Compassion, Empathy and Satan in Dallas

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At our second meeting, Bad Wolf Rising, Rakem Ronove, the head of our chapter, said: “All of our tenets are important; but I’ve been thinking about Dallas, and what the character and personality of our chapter should be. I keep coming back to the first tenet: One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason. I think that describes Dallas, and I think that should be the way that we shape our chapter. The main principle that we strive to embody.”

In case you’re not familiar, The Satanic Temple has seven fundamental tenets:

The seven tenets of The Satanic Temple are not like “commandments” that appear in some other religions. They are not laws imposed from the outside, that must be followed to the letter. Instead, they represent moral aspirations that we choose to follow. They are directional, not absolute. The both reinforce and limit each other: as with any set of complex basic values, they sometimes come into conflict in the real world, and we must do our best to reason out how to resolve those conflicts when they arise. The world is full of gray areas, and we as Satanists acknowledge and even embrace that.

All of the tenets are important. But when the head of our chapter suggested that Dallas should use the first tenet as its guiding principle, there was a kind of electricity that spread through the room: murmurs of affirmation, nods of agreement. We can be a presence to show that religious plurality isn’t a threat to family or virtue. We can be a presence to show that we can co-exist along side Christians and other religious communities, and we can all work together on those issues where we have common ground. We can be a presence that does good in the community, and teaches through action that atheists have deeply-held values and moral beliefs.

Now, make no mistake: We will still protest when needed, and fight for what is right; we will be angry when anger is deserved, and shocking when it is deserved. We are Satanists, after all. That means we will always be a complex mixture of humor and darkness that outsiders usually fail to grasp. And there is demonic power in compassion and empathy, as well: compassion and empathy are core psychological mechanisms behind collective action. When we rise up together, we act as a swarm, and we have greater power to move the world than any individual acting along. “We are legion,” said the demons in the bible, and by acting with compassion and building a community in Dallas, we will be legion as well.