I’ve heard many discussions about The Satanic Temple’s seven Tenets over the years, frequent among them are conversations on the IV Tenet.
IV The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.
This tenet often comes up when discussing free speech and expression. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good discussion about free speech?
As members of a little-understood religion, we can often be ostracized or discriminated against based on what we believe or the assumptions people make about us. It’s important to be mindful not to do the same to others. With the freedom to offend also comes the responsibility to be cognizant of others and to respect their rights and freedoms in return.
In the context of being a Satanist, it’s important to consider the impact of our actions on the relationships we have with our community, friends, and family. While, yes, we have the right to express ourselves in whatever way we choose, certain choices, such as deliberately wearing offensive Satanic-themed clothing to events or gatherings where we know it will make others uncomfortable, may harm our relationships. It’s important to find a balance between expressing our beliefs and values while also respecting the feelings of those around us.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But what about all the crazy, sometimes hurtful stuff that some people say and do?” And you’re right, there are some pretty wild and offensive things out there. But here’s the thing: while we have the right to offend, it doesn’t mean we should go around preemptively being jerks to everyone we meet.
When you combine the right to offend with the second half of the tenet, which states that “To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own,” you realize the need to balance the freedom to offend with the potential consequences. Unjustly encroaching upon the freedoms of another would mean forfeiting your own freedoms, essentially subjecting yourself to the same behavior.
For example, imagine walking into a restaurant wearing a t-shirt with a particularly offensive message. While you might get a few chuckles from some people, you also run the risk of being asked to leave by the restaurant staff. In situations like these, it’s important to remember that while you have the right to express yourself, you also have a responsibility to respect the rights of others. So, if you want to wear that funny T-shirt, go ahead—but be prepared to face the consequences if it causes problems. At the end of the day, we all have to navigate the complex web of social interactions and cultural norms, and finding a balance between self-expression and respect for others is key to living in harmony with those around us.
It’s important to acknowledge that the IV Tenet also recognizes that in certain situations, offense can be an appropriate response to being offended. It is a reminder that the freedoms of others, including the freedom to offend, should be respected. When faced with bigotry, discrimination, or harm caused by others, it is not only within our rights but also crucial to push back and challenge those actions and beliefs. Offense can serve as a powerful tool to expose injustice, combat oppression, and promote positive change. However, even in these instances, it remains essential to consider the balance between expressing offense and ensuring that our actions align with the principles of respect and reciprocity.
An example some of you may be familiar with is a unique protest that was organized by the Satanic Temple called “The Pink Mass” in 2013. This event exemplifies the use of the right to offend in response to offense. The protest was organized to push back against the hateful and homophobic protests of the Westboro Baptist Church. During the mass, a ceremony was performed to symbolically “convert” the soul of deceased Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps’ mother to homosexuality.
The ceremony involved two gay couples kissing at the gravesite of Fred Phelps’ mother, and Lucien Greaves, draped his testicles atop the grave of Catherine Johnson, allegedly casting an irreversible spell that made the departed Ms. Johnson “gay forever” and perpetually pleasured by same-sex kisses.
The Pink Mass received significant media attention and backlash, but the Satanic Temple defended their actions as a form of artistic expression and a way to push back against the homophobic beliefs of the Westboro Baptist Church. It was argued that the Satanic Temple was using their right to offend as a means of calling out bigotry and intolerance.
Personally, I find their actions both humorous and admirable. It takes a lot of courage to publicly challenge a group as notoriously hateful as the Westboro Baptist Church. And I mean, who knew that testicles could be used for such a noble cause?
As Satanists, there are times when we find ourselves at odds with social norms and expectations, and that’s okay—after all, we are a diverse and multifaceted group with a wide range of beliefs and practices who have chosen to embrace our rebellious, adversarial nature for a reason. However, it’s also important to remember that as representatives of our deeply held values and beliefs, we should strive to live up to them in a way that promotes mutual respect and understanding.
Sometimes this means being mindful of the impact our actions and words can have on others, and then striving to find a balance between our individual expression and our responsibilities as members of a broader community. While prioritizing respect for social norms may seem counterintuitive to some as a Satanist, doing so can be an incredibly powerful way to demonstrate our commitment to our principles and to show the world that we are more than just outsiders looking in—we are an integral part of the human experience, and we have much to contribute to the world around us.
Let us embrace our passionate nature as Satanists. We understand that offense can be a powerful response to injustice, and we are unafraid to challenge bigotry and discrimination head-on. We engage in respectful dialogue, armed with empathy and reason, dismantling ignorance and fostering inclusivity.
As we navigate the complex web of social interactions, we recognize the importance of weighing our actions and considering their impact. It’s not solely about being offensive; it’s also about respecting the rights and freedoms of others while fighting for justice and equality. And if we can do all that while weaving in a few clever jokes, even better. Humor, after all, is a potent tool for meaningful conversations and challenging societal norms, allowing us to address serious issues with a touch of reflection and introspection.
Together, we embrace the power of offense as a catalyst for positive change. With our hearts ablaze and minds sharpened, we stride confidently towards a world where respect, empathy, and the freedom to offend intertwine, fueling the flames of progress.