A couple of months ago many Christians were up in arms when the Satanic Temple announced plans to adopt a stretch of highway in New York. Now, they are working on having a statue of Satan erected at Oklahoma State Capitol, on the same site where a monument representing the Ten Commandments was placed in 2012. The argumentation behind it is quite reasonable: if one religion can be represented on a government building site, then all religions should be able to do the same. Even if it is a bit provocative (being a clear test to see whether Oklahoma’s state government will uphold their principle of religious neutrality), there cannot rationally be an argument against agreeing to the Satanic Temple’s request. And yet, the state is very actively struggling to find a reason to do just that. It will be interesting to find out how they will manage that within the confines the freedom and equality of religions.
The Fox Business Mensa Panel debate (January 9 2014) on this issue offers a clear depiction of what happens when we allow dogma to determine our views, and more so our political decision making. First of all, the panelists clearly struggle to take the subject seriously (which undoubtedly they would have no problem doing if this were about equal treatment for a Christian organization), but ridiculisation is always a popular tactic to invalidate a debate before it has even started.
Alan Colmes (Fox News Radio) is the only one talking sense and the only one who seems to realize that the government cannot discern between one religion and another, and therefore shouldn’t have allowed a Christian monument in the first place. Now that they have allowed one, they have no grounds to reject another unless they make a qualitative judgment about the religions involved – and that would go against reason, fairness… and the constitution.
In her retort, Deirdre Imus shows that she has no idea what Satanism entails (or in fact even how to pronounce it), along with Mike Gunzelman who thinks he knows that Satanism “doesn’t promote anything”, and later adds that Satanism should not be considered an actual religion. Bernard Mcguirk has another classic trick up his sleeve, effectively aligning Colmes with Satanism (or, rather, what he thinks Satanism is), while Colmes is the only one maintaining an objective stance on the subject. Mcguirk even goes on to advocate religious genocide, saying that the members of the Satanic Temple should be shot next to their statue (thereby demonstrating how much truth there is to Imus’ earlier claim that “Christians are not against anything”).
Imus, Gunzelman and Mcguirk are prime examples of the dangers of dogma. They are so convinced that they are right that they don’t even realize in how much they are foregoing their own principles. They feel no need to familiarize themselves with the viewpoints of others, and rely solely on their personal take on those viewpoints. More importantly than their obvious disdain for Satanism, at no point do they seem to realize that the consequence of their intentions is that the government would become a judge of religions, deciding which beliefs are valid and which are not. Allowing the state of Oklahoma to celebrate Christianity at its capitol building while rejecting other belief systems would set a significant and catastrophic precedent, strengthening both the religious institution of Christianity and the political institution of the state government – at the cost of the individual’s freedom of belief.