Podcasts/Sacred Tension-Speak of the Devil Interview 1 7790e
Speak_of_the_Devil_Interview_1_7790e SUMMARY KEYWORDS religion, tst, satanists, book, satanism, satanic temple, exorcism, people, satan, lucien greaves, ritual, tsp, symbol, stories, thought, groups, harvard, satanic, conversation, talk SPEAKERS Joseph Laycock, Stephen Bradford Long, Matt Langston
Matt Langston 00:00 You're listening to a rock candy podcast. Hey guys, my name is Matt Langston. I am a music producer, a mix engineer and an avid unicorn enthusiast and I would like to invite you over to my podcast 11 D live on eleventy life we get to talk to your favorite artists, producers and creators about what makes them tick. We take deep dives into where they get their juiciest inspirations from and how they keep from being cynical about all of it. We even get to pull back the curtain on my band eleventy seven and share some fun insider tips and tricks for our fellow bandmates and creators out there so be sure to check out eleventy life right here on the rock candy Podcast Network and wherever you get your favorite shows.
Stephen Bradford Long 01:14 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. In this episode, I speak once again with Joseph Laycock, author of Speak of the devil, how the Satanic Temple is changing the way we talk about religion. Joseph Laycock is a religious studies professor, he studies fringe religious movements. And in this episode, we talk about the cultural perception of the Satanic Temple how the Satanic Temple is changing our broader culture, how it's changing the way we understand religion and the way it is challenging the legal system to include minority religions. We also talk about how the Satanic Temple differs from pasta faria anism and how it is situated within the broader religious culture in America. But before we get to that, I have to thank my patrons. My patrons are my personal lords and saviors I really could not do this. Without them. podcasting and blogging is incredibly hard work. And I believe in what I'm doing, I believe in bringing it to you for free. But in order to do that, I have to have financial support. So for this week, I have to thank my latest patrons, Angie, Lyra. And Jen know, thank you so much. I truly could not do this without you. And if anyone is listening right now and wants to join their number, there is a link in the show notes or you can just go to patreon.com forward slash Steven Bradford long for $1 $3 $5 a month at the price of a coffee at Starbucks. You get extra content every single week, as well as access to me as a creator and access to the patron only channels on my Discord server. Now, the economy is on fire right now. And if you are struggling financially, don't worry, I completely understand. There are many other ways that you can support the show. One of the best ways is to just subscribe wherever you are listening whatever app you're on, just subscribe to it that tells our digital overlords that the show is worth recommending to others. And if you are on Apple podcasts, please leave a review reviews bolster the algorithm even more letting our algorithmic overlords know to share it with others. So for this episode, I will read so for this episode I will read Goddamnit my brain is just not working okay, so for this episode, I will read a five star review. I keep waiting for the one star reviews but they just haven't come yet but if I do get one I will read one of those as well. This review is from Gino Devereaux. I'm so sorry. I probably butchered your name. They say cream of the proverbial crop. Steven Bradford long is a once in a generation type of person somehow even though we have never met he has been the Guiding Light of My burgeoning Satanism and a friendly presence throughout quarantine. Stephen has been there at every step and turn answering questions I did not know I had and discussing topics I've never been able to discuss with anyone else sacred tension has been an enlightening and unfailing beacon as I have navigated the dissolution of my Catholicism and belief in God, my familial entanglement and my recent journey into the satanic community. Steven speaks to listeners rather Rather than talking at them, I find myself chortling or verbally responding during podcast episodes completely forgetting he and his guests are not actually in the room with me sacred tension is an irreverently reverence base which I absolutely Revere. I wish the very best to Steven and all the sacred tension guests. Hail, Satan. That is an incredibly kind and sweet review. I so appreciate it. Unbelievably kind words. And please, if you have a moment, do go write a review. It really really helps bring this show to more people. Also, I really have to thank my intern Dante, aka llama boy, he has been editing a great number of these shows now in fact, he is in the room with me while I'm recording this say hello Dante. There he is. So if you like what you're hearing on the show lately, a lot of that is Dante so special thanks to Dante. Also, most of the conversation for my show and blog take place on my Discord server. There will be a link in the show notes. I invite you to come join the conversation there. Let's take the conversation off of big bullshit social media like Twitter and Facebook. Let's get rid of that and move on to discord and other smaller platforms. Finally, I have to thank my sponsor, the satanic temple.tv. It is a streaming platform by and for satanist or the satanic adjacent, it features rituals. livestreams talk shows movie nights with the founder of the Satanic Temple Lucian, grieves in all kinds of feature length films and documentaries. It is a fantastic library for anyone interested in the occult, or new religious movements or ritual. And with my promo code, you get one month free. My promo code is sacred tension all caps, no space. Use that at checkout and you will get one month free. All right. Well, with all of that finally out of the way, I am delighted to bring you my conversation with Joseph Laycock. Joseph Laycock. Welcome back to the show.
Joseph Laycock 07:07 It's great to be back.
Stephen Bradford Long 07:08 So you wrote a fantastic book, which came out last year called Speak of the devil. Was it last year? Was it the end of 2019? I can't remember.
Joseph Laycock 07:18 Um, that was February 2020.
Stephen Bradford Long 07:21 Okay. Yes, that's right. Because I got it. I read it, I think shot you an email saying that I wanted to have you on the show again, to talk about it. And then the fucking Apocalypse broke out. And my life was just truly literally ruined for several months because I managed grocery store. So it was it was really bad, and completely forgot until 2021 that I had intended to have you on the show and that I really needed to follow up with you. Because your book Speak of the devil is really, really fantastic for people who might not know who you are. And what you do. Tell us some about that.
Joseph Laycock 07:59 I am an associate professor of religious studies at Texas State University. I am co editor for the Journal Nova religio, which covers new religious movements, which is, you know, any group that's been labeled a cult, basically by the media or popular culture, whether it's good or bad, falls under the purview of new religious movements. And I've written a number of books on kind of misunderstood religious subcultures. That's kind of my thing as a researcher.
Stephen Bradford Long 08:31 So what got you it? Well, to back up, Speak of the devil subtitle, how the Satanic Temple is changing the way we talk about religion. I'm a member of the Satanic Temple. I've been really involved mostly online, with that community for about three or four years now. So you as a religious scholar are kind of coming in to in this book to study the Satanic Temple and to kind of give a history of it. What got you interested in the Satanic Temple?
Joseph Laycock 09:03 I think like a lot of people I first learned about Satanic Temple when they offered to build a Baphomet statue for the state of Oklahoma. I think that was when a lot of people noticed that at the time, I was writing a lot for an online magazine called Religion Dispatches, and you know, they they loved everybody, all of the media left, right and center knows that this tag temple makes good copy. Even if people don't understand it, they will click on a headline that has a picture of a Baphomet statue or says satanist on it, or something like that. So initially, I wanted to just kind of find out is this Lucien Greaves guy serious about this? Is this like the pasta for Koreans, where it's some sort of elaborate, trolling campaign or something? And I'm also interested in the same sample because the First Amendment of the Constitution offers great freedoms to those things designated as a religion and restricts government is sociation with those things designated as a religion, it never defines what religion is. And I'm always trying to get my students to think more seriously about how much power has been invested in this extremely slippery concept. And I saw that Satanic Temple was a group that understood that I understood that this category of religion is loaded with all this political freights. So I interviewed Lucien Greaves for a story on that. And then my editor Religion Dispatches every time this tanks Apple did something kept saying, you know, go, go get the story, right, go go. Right. So you
Stephen Bradford Long 10:33 were you were on the TST beat that became your beat? In other words,
Joseph Laycock 10:39 exactly. And then you know, it got to be at the end of the year, he would we would do these, these urine review articles. And a couple years later, the editor would say, write a write a year and Satanism article, right, yeah. But eventually, after covering the Satanic Temple for years, I still kept encountering people, you know, who not only had no idea what it was, but but thought that they knew everything that there was to know about it and actually knew very little, and I call this ignorant familiarity. In the book, it's a term coined by David felt made. And so that frustrated me. So I wanted you to book for a number of reasons. One, I kept having students who wanted to research papers on the Satanic Temple. And there was basically no peer reviewed literature on this group, there are a couple of very long histories of Satanism. And this tank sample gets a page or two, at the very end of the book, I wanted to create a baseline for kind of the history of this group. And as I say, in the book, this is not the last word on the Satanic Temple. And you know, other people may, you know, view its origins and history in a slightly different way. But I wanted to begin that conversation. And then the third thing is I really wanted to show why I think the Satanic Temple matters. And it is because they are forcing the public and forcing the courts to really think about this question of what is a religion. And I think this is something that most Americans have never thought about, and to a certain extent, are kind of encouraged not to think about, there is a lot of power invested in making sure that no one thinks too hard about what a religion is, because that's going to privilege certain groups and disadvantage others.
Stephen Bradford Long 12:13 So I guess my follow up question with that actually, actually, to you as a religious scholar, do you one see TST as a quote unquote, real religion, and then to what makes a real religion? Like, do you have a definition of religion that you work from?
Joseph Laycock 12:33 Yeah, so religion is a second order category? And what I mean by that, well, first of all, it's a category of things. It's not a thing unto itself. And we're used to talking about religion as if it's something that exists out there in the world. But of course, it isn't. You can't practice you know, no religion in particular, there aren't churches of religion, right? There are Christian churches and mosques and so forth. So it's a category, it's not even that old a category. If you read, you know, accounts of the Crusades, the Crusaders don't say, this is a war of religion, they're practicing the wrong religion, they just say we fought the heathens, right? There's no, there's no idea that, you know, there's this overarching category and Christianity as a religion and Islam as a religion or heathenism. As religion, it's just, these people are not like us, and we have to go a fight them. So this word religion doesn't really appear until about the 16th century, when you have two things, you have Protestants and Catholics fighting each other for the first time in Europe. And there's a sort of a choice really, for the first time for many Europeans, between these two churches, and Europeans are going around the world and they're encountering other cultures. So that's where this, that's where this category begins. But even then, it hasn't always meant the same thing. So for example, in Christopher Columbus's diaries, he says, the people of the Americas have no religion. So he had that category, but he didn't recognize what they were doing is religion. So so this is all of us say religion is a made up concepts. So to some extent, one definition is as good as another as long as you are being honest about that, and you're being consistent and fair with that. So in the book, I argue that the Satanic Temple is as much a religion as anything else. Now, if you're defining religion by belief in supernatural beings, which is one of the oldest definitions in anthropology, it goes back to someone named Edie Tyler, then TSE isn't a religion, right? However, there are lots of things that we normally recognize as religions that don't believe in supernatural beings, or that's not real. It's just not what the religion is about. So there are many Jews who would say, you know, you can, you can be Jewish and not believe in God, right? It's about practice. It's about tradition. Or there are Buddhists who would say, you know, you can practice the Eightfold Path and become enlightened and you don't need to believe in God or somebody's would even say anything, right? Some Buddhists would say, This is a show me religion. So if we're not going to say that Buddha Islam isn't a real religion or certain forms of Judaism are not a real religion, we can't really say that TST is not a real religion. So in the in the book, I use a model called the four C's, which was developed by a scholar named Katherine Alba nessa and it's it's a little bit like the old you might be a redneck. You get together in a building, you know, once a week to talk about your values, you know, you might be a religion. But she has this checklist called the four C's. And these are code creed, community and Cultus. So code, our codes of behavior, create our beliefs. And I argue in the book that the seven tenants of this tank sample have both these things right. They say things like, If you offend people, you should apologize. Well, that's a code of behavior.
Stephen Bradford Long 15:50 And before we move on, just for people who might be new to this subject, let me quickly read the seven tenets just so people know what we're talking about. 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 as 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 and action and thought, the spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spur or spoken word do continue.
Joseph Laycock 16:49 So I think that if we're thinking in terms of codes of behavior, and creeds, we find both of those in the seven tenants. So things like if you make a mistake, you should try to rectify it. That's a code of behavior that's saying go and do this. On the other hand, you know, tenants about the pursuit of justice is ongoing. Well, I think you either believe that or you don't, right. I mean, if I were going to be, you know, kind of a nasty person and just say, I think Justice is nonsense. I think we should pursue injustice, prove to me that justice is is a worthwhile pursuit. But you can't really prove that scientifically. You just either accept it or you don't you
Stephen Bradford Long 17:26 can't put it under a microscope. Yeah, exactly. It's it's philosophical, and, and a matter of belief, it isn't something that you can empirically defend.
Joseph Laycock 17:36 That's right. And so there is, I think, a kind of transcendent ideal, they're not supernatural. But believing in something that kind of exists beyond what we can study, empirically. So that's two of the sees this hack Temple is a community. I think a lot of people don't understand that I think you only read, if you only read, you know, news articles about kind of these big provocations that this tank temple does. You might think, well, this group only meets online, and they only get together to troll people or make, you know, satanic Christmas displays and so forth. They don't understand that this tank, Temple chapters are, you know, having book clubs and barbecues and picnics and raising their children and so forth. And then the foresee is Cultus. And cultists simply means ritual, community ritual, and the sample does that as well. And they some of those rituals are public and and people are allowed to kind of know about them. But a lot of those rituals, of course, are done in private and the public is not invited. So if you have those four things, Katherine, Vanessa would say that's as much a religion as anything else. And I think that's the best way to understand what is religious about the Satanic Temple. And of course, the IRS has given the same example the status of a church for tax purposes.
Stephen Bradford Long 18:56 So is there a sense here in which a lot of things could be categorized as religion that maybe Western American culture wouldn't accept? Like, you know, I don't know I think of like to bring up a really toxic cold Nexium, for example, that was like a self help business oriented thing, but it also had the four C's and as part of the conversation around TST, actually about expanding or widening our definition of religion, our understanding what can and can't qualify as a religion like maybe our scope of what religion even is, is far too narrow, and kind of our Protestant, Christian West.
Joseph Laycock 19:42 Yeah, so religion is it's a category it's a box your definition of religion affects basically how big the boxes and what can go in the box. So if your definition is broad enough, then pretty much literally anything can be a religion.
Stephen Bradford Long 19:56 Yeah, exactly. So So at what point does it become too broad it Like, like, at what point does the does the definition become so broad that it includes, you know, football fans? Well, and
Joseph Laycock 20:07 a lot of there, there are lots of people in religious studies who would say flip American football is a religion. Right? And yeah, it serves many of the functions of religion, as far as ritual is having tribal totems, this Yeah, exactly well, and so forth. But your critique is well taken. And there was an article by a scholar named Kevin show, Brock called, well, what isn't a religion and it was making exactly that point, you know, it say, you know, my homeowner's association won't let me put a pink flamingo on my lawn. Well, that's a shared set of code. So is the homeowners association, religion. And this is a real problem for people who purport to study religion, and it's not a problem that has been solved. So there are kind of two main strategies for defining religion. One is the substantive definition, which is, which is basically religion is about belief in God or belief in the supernatural. And that tends to exclude too much. And then the other main approach is functional definitions of let's look at what religion actually does. And functional approaches tend to include too much, right? And so I think most scholars would say, you know, you need to think about what you're trying to do. When you think of a definition, you need a definition that makes sense for that particular task. So the conversation that TST wants to have is, what kinds of institutions need to be separated from the government's and then what kinds of institutions deserve special protections, you know, under the First Amendment, so they're really, really asking us to rethink, does the First Amendment really mean that you get special rights and privileges if you believe in something for which there is no proof? Because if you're if you're saying religion isn't only about the supernatural, that's kind of what you're saying, right? It's only if you have no evidence for what you're talking about. Do you get these special bonuses from the government so TSE has kind of forced people to think is that is that really what you think this This ought to mean? Is that really the best way of thinking about what religion is or what religious freedom means,
Stephen Bradford Long 22:06 and with, you know, with, with religion being given kind of an elevated position in America than for, say, non theists or people who don't believe in some kind of supernatural, or they will fully relegating themselves to kind of a second class status or a status with less autonomy and power by not taking on the term of religion and I CTS T kind of tackling that as well, where I've seen the I've seen some people in TST kind of push back against giving, just giving that that privilege of religion just to people who they see as believing irrational things.
Joseph Laycock 22:49 That's That's right. And there's there are similar movements who have just said well, or movements who may provocation similar to TSDS, who actually say, I don't think that there really should be religious freedom, I don't think that there should be accommodations for religions. An example of that there was this case in Austria with a pasta foreign write someone into the Flying Spaghetti Monster phenomenon. And he was upset that you cannot wear a head covering a hat when you take your driver's license photo unless you have a religious exemption. So Muslim women, for example, can wear their hijab, at the DMV. And he felt that this was not fair that everyone should fall under the same rules. And so he said, I have to wear a pasta strainer on my head because I'm a pasta foreign and my driver's license photo. And if you read his journal on this, he was pretty clear that my end goal here is not to take a picture with a positive trainer in my head. My end goal is to create a situation where making accommodations to different religions is untenable, right? Because there's too many demands and so we just won't do them anymore. TST is not doing that. And I you know, Lucien Greaves has has stated that he thinks that there should be some form of accommodations based on sincerely held religious beliefs. And I think he means that but, you know, there was a very famous essay by a scholar named JC Smith about the Supreme Court. And what he said was basically, you know, the Supreme Court doesn't have a definition of religion, but their prototype of a religion is a Protestant Church and the more that you resemble a Protestant Church, the more likely you are to get the special rights and privileges and conversely the less you resemble one the less likely you are to to be granted those things and this is a problem and so I find TSD interesting because they are kind of forcing our legal system to think about that a bit a bit harder.
Stephen Bradford Long 24:31 Yeah, definitely. And just because you brought it up pasta foreign ism versus the Satanic Temple in what so I hear this comparison all the time where people who and I don't, I'm not offended at it, because you know it judging by the coverage that TST gets, it's a comparison that makes sense. Why do you so in your book, I think you have a section where you compare TSD to Pastafarian ism and why aren't they similar? How are they similar? And how aren't they similar?
Joseph Laycock 25:02 Right? So I mean, one thing I just want to be clear about is the study of religion is mostly just comparing different things to each other and seeing what shakes out. And if this is your religion that I'm I'm working on, you don't want to be compared to anything. Right? Right, you want to be compared to some other group. And I want to be really clear that there's a difference between comparing and looking for similarities and differences and equating, alright, so by setting up that comparison, I am not saying that these two groups are doing the same thing. I think that you know, pasta friend has been called a satire, religion. Yeah. And of course, it was created for challenging this ruling about intelligent design, I believe in the state of Kansas, right. And the Kansas School Board said, Well, half a biology class will be for evolution, and half will be for intelligent design. And again, it was a move to kind of try to make that untenable. So this is Bobby Henderson, as the founder, says, Well, I believe the world was created by a spaghetti monster. So biology class should be 1/3, intelligent design, 1/3, spaghetti monster ism, and 1/3 logical deductions based on observable phenomena. That was kind of his point, the New York Times published it, and it got really big. So I think again, he was he was similar to TSC, and that he was trying to force a comparison, right, and trying to really get people to think about, you know, is what you're doing anything any less silly, or any more worthy of special treatment than this myth? I made up about a Flying Spaghetti Monster, where I think it's different is, you know, I don't see a lot of evidence that the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the pasta Floridians actually believe any of this stuff, right? And I'll have students do papers on that. And I will caution them if they are start saying, well, they believe that the world was created by a spaghetti monster. Well, they don't believe that. Right? Or, I don't believe that they believe that right? Whereas the Satanic Temple, they pretty much say what they believe, and they believe what they say. So so it's quite different, right? I mean, I think that of course, the most members of TSE don't believe in the supernatural or in a little or in a literal Satan, but they would say, you know, the story of the kind of the middle Tony in Satan is an inspiring story. It is a story that should be taken seriously, but not literally. Whereas the pasta foreign myth is intentionally ridiculous. It's intentionally silly. And that's a that's a pretty important difference if you're trying to think about what these two groups are all about.
Stephen Bradford Long 27:36 Yeah, I've always booked against the comparison and nothing against the flying spaghetti monster like nothing against pasta faria and like I think that they serve kind of a really important place and are really interesting and do good things. And so this isn't me bashing them at all. But I've always really kind of struggled and resented the comparison because the number of people who come to me and say, Oh, you're just like a pasta faria and I'm like, No, there is nothing. There is truly nothing ironic or satirical about my Satanism. I don't see it as ironic at all. I don't see it as satirical at all this is this goes deep, you know, like this, that I'm a Satanist. Even if even if I'm at home, playing video games with my cats like that. That doesn't change. And that's one of those things that just comes up all the time. And I don't know just listening to talk. One of the things that I'm curious about your perspective as, as an outsider who Cavorts with Satanists on a regular basis, why has TST been so successful? And furthering this public discourse? Why? What is it about TST that makes it so sticky as a topic of conversation? And of course, part of it is Baphomet. You know, of course, like that says that that statue is just looks beautiful, and it's great to plaster on magazines, like that's part of it, Satanism catches the eye, but I feel like there have been a lot of humanist groups who had an atheist groups who have tried to do things similar to TSP, have, you know, opening up a conversation about freedom of religion, freedom from religion, what is religion, you know, just all of that stuff, but I feel like TST is succeeding in a way that they haven't. And I can't give any specific examples of that right now. But it's just, it's just my intuition. Do you think that's true? And if so, why? What is it about tst?
Joseph Laycock 29:40 Well, I think there's a there's a couple different reasons. I mean, one that you mentioned is TST does have style. I think that's something that's a minor reason but you know, Lucien Greaves and you know, Jex Blackmore, before she left TSP, they had this kind of rock star quality. Yeah, and I meet people all the time, who only know a little bit about tsp but they're like, Oh, they're just so cool. I wouldn't be like those people or if you watched the CNN bit where Jack Blackmore is riding her motorcycle through Detroit's, you know, Richard Dawkins can't ride a motorcycle through Detroit's and inspire people through
Stephen Bradford Long 30:16 I would not be, I would not be inspired by that.
Joseph Laycock 30:21 So that's one thing. The second thing is, you know, the millennials are famously drifting away from traditional religion. sociologists call this the rise of the nuns, the n o n e, people who have no religion, and tsp is the kind of thing that can fill that gap for some of them. So for example, if they want a community, but they feel alienated from maybe the values of the Christian church that they grew up in, or I think for a lot of millennials would just say, I don't believe in God, and I can't keep going to this church. I like maybe I like the church, but I don't believe in God. And I don't feel like this is this is tenable. But I think the most important reason I talked about this in the book is there is you know, Steve prothro, who was my teacher at Boston University, has a kind of theory of history or theory of the history of culture wars in America, where the the right strikes out and the left Strikes Back. And I think that's one of the factors of the era of Trump, which we're at least closing one chapter of the era of Trump now by think a lot of people voted for Trump and started getting on this alt right bandwagon, in part because America's demographics are changing, we're very rapidly changing from a predominantly white Christian country, to a much more diverse ethnically and religiously country. And some people don't like that. And I think that that led to the rise of Trump. But it also led to trying to make trying to give Christianity the same level of power it had using the government's right, so all these 10 commandments, monuments, there weren't 10 commandments, monuments in the 50s. Right. There's this kind of imagined, you know, when people say Make America Great Again, I don't know what period they're talking about when they were trying to get back to, but this is all new, you know, the state of Mississippi couple years ago made the Bible their official book of the state. Well, why does the government need to enact new laws to make Christianity accepted in Mississippi? Right, what I mean? So so it's they're only doing this because they suddenly feel like, wait a second, what if there's other groups out there that are not Christian, that actually are real Americans? Right? So there's, there's always a fight about who's a real American. So I see TST as being a response to that kind of movement in response to 10 commandments, monuments going up putting intelligent design in schools. I think it's very telling that the day after Trump won the election in 2016, the same sample reported just being inundated with donations and with people saying I want to join tsp. How can I help? There was a very famous article that made the rounds after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died from an attorney saying that said, I'm joining TST now.
Stephen Bradford Long 33:12 Yes. I saw that. Yeah, yeah.
Joseph Laycock 33:15 And so I think that you know, that we are in this culture war, and I think some people are sort of looking for, you know, the the arsenal to wage this culture war or to push back against a culture war, and they see TST providing that
Stephen Bradford Long 33:30 I also just have to say, Rise of the nuns sounds like a badass John Carpenter movie. Like nuns with machine guns. That's what I'm picturing in like a desolate city hellscape as a backdrop, anyway, is there also the possibility? I don't know the way So what drew me to TST. And this is something that I've been thinking about and that I would like to get your perspective on. What drew me to TST was primarily the religious aspect, where it's like, I was a non theist, but I I perceived myself as a deep yearning as having a deep yearning for religion. And so you know, it's like, well, past my conversion, I was still going to or well past my deconversion, my deconstruction of faith, I was still going to an Episcopal church, I was still, you know, praying the Book of Common Prayer, even though I didn't believe it. But just because I felt like it provided me a scaffold, that was really helpful for me. But then I started to feel you know, little by little as I was, you know, praying The Daily Office and the Book of Common Prayer, I started to feel more and more unglued from it. As time went on, where it's like, little by little, those words stopped having that big significance to me, the prayers stopped, meaning what they used to, and that's when I really transitioned to TST because I saw TST providing symbol and structure in a way that Uh, say progressive humanism just didn't, or just garden variety atheism didn't. And I've been thinking about this a lot. And I think a lot of it just comes down to religion is just fun, like not not fun in a, I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but truly just fun as in fulfilling it. It has symbol it has color, it has community, it has a language, it has rituals, that gives us ways to embody ourselves. And I wonder part of me wonders if one of the ways in which TST has succeeded, where maybe other humanist groups have been less successful is that there's symbol it has symbol, it has ritual. And that's what drew me to it. And is there a sense in which you know, millennials and Zoomers and so on who are being disaffected from religion, they might still have that deep. Some not everyone, of course, but people like me have that deep need for kind of embodiment and symbol, but couldn't find it in a theistic place and couldn't find it in the in a humanist space. And so they go to something like tsp or witchcraft or paganism. Does that make sense?
Joseph Laycock 36:18 Yeah, it does. And, of course, in religious studies, you know, a lot of scholars believe that humans are basically hardwired for religion, right, that we need, you know, I had this old professor of the sociology of religion, he would, he would always talk about beavers, right? And he would say, beavers are born just knowing what to do, you know, you get a baby Beaver and give it a piece of wood, it just starts making a dam. The humans aren't like that. We humans need something to tell us what to do, right? Or what what the point of all this is, whether you're religious or not, we need some kind of order. Because we're not we're not born with order, it has to be given to us. And traditionally, those those things we call religion have kind of provided that order. And that includes things like a shared set of symbols and traditions and myths, myths, not in the sense of intellectual propositions that we think are true, like the Earth is 6000 years old, but myths in terms of stories that inspire us, right that shape our values and help us to kind of locate ourselves in the world. And so Lucien Greaves has been pretty clear from the beginning, that TST is is is does not believe in the supernatural, they do not hold things like demons and angels to be intellectual propositions to be proved or disproved, but that people need stories and myths and rituals, and that they have found a way to to provide that he has a really great essay and an intro to the reprint of the Clive Barker novella, Lord of illusions.
Stephen Bradford Long 37:52 And everyone needs to read Clive Barker, by the way, he's my favorite author.
Joseph Laycock 37:56 Yeah, but So Lord of illusions is about this magician who has a pact with with demons and can actually do magic. But to kind of spite the demons, he's doing real magic and telling everybody it's an illusion. And it's illusion. Greed is kind of riffs on this, and you should just read the essay, because I can't really summarize it as well, but basically saying, you know, we are creating these intense emotions and things through through ritual. And in religious studies, we would call that collective effervescence, this kind of unique feeling that people get during intense religious ceremonies. But instead of lying to people and saying, that's the Holy Spirit, right, or, or, you know, we've called up the ancestors, and they're walking among us or whatever, we just are honest. And we tell them, that's you, you created that you all did when you came here, and you, you did this together. And so I think that increasingly, this is probably what religion is going to look like, you know, there's a new area of research opening up on what's called invented religions. So these are these are religions like TST that are not purported to be the product of revelation like God spoke to me or ancient tradition, like this is a secrets kind of Wiccan ritual that predates Christianity, but just, I made this up, you know, if I made this thing up, if you think it's cool, and you want to be on with me, come along, and that kind of honestly didn't work in previous times for starting a new religion. But But now it seems like that's a viable way to do it. So what TSP is doing now, it couldn't become more and more normal looking. Yeah, as things move forward.
Stephen Bradford Long 39:36 Yeah. I think you're probably right about that. And, you know, I, whenever I talk to Christians, for example, about tsp, I always try to talk about that and invented religions and so on and so forth and how that is a and yet how it is still deeply authentic for us and and not satirical. not ironic. And they just find that like, deeply offensive, they find the idea of invented religions, just deeply and deeply offensive and kind of eye roll. But the way I describe it to people, the way I described it on a previous podcast with John Stein guard was I, you know, when, when someone has a deep, profound religious experience, you know, if, say, someone is an evangelical Christian, and they believe they talk to God, and they can have, you know, really profound, transformative and emotional experiences, I believe that those experiences are real, I just don't know if the, if the source of what they believe the source to be, is real. And I believe that I can also have that experience, even though I don't believe it. And that's exactly the way it is for me within tsp as a Satanist, where it's like, I believe that I have just as much access to for lack of a better term, mystical experience, as someone who believes in the supernatural, because I think mystical experience is kind of a universal thing. I think it's just something that's kind of hardwired into the human brain. And, you know, maybe that differs from person to person. And maybe there are some people who are more hardwired for it, maybe there's some people who are less, I don't know, that's kind of my pet theory right now. But for me, I feel like I can still access that religious ecstatic experience, even without believing it's literally true. And that that to me, and so invented religion is not derogatory. It's just honesty. It's just an honest statement that, that I'm that I'm part of this made up thing, that it is real, but not true. Does that make sense?
Joseph Laycock 41:55 Yeah, you know, I have my students read the book, the varieties of religious experience by William James, who was a psychologist in the 19th century. And James is most interested in religious experiences. And it's a great book, if you want to kind of theorize experiences, right. And so some of the things that I want my students to take away from that is one of the things James says is, our normal waking consciousness is only one special type out of many different types of consciousness. Right? Yeah. And of course, you know, if you have college students who are, you know, doing mescaline or something that's, that's very interesting to them. But it also is kind of a reminder of, you know, people people do have weird experiences. Sometimes it doesn't mean that they're all mentally ill or that there's, there's something sort of unique and supernatural happening to them. And James also tries to keep the emphasis on let's just interpret this experience of what it means for the people who had it. And let's, let's get rid of or and we'll just say as we would say, bracket out whether this is caused by their neurons misfiring for some reason, or some kind of supernatural intervention. And let's just study the experience for what it is.
Stephen Bradford Long 43:07 So I'm, I have your book right here. And I'm shuffling through it, because honestly, I did not have the time to take as many rigorous notes for this episode as I normally do. Because I'm now on the TST ordination Council. And the devil's work is lots of zoom calls. And so I like been doing zoom calls, and I've not had time today. But there's one particular section of your book that I found really, really interesting about Paulo, how do you say this Paulo? My Bombay, yeah, Paulo, my ombre? Yeah, Paloma Bombay. And this kind of gets to pushing or expanding our understanding of religion, or what is acceptable in discourse about religion. And I just found this incredibly fascinating how you talk about how in your book about how you were studying Paloma Bombay, and you're learning more about it. And then you were at a pluralism event at Harvard, and how you just had this deep seated feeling that all although people there would never deny that Paloma Bombay was not people there would not deny that Paulo Mumbai was a real religion. You couldn't imagine a representative of Paloma Bombay kind of being on this tolerant, pluralistic panel about interfaith dialogue. Could you talk some about that? Because I just found that whole section fascinating and how does that relate to TST?
Joseph Laycock 44:39 Yeah, so Well, I relate to TST because, you know, tst, in my opinion, gave the ultimate test of how you know, tolerance and pluralistic Harvard is by trying to hold a black mass there. Yes, as far as I'm concerned, Harvard flunked their test. Yeah, I agree. With the Accept One of one Jesuit priest named Francis X Clooney, who actually tried to understand what this was. Nobody was interested in figuring out what it was or really thinking about their theory of pluralism or free speech, it was just well, these people are satanists. So this is obviously, some performance of hate. But I'm a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, I received a master of theological studies there. It's traditionally a Unitarian school. So there's still a lot of people there training for the Unitarian ministry. And so it's stereotyped as being very, very liberal, very kind of inclusive. Some other graduate programs in religion would say, not super rigorous, as far as theory and things like that. But you know, of course, I was involved with a project out of Harvard Green School called the pluralism project. So pluralism was something everybody talked about. And yet there was this sense of pluralism just meant, don't be mean to people on purpose. You know, I don't I don't think all Muslims are terrorists. So I'm a pluralist. Right? I don't think Buddha's are going to hell. So I'm, I'm a pluralist. And, you know, and so we were just sort of patting ourselves on the back. And I think that actually coexisting with people who truly do not see the world the way you do, and never will, is a lot harder than a lot of my fellow graduate students thought that it was. So I took a class called Afro Atlantic religions with Lauren matory. And he was talking about Panama, Bombay, and I, again, I don't claim to be an expert on on Panama Jambi. I'm sure there's their listeners who are practitioners, you I don't mean to speak for you, you know more about this than I do. But he would talk about, you know, practitioners of this religion living in, you know, low income neighborhoods in Boston, and they would have these cold rooms with dead animals in them and things like this, and spirits that they would summon, or basically send on missions, and things like this. And I just thought, you know, if if these people at Harvard knew anything about this religion, they wouldn't be able to stomach it. Right? I mean, this goes against all of their unstated ideas that they'll never just openly say about, well, when I say something is a religion, I mean, you know, the following things. And so there has recently been some work, I have a long quote in the book from Robert Orci, who I met at Harvard, to try to tease out what people mean when they say true religion, or they say spirituality. And so apparently, it doesn't, doesn't meet any of those things. And of course, the Palmer doesn't care probably doesn't want to go to Harvard and be in some interfaith ceremony or some like that. But when TST actually tried to do this kind of to kind of come in from out of the cold. Not only did Harvard sort of not think that TST was worth including, but they didn't think about it at all. Yeah, in fact, reading statements from the Diocese of Boston, they were literally encouraging people not to think about it right. They were literally saying things like, Do not let Satanists tell you what a black mass is. Yeah, right. Because they don't they don't know what a black mass is. I the Bishop of Boston know what I did, right? Yeah. And it's and Lucien Greaves pointed this out. But it's deeply ironic that, you know, when Catholics arrive in this country, they were seen as unAmerican and papyrus and superstitious and it was only because of the idea of freedom of religion, that Catholics were able to establish a presence in cities like Boston, you know, the Puritans hated Catholics, right? founded a Boston. So to me, I saw these these Catholics just kind of pulling the ladder up behind them in a real way, right? There was a very famous or, well, I made a lot of impact on me that it's a Catholic student wrote an article in the Harvard Crimson basically saying, I don't believe in freedom of religion anymore. If this means the satanists can have a black mass, and I just thought it that's how easily you're going to throw away freedom of religion. Now, this is a reenactment of a black mass by the Cultural Studies Group in the Harvard Extension club, you got throw away a foundational part of the First Amendment over that. Yeah. So sad.
Stephen Bradford Long 49:36 Yeah. No, I so appreciate everything you're saying. Because on the one hand, I've seen exactly what you're talking about how easy it seems for people where it's like the moment the moment a little bit of a little bit of religious diversity pressure is applied. It just they just collapse and come to forfeit these foundational principles of Western democracy, like these foundational proven principles of civilization, to help keep, you know, a cosmopolitan society running just how readily they throw them away. And I've always been stunned by that, like, I've read articles from, you know, Fox and charisma, and just on and on all of these places of people saying, well, because this religious expression is too far, I no longer support religious freedom, if this is what religious freedom means, then I can't support it. And then on the more liberal side. And, by the way, these are not comparisons at all, I think one is definitely much scarier and more toxic than the other. So these these are not comparisons, but in my experience within kind of the more progressive Christian liberal setting. I've I always got this sense that the perception was of these very pleasant of interfaith dialogue and inter religious dialogue and plurality just being these very edifying, and profound and pleasant conversations between like Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama. And you know what I'm saying, you know, just like these priests, and these Buddhist monks sitting around in robes and having a, a productive and illuminating conversation about religion. And that's just not the way it is. A lot of the time, it's like, inter religious dialogue is hard. It is, it can be brutal, because it really does mean fundamentally clashing worldviews sometimes like it sometimes means. worldviews that have nothing, almost nothing to do with each other sometimes. And, and yeah, so I just so appreciated that section in your book about that, because it resonated with my own experience in progressive Christian settings, where there's all this talk about plurality, but then there were there would be all of these religious expressions that were just too spooky for them. And that was never kind of that was never publicly acknowledged, or consciously acknowledged. You talk some in the book about, I think I'm gonna get the terminology wrong, but first order and second order religions. Am I getting that right? Kind of the first choice? Yeah, yeah. Or it's like, there's there are the or the world religions model? Where? Yes,
Joseph Laycock 52:40 yeah, yeah. So you know, there was a famous events in Chicago in 1883, called the world Parliament of Religions. And they were very certain when they when they organize this, that there's 10 religions in the world, that's how many religions there are, like rang a church bell, like 10 times and stuff like this. And it was very interesting to see which, you know, traditions got chosen as among the time. And basically, it was, you know, if you had a big population, especially a population that was an economic and military power. So for example, Shinto was one of the 10, right? Because Japan had begun to have a real a real modern military by by the end of the 19th century. And if you had a big book, right, that you could send to some translator in in Germany, but no, you know, Native American religions were represented No. indigenous religions of Asia or Africa were represented. They certainly knew about the Mormons in 1893, the Mormons were not invited to this. So so there were all these groups that they knew existed, and they knew were like religions, right? But they just said, no, no, it's this 10. Right. And we're super inclusive, because we have the 10. So some scholars have said, you know, there seems to be a two tiered model of religion, right? So if you were kind of like Christianity and important ways, and if you're so old, and so big, that kind of, you're not going anywhere, we can't just sort of imagine you'll just go away. Then you get to be a world religion, and you're in the top tier, everything else, you know, Scientology. You know, Jehovah's Witnesses, all the stuff that I study that goes in the bottom tier, and traditionally Satan has kind of Satanism has kind of represented the very bottom. Yes, of the bottom tier, right? There was a great essay saying, you know, the pluralism project has these directories of religious communities of different religions throughout the country, which is a great resource and a lot of ways, but there's no listings for Satanism. Right. Satanists don't get listed in the pluralism project. directory.
Stephen Bradford Long 54:55 Is that still the case? By the way, just out of curiosity,
Joseph Laycock 54:58 I believe it is I mean, in fairness, before TSP, there weren't a lot of like, you know, brick and mortar buildings associated with with Satanism that had an address or something and just had this horrible arson in Poughkeepsie, New York. So maybe those shouldn't be listed on a website, somewhere.
Stephen Bradford Long 55:17 And they're also just also incredibly unpleasant, as well.
Joseph Laycock 55:24 Exactly. But it's true that I've met lots of people who consider themselves very, you know, very pluralistic and very tolerant, and so forth. And if I even mentioned this tan example, they get genuinely afraid, you know, the, especially if I tell them well, it's not a joke. They're actually they're kind of serious about about Satan, right? As a figure, they get really afraid. And, you know, that's partly by design, you know, Malcolm Jerry latched on to Satan, because it is such a powerful lever. In our culture. It's such a powerful symbol. But you're that I think that this is never people don't know that they think these ways, you know, this is like, the deep structure of how their brains work around things like religion. And it's very hard to get them to actually look at this and kind of see their own unstated assumptions about so called good religion and bad religion.
Stephen Bradford Long 56:21 It's just, that's really funny. Because I've told my studio assistant at the podcast network, when she sends out emails to get guests for my show, especially really high profile guests to really lean into the Satan, like sacred tension is a Satanic podcast and has a large audience within the Satanic Temple community. And nine times out of 10, it gets people because people want to come on, because they're so curious about it. And most of the time, we'll do the interview. And then once I stopped recording, they'll suddenly pivot to Satan and be like, so what, what is this, like, so I'm using it as like a hook now, to get high profile guests. Because it is very, it is a powerful symbol, it gets people It makes them very curious or it terrifies them, like you were just describing. And to kind of recap what I was just hearing you say, there's kind of the top tier religions, and those are the quote unquote, world religions. And those are the ones those are like the Buddhists and the Muslims and the Christians, and so on and so forth. And they, they enjoy kind of this venerable status. But then there's this whole world of kind of Nether religions that aren't really recognized as having the same level of authority or religiousness as, as those first tier religions and tst. And Satanism as a whole is part of that. And so by by TST, kind of rising out of the out of the sewers, to kind of have a time in the sunlight, it's up ending, that that subconscious structure, that we have a first tier and second tier religions, and it's forcing people to consider all the myriad of ways people have religious expression that might not be recognized in the dominant narrative. Am I Am I hearing you right about that?
Joseph Laycock 58:33 That's, that's right. So that's, that's what I find so interesting about tsp is that they just sort of refuse to be put in this kind of sideshow. Yes, a category right there. They're just not having it. And so it's forcing people to question their assumptions. And so you find statements like, well, I don't believe in religious freedom anymore. Which again, to me sounds like thing you never did. Yeah, right. Talk Talk is cheap, or I find statements like, well, the Constitution when it says freedom of religion, it only means good religions, it doesn't mean evil religions. Right. So that's, that's an attempt to kind of drag that two tier model of religion into the First Amendment where of course, it's, it's meaningless, because good and evil religions are almost entirely subjective, right? I mean, you know, there are forms of religion that advocate terrorism, but barring that, lots of religions are perceived as evil by certain people. So that's kind of meaningless. Right?
Stephen Bradford Long 59:33 Right. And so a lot of that second tier, would you say a lot of those second tier religions would be perceived as either colts or dangerous in some way? Like, is that a feature of second tier religions?
Joseph Laycock 59:48 They're either perceived as dangerous or misguided, or, or people just simply don't even know that they exist. Right. And as they hear about them, they sort of blow it off. And the irony is, those are the groups that need constitutional protection. Yeah, so their practices? Yeah, exactly. You know, I mean, the irony is, is the moment a Christian is in a situation where they're saying, Well, I really need this as part of my religious belief, almost invariably, they are practicing some form of Christianity where people are like, Well, that sounds like a cult. Right? What? What is that? You know, you know, here in Texas, I teach the Branch Davidian tragedy, which I think is a classic example of that. There were Bible scholars who said I can I can reason with David Koresh, you just have to know your Bible better and talk about this interpretation. And the FBI chose to listen to psychologists who just said this, this guy is nuts, right? Just just do a dynamic entry with with with tanks and tear gas. And I think if if David Koresh had been the right kind of Christian, he would not have been viewed that way. And they would not have used the weaponry and the tactics that they did, but because of the kind of strangeness of the Branch Davidians it was put in this this the second tear.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:01:14 That's really interesting. Have What kind of shit Have you gotten? I mean, maybe I shouldn't assume that you've gotten shit. But I can imagine that you have as a religious scholar who has written a book on TST, like, what is your personal experience been? Like, kind of after you started studying Satanism?
Joseph Laycock 1:01:35 Yeah, in some ways, I'm kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Because I am at a public university. And the fact that I research Satanists that I brought members from the San Marcos chapter to talk to my students. And I was very clear, I said, you know, you are here so my students can study you, right? You're not here to to indoctrinate anybody. But I could have that lends itself to kind of this narrative of, you know, I'm teaching Cultural Marxism or I'm trying to destroy all that is good and wholesome in my students. But so far, nothing like that has happened. I have heard there sort of rumors somewhere online that I am a crypto Satanists for the record? And I don't know if that's because, you know, how could I say anything nice about Satanists, unless I was one, myself, or if there's other things like I think that like a lot of people, I think the art of TST is really interesting. And I do have some tsp art. In my home, just like my wife who studies Tibet has Tibetan art, of course, our home, right. So so that could be a factor. So far, it hasn't been too bad. I did a signing a book signing at BookPeople, which is the biggest independent bookstore in Austin. And I brought this cardboard cutout of the Baphomet statue, but to be behind me while I gave a talk. And the bookstore said, you know, here's your podium, and here's where we're going to set you up. And you know, you got about 30 minutes before you talk and you get a store discount if you want to browse a little bit so kind of wander around the store. And this guy pulls over employee and says what is that? Do you know that the devil is trying to imagine employee who would not recognize you know, the the Baphomet of inches? I don't know, you know, the author put it as what is that? Suing Harry's? I know Austin is a liberal city but but come on, and was just really filled with with with kind of horror, right again, it's that kind of deep gut horror that some people have of Satan or Satanism. And so I you know, the talk I said, I think this guy is gonna give the store really bad Yelp review tonight. A little extra merchandise or something to it to make up for this. But so far it's been okay. And now as of this fall, I actually have tenure here. Right. A little bit more freedom to do things like like Satanism. Beautiful, which I think is important and needs to be studied.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:04:23 Oh, as as a Satanist. I wholeheartedly agree. Is it? Is it bad form to ask a religious scholar if they have a religious practice?
Joseph Laycock 1:04:34 Yeah, you know, Robert Orci. He has a he has a book called between heaven and earth. And he says something in that book like anthropologists don't ever want to talk about the fact that they have sex with the people they study. And let's talk about the fact that they have a religion which I think is a really funny comparison. But it's you know, I am. I am Catholic. I tell people I'm Catholic, they immediately have a lot of assumptions depending on where they're coming from. Sure. We know although we know from surveys that most American Catholics disagree with, with the official church stance on a lot of things, but you know, I was I was my wife and I were married in the Catholic Church, and I had one conversation with a member from tst. Austin and he said, well, that's kind of weird. Like, why are you studying? Satanists? Like, are you even allowed to do that as a Catholic? And I said, Well, Catholics kind of made up Satanists, you know, back in the day, watching your kids grow up. That's topics in the 1500s hadn't made up all these nonsense stories about host desecrations. and stuff, you guys wouldn't be here right now. So
Stephen Bradford Long 1:05:45 that's brilliant. So now here you are tending on your children. Ca seeing how your religious children are doing? No, that's absolutely true. And I think it was Ruben van Lueck and children of Lucifer who talks about attribution versus identification and how the history of Satanism is like this gradual transfer from at of attribution of, you know, the Catholic Church in the 1500s, you know, coming up with these appalling stories to demonize any kind of theological enemy they had to then eventually people identifying as Satanists and taking on the identity.
Joseph Laycock 1:06:24 Yeah, and I have an article coming out in the journal contemporary religion, but I talk about the fight over the black mass and that the Diocese of Boston almost needed Satanists to be diabolically evil. Yeah, like it was fine if Satanists existed, but Satanists can't be nice to people. Because of Satanists are actually doing philanthropy and stuff like that. It's like it's an attack on their entire understanding of how the universe works. You know, and so, I do see tsp as doing this kind of, you know, Jujitsu move in terms of taking that thing that you define yourself in distinction to write and then turning it around in this really kind of radical way. And I'm interested in all the kinds of mental gymnastics that the opponents of TST have done to convince themselves well, that there can't be such a thing as a good Satanist. So either these people aren't really good, or they aren't really Satanists, or maybe somehow both, but they can't be what the evidence would seem to indicate that they
Stephen Bradford Long 1:07:30 are. I've seen so many variations of that, because I get that all the time, in my personal life, where people will ask me, So do you do like sacrifices? And it seems sincere? Like, these are people who know me, who either work with me or their friends or whatever. And it's like, it's almost like they're doing this interview to see if I'm actually evil or not. And some of them even seem kind of disappointed when I tell them that. No, I don't. It's it's like this breaking of the narrative of evil surrounding Satanism, and people almost seem disappointed people seem disappointed that I'm not evil. It's really bizarre. And it's a really, really funny experience that I just keep having.
Joseph Laycock 1:08:22 Yeah. And I mean, Francis X Clooney was was, he would answer my emails about the Harvard black mass, none of the other Catholic priests who spoke publicly about it would answer my emails. But one of the things he said was, you know, he said, I don't think that tht is deliberately being evil, he did not deny the possibility that there could be supernatural consequences to having a black mask, but he didn't seem too concerned about that. But he did say, you know, if you turn kind of spiritual evil into a joke, you kind of end up disenchanting the entire world, right? And then there's kind of we're in this sort of moral vacuum, right, good and evil at everything is just a big joke. It leads to nihilism. And I discussed this with, with Malcolm Jerry, and he, you know, took issue with that. And he said, No, I believe in justice, justice and compassion. Those are my transcendent values. I can make fun of devils and angels and gods and still have a moral cosmology. And that's what our critics don't really understand.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:09:21 That's really interesting, because kind of going back to my previous life in the Gay Christian world, back when I was advocating for LGBT inclusion within Christianity, and that's kind of how I first came onto the scene as a content creator back in 2012. One of the things that and I went through this whole process myself, where homosexuality was seen as it was almost like a sum. It was a symbol of uncreation or a symbol of evil. It's like it was written for a lot of conservative Christians. It was written into the universe into like the D DNA into the symbolic code of the universe, that homosexuality was fundamentally evil and against the will of God and kind of an act of uncreation. That was a term that I heard from some theological scholar that it's uncreation, unraveling kind of the core DNA. And if we allow gay marriage, or if we allow gay leaders in the church, then it would just it would cause it's like, you would be introducing like a gene mutation into the body and the whole, all of creation would just unravel or become distorted. And that's really kind of how they talked about it. I as I think about Satanism, and these conceptions of good and evil, and these conceptions of what evil is, and symbolically, you know, the symbol of Satan and the symbol of, and so on, it's, it's like, it's similar, it feels similar, where a lot of people seem to have this notion that to, to shift or recreate or reframe the symbol of Satan is in some way to just massively unravel the universe, and to introduce kind of these malignant mutations into the order of creation. And you know, it's almost like this Jordan Peterson kind of substrate of symbol, and it's always absolute, and it always means the same thing. And if we suddenly say that Satan can be a symbol of goodwill, then that somehow undermines everything. And I don't know, it's just something I've noticed. It's something that's really really interesting to me. I think I I became inoculated against that, through the homosexuality debates in the church that I went through. But it rhymes for me. It seems really similar to like the homosexuality debate within Christianity.
Joseph Laycock 1:11:52 Yeah, you know, I mentioned you know, this this argument that human beings are not like beavers, we don't, we don't. We're not We're not born with instructions for what we're supposed to be doing. We have to make it up somehow using culture. But But we, you know, sociologists like Peter burgers, very famous sociologist of religion and said, humans are always trying to convince themselves, that we're not the ones who made up all these rules. Yeah, this is not all just sort of arbitrary stuff that we've decided. Because to actually face the chaos of existence head on is terrifying for for most people. And so, we will, we will go to great lengths to convince ourselves this, this order of the world is the only order that there could ever be including making up stories about Satanists eating deities, or you know, demonic possession and stuff, if that will maintain the sense that this is the way things are and it can't ever be questioned and it couldn't possibly be a different way.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:12:53 So where do you see TST going? I'm going to ask you to be Nostradamus for a second and to make some predictions if you don't feel like you can that's totally fine. But what do you see in terms of the future for TST and kind of the broader conversation surrounding religion?
Joseph Laycock 1:13:12 So I mean, some people you know, if I if I see them, you know, religion conventions like so that TST thing you're on about, once a once Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jerry die, that's over, right. And this is this this is a big point of of theorizing in new religious movements is what happens when the founders of a new religion are removed from from the picture. Sometimes the movement goes on. Christianity is a great example of that, but sometimes it just sort of disbands and fizzles away. So I don't know what the future of TSE as an organization is going to be. I do think it has a lot more infrastructure than than when I first began studying it right. Of course, it has a National Council, it's working on ordination and has IRS status. So there's a lot more going on. What I definitely think will happen is we're going to see, you know, Satanism, for the last 40 years has been mostly defined by Anton LaVey. Right. And so I think that this is kind of the end of this LaVeyan Satanism being kind of the gold standard for Satanism Church of Satan is going to love hearing you say that. Well, you know, I mean, to be clear, I think we have a lot of enormous mark. I don't think that TASC would have been possible without I agree. I think that the vase, ideas of ritual as psychodrama are extremely important for you know, the way people like Lucien Greaves think about a ritual, but I think that historically sympathizing with the devil has been a progressive left wing phenomenon going back to the Romantics and I think that LaVey was a bit of an anomaly of that. I wonder if LaVey had not been doing this in San Francisco. Go in the 60s if he would not have been so conservative and some of the things that he said, Yeah, so I think I think we're gonna see a lot more kind of political left Satanism, I think we're gonna see a lot more politically engaged Satanism LaVey, just wasn't very interested in, in politics, or at least he wouldn't do anything to kind of advance some sort of political agenda. And whatever happens to TST as an organization, I think that we are now seeing this milieu of sort of politically left socially engaged satanic organizations. So I was working on my book in 2018, when there was kind of a shake up, and a lot of TST chapters broke away, you know, those those people didn't, who left TST whatever the reasons for leaving, didn't renounce Satanism, you know, if anything that got even more dedicated, right, but they said, I don't like the way that TSD was doing it, I want to keep doing it in my own way. And I'm going to form Crossroads assembly, or I'm going to form you know, all these other little organizations. So I think that those kinds of things are definitely still going to be around in the future.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:16:07 I also think that there's just been this massive cultural impact from Satanism were like, the number of satanic T shirts that I see is like, stunning, like the number of print satanic T shirts and just like satanic iconography from people who aren't self identified Satanists like it feels like Satan is having a moment it feels like in popular culture, Satan is, is now more present or more of a symbol. And I wonder how much of that is due to the influence of the Satanic Temple? Like, I wonder how much of that is due to the iconography kind of catching on in the broader culture? What do you think about that?
Joseph Laycock 1:16:53 Yeah, you know, I listened to another podcast called the last podcast on the left.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:16:59 I love them. They're my favorite podcast. Yeah.
Joseph Laycock 1:17:02 But you know, Henry is a broski is nominally a Satanist. In some sense, I'm not really sure what would say as a means to him. But he'll say all the time on the show. Hail Satan. Like, that's his sign off. And I have a poster he signed for me. And it just says Hail Satan on it. And I've, I've heard people call the show, and he'll ask them to say Hail Satan. And they'll they'll, they'll say it. And I think that, you know, I don't know what Hail Satan means anymore.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:17:26 Right? Yeah,
Joseph Laycock 1:17:27 it used to mean I think it basically used to mean, I am, I am not only sort of a metalhead, but I'm a true metalhead and you aren't. And I'm transgressive. And you should actually be a little bit afraid of me. And now I don't think it has any of that meaning at all. I think it means more, I think for myself, or I'm a little edgy, but I'm a nice person or I'm annoyed by certain things. So it's become kind of a, a marker of a totally different group of associations and affiliations. And I think that's likely to continue. My students at Texas State they all love the witch rates. And I see all of these, you know, memes about black Philip, and let's live deliciously, which I see is as a piece with all of this as well. So yeah, I think you're right, we are seeing a big shift in Satan's role in pop culture. And you know, maybe that's a restoration to the era before the Satanic Panic, you know, we always forget that before this tank panic in the 80s little children dresses, devils for Halloween, you know, it wasn't this like horribly scary thing that we were just dreading all the time. Satan was kind of a goofy guy in the 60s and 70s. So maybe this is kind of what we're seeing now is, in a sense, natural, right. And being terribly afraid that daycare providers were Satanists was sort of a historical anomaly is I hope that's true.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:18:57 Yeah. I hope that's true, too. And, you know, that's actually kind of reassuring that maybe we're getting to a state culturally where Satan might not be a big deal like that. That might actually be great. I don't know. Maybe it is actually pre at Satanic Panic. And like, the next Satanic Panic with Q anon is just going to explode onto the scene or something. But yeah. So before we wrap up, do you have a few more minutes? Do you have a bit more time? I wanted to give you some time to plug your book on demonology that just came out recently.
Joseph Laycock 1:19:33 Great. Yeah. So I did a book for Penguin Classics, which is very exciting for me because that's a book that you know, is an actual bookstores and is paperback and doesn't cost an arm and a leg to buy. Penguin Classics approached me? Because one of the things that I study is exorcism. And they did a whole series of basically readers of kind of classic texts and so they Did the penguin book of the undead the penguin book of witchcraft, the pink book of Hell, they asked me to do a penguin book of exorcisms and I agreed to do that. And of course, it's it's a lot easier to edit a reader than to write an original book but I wanted it the book to have some things that you couldn't find anywhere else, or, or that would be hard to find. So there are some kind of classic theological tax, you know, your Thomas Aquinas and things like that in there describing a possession. But there are also things like I had a hadith describing Hadith or stories about the Prophet Muhammad of Mohammed performing an exorcism. And I had a grad student translate that from the Arabic, I have court testimony from a murder trial in Sudan, where someone killed someone in the course of an exorcism and was trying to explain to a British judge, you know, what Jinn spirits are and why he should not be found? Guilty. So there's a lot of neat little things like that, that I was able to include. I tried to include things from different cultures. So there is a, an account of a an exorcism in Haiti by a voodoo priestess, there's an account of a Native American exorcism that happened in the 70s in the Northwest, and the last document, concerns an exorcism that was done in Indiana, and I think 2012 And it led to this whole media phenomenon if you Google like 200, demons house, or whatever.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:21:38 Oh, is that the is that the thing that the the ghost hunter bros? Did they make a movie about that? Yeah, Zach Baggins, Zach backends, made a really terrible movie about that. It's
Joseph Laycock 1:21:50 mostly night vision footage of him in this house at night yelling at nothing. And then he demolishes the house at the end, but I was able to contact the priest who did that exorcism. And he, you know, in the Catholic church do an exorcism, you have to write a letter to your bishop and get permission to do it. And that letter got leaked. And I said, you know, as someone who studies church history, I've never seen a letter like this before, I've known that they exist. And I can I publish this because this actually has real value for church history. And I thought he was gonna fight me on it or but he just says, Yeah, sure. published it. So I think that's, that's a really neat document to have as well. Just sort of getting to see the perspective of just kind of a generic sort of small town priests, trying to make sense of something like a house supposedly haunted by 200. Demons,
Stephen Bradford Long 1:22:43 what was what struck you is interesting about it, like what stood out to you in that document?
Joseph Laycock 1:22:48 Well, I think that, you know, first of all, it is a reminder that a lot of people who are doing exorcism are not like these sort of Bob Larson figures where they're trying to get rich and famous or something like that, I think he really believed that this was someone who needed his help. And that he had a duty as a as a priest to to help them the family was not Catholic, and he was genuinely freaked out, you see that and he's describing objects floating around the room and things and explaining all this to to the bishop. And also, he has this unusual theory. Because the police got involved. The police dug up the basement of the house, I guess they thought they would find a dead body or something. They didn't, but they found a bunch of just random to try this that you'd probably find anywhere if you dug underneath the house. And he the priest is kind of trying to put on his CSI hat and think of what might have happened here, right? And he's like, Well, we found candy wrappers. So maybe somebody was doing some kind of necromantic ritual, and they were eating these candy wrappers for energy. And really, yeah, he's making his whole story and you're like,
Stephen Bradford Long 1:23:55 that's what I do. That's what I do when I do necromantic. Magic. I have to eat candy bars.
Joseph Laycock 1:24:00 But then, you know, you think at the same time that he has no training in forensics or anything like that, you know, What's What's he supposed to do with the situation? Right? And he's so beyond right? Anything that a parish priest is trained to do? So I think some people, you know, thought this was kind of something to be ridiculed. I actually found myself feeling kind of sympathetic to Yeah, it's priest who got the random phone call that we need an exorcism.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:24:29 That's really fascinating. And what's the name of the book again,
Joseph Laycock 1:24:33 it's just called the penguin book of exorcisms Beautiful.
Stephen Bradford Long 1:24:36 Well, everyone should go buy the penguin book of exorcisms and I will actually probably buy it too, because I need another spooky thing to have on my coffee table. Also, you mentioned Bob Larson, the show Oh no, Ross and Carrie, are you familiar with them?
Joseph Laycock 1:24:50 Is that the teenage exorcist or is this something different?
Stephen Bradford Long 1:24:52 Oh, no, this is very different. Oh, no, Ross and Carrie, I've actually had them on the show. They are in the middle of an investigation into Bob Larson where they go through Bob Larson's training like exorcism school training program and they have this multi episode series on it and it's fantastic. Oh wow everyone should check that out too. Yeah, you will probably find it really interesting you should definitely definitely check them out if people want to find you send you stories of their own demonic possession and ask for help with their with their own demons who are haunting them or tell you about their own experiences with satanic ritual abuse where can they do that?
Joseph Laycock 1:25:30 Right well, if you if you Google Joseph Laycock, you should find my my webpage almost immediately with with contact information I do not help with those emails I sometimes give people a domestic violence hotline good if it sounds very seriously but but you know I don't I don't intervene if people think that there's there's demons unless they say you know my boyfriend attacked me or something like that. But but for anything else, yeah, you can find my email address on there and I usually answer emails
Stephen Bradford Long 1:26:01 beautiful. All right, well, that is it for this show. As always, the music is by the jelly rocks and eleventy seven you can find them on iTunes Spotify or wherever you listen to music This episode is edited by either me or llama boy the new intern for Sacred tension. And this show is written produced by me Steven Bradford long as always hail satan. Thanks for listening. I don't think I
1:26:52 can take