There has been understandable outrage over the axing of Rapport columnist Deon Maas for his column on satanism and religious tolerance. Deon, who for a brief moment must have felt like a Danish cartoonist, was understandably confused about the whole thing seeing as the gist of his article was about being tolerant and accepting and learning from other people’s viewpoints.
I don’t believe in the existence of a Christian god, a Muslim god, Satan, Thor, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or any other invisible superhero who lives in outer space and absolves me from responsibility for my actions. I do believe, however, in the constitutional freedom to practise religion, including satanism.
I think Deon’s article made some excellent points and I struggle to understand how it could have provoked such a vociferous reaction. You really have to wonder how many of the protesters actually read it.
In that vein, here for your reading pleasure is a translated version of Deon Maas’s original article.
New! The Deon Maas Page (Deon Maas — November 3 2007) (translated by Andrew Freeborn)
Somewhere in Pretoria North is a young lady who has run into the strong arm of the law. She has clearly upset somebody. When the police say that she was arrested after “following up on a lead” it means that her neighbours, someone that she flipped off, or one of her friends that needed to make a deal, ratted her out. She was detained for the possession of heroin and cocaine.
It’s good to see that the police still make successful arrests in this day and age. If one of the policemen doesn’t use or sell the evidence himself, and nobody loses, sells or destroys the docket, we may just see a successful prosecution for the possession of drugs.
So far, so good.
What is disturbing is the fact that the police, after searching her bedroom, are also investigating her for satanism. They confiscated satanic documentation written in blood, candles, human hair, DVDs, blood samples, black clothes and Bibles that had been vandalised and smeared with blood.
This, then, is a very serious situation. It is especially the seizure of black clothes and candles that bothers me.
I also have candles in my house. They help when Eskom decides that it is my suburb’s turn to suffer under their bad planning. We also have rather a lot of black clothes because, when I am occasionally invited to a smart place, black is usually the easiest solution.
What someone obviously forgot to tell police spokesman Inspector Paul Ramaloko is that satanism is a religion and that our Constitution guarantees everyone the freedom to practise the religion of their choice. If Muslims think they have a hard time, they just need to consider satanism. They really get a bum deal. Satanism still makes a better headline than Islam, even though they blow less stuff up and do more damage to themselves than to those around them.
I am not personally a great believer in organised religion. Irrespective of the form in which it is offered, mass hysteria has never been my thing. If you held a gun to my head in an attempt to make me visit some sort of church, satanism would be the last option on my list.
It seems like too much trouble to me. The slaughtering of innocent pets, the tearing up of Bibles, the general oppressiveness that you have to live with, black painted fingernails and the fact that you generally have to be awake after midnight to practise your faith are all factors that make Anton LaVey’s philosophy somewhat unacceptable to me.
Every time I try to make a pentagram it comes out crooked. For some reason, I just cannot master the symmetry of the thing. Perhaps it’s just because I was bad at maths, or perhaps I just don’t care enough.
At the same time, it is a religion that has the right to be practised.
Satan does not necessarily represent evil, it’s just another philosophy. You still pray but just to a different god.
Just like any other faith, satanism has rules. Instead of 10 commandments, they have nine. Their nine commandments don’t tell you what to do, but rather how you should not behave.
Stupidity: For them, this is like the big brother of all sins. They encourage you to look at the story behind the story, so that you can understand what is really going on rather than just accepting that is fed to you with a spoon. Doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me.
Then there is pretentiousness. Be who you are and don’t pretend to be something or someone that you are not. That makes sense.
Solipsism: Do unto others what they do, or are going to do, to you. Perhaps this is a bit hectic if you come from any other faith’s position of turn the other cheek, but it sounds to me like standard practice in Johannesburg’s business world.
Self-delusion: Don’t lead yourself around by your own nose. Sounds good again.
Herd mentality: Be your own person, make your own decisions and don’t allow other people to force you into doing things that you don’t want to do. If you put this idea into practice, it means that teenagers won’t give in to peer pressure to smoke, take drugs or lose their virginity just because they feel that it needs to happen. It encourages free thinking and supports the striving for opinions that are based on knowledge that has been earned. There are more of them, but I’m sure that you can see the point I am trying to make.
As far as religion goes, satanism has always had the short end of the stick in the media. At the same time it is the best friend the Christians have ever had, since it is the devil that keeps the church in business. Its seductiveness, especially for teenagers, is that it naturally provides the head-to-head collision with the ideas propagated by their parents.
The Roman Catholics who don’t prosecute priests that molest children, but rather pay out millions in compensation, still oppose birth control and discourage the use of condoms in the era of Aids. The Anglicans’ decision to accept homosexual priests threatens their unity, our own sister denominations are struggling to find their feet in the new dispensation and some Apostolic churches refuse to accept black people in their congregations. The Christian churches continue to change the rules in order to adapt to a society that is moving forward, in the hope of keeping their members. The people who go to church are getting older and attempts to keep young people in the fold meet with the same success that small towns get when they try to stop their children from moving to the big cities. If churches had to pay tax, very few of them would have survived.
Does this article encourage satanism? No. However, if we want other people to understand and respect our views, we must understand and respect their views. To understand someone, you do not have to agree with them.
That means that you listen to what they have to say, and then you can agree to disagree with them. That means that you learn what is going on in other people’s heads and allow them the same freedoms that you expect from them. It sounds to me like a win-win situation, and one that can contribute towards peaceful co-existence.