind of the at least the academic discipline of process theology is mostly dominated by Christian people. But that's not to say that it's entirely a Christian theology. To summarize, process theology sounds like that it is less a statement about God necessarily, so it is it is open it it's less so it can be open to atheistic interpretations and theistic interpretations. And that the that the universe is that that humanity's path is not set before us it is not predetermined, correct, and also that everything is in relationship. And so there's this entanglement tiniest particles that make up the tiniest atoms, even those relationships, so it really stresses relationship to the most degree. And so it's, everything is entangled, and it sounds like a concept of oneness of I don't know if you would use that term, but, but everything being just A manifestation of that relationship or all things interacting together and in exerting influence on each other. And then it is Panin theist meaning, I guess from the theistic side, God is everything within creation and more. Right? And if God does sort of exceed or is beyond creation, but that creation is
Stephen Bradford Long 30:30 was god of life of God is yes. Okay.
Mason Mennenga 30:34 So pantheism, which is a little different. pantheism believes that everything is God, right handed, deism makes a distinction that there is God and there is the world, they're not the same, but that the world is within the life of God. And so all things are in God. But there's still a distinction made there. And that was that. So you mentioned kind of this idea of like oneness. And I think in a lot of ways, process theology does sort of lead to that process. Theology also really wants to stress that all that all things are distinct from one another, that you and I are not the same. But we are in such intricate relationship with one another, that it's hard to make the differentiation however, there is the differentiation. And that's the kind of thing that process theology is really wanting to do. It does this with God as well, that the difference between God and the world is so minut However, there's still the difference, right? And that's one of the things that process theology really also wants to stress. And it makes it slightly different than pantheism. However, there are kind of pantheist ways of thinking about process theology. But I would say largely process theology, for the most part, is a pantheist, meaning that there is a distinction between God in the world, but that the world is in the life of God.
Stephen Bradford Long 31:53 Hmm, that's fascinating. How does this theology manifest in your own life? How do you live it?
Mason Mennenga 32:02 Yeah, that's a really good question. So one of the things that I've really become passionate about, is because of process theology, and because that it stresses that everything's in relationship with one another, and that the world is not determined, meaning that the way things that the way things are now doesn't mean that they have to always be this way. And so because of that, I kind of take it to this ethical way. Meaning that if everything's in relationship, and all of these issues that hurt and oppress people, really matter, the issues that hurt LGBTQ people, the issues that hurt black people, the issues that even hurt the earth, all of those matter, because they're all in relationship with one another. And all the little things that I even do affect all of those other issues. Okay, because everything is in relationship, because everything's in relationship. And so that, to me, really matters. And because the world is open to all possibilities, it means that all of these issues, all of the ways that they cause oppression, to all kinds of people, and even to the Earth does not mean that always has to be this way, we can actually create a better future for all of these things. So because they're in relationship, everything that I do really matters. And everything that I do, can also be a part of what everybody else is doing to create a better future. And so those to me really matter. So it really manifests in my life in that it literally determined or not determined, but it influences the entirety of how I live my life, that all of the ways that I am living is in relationship to everything else. And that all of the things that I'm doing is hopefully helping to create a future that's better, especially for those who are oppressed. And, you know, listening to you talk immediately brought to mind things like climate change, the IPCC report just came out last week, and it's, you know, fucking harrowing. Success within the success, meaning, avoiding the absolute worst of climate change, and avoiding the maximal amount of suffering that we will inflict on future generations. That is not set in stone, but neither is success. Determined, right? And I think, you know, I feel like within so much of Christianity, one of the lies one of the real dangers of lots of theism, not just Christianity, but that success is inevitable. The planet will be fine because God won't let that happen to us, because he put a rainbow in the sky after Noah's Flood as a promise that he would never do that to us ever again. Or that, you know, somehow humanity will prevail, because God is on our side. Within process theology, that's not the case is what it sounds like. And we really can really could shape the world towards hell on earth. And God will not intervene because that future is open. And it's up to us. Am I hearing you correctly on that? Yeah, in fact, you're kind of touching on one of the reasons why a lot of people get into process theology is because of the way that it answers the question of theodicy. For those that don't know, theodicy is essentially the problem of evil. Why is it that a all powerful and all loving God allow suffering to happen? That's essentially the question of, of the problem of evil. And the way process theology responds to that question is that God is actually not all, all powerful. So when it comes to something like climate change, God cannot unilaterally make climate change, stop, and God can't make it not stop either. So. So what is required is that all of us, including God, including all of the entirety of the world, need to work together to ensure that there is a future for the, for the planet and for our future generations. But it's not determined because God can't make it happen either way. It really requires all of us again, all things are in relationship. And because of that, it requires all of us to participate in something like preventing climate change, or at least mitigating at this point. So I can hear a lot of atheists listening to this and saying, This just sounds like a justification to hold on to a form of theism while also getting around the thorny or issues of the Odyssey. That isn't necessarily what I think. But how would you respond to atheists, who's the who basically say, this is just a comfortable compromise in order to keep believing in God? I mean, I don't think they're not wrong. Although I do think there are legitimate concerns, from a process theist way of thinking that there ought to be a God or that we should believe that there is a God. I'll just respond to it by saying that Alfred North Whitehead, who I mentioned before, who was the one who initially developed process philosophy, within the way that he thought about philosophy and the way that the sort of metaphysics, if you will, that he created, he believed that there was God there. And he believed that in order for process philosophy, to make sense, God has to be in the equation. Now, obviously, he kind of rethinks a lot about what God is like, in comparison to a lot of like Christian theologies way of thinking of theism. However, again, he was one who believed that there was a God and it made sense, process philosophy to him made sense with God in the equation. So I think that's like something to keep in mind. However, as I mentioned before, it's I think, process philosophy still makes sense without a god in the equation. But I will say, I think, like from an atheist point of view, I think it's a very fair critique, like, Why does there need to be a god in the first place in this, think that's very fair, doesn't have to be. But I will say, for a lot of people, especially those of us who were coming out of evangelicalism, there is something that they don't want to let go. And that is, they might let go of a belief in Hell, they might let go of the belief in that homosexuality is a sin. They might, they might let go, the belief that Jesus died for their sins, the one thing that they really firmly believed, even though they didn't believe all of those other things, the one thing that they firmly believed was that God loves them. And they really, really believe that. And I think process theology offers a theology for people who really want to believe that God loves them, and still make sense when it comes to not believing in hell, not believing that Jesus was sent to die for our sins, and not believing that homosexuality is a sin. It allows people to believe that God truly loves them, and still allows them to think about all these other ways It makes sense to them theologically, like that everybody is saved, or that Jesus didn't have to die for our sins. Or that being gay is an incredible gift to the world for people. So I think process theology offers that to a lot of people who still really firmly want to believe that God exists and that God loves them. I think you're hitting on something really important here. Because my personal approach to this is I don't care what people believe I care about how they treat their neighbor, I, I don't give a fuck, I don't care if people believe in Wood Elves, as long as the until the Wood Elves start telling them to not vaccinate their children. I do not care or, you know, God and all the various types of God from you know, classic theism to, you know, more of a Protestant Demiurge. Whatever it is, I don't care what it is, except in regards to how it motivates them to treat their neighbors. And, you know, I think I'm probably a unique non theist in that way. I call myself a non theist, not an atheist, because they mean the exact same thing technically. But I like to say a non theist as an atheist who isn't mad about it. A non theist as an atheist who isn't an asshole over it, there is a because of that, because I am so much more focused on orthopraxy than orthodoxy, I am more concerned with helping people be better Christians. I don't want you know, I'm not terribly, I'm not terribly invested in making atheists or non theists or Satanists. I want people of different faiths to become better members of that faith. Because I just think that's more practical, it like we don't have much time on this. I don't have much time on this planet. And the, the, the straights are so high, I mean, the we are in such a dire situation, globally, I'm not sure trying to change the majority of people away from their faith is a good investment of our time. I, I think that it's a much more practical use of my time to help people be a better version of whatever it is they are. And so, you know, whenever someone you know, whenever a Christian will come and tell me, you know, I want to believe that, that homosexuality is blessed by God. I just don't know how to get around the theology, I will help them with that. And I think that's me being a good satanist is to help them with that I and because then that, in turn means that they're less likely to abuse someone with their theology. So yeah, and you know, the hurdle of not believing in God, what you were just saying about needing to believe that God loves you really, really deeply yearning to believe that God loves you. That is something that is a need, that I still struggle to explain to my fellow atheists. That is a need that I still struggle to articulate. I still struggle to articulate just how deep that goes. And Gab, anyway, thus into the rant, do you have any? I don't know. What are your thoughts on that? Do you have? Do you have I have questions for you? Yes, please. You know, especially as a Satanist. I'm curious what kind of your thoughts are around process theology? From that perspective? I mean, you could have chosen any other religious tradition, or none at all. Right. So there was something about what Satanism articulates? I don't know if they would say it as like, the beliefs or however they would, yeah, we would say it as beliefs. Um,
Stephen Bradford Long 44:19 so are you asking me what what drew me to Satan in the first place? Like what what drew me to the path of Satan?
Mason Mennenga 44:25 Yeah. And based in based on that, whatever the sort of beliefs of that were, there must, you know, there must have been something that drew you to that. And based on that, there must be then some sort of, for lack of a better term, a systematic way of certain kinds of Satanism or whatever kind of Satanism that you're a part of, would articulate about what it believes that? I don't know. I'm curious what that is, and then maybe how that would maybe align with something like process theology? Absolutely. Anyway, I'm kind of two parts. That's a great that's a great question. So, you know, I think it's important to first define Satanism because Satanism is incredibly broad and that Satanism is nothing more than the religious Adoration of the symbol of Satan. And that's it. That is all right and so there that is very, very broad. So within that you have theistic Satanists. You have more of the esoteric occult crowd, you have more of, you know, the adolescent reactionary crowd, you have the atheistic expressions of Satanism, so it's very, very, very broad. And there are many different kinds of Satanism. And the school that I fall into is the Satanic Temple, which is the largest satanic religious organization. It's also fairly new. It was founded, I believe, in 2014 2014 2013. Different than the temple of Satan, Church of Satan. So, so the Church of Satan was founded by Anton LaVey, in the 1960s. And it is, you know, the Satanic Temple is obviously built on the shoulders of Anton LaVey. However, we make we take some very different approaches to various things. The Satanic Temple rejects social Darwinism and iron Randian iron Rand ism, the Church of Satan does, the Satanic Temple does, or Satanic Temple. The Church of Satan was very influenced by iron Rand and social Darwinism. Anton LaVey was kind of acting in reaction against the hippie movement. And as such, the religion that he pioneered has kind of a right wing reactionary streak to it. So there is a sort of a libertarian bent, there is a very libertarian, right wing reactionary streak to it. And you know, because of that, I just did a fantastic show with Elise Blythe, who's one of my fellow ministers in the temple. And the episode was all about, you know, learning from our history and embracing our history and kind of sorting through the good and the bad because the history of Satanism is very dark. It's very ugly. It's a very dark and there are a lot of very kind of bizarre figures in it, one of whom is Anton LaVey. And so Anton LaVey. Had, there would be no modern Satanism without Anton LaVey. He is He is the architect of what he is the one who gave birth to the modern satanic movement, even though there were forms of Satanism before him. But anyone who comes after Anton LaVey as a Satanist is riding on his shoulders in some way. However, Anton LaVey was also an incredibly problematic figure. I think he was kind of sexist. I think he was probably kind of homophobic. I think that he he had a very kind of conservative streak in him and he had enormous insight about a lot of things. So TST is an evolution it is a reformation of that it is a it is an updating of Martin Luther that show Yes, we Martin Luther that shit. It's a satanic reformation and it is an updating of Satanism into of, of, you know, there. There have been Satanists for a long time. And so TST is not the first one to do this. I mean, Satanists are, there are more satanist around than you might be led to think. But TST we have seven fundamental tenets. Which are one should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason. The struggle for justice is an ongoing, unnecessary 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 people are fallible. If you know Oh, the one about science. One should hold on let me look I'm suddenly blanking on the field you have to like memorize these in order to be a minister in the temple. Technically, no, you have to know all the history and all the all the for lack of better confirmation class here see, I know I'm getting I'm failing my confirmation class, as we speak. Believe should conform to one's best scientific understanding of the world when should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one's beliefs. People are fallible if one makes a mistake when should do one's best to rectify and resolve any harm that might have been caused. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility and action and thought the spirit of compassion, wisdom and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word. So those are that that's the moral code that guides everyone within the temple. That's it. So when it comes to what a TST satanist has the it's it's rude. How we interact with others, is presumably rooted in those seven tenets. So Satanism, though, is drawn from the middle, Tony and Satan, and from the long literary tradition that emerged from Milton of this valorizing of Satan, where, through through history in England and France, and Spain, and so on, progressive movements were often associated with Satan, because of John Milton, and you know, better to reign in Hell than to serve in heaven and kind of, you know, Satan is definitely the protagonist of Paradise Lost, whether John Milton intended that to be the case or not, but over time, anarchist and political theorists and far leftist and radicals and revolutionaries and feminists started looking at the figure of Satan and seeing him as an icon. And they started reinventing and valorizing Satan's from the mill Tony and myth, and, you know, as sort of reinventing him as the icon of the ultimate outsider, the unbowed will, who never bows to arbitrary authority, the eternal outsider who is Kant, who is always opposed to arbitrary authority. And so it's a myth, it is a literary icon, it's a myth around which my life orbits. And there are also for me, personally, there are very mystical elements, I consider myself a non theistic mystic, I think that there's great richness and depth that can be found in Satanism with with the occult, and so on and so forth. So, that is a not very short and concise answer to your question to that first part of the question. Um, so in terms of process theology, do you have any questions about that so far? Well, it, you know, based on what you kind of mentioned, especially around those seven guiding principles of the Temple of Satan, or Satanic Temple, there you go, is that I keep messing that up. Okay. Based on all of that, it really does seem to be aligned with process. Now, obviously, there probably isn't going to be that theistic part of the equation. However, the rest of the metaphysical conception of process really aligns really well with us. Now, I would imagine that they're, like the Satanic Temple doesn't have much more beyond in terms of its, for lack of a better term theology beyond these, these seven principles, but it does seem like what is here, though, with the seven really does align well with process. It's very individual. So Satan is, and this is one thing that has remained from Anton LaVey is that Satanism is extraordinarily individualistic. And also because it is an invented religion, which means, you know, instead of it being given to us by divine revelation, it's given to us because hey, we think it's cool. And we made it up. And we think all religion is made up. And that's fine. That's great. I think that all religion is made up. And so Satanism is made up as well. And I have no problem with that. But because of that, it is also incredibly individualistic. And so people within the temple, who I have met, and by the way, I need to clarify through this, I'm not a spokesperson for the temple. I am a minister. But that doesn't mean that I can, you know, speak on behalf of the Satanic Temple. But in my personal experience, the metaphysics of people within within Satanism, in general varies wildly. And so you know, I've met people who are more hard materialists. And then I've met people who have a, who just have, you know, all different kinds of metaphysics because the, the tenets themselves are written to be kind of Talmudic in that they're open to interpretation and the real life surrounding the tenets is the debate is the conversation. And so Malcolm and Lucien, the founders of the temple, they designed the tenets to be really open ended, so that the life As of the temple will be the dialogue so that there can be all of these tensions within Satanism within the community. And so I expect that there are people who will heat listening to this, I expect that there will be Satanists who will listen to this and just be like, this makes zero sense when it comes to process theology. And then there will be others who are like, yes, absolutely. That sounds great. So it's it's a very wide range, because people will interpret the tenets differently. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I will say, for the, for the former, who are unimpressed with process, he got out of the equation that it does seem like I'm looking at Adam right now, number five, believe should conform to one's best scientific understanding of the world. I will say, process theology has a long history of being involved with the scientific community. And let's just say that process theology is constantly changing. And process philosophy is constantly changing, based on what we're learning about the natural world. So
Stephen Bradford Long 56:04 that's amazing. That's fantastic. Tell me more about that. How has processed theology engaged with the scientific community?
Mason Mennenga 56:12 Yeah, like kind of what I mentioned before with Alfred North Whitehead, he was a mathematician and a physicist back in the 1920s. And he really utilized bait and you know, that was right around the time of Einstein. And we're starting to really get an understanding of the, the like, you know, out of atoms, and you know, the things of the world that we can't see under a microscope. And he was really studying those really closely. And based on what he was finding, he was kind of realizing that the way that the Western mind thinks about science just cannot quite adequately make sense of what we're learning about atoms and particles. And so what he did was based on again, his own, like scientific research, as a physicist, started developing a way to think about the world that actually made sense, given what he was finding about atoms and particles, and etc. So that was sort of the initial beginning of how process was always in conversation with science. Now, for example, one of the things that process for the most part process theologians are really close with is pan psychism,
Stephen Bradford Long 57:25 which is pan psychism. I interviewed Philip Goff.
Mason Mennenga 57:29 Oh, okay. So Philip, last year, it's like a huge person with he, he himself I don't think identifies as a process theologian, but he's very influential in process theology.
Stephen Bradford Long 57:39 So God, you should he's, he's really approachable. I mean, I don't know if he would, but I yeah, he's a he's a great guy.
Mason Mennenga 57:46 Yeah. So Phil golf. I mean, he knows science left and right. I mean, he really is basing a lot of what he's a lot of his work out of what we're learning in science, and in the natural world. And he's one of those people who kind of pushes the buttons in the scientific community, because he really thinks we have to really rethink the way that we even think about the scientific method, and just even our conceptions about cosmology and metaphysics in order to make sense of what we actually are learning about, obviously, in his case about consciousness. So yeah, process theology is always in conversation, kind of pushing the buttons of the scientific community. But however, it really does embrace what we're learning about the natural world and integrating that into its metaphysics and into its theology and into its philosophy. Yeah, you know, I, there was something that I like to call the atheist pole, where pole meaning P O L E, like the North Pole, and it's like, where it's like, you're so fucking atheist, that if you have candles in your house, then you're a theist. And you know, you believe in the supernatural, where it's like you, you're so ever, you are so fucking hardcore atheist. And you just lose your mind at the prospect of anything that say Philip Goff talks about or, or whatever. And, you know, I have a lot of people like that in my life, and I love them, and I respect them. And I actually learn a lot from them. And I think I need people like that around because I'm so very much not like that. And my non theism really is just, I don't understand why I should believe in something if I don't have sufficient evidence. And that's it. That is all it is. It is not a statement about whether there is or is not a god. It's not a statement about the nature of that God. It's not a statement about whether Christ was resurrected from the dead or not. It is simply I am not convinced. It doesn't mean that it didn't happen. It simply means I find the evidence unconvincing. And so to me It to me, it really is this radical wide openness where I feel like I am pretty much willing to believe just about anything. Maybe to a fault. I mean, maybe to like I feel like I'm, you know, there's all this shit about UFOs going on right now and I had Mick west on recently who's who's kind of a famous UFO skeptic. And I told him I was like, I'm actually willing to believe in Ultra Terrestrials from the future, you know, that it's us from the future kind of zooming around our skies, or that it's extra dimensional beings, I am actually totally willing to believe that. I just want evidence. That is it. And so I, I feel like there is a closed minded skepticism, which is a form of cynicism. And then there is what I believe is true skepticism, which is, in fact, the most radical kind of open mindedness one can have, which is, I'm willing to believe fucking anything. I just want sufficient reason to believe it. Well, the one thing I'll just maybe slightly push back on there is that what I have always appreciated about process and this kind of goes back to what we were talking a little bit about is that, in a lot of cases, what we would determine to be evidence is totally constructed by what we believe about the world. Oh, totally. It is that we believe about the world, how the cosmos work, how our metaphysics work, all of that is contingent on what we deem to be evidence, right? Absolutely. That, to me is also a really important piece that both of those conversations about not only what we're actually finding, in terms of evidence that's always constructed, and determined, or contingent, rather, on how we think even about the world. And so constantly being allowing both of those things to be fluid at once, is really important. And that's the one thing I really appreciate about process. It's one of the reasons why I really appreciate someone like Philip Goff, who's willing to say, you know, what, we actually need to rethink how we even understand the world, if we're going to actually find any of the evidence that he seems to indicate, at least, you know, from his side of things about consciousness that indicate the way he understands consciousness, and that there's a reason why others in the scientific community really push back against him. It's but it's because he understands that they he understands the world differently than they do. And he would push back that we actually have to rethink about the world before we can even really accept what we're actually finding about the natural world. And I think that's a really important piece to it. Is that how we even think about the world affects what we can even find in it. Yeah, and you know, what you were just saying about, what do we accept as evidence? How do we think about evidence, I think one of the most compelling little bits in his book, Galileo's error was where he proved where he demonstrated where Isaac Newton? No, it was, was it Isaac? No, it was Galileo determined that Aristotle was wrong simply by way of logic. And so without even going outside, without even going out and testing it, because Aristotle's view was that light objects would fall more slowly, heavier objects would fall more quickly. Galileo did a thought experiment. And he said, Okay, well, let's say that you have a brick tied to a feather, this is a logical contradiction. If so, if this is something that is that is innate to nature, then basically these two forces, one falling more more, you know, slowly, the other falling more heavily based on weight, that would be a contradiction, and would therefore cancel each other out, and therefore it cannot be true. And he was right. And he proved that logically without even going outside. Right. And so that that is a form of evidence, that is a form of reason that tells us something about the world. And so, you know, there's a lot of angsting often about what's what, you know, what we call derisively, scientism. And I think what people mean by that is basing assuming that science and scientific evidence is the only way of knowing truth or is the only way and, and I'm just like, No, of course not. I mean, of course it isn't. We we have philosophy, we have reason we have mathematics, we have language, we have poetry, we have all of We have all of these different domains of knowing. And so I am, I am not one of those atheists who, I don't honestly know many atheists who are like that, but I'm certainly not one of them. You know? Do you have any other questions for me regards to say, to know that at all that kind of answered it, I was just really curious about kind of what you thought about your process. I, it's to Satanism and you nailed it. I am very open. You know, I, it's something that I haven't read anything on. And I really need to read more about. And so this conversation is kind of like a primer for me. Because I have had absolutely no clue for people who are interested in learning more about process theology, by which I mean me, What books would you recommend? Well, there's so many, I mean, you're actually kind of already starting to dabble a little bit if you're reading someone like Philip Goff. But in terms of process theology, specifically, I would say that the best introduction out there, in terms of a book is a book called Introduction to process theology by Robert messily. It's a little dated, however, in it for somebody who is completely unfamiliar, not only with Christianity, but just theology in general, he does an incredible job of explaining what process theology is, in ways that would make sense to somebody who's totally unfamiliar with even something like theology. So I think that's a really good go to. I also always recommend somebody like Monica Coleman. So you know, after you kind of feel like you're getting a little bit more comfortable and more familiar with process theology, I recommend someone like Monica Coleman, she has a great book that really integrates the sort of Liberation and Justice aspects with process theology really well, she makes that very explicit in her work. So I really recommend her as well. Also, if you're kind of like, I don't know if I'm committed to reading a book about it, but I just want to maybe learn a little bit more
Stephen Bradford Long 1:06:56 about borates. Everyone I know they should read, they should all read, they should read,
Mason Mennenga 1:07:00 they should pay for all of that, you know, while while you're waiting for your book to arrive, and you're still getting an itch on process theology, there is a YouTube video by my good friend Kyle. If you just type in process theology, it should be the first hit on YouTube called what is process theology. That's the video. And I think it's about maybe less than 10 minutes, 889 minutes. And he does an incredible job of explaining process theology in eight to nine minutes. Obviously, there's much more to learn about process beyond the eight to nine minutes that he talks about it, but that's a really great quick primer as you're waiting for one of those books to arrive.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:07:38 That's amazing. Perfect. Well, this has been a lot of fun, and we should do this again.
Mason Mennenga 1:07:43 I would love to so that would be so great. Thank you so much for having me, Steven. It's my pleasure. Yeah, you're welcome back anytime. All right, well, that is it for this show. The music is by the jelly rocks and eleventy seven you can find them on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to music. This show is written and performed by me Steven Bradford long and is produced by Dante salmoni. As always Hail Satan. And thanks for listening