This work has been presented so that the public may enjoy a better understanding of a particular organization which is shown herein to operate in the manner of a crypto-fascist sect. A considerable amount has already been said and written about this organization and its political activism, which have generated a great deal of publicity. Despite this, much of what has been said and written is superficial, incorrect, or misleading. The art critic Harold Rosenberg once argued that “American vanguard art […] needs understanding—not just publicity,” (Quigley 8). The same can be said of political activism. Indeed, we ought to expect correspondence between painting and politics, art and activism, oeuvres and operations when so-called “activists” begin to prattle on about the “the art of protest” (Greaves, “The Satanic Reformation”). This telltale phrase—“the art of protest”—hints at a distinct conception of “activism”: one in which “political acts […] are staged” not to speak truth to power or “change the system” but rather “for the sake of their aesthetics” (Hillach 118–119). In this work, I offer critical analysis of this sectarian organization’s efforts to shape and influence public opinion on a number of topics. It will be shown that because this organization’s pretense of activism/protesting/speaking truth to power is essentially cultivated for the sake of aesthetics, it serves in reality to reinforce and safeguard hegemonic ideas, employing this bogus “rebel” identity to obfuscate its own fanatical, uncritical loyalty to ideas received from ruling class dogma and thereby recuperate a certain socially dissatisfied layer for reaction. Thus, in criticizing this insidious group’s efforts to shape public opinion, I necessarily challenge ruling ideas and narratives which pertain not only to the cultic, self-styled “Temple” in question but also to matters of widespread social and political concern. Written in the spirit of a political pamphlet (though it far surpasses what most would consider to be typical pamphlet length), this work does not disguise its polemical character, though this does not come at the expense of a commitment to continually make reference to reliable material and concrete evidence as the basis of argumentation. Furthermore, this text is dedicated especially to a public whose general instinct is to oppose fascism, but who may not always recognize fascist trickery. It may therefore be the case that among those most interested in reading on will be individuals who have, to whatever degree, previously found themselves attracted not to this sect’s crypto-fascism but rather to its pretenses of “progressive activism.”
Although this work’s focus will be concentrated on a particular body, it is self-evident that, through the intensive study of one crypto-fascist sect, a better understanding of crypto-fascist sectarianism in general can be obtained. This case study will therefore have continued relevance as an illustration of the ways in which 21st century crypto-fascist sectarianism operates, given that this unfortunate phenomenon is unlikely to disappear even if the particular sect which constitutes this work’s object of critique should become defunct or implode under the pressure of a massive increase in public awareness of its encrypted neo-fascist character. Of course, to develop a better understanding, one must have some kind of understanding to begin with. A solid idea of what is meant by the phrase “crypto-fascist sect” is needed so that we can properly answer important questions like, “Does the fight against crypto-fascism differ from that against (‘unencrypted’ or ‘plain old’) fascism, and, if so, how?” and “To what extent and in what way does modern antifascism require a cryptanalytic and decryptological praxis?” To this end, it is worth considering, before anything else, the following three words and their relation to one another: (1) crypt, (2) fascism, and (3) sect. For help with this, we look to three influential thinkers who have had something relevant to say:
“What is a crypt? No crypt presents itself. The grounds [lieux] are so disposed as to disguise and to hide: something, always a body in some way. But also to disguise the act of hiding and to hide the disguise: the crypt hides as it holds. […] Before turning our minds to the break-in technique that will allow us to penetrate into a crypt (it consists of locating the crack or the lock, choosing the angle of a partition, and forcing entry), we have to know that the crypt itself is built by violence.”
— Jacques Derrida, “Fors: The Anglish Words of Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok” (xiv–xv).
“Fascism […] is indeed nothing else but the expression of the disintegration and decay of capitalist economy, and the symptom of the dissolution of the bourgeois State. […] The bourgeoisie wants to reconstruct capitalist economy. […] [R]econstruction of bourgeois class domination can be brought about only at the cost of increased exploitation […] [T]here will be nothing for the bourgeoisie but to resort to violence against the proletariat. But the means of violence of the bourgeois States are beginning to fail. They therefore need a new organisation of violence, and this is offered to them by the hodge-podge conglomeration of Fascism. […] Fascism has diverse characteristics in different countries. Nevertheless it has two distinguishing features in all countries, namely, the pretense of a revolutionary programme, which is cleverly adapted to the interests and demands of the large masses, and, on the other hand, the application of the most brutal violence. […] We must realise that Fascism is a movement of the disappointed and of those whose existence is ruined. Therefore, we must endeavour either to win over or to neutralise those wide masses who are still in the Fascist camp. I wish to emphasise the importance of our realising that we must struggle ideologically for the possession of the soul of these masses. We must realise that they are not only trying to escape from their present tribulations, but that they are longing for a new philosophy. We must come out of the narrow limits of our present activity.”
— Clara Zetkin, “Fascism” (1923)
“There is a terminological problem. ‘Sect’ is often used as a cuss-word to mean a group one doesn’t like. ‘Movement’ is often used to describe something that does not exist in organized form [as when ‘the Satanic movement’ or ‘new religious movements’ are used as abbreviations for a vast array of individuals endorsing eclectic and contradictory politico-theological doctrines and an assortment of sects claiming to uphold ‘Satanism,’ or a kind of ‘neo-paganism’ that is semiotically perceived as having an aesthetic affinity with Satanism]. We shall use these terms with more precise meanings. A sect presents itself as the embodiment of [a] movement, though it is a membership organization whose boundary is set more or less rigidly by the points in its political program rather than by its relation to the social struggle.”
— Hal Draper, “Anatomy of the Micro-Sect” (1973)
Rather counterintuitively, the word “crypto-fascist” is not a cryptonym, but a decryptonym, for to identify, name, and know a thing as “crypto-fascist” is to have decrypted; it is to have broken in and observed the fascist body held, encrypted, within the thing. It could be argued that crypto-fascism is a somewhat redundant term, given that fascism itself is a crypt. That what was originally a tombstone ornament, the skull and crossbones (Totenkopf or “death’s head” in German) became one of the eminent symbols of fascism is an obvious indicator of this, along with the fact that the first “distinguishing feature” of fascism as identified by Clara Zetkin—namely, “the pretense of a revolutionary programme” (my emphasis)—clearly shows it “to disguise and to hide” (that is, to pretend). For the Nazis, this meant appropriating words and phrases with Marxian connotations like “socialism,” “workers’ struggle,” and “Party,” but twisting them to stand for aristocratic imperialism, slave-labor, and a diabolical sect. Outwardly professing “revolutionary” or “rebellious” ideals and a militant commitment to collective betterment, fascism in actuality represents counterrevolution and universal alienation; these are what lie buried in the crypt of fascist discourse. In this contradiction between outward pretense and inner reality, we see a good reason for which it is said that a crypt (or cryptonym) may alternatively be thought of as a “broken symbol” (Abraham and Torok lviii, 79–80).
Although fascism is a crypt or “broken symbol” in and of itself, the term “crypto-fascism” remains compelling in its rhetorical and taxonomical utility, in its ability to accurately describe a particular kind of fascism or a particular stage in the development of fascism as a movement. We cannot ignore the “walls of the crypt”; that is, the “lines of fracture” in fascism as the name or word-symbol of a movement (Abraham and Torok 80). Fascism is a broken symbol not only in the sense that there is a fracture between that which it claims to signify and what it signifies in actuality (a fracture made worse by decryptological prying apart of the fasces’ twigs, an act which paradoxically mends the broken symbol that is fascism, exposing its authentic significance in demolishing the barriers which separate fascism’s cryptic signifiers from the putrid things genuinely signified by them), but also in that fascism was, in history, symbolically broken. With the violent deaths in late April 1945 of the iconic godfathers of fascism, Hitler and Mussolini (other personalities have also become fascist icons, though none are quite as indisputably and quintessentially linked to fascism as this duo), new partitions in the crypt were built. The fracture of fascism produced neo-fascism. During this so-called ‘post-war’ era which we seem, somehow, to technically still inhabit, the personalities of Hitler and Mussolini continue to occupy a special place in the crypt of neo-fascism, and though pilgrims to this crypt might like to release the phantoms of these ghastly ghouls, those making these pilgrimages are nevertheless, whether by legal constraint or strategic design, often compelled to at least pretend that that part of the crypt is “sealed off like a condemned passageway” (Derrida xvii). The crypt of neo-fascism is not only a metaphor; it can be a literal, tangible place. In 2017, police in Buenos Aires, Argentina announced the seizure of a large collection of Nazi memorabilia from a “secret chamber” discovered “hidden behind a bookcase” in the home of an antiques collector under investigation for alleged involvement in illicit trade in “artwork of suspicious origin” (Goldman). Authorities affirmed that the objects were genuine antiques from Nazi Germany, likely brought to Argentina by persons with top level connections to the Nazi criminal apparatus, although some, including the suspect’s lawyer, questioned the objects’ authenticity, contending that they are in fact forged replicas, much in the same way that rumors of Hitler’s authentic encryption (that is, death and burial) not in Germany but in Paraguay or even Antarctica persist. This potentially infinite multiplication of truth claims, counterclaims, and revised claims is another characteristic of the crypt, which seems to “occupy the space between fantasy and trauma” and, as a “procedure,” “resolves the following dilemma: how to live without having to say yes or no to reality or fiction while continuing to refer to both” (Rand lvi–lx). A crypt, as a vessel for secrets, is more than a container and a contained; it also requires a “third,” uncontained part (Derrida xviii–xix). Thus, we cannot penetrate the neo-fascist crypt without encountering and referring to both reality and fantasy. We must not become too overwhelmed by the pressure of the cultural desire to always “choose” between fact and fantasy, to keep one and discard the other, to classify relics found in the crypt as genuine and therefore valuable or fraudulent and therefore worthless. We can, for example, see that the revisionism of those neo-fascists and crypto-fascists who deny or obfuscate the Holocaust, despite making fictitious claims, perpetrates real violence.
There is a general convergence between neo-fascism and crypto-fascism. The former disguises itself as the latter when it perceives it advantageous, while the latter reveals itself to be the former when it simply can’t help itself, as well as when critical minds go to work. That neo-fascists have a seemingly deep love of cryptography should by now be a well known fact. Names, salutes, and slogans associated with old-fashioned Nazism are often numerologically encrypted to bypass taboos and prohibitions issued from the era of denazification. For example, using a very simple alphanumeric substitution cipher, the old Nazi greeting “Heil Hitler” becomes “88,” the name of “Adolf Hitler” becomes “18,” and so on; this because the letters A and H come in 1st and 8th place in the order of the alphabet (Schmitz). This kind of encryption, which uses a form of encryption similar to something called gematria, is fairly routine among neo-Nazis. (Ironically, gematria itself [from the Hebrew גימטריה] is essentially a Jewish tradition, although the antisemites who have appropriated it attempt to deny this, but I digress [see 6.3.3 for more on this issue]). By this point in history, ciphers like “88” and “18” may only be nominally cryptic symbols due to their widespread use among many of the lumpen elements of society, such as prison-based white supremacist skinhead gangs or, in Europe, right-wing groups of fans of soccer (football) teams (known as “ultras”). This has led organizations which track hate groups, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and others to raise awareness about many of the cryptic symbols that have been adopted by the neo-fascist movement. Because of the decryptological antifascist work that has been done, it would strain credibility to suggest that anyone with even a rudimentary awareness of the symbolism employed by contemporary far-right movements would consider that “crypto-fascist” is a better, more accurate label than “neo-fascist” to describe a man with “ᚹᚺᛁᛏᛖ 88 ᛈᛟᚹᛖᚱ” tattooed across his neck (that is, “white Heil Hitler power” written using both alphanumeric substitution and the runic letters of futhark, a primitive Germanic alphabet that has been adopted as a kind of cryptic writing system by some neo-fascists). To whatever extent the “broken symbols” of crypto-fascism are deciphered (or, we might say, mended or fixed) and their true meanings understood by the wide public, they become simple neo-fascist symbols. Consequently, those who hold onto these “broken symbols,” which through decryptological antifascist work have become “mended symbols” in that they are drained of their crypticality (that is, their occult or esoteric value), become identifiable as neo-fascists. This process of identifying and exposing crypto-fascists as neo-fascists is vital to mobilizing social forces against them, forming the basis of a decryptological antifascist praxis. If neo-fascists had faith in the popular appeal of their ideology in its naked form, they would not instinctively resort to dressing it up in that mystical cloth of “sinister runic humbug,” to use a phrase coined by Walter Benjamin in 1930 (128). The neo-fascist is a naked and ashamed fascist, while the crypto-fascist is an emperor whose new clothes evaporate upon decryption. That some naked neo-fascists have no shame, or rather live in a state of bypassed shame, does little to inspire the cloaked crypto-fascist to fully bare his hideous corpse to the world. Moreover, it is typical for the crypto-fascist to disavow explicit neo-fascism, at least for the sake of appearances. Indeed, doing anything else would amount to an act of self-decryption. This does not alter the fact that, paradoxically, explicit neo-fascism is itself a crypt.
Of course, not all neo-fascist cryptography is easy to decipher. If that were so, and all crypto-fascists were thus easily recognized and considered as equal to neo-fascists, then the term crypto-fascism would be entirely redundant. Given that a great deal of the cryptic symbolism associated with neo-fascism has already been deciphered (such as that mentioned above which uses numbers and Germanic runes in place of standard Latin letters) we must expect that those aspiring to the production of a more “sophisticated” (i.e., more cryptic) neo-fascist discourse—one that is distinct from the lowbrow kind emanating from the “ᚹᚺᛁᛏᛖ 88 ᛈᛟᚹᛖᚱ” tattoo-covered throats of “white trash” dregs and thereby capable of being uplifted to a “respectable” position in civil society (and even into the White House)—will encrypt neo-fascism in more elaborate and less obvious ways. Indeed, we have seen a somewhat enhanced encryption of fascism in the rebranding of neo-fascism as the “Alt-Right,” as well as in the supplanting of the phrase “white supremacists” in news media reports with other Newspeak-like euphemisms like “white nationalists,” “citizens concerned about illegal immigration,” or even just “socialists” (fostered by certain semi-illiterate local news journalists, whose historical ignorance of living memory is apparently such that they are unable to parse out the phrase “National Socialism” and do not realize that the terms “Nazis” and “socialists” are far from being interchangeable), and in the shifting locus of the archetypical milieu in which neo-fascist recruitment takes place in American culture, from the prison yard to the online video gaming chat room and message board. Nevertheless, although the “Alt-Right” has been successful to a disturbing degree (its godfather, Steve Bannon, became the first ever “Chief Strategist” of the executive branch of US government), it has not been so hard to decrypt. Its encryption is often sloppy and inconsistent; members of sects which make up the movement have caused plenty of attention to be drawn to their neo-fascist character by openly performing Nazi salutes and flying the flag of the Third Reich at marches in defense of pro-slavery monuments. It doesn’t get much more explicitly neo-fascist than that. Looking at any would-be “emperor” of the “Alt-Right” crypt, those who claim to see only “new clothes” and not a putrid, buck naked cadaver are either disingenuous or willfully ignorant. Such resolutely lost souls are scarcely worth the time of day. It is much more urgent to decrypt those forms of neo-fascism which are not yet widely recognized as such, whose symbols are so broken that few are able to visualize the authentic relation between semiotic container, contained, and uncontained. In this work, we will force our way into a crypt which is arguably much more difficult-to-penetrate than that of the “Alt-Right”: it is a question of decrypting the sect called “The Satanic Temple.”
Decrypting modern fascism is a vital task because the longer crypto-fascist organizing is able to go unchecked and pass itself off as something other than neo-fascist organizing, the more individuals who are thirsting for the next big “revolutionary” political/cultural/social thing will be duped into seeing “it” as an enticing “new philosophy,” beginning their initiation into a cryptic labyrinth of pseudo-rationalistic fascist ideation from which, past a certain point, it may be impossible to extract their lost souls. The more this skill of decryption is honed and genuine understanding is disseminated of crypto-fascist organizations’ efforts to entrench fascism in political, cultural, and social spheres, the less menacing and easier to combat the “hodge-podge conglomeration of fascism” in the 21st century becomes.
Seemingly easy to identify, yet notoriously difficult to describe definitively in a way that is succinct, wholly adequate, and non-problematic, fascism is indeed a “hodge-podge conglomeration”; a combine of “philosophically” diverse cranks united by seemingly little else than the contemptibility of their unjust, oppressive designs. Notably, it was in 1923, during the period of the Weimar Republic (a decade before the country would become Nazi Germany), that the German communist Clara Zetkin described fascism as a “hodge-podge conglomeration.” This suggests that the description of the fascist movement as having a “hodge-podge” quality is particularly applicable to the period running up to the complete fascist seizure of the capitalist state and its apparatuses. The sheer number of neo-fascist sects in the current period is enough to suggest that there are instructive analogies to be made between today’s USA and the Germany of the 1920s and ’30s. It may be supposed that by “hodge-podge conglomeration,” Zetkin refers to entities such as the various Freikorps groups (right-wing paramilitary organizations which appeared during and after the communist-led German Revolution of 1918 and 1919 and Ruhr uprising of 1920). However, Zetkin’s allusion to fascism’s “hodge-podge conglomeration” is also undoubtedly evocative of the flourishing of a panoply of secretive völkisch sects in the early 20th century generally espousing bizarre mixtures of ideas about occultism, pan-German nationalism, Germanic paganism, theosophical pursuit of “Aryan” wisdom, and biological race purity. Among these we find sects such as the List Society and its Hoher Armanen-Ordem (or High Armanen Order), the Lumenclub, the Ordo Novi Templi or Neutempler-Orden, the Edda-Gesellschaft (or Edda Society), the Bund für Deutsche Gotterkenntnis (or League for German God Knowledge), the Reichshammerbund or (Reich Hammer League), the Germanenorden (or Germanic Order), and perhaps most infamously, the Thule Society, connected closely to the Munich occultist scene “whence the [so-called] National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party originated” and which was itself rooted in the Reichshammerbund and Germanenorden (Goodrick-Clarke 123).
The term “sect,” identified by the noted anti-sectarian and partyless American Marxist writer Hal Draper as a “cuss-word” for “a group one doesn’t like,” is an excellent term to employ when dealing with membership-based organizations which spread contemptible ideas, for the simple reason that it conveys pejorative connotation, helping to better relate the fact that the group in question is cult-like and has ideas which, to the extent that they gain political traction and are enacted, lead to oppression. But this is not the only reason to opt for the term “sect” when describing certain organizations. Fascism’s hodge-podge of sects expound intra-contradictory doctrines and wrap themselves in a variety of ideological phraseologies and symbolic cloaks. Nevertheless, though a conflict may occur between two or more fascist sects, they still express their unity within the context of a larger fascist movement tied to social and political developments: an umbrella covering numerous sectarian forms. The ability to make this linguistic-cognitive distinction between sect and movement improves our analysis and critique of the fascist hodge-podge for the simple reason that it helps us understand how the ideas of the fascist movement, encrypted into a hodge-podge variety of sectarian forms, give an appearance of incoherence and contradiction, though through decryption their unity is readable. This is all the more true in the age of neo-fascism, because in crypto-fascism there is necessarily a contradiction, or fracture, between outward appearance and inner character, just as in cryptography there is contradiction between ciphertext and plaintext. Remember: “No crypt presents itself.” It is already in the nature of fascism to hide its inner self from the world, but this tendency is compounded under crypto-fascism. In this sense, crypto-fascism is hyper-fascism.
Yet another reason to opt for use of the term “sect” is its dual applicability to organizations of a political character as well as those religious in nature. It would seem that one is as likely to think of a “religious sect” as a “political sect” when taking the notion of “sectarian forms of organization” tout court into consideration. The intersection of politics and religion is of particular concern to this work. Critics of fascism have, understandably, tended to focus more often than not on its political, ideological, or socioeconomic aspects. In contrast, there is a much greater likelihood for the critique of Satanism to be approached from a more theological or religious perspective. Since we will be decrypting a form of neo-fascist politics whose discourse is largely encrypted along the lines of religious idiom, a theologico-political approach to the subject matter is called for. The necessity of adopting this approach when articulating political criticism in the current period appears inevitable when we consider what Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, author of several books dissecting fascism and neo-fascism as forms of political religion, describes as “the growing role of religion [at the expense of ideology] in politics today” (vii).
In 1844, the young Karl Marx opined, perhaps somewhat naïvely, that (“[f]or Germany”), “the criticism of religion has been essentially completed” (3), but what an assessment of the history of the 20th century, as well as the present situation, makes abundantly clear is that the criticism of religion to which Marx referred is now also religion’s criticism. This can be seen in the fact that adherents to traditional religions have become themselves both critical and radical (e.g., Liberation Theology, discussed below), and in this regard it is noteworthy that Marx’s equation of “[t]he abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people” with “the demand for their real happiness” does not preclude the idea of establishing religion as a force which struggles for this demand, just as the religious recognition that “[m]an makes religion, religion does not make man [sic]” (which Marx considered “[t]he foundation of irreligious criticism”) need not preclude the notion that Nature, which may in religion or philosophy be identified as synonymous with God, created the human race. Indeed, it would be profoundly idealist and a gross violation of the materialist conception of history to suggest that the emergence of human beings is a causa sui, as this would imply that human beings did not emerge as the effect of Nature, that the cause of our existence was not a natural process of evolution from pre-human animals, mammal-like reptiles, and so on. The transformation of the criticism of religion into religion’s criticism is also shown by the advent of the new religious movement known as modern Satanism, which makes a religion out of anti-religion (in other words, a religion that embraces blasphemy and sacrilege, whose basis is irreligious criticism). Both of these developments in religion, which would probably have been difficult for Marx to anticipate (i.e., Liberation Theology and modern Satanism), can only mean that the new criticism of religion (or, religion’s new criticism) is bound, in some way, to approach some people’s conception of holiness. Goodrick-Clarke’s suggestion of a mutually exclusive, antagonistic, or competitive relationship between religion and ideology (in the sense that the former seems to supplant the latter, its appearance implying the other’s disappearance) is worth unpacking as it will clarify the utility of the “theologico-political approach,” though it means digressing briefly from the matter of crypto-fascist sectarianism per se.
Although religion and ideology are both political, they represent two distinct political modes. The tension between ideology and religion seems to arise from the fact that the former is associated with rationality and concern with concrete, material things while the latter is associated with irrationalism and concern with abstract, spiritual things (as when so-called “Marxist ideology” is contrasted with “Christian faith,” for example). This conception of religion (or, more accurately, theology, by which I mean a religious system of thought) and ideology appears flawed for at least two reasons. Firstly, ideology and theology, being abstract cultural artifacts corresponding to two kinds of systems of thought, are both components of what in Marxism is called superstructure (as opposed to [economic] base, which, in the final analysis, culture and thought reflect and correspond to). Thus, in this regard, they seem to exhibit more harmony than antagonism, and ideology, by its name, reveals itself to be concerned primarily with ideas, and therefore not with the economic material basis of society, but the superstructure. Secondly, based on the simplistic, false impression often given that ideology is the domain of rational Marxists whereas theology is the domain of irrational and reactionary religious types, it has become trendy among some vulgarizers of Marxism to respond with ideological criticism to reactionary religion-based political ideas, which invite and require a theologico-political mode of criticism. Contrary to this vulgarizing, misguided trend, not only is the theological mode of criticism a more appropriate and adequate means of vanquishing reactionary religious political ideas, but it is also fundamentally characteristic of Marxism, while the ideological mode is not. As Karl Marx notes in Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, “[T]he criticism of theology [turns] into the criticism of politics,” (3). The reasons for this will be elaborated below.
In the opening to his book The Occult Roots of Nazism, Goodrick-Clarke, although not apparently a Marxist or an advocate of Marxism, nevertheless highlights a Marxian truth in drawing attention to the ineffectiveness of ideology vis-à-vis fascist political religion, noting that scholars who have been “trained exclusively in the evaluation of concrete events, causes, and rational purposes” tend to analyze “politics and historical change” solely in terms of how they “are driven […] by real material interests,” which renders them oblivious to the ways in which “fantasies can achieve a causal status once they have been institutionalized,” (1). These comments highlight the need to be critical of the ideology of “mechanical materialism,” which is completely opposite to dialectical materialism (another name for Marxism). The latter does not by any means discount the proposition that fantasies, particularly when institutionalized, can play a role in the determination of reality and therefore merit inclusion within a materialist study of history. That fantasies (or fantastic ‘theories’, such as those associated with Nazism) can determine various aspects of reality need not be seen as being at odds with the philosophy set forth by Karl Marx, who tells us that “theory becomes a material force when it grips the masses” (Lukacs 1). We find a similar thought in an essay titled “On Contradiction,” where the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong argues that a person who has adequately understood dialectical materialism recognizes “the reaction of mental on material things” and that, in the course of class struggle, “cultural changes become principal and decisive” (1937). This (“the reaction of mental on material things”) should not be understood to imply, as it might sound, that belief in telekinesis is a fundamental part of Marxism. Rather, “the reaction of mental on material things” harks back to what 17th century Portuguese-Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza in his work the Ethics calls the “power of intellect” to form “adequate ideas” which give rise to “desires whereby we are determined to some action” (Complete Works 367). These words could seemingly be interpreted as appearing to contradict another passage preceding them in the Ethics, where Spinoza posits that “[t]he body cannot determine the mind to think, nor can the mind determine the body to motion or rest,” (IIIP2). If a person considers mental things to be separate or “really distinct” from material things (as did René Descartes, whom Spinoza is seeking to refute here), then the idea that “[the body] can perform any number of actions which depend solely on the will of the mind” is as much an affirmation of belief in telekinesis as the idea that, using pure mental will, one can lift or levitate an external physical object. (The former kind of telekinesis [which says, for example, “my mind causes my mouth to open and speak”] only appears, superficially, more plausible because here the mind and the mouth belong to the same body). However, if a person considers, in agreement with Spinoza, that mental and material things (or “thinking substance and extended substance”) are in fact “one and the same substance, comprehended now under this attribute, now under that” (IIP7S) then it follows that there is necessarily correspondence between the activity of the mind and the activity of the body, these being actually one and the same activity. That the thought of Spinoza presages Marxism by some two hundred years is affirmed by (the close collaborator of Karl Marx during his lifetime) Friedrich Engels’ description of dialectics as “the science of the general laws of motion—both in the external world and in the thought of man [sic]—two sets of laws which are identical in substance,” (Lukacs 4). Returning to the apparent contradiction between Spinoza’s affirmation of both (1) the intellect’s power to give rise to desires which determine action (VP4S) and (2) the impossibility of “the mind to determine the body to motion” (IIIP2), we can consider that, given the fundamental sameness of mental and material things, the second point has more to do with the denial of psychokinetic or supernatural forms of causation (which would, in essence, mean acausal causation), while the first, which, as one quasi-anonymous essayist notes, does not seem to “argue for the absence of any interaction between the mind and the body,” is in fact arguing for the validity of making an “ethical distinction between mind and body […] as a diagnostic in order for us to strive in accordance with reason” (youandwhosearmy?). Here we have two of the main ideas associated with dialectical materialism: internal contradiction and unity of opposites. Because that which exists can conceive that whose essence includes non-existence (or present non-existence combined with future existence), the intellect is able to construct the idea of distinctions between Thought, theory, fantasy, and non-being on the one hand and Extension, practice, reality, and being on the other, although “dialectics [nevertheless] insists on the concrete unity of the whole,” (Lukacs 6). From this the fantastic notion of the immaterial fashioning the material arises, although this is itself an illusion of the intellect, a kind of telekinetic metaphor for the idea that the idea of the body, and not the body itself, is ultimately the actor on the material stage.
But what exactly makes the Marxist mode of criticism essentially a theologico-political mode and not an ideological one? Ideology and theology imply two ways of considering the relation between “thinking substance” and “extended substance,” which are in turn analogous to superstructure and base. First, we must be aware that while materialism necessarily sees “reality as […] the real starting-point for perception and ideas” (Lukacs 9), to the extent that this materialism is dialectical and not mechanical, it also necessarily recognizes the “principle and decisive” “power of intellect” to formulate theories which bring material results when they “grip the masses” and become “institutionalized.” Because ideology pertains to the domain of ideas and thereby to the attribute of Thought, political ideologies can be determined only by “a mode of thinking,” which inevitably impels them toward idealism, towards the act of regarding “reality […] as outcome” and thought as starting-point; they thus tend to “[succumb] […] to the delusion of confusing the intellectual reproduction of reality with the actual structure of reality itself” (Lukacs 9). But whereas theology pertains to God (i.e., Substance or Nature itself), in whom or in which the attributes of Thought and Extension (among others) constitute a concrete unity, political theology is necessarily more than “a mode of thinking” or a mere system of Thought. It is a system in which there is an understanding of Substance which affirms the sameness of “the general laws of motion [which apply to] the external world [as those which apply] in the thought of man [sic]” (Lukacs 4). For this reason, a development in political theology is not expressed as a mere superstructural change to the system (or so-called “political revolution”), but comprises and stresses the necessary unity of both superstructural and basic change. This substantial or radical change is at the heart of social revolution. The superstructural mode of thinking associated with Marxism diverges from ideology insofar as it is not a system of ideas, but rather a system for the guidance of conscious action, a system in which it is stressed that ideas and reality form a concrete unity. In this sense, the materialist dialectic is a Substantial or theological system.
In contrast, fascism, liberalism, conservatism, etc. are ideological systems due to the fact that, since they do not strive to form ideas which adequately correspond to the conditions of material reality, they take the cleaver of idealism to violently split thought and reality, thereby considering them, in a Cartesian manner, as separate substances. This necessarily leads ideologues to lose touch with reality to a certain extent, sometimes to the point of absolute psychosis. That is to say, the rules governing the thought process of an ideology begin to seem as though they differ from those of external reality. This does not mean, however, that these ideologies cannot then shape many aspects of reality, particularly social reality, as they attempt to govern according to fantasies. Indeed, “[w]hat […] could be more political than fantasy when it determines the fate of entire communities, nations, and even continents?” (Lane 7). Because ideologies are based on ideas formed after inadequate assessment of material conditions, they build up and multiply their inadequate thoughts, sometimes growing them into elaborate, ornate, and even, perhaps, impressive or enticing systems of inadequate thought (“worldviews”), thus creating the semblance of wisdom by inventing many “true ideas” which may necessarily and logically follow from their faulty premises but which nevertheless are not “ideas that are true” in that they do not reflect adequate knowledge of material Extension, despite often attempting to keep up that pretense. Because there are infinite modes of Thought by which things can be conceived whose essences include non-existence, there can be countless ideologies or modifications of ideology having little to no correspondence with adequate knowledge of Extension. However, since there is only one Substance, there can only be one real theology, although it may be expressed in different ways (e.g., as expressed through decolonial and Indigenous epistemologies), just as there is always a multiplicity of ways in which to adequately state a truth.
For all the efforts to define and describe fascism throughout the ages (notable contributors to the “classical” antifascist literature include figures such as Leon Trotsky, Walter Benjamin, and Clara Zetkin, while more recent contributors include Josephine Armistead , Angela Nagle , and Shane Burley ), there is an old adage, still quite regularly cited, that stands out, particularly in light of the fact that we are interested here in the intersection of politics and religion. It goes, “When fascism comes to [the United States of] America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross,” (Emery). This quip is entirely consistent with Zetkin’s observation that “fascism has diverse characteristics in different countries” and “cleverly adapts” to different contexts, but it clearly appears inconsistent if we are talking about a kind of fascism that comes carrying not a cross, but a “Sigil of Baphomet” (the emblem widely adopted as a symbol of Satanism, which features a goat’s head positioned within an upside down five-pointed star).
If we take the conventional wisdom conveyed by the aforementioned quip and apply it in a mechanical manner, then the notion that there is neo-fascism encrypted within Satanic “new religious movements” would necessarily appear to be out of the question. However, we must keep in mind that fascism “cleverly adapts” not only according to the place, but also according to the times. The previously mentioned saying (which is usually attributed to the author Sinclair Lewis [1885–1951], although it may be a paraphrase, as there is no exact record of where Lewis originally said it) in all likelihood derives from the period of “classical” fascism (that is, Lewis said it sometime between 1922 and 1945). That American fascism would arrive with a (Christian) cross in hand was, at that time, not so much a “prediction,” but rather a statement of a matter of fact. It is entirely consistent with the political context of the US during the 1930s, at which time “Father” Coughlin (1891–1979), a Roman Catholic priest, used radio to preach fascism to the masses. Coughlin has been described as “the founder of ‘clerical Fascism’” and “chief among [fascism’s adherents in America during the late 1930s]” (Shenton; Allen). Among Protestants, Gerald B. Winrod (1900–1957), Gerald L. K. Smith (1898–1976), and William Dudley Pelley (1885 or 1890–1965) also emerged during the Great Depression as leaders of what some have called “Christofascism” (Hedges 137; Neiwert 88). Pelley, who founded a fascist group in 1933 that was modeled after the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party (i.e., the SA or “Brownshirts”) and called the “Silver Legion of America” (or “Silver Shirts”), ran for president in 1936 as candidate of the so-called “Christian Party” (Schultz). Fascist and Christian motifs were similarly brought together in a pro-fascism 1933 Hollywood film produced by William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951) called Gabriel Over the White House, depicting an American president who declares martial law, eliminates unemployment through the creation of an “Army of Construction,” and ends the prohibition on alcoholic beverages while at the same time cracking down on organized crime and bootlegging (in particular, ordering the execution by firing squad of a mob boss whose Jewishness is implied in a scene showing that he changed his name to “Nick Diamond” from “Antone Brilawski”). This all occurs under the divine direction of the Archangel Gabriel, who comes to the dictatorial president in the form of strange lights and wind shortly after being sworn into office and then having a near-death experience. According to one commentator, the “hit movie […] was meant to instruct FDR” (who was sworn in as president in same month as the film’s release) “and prepare the public for a dictatorship,” (Alter).
On the other hand, when we adjust the tableau to take account of cultural and religious developments in the Americas from the beginning of the post-WWII era up to the present, things change radically. Post-war neo-fascism, increasingly crypto-fascist in character, soon found itself confronted by the rise of Liberation Theology, which synthesized Marxism and Christianity. Notably, it was a Liberation Theologian, Dorothee Soelle, who coined the term “Christofascism” to describe a church which, in constructing a false “image” of God as a “power-dispensing father” who divides and subjugates instead of “liberating and unifying,” worships a sort of “false idol” and thereby “confus[es] Christ with Caesar and God with Satan” (Ruether 214; Soelle). In other words, the term “Christofascism” was conceived as a Christian critique of an insidious form of anti-Marxist, anti-feminist Satanism.
Further contextualizing these developments in culture and religion, it is relevant to note that Liberation Theology became particularly strongly associated with Latin America, where more than 9,000 Nazi war criminals escaped at the end of WWII to live as crypto-fascists, concentrating themselves mainly in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay, as well as Bolivia (Winston; Sanchez). Tellingly, all of these countries came to be governed as right-wing military dictatorships during the post-WWII era, just as Liberation Theology was also becoming an increasingly prominent theologico-political factor in class struggles throughout the Americas. The regional trend of neo-fascist military takeover seems to have been inaugurated in 1954, with a coup d’état in Paraguay, where General Alfredo Stroessner, a Nazi sympathizer of German descent, assumed control and remained in power until 1989. The repression grew particularly intense during the 1970s, around the time that Salvador Allende, the democratically-elected socialist president of Chile, was overthrown in a US-backed coup in 1973. At that time, the six previously mentioned South American countries, which had collectively become a major asylum for Nazi war criminals, were working together, with the US playing a “secret partner or sponsor” role, to coordinate an international campaign known as “Operation Condor” in order to exterminate and terrorize political opposition movements (Rhymes; McSherry). Evidence of “Operation Condor” began to be emerge in the 1990s and in 2016 fifteen veteran military officials were found guilty of conspiring to brutally repress opposition to their regimes (Bronstein). Proponents of Liberation Theology were among the primary targets of the “operation,” which was officially recognized as a genocide in 2006 (Anderson; Shneider 334). A Condor sub-project developed in 1975 known as the “Banzer Plan” (namesake: General Hugo Banzer, another South American Nazi sympathizer of German descent who ruled Bolivia as military dictator between 1971 and 1978 and again as president between 1997 and 2001) was specifically aimed at “dividing the Church” and “discrediting [its] ‘progressive sectors’” (Berryman; Orta 95). Methods associated with the plan included the torture and murder of ministers, nuns, and others affiliated with the Church, as well as “dirty tricks” such as the planting of “subversive documents” on church grounds. The Banzer Plan was adopted by nine other Latin American countries in 1977 at a meeting of the “Latin American Anti-Communist Confederation” (also known by the Spanish acronym CAL) (Berryman; Sklar 78). Tellingly, the CAL was a subsidiary of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL), whose “world chairman” during the late 1970s was a man named Roger Pearson, “a well-connected white supremacist, eugenicist, and neo-Nazi, who reportedly ‘once bragged to an associate about his alleged role in hiding Nazi doctor Josef Mengele’” (Sklar 79; Bodenheimer and Gould 58). Mengele is known to have spent time living in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil between 1949 and 1979, and is also rumored to have visited Canada and the United States, which even the U.S. Department of Justice has explicitly conceded is “theoretically possible” (OSI – CD 135). The CAL held conferences in Paraguay in the late 1970s that were attended by veterans of the Nazi SS and wanted neo-fascist terrorists (Zaitchik). During the Operation Condor/Banzer Plan period, scores of leftist, left-leaning, or suspected left-leaning Church leaders (Catholics and Protestants) were tortured and killed or disappeared, while hundreds more were arrested and deported (Berryman 100–101; Esquivel). While in some countries, such as Argentina, the Roman Catholic hierarchy exhibited a greater degree of complicity and cooperation with state suppression of left-wing dissent (Schmall), in others, the Banzer Plan to violently stamp out Liberation Theology was tantamount to a neo-fascist declaration of war on the Church. One case worth highlighting in this regard is that of a priest named Alfonso Navarro, who was murdered in El Salvador in 1977 by “a group calling itself the Unión de Guerreros Blancos (UGB—White Warriors’ Union),” which distributed a flyer that read “Be a patriot, kill a priest” after claiming responsibility for his assassination (Pelton 134). The following year, the white supremacist-led WACL “adopted a ‘priest tracking’ resolution” (Sklar 79).
In the USA, the most iconic and well known civil rights leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, were ministers, advancing their own forms of Liberation Theology which emphasized the struggle for freedom from racism and capitalism. Like their Latino counterparts, their government tried to discredit them and sow division within their respective religious communities by turning a part of it against them. Presaging the methods of the Banzer Plan (which was reportedly constructed with input from the US “intelligence” community), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or SCLC (the religiously named civil rights advocacy organization of which Dr. King was the first president) was, beginning from the 1950s, “investigated by the FBI for possible ties to […] communists,” (or, to put it less euphemistically, made the target of a campaign of repression, culminating in assassination) (FBI). In one instance, the FBI sent Dr. King a threatening letter which, in a section censored until 2014, compared him to “Satan” and addressed him as a “filthy, abnormal animal,” in addition to calling him an “evil, abnormal beast” (Kayyali). Notably, the writer of the letter pretended to be African American, telling Dr. King that he is “a great liability to all of us Negroes.” Dr. King and Malcolm X both grew increasingly explicit in their condemnations of capitalism and advocacy of socialism before being assassinated (Goodrich; Fasfalis). Although often depicted by those aiming to recuperate his legacy as narrowly interested in advancing the “civil rights” of African Americans, Dr. King was in fact organizing the Poor People’s Campaign at the time of his assassination, meaning that he was actually organizing a broadly “multiracial” (read: multiethnic/multinational) working class movement, even going beyond the national boundaries of the USA in that he himself identified the movement as a “human rights” movement, as opposed to a mere “civil rights” one (Jackson). Similarly, Malcolm X also displayed signs of re-orientation towards broadly multiethnic social movement organizing as his pilgrimage to Mecca inspired him to move towards more “mainline” Abrahamic religion before his assassination, embracing an orthodox, non-racialist interpretation of Islam and distancing himself from the so-called “Nation of Islam,” the sect which he had been a part of, whose theology and symbolism is rooted in an eclectic amalgamation of Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs and (via the so-called “Moorish Science Temple”) the symbolic trappings of the offshoot of Freemasonry known as the “Shriners” (whose members call themselves “Moslems”), and which, since 2010, officially aligns itself with the Church of Scientology, besides also being known to have collaborated on several occasions with the Ku Klux Klan.
By the time the 1980s rolled around, members of the Reagan administration were callously justifying the murder of American nuns by death squads in El Salvador and doing everything in their power to fund a neo-fascist terror campaign in Central America that included targeted assassinations of Church leaders who advocated liberation from oppression and poverty, such as “Saint of the Americas” Bishop Óscar Romero (Goodfriend). An article in the New Yorker, alluding to the adoption of the aforementioned Banzer Plan in Central America, notes that “[a]s in South America [during Operation Condor], priests and nuns in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras suspected of leftist sympathies were placed high on the target lists,” (Anderson). In 1982, the Reagan administration is reported to have refused to retract a statement of praise issued to the previously mentioned neo-Nazi Roger Pearson after his association with white supremacist groups advocating the tracking and killing of priests was brought to their attention (Sklar 79).
More recently, under the framework of the so-called “Plan Colombia” of US sponsorship of Colombian militarism, instituted in 2000 under President Bill Clinton, it’s been estimated that between 2002 and 2010, over 10,000 innocent civilians were murdered by members of the US-backed Colombian military (or on their behalf by right-wing paramilitary groups) and dressed up as leftist guerrilla fighters in order to artificially inflate the number of “enemy combatants” killed in Colombia’s civil war, now in its 54th year (Parkin Daniels; Krumholtz). Many of those killed, who were, as a rule, selected from “the most vulnerable elements of society: the poor, drug-addicted, and mentally handicapped,” were made to appear as supporters of Liberation Theology (Stanford). Despite this, Plan Colombia has been hailed as a success by US militarists, paving the way for Colombia to become the first Latin American nation to join the US-led imperialist military alliance known as NATO in 2018 (Whitney).
In light of the facts outlined above, we can begin to notice a historic movement from clerical fascism to fascist anticlericalism and clerical antifascism. Separated by Second World War, the former belonged to Father Coughlin, Pelley, Winrod, Smith, Hearst, and Christofascists, while the latter was given voice by Dr. King, Malcolm X, Oscar Romero, Dorothee Soelle, Alfonso Navarro, Camilo Torres, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and others. Despite this evolutionary reconfiguration over the course of the 20th century of the relation between fascism and Christianity (and Islam) from one of apparent harmony to one of open antagonism, we can also observe that the post-war phenomenon of anticlerical neo-fascism was not an entirely original or innovative trend. It can be noticed in an embryonic, pre-fascist or proto-fascist form as far back as the 19th century.
Following the creation of Germany in 1871, a large scale political struggle known as the Kulturkampf (“culture war”) took place. The Kulturkampf targeted the country’s Roman Catholic minority, who were seen as especially staatsfeindlich (“subversive”) for their apparent willingness to submit to papal authority (known as ultramontanism, meaning “beyond the mountain-ism,” referring to the geographic location of the Vatican on the other side of the Alps, relative to Germany), which was seen as being at odds with loyalty to the secular authority of the Kaiser and nation-state. For German nationalists, the most “subversive” of all Catholics were the Jesuits (i.e., members of the “Society of Jesus”), who were seen as the vanguard of ultramontanism. Some antisemitic conspiracy theorists (e.g., Édouard Drumont [1844–1917], founder of the Antisemitic League of France) would later attribute the intensification of antisemitism which followed the Kulturkampf to a backlash against supposed Jewish orchestration of the anti-Catholic campaign (Anderson 35), but this claim rooted in antisemitic propaganda is contradicted by historian Michael B. Gross, who highlights the fact that there was in reality strong Jewish opposition to the Kulturkampf legislation; for example, “all Jewish deputies in the Reichstag refused to vote for the [1872 anti-Jesuit] bill” (559). Gross notes that “[a]s Jews, [the deputies] were part of an even smaller, potentially more vulnerable minority within the Reich than Catholics. Underlying their objections was the concern that the Jesuit law […] would establish a legal precedent that could be turned against any other religious or social minority labelled staatsfeindlich [subversive] (as was, indeed the case only six years later with the passage of the anti-socialist law in 1878),” (553–554). In Germany, anti-Catholicism and antisemitism seemed a more typical combination than in Catholic-majority France; in diametric opposition to Drumont’s mythical framing of the Kulturkampf as a Jewish campaign against Catholicism, “[Eugen] Dühring [‘(1833–1921), another prominent antisemite of the era’], [saw] the anti-Catholic Kulturkampf […] mainly as inspiration for future anti-Jewish legislation: Citing the 1872 law that expelled all Jesuits from Germany, including those in possession of German citizenship, Dühring suggested that similar measures could be taken against Jews,” (Joskowicz 57). In the weaving together of the three antisemitic threads of (pseudo-)anti-capitalism (fixated on “Jewish usury”), “biological, völkisch racism,” and an opposition to “Judeo-Christianity” (used advisedly and with emphasis on the ‘Judeo’), which would later be elevated to new heights in the discourse of Nazi propagandists about “a secret Jewish–Jesuit alliance,” we can see that the “anti-Catholic racist antisemites” of the 19th century were laying the groundwork for new religious movements which saw Christianity, or at least a “type” of Christianity (especially Catholicism), as genetically/genealogically cursed for having “emerged from Judaism” (Joskowicz 58). Presaging the 20th century antisemitic trope of a “Judeo-Bolshevik” scourge and reacting to the Paris Commune of 1871 (often considered as the first major instance in which a working class movement seized political power in an uprising against a capitalist state), the 19th century German nationalist “culture warriors” began to conflate socialism and Catholicism (the predominant religion of France, homeland of the Communards) (Gross 564). A number of 19th century German nationalists evoked this would-be “Catholic-Communard” scourge in no uncertain terms. Gross describes how one German nationalist, Johann Caspar Bluntschli, “argued in [a text titled] ‘Two Enemies of our State and our Culture’ that both ultramontanism and communism, despite differences, shared many characteristics,” drawing parallels between “Communists and the Catholic clergy” as twin “international movements that relied on the lower classes for their support” and “shared […] desire to destroy the authority of the state,” concluding with the warning that “the state must arm and prepare itself […] for the inevitable war against both ultramontanes and Communists” (564–565). Another 19th century German nationalist “warned that priests, instead of preaching peace and reconciliation to the masses, were ‘allying themselves with the apostles of communism and glorifying revolt against the law as a battle of light against darkness,’” (Gross 565).
These sentiments, redirected against Protestants, would be echoed eight decades later as the 1950s Red Scare took root in America, with McCarthy Committee appointee J. B. Matthews (1894–1966) arguing in “Reds and Our Churches” that “[t]he largest single group supporting the Communist apparatus in the United States today is composed of Protestant clergymen,” (Gaustad and Noll 484). Virtually identical claims are made in the present day on Fox News by pundits such as Glenn Beck, who in an April 11, 2019 appearance claimed that a Chicago-based “family” of “United Methodist” clergy “informed by far left politics, Marxist-Leninist thought, a Communist ideology based on the theories of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin with an international worldview” are in the process of “orchestrating an ‘assault on the republic’ using Central American migrants” (Campbell).
Back in Germany, this kind of right-wing anticlericalism, predominantly expressed through the idiom of anti-Catholicism in the 19th century, had also soon grown to encompass hostility to both Catholicism and Protestantism, with a more generalized suspicion directed against Christianity tout court having emerged by the early 20th century. Expressing disdain for “Marxian morality,” the German fascist ideologue Oswald Spengler put forward a number of arguments in Prussianism and Socialism (1919) which indicate that not only did the “Catholic-Communard” trope survive the fin-de-siècle, but that it actually evolved into a “Christo-Bolshevik” boogeyman. In that work, Spengler argues that “[f]or […] citizens of the Western world, religion is finished” and that “Marxism reveals in every sentence that the thought processes from which it sprang were theological and not political. Its economic theory is the outgrowth of a fundamental moral attitude […] with roots in […] biblical moods,” and even that “[t]here is no more repulsive spectacle than the attempted [sic] of certain Protestant groups to revivify the cadaver of religion by smearing it with [B]olshevist offal,” (82, 62). In 1932, on the eve of the Nazi coup d’état, Spengler would write in a preface to a republication of his 1919 work that “[i]t is from this book that the national [read: Nazi] movement started,” (Gangl and Roussel). Hitler made similar comments to those found in Prussianism and Socialism in private to his close collaborators. Linking Christianity and Marxism (or “Bolshevism”), Hitler called Christianity “a prototype of Bolshevism” and asserted that both were “inventions of the Jew” designed to “mobili[ze] masses of slaves” and “undermin[e] society,” attributing the decline of the Roman Empire to “[t]he Bolsheviks of their day” (i.e., Christians) (Trevor-Roper 7, 75–76, 79). Further echoing Spengler, Hitler asserted that “when Christianity is tottering” (that is, when it is coming to be seen as socially irrelevant, out-of-date, or “finished” for “citizens of the Western world”), “the Jew restores to pride of place Christianity in its Bolshevistic form,” (Trevor-Roper 78–79). A certain “revisionist” historian named Richard C. Carrier has attempted to sow doubt about the Nazi plan to eradicate the “Judeo-Christian” component of “German culture” by questioning the authenticity of some of the above quotes, which illustrate the so-called Führer’s disdain for “Judeo-”Christianity and were transcribed by Hitler’s aides and published in English as Hitler’s Table Talk, however it’s worth noting that in Carrier’s article on the topic (“‘Hitler’s Table Talk’: Troubling Finds,” which suggests that Hitler’s Table Talk was a forgery), Carrier cites the Holocaust negationist pseudo-historian David Irving as a “credible” source of information and falsely claims that Irving is not a Holocaust denier, seriously undermining the credibility of his own revisionist claims (575; Hare and Weinstein 553). Carrier, a militant anti-Christian atheist, appears to be bent on convincing the world that Hitler was, in fact, a believer in God, although, even if true, that by no means precludes the fact that he and his movement were convinced that Christianity, like Bolshevism, was a genetic product of Judaism, and that all three of these would eventually need to be wiped out for the betterment of the “German nation.” “Wotan” or “Odin” was, after all, once considered as God, or at least a god, in ancient Germania. In Mein Kampf, Hitler makes his anti-Christian opinions quite clear and public, instructing his followers to “regret the fact that the advent of Christianity [which ‘was not content with erecting an altar of its own’ but ‘had first to destroy the pagan altars’] was the first occasion on which spiritual terror was introduced into the much freer ancient world,” before adding that “[it] cannot denied that ever since [the advent of Christianity] the world is pervaded and dominated by this kind of coercion and that violence is broken only by violence and terror by terror” (352).
It is a well-known fact that the Nazis borrowed a great number of ideas from American racists, such as Lothrop Stoddard, the Ku Klux Klansman from whose work The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under Man (1922) they derived the term untermensch(en), and the eugenicist Madison Grant, who popularized the theory of “Nordic” racial superiority and was the intellectual architect of US legislation mandating restrictive immigration quotas and prohibitions against “miscegenation” (or, “race-mixing”), helping craft blatantly racist laws which would endure for decades. What is perhaps less well-known is that the Nazis found in the arguments of American racists not only material to support their pseudo-scientific racial doctrines, but also their anti-Christian views. In Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race (1916), a book which Hitler referred to as “my bible” (Ryback), a number of hints at the author’s less than favorable view of Christianity stand out. Examining these passages, it becomes clear that Hitler’s comments about “Christianity in its Bolshevistic form” having been responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire (as well as Spengler’s comments about “smearing [Christianity] in bolshevist offal”) are merely echoes of those found in The Passing of the Great Race. There, Madison Grant argues:
“Early ascetic Christianity played a large part in [the] decline of the Roman Empire, as it was at the outset the religion of the slave, the meek, and the lowly [i.e., those ‘predominantly of Mediterranean and Oriental blood’], while Stoicism was the religion of the strong men of the time [i.e., the ‘Nordic’ ‘master race’]. This bias in favor of the weaker elements greatly interfered with their elimination by natural processes, and the fighting force of the empire was gradually undermined. Christianity was in sharp contrast to the worship of tribal deities which preceded it, and tended then, as it does now, to break down class and race distinctions. Such distinctions are absolutely essential to the maintenance of race purity in any community when two or more races live side by side,” (97–98).
Thus, whereas clerical fascism (or “Christofascism”) loomed large in the United States and other parts of the world during the 1930s, and, in the post-WWII era, anticlerical neo-fascism (which might be called “anti-[Judeo-]Christo-Bolshevism”) found a variety of ways to express itself throughout the Americas, it is equally true that anticlericalism, often mixed with völkisch ideas, antisemitic disdain for the Jewish (or “Oriental,” or “Mediterranean”) roots of Christianity, and anti-Communism, is also found at the roots of fascism, in the ideas of late 19th and early 20th century German nationalists and American eugenicists. From whence this seeming inability of the fascist movement to choose either clericalism or anticlericalism and stick with one approach consistently?
Two things must be understood with regard to this apparent “inconsistency.” Firstly, clerical and anticlerical fascism are not opposite to one another, but rather a complimentary pair of tactics serving the same strategic objective; it appears quite reasonable that fascism would take an anticlerical approach to antifascist clergy and adopt a pro-clerical stance when faced with clergy who appear supportive of fascism (or at least submissive to it). Secondly, it would be too simplistic to chart out the trajectory of fascism (from proto-fascism to neo-fascism) as going from anticlericalism (late 19th and early 20th century) to clericalism (1930s) and back to anticlericalism again (in the post-WWII era). Rather, going back to the sect-movement distinction, we must see that fascism, as a movement, does not depend on philosophical consistency between its hodge-podge of sectarian fronts during any given historical period, least of all in the domain of religion. In fact, by portraying itself as politically somewhat “aloof” to religion—giving primacy to ideology over theology—the political movement of fascism tolerates, and even encourages, a variety of religious sectarian forms, such as: Revisionist Christianity (e.g., neo-Marcionism, British Israelism, Christian Identity, Mormonism), Christofascism, Eurocentric forms of neo-paganism, and Satanism. This allows the movement to shore up support among a broad swath of fascist-sympathizing individuals holding a variegated panoply of idiosyncratic predilections when it comes to “spiritual” matters. Furthermore, while the anticlerical neo-fascist approach is always motivated by the perceived threat of progressive religious elements potentially becoming powerful enough to topple systems of oppression, true anticlericalism would imply a hostility to all clergy, but in reality the fascist method is often oriented toward the sowing of division within a religious community, getting some of them to side with the fascist forces of oppression, thereby generating sectarian and denominational fractures, which may even result in the perception that one religion has split into two.
This tactic of internal division sowing, as opposed to purely external anticlerical antagonizing, was employed by Nazi Germany in its Kirchenkampf (“church war,” echoing the anti-Catholic Kulturkampf [culture war] of the German Empire), when the Protestant churches were divided between the pro-Nazi “German Christians” and the non-compliant “Confessing Church,” whose resistance to the Nazi effort to take over and Nazify the country’s churches and institute a “National Reich Church” led the Nazis to settle on a plan to postpone full implementation of their Kirchenkampf project until after the war, which they apparently planned on “winning,” would be over. Although the tactic of sowing internal division required the Nazi “German Christians” to outwardly uphold the pretense of adhering to the same religious identity as their targets, that the goals of the Kirchenkampf were explicitly anti-Christian is demonstrated by the fact that Alfred Rosenberg (who, as Hitler’s personal “Delegate for the Intellectual and Philosophical Education and Instruction of the [Nazi] Party,” can be viewed as the top ideologue behind the Kirchenkampf project) drafted a detailed program for the planned “National Reich Church” calling for, among other things, eliminating the priesthood and clergy (to be replaced by “National Reich orators”), banning the Bible (to be replaced by Mein Kampf), the replacement of all crosses and crucifixes with the swastika, and “exterminat[ing] irrevocably […] the strange and foreign Christian faiths imported into Germany in the ill-omened year 800” (Shirer 213). It can be seen that the Nazis were pursuing a “divide and conquer” strategy against Christianity in that they called their “de-Judaized,” “German” version of Christianity “Positive Christianity,” while orthodox or mainstream Christianity was labelled “Negative Christianity” (Rosenberg). So-called “Positive Christianity” deviated radically from mainstream Christianity in that it rejected the Bible, “propos[ing] the abandonment of the Old Testament […] and the revision of the New Testament with the teaching of Jesus ‘corresponding entirely with the demands of [Nazism,]’” (Shirer 210). Presumably, a part of the New Testament which the Nazi “Christians” would have sought to revise is Matthew 5:17, where, in the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus expressly tells people not to reject the Old Testament.
Now we must ask ourselves: If, in the decades after WWII, the Nazis’ so-called “Positive Christianity,” with its proposals to ban the Bible and “exterminate […] Christian faiths,” was by all accounts universally condemned as heretical by Christians of all stripes and antifascist movements for peace, human rights, and socialism often came carrying the cross, with leading Christians like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Saint Oscar Romero exemplifying what Hitler had lamented as the “restor[ation]” of “Christianity in its Bolshevistic form” to “pride of place,” what was then left for fascists to carry? They had tried to appropriate and subvert Christianity from within, but being met with resistance from the likes of the “Confessing Church” and other antifascist Christians, failed to achieve their objectives, so perhaps now it was time to try something new (though not totally new, for, as we shall see, it can be demonstrated that Satanism follows quite naturally from the doctrine of “Positive Christianity”).
It must be admitted that the idea of establishing a “Church of Satan” (as opposed to a “Church of God”) is not many links removed along the signifying chain from the notion of a “Positive Christianity” (as opposed to a “Negative Christianity”). Etymologically, the English word “church” originates from the Ancient Greek word “kyrios” [κύριος], meaning “lord,” “ruler,” “master,” or, in Modern Greek, “mister,” “sir,” or “gentleman,” being a shortened form of “kyriakon doma,” which means “the Lord’s house” (Etymonline). In turn, the phrase “Jesus is Lord” is well known from the Bible as an affirmation of Christian belief. Thus “Christianity” is closely linked to “Church” through a short chain of signifiers consisting of as little as three links: “Christ,” “Lord,” and “kyriakon doma.” Moreover, given that “Church,” deriving from a signifier for “Lord,” is a shortened way of saying “the Lord’s house” (synonymous here with “Christ’s house”), the phrase “Church of Satan” is equivalent to that of “the Lord’s House of Satan.” Thus it would be valid to reconsider the notion of a “Church of Satan” and a “Church of God” in the rephrased forms of “the Lord’s House of Satan” and “the Lord’s House of God.” We might then wonder in what manner these houses are really opposed if it is “the Lord” to whom both belong. And, given the traditional naming conventions used for Christian churches, few would assume that a “Church of Saint Mary” is a sign of some radically deviant new religious movement which worships a deity called “Saint Mary” and rejects “the Lord.” Thus it is clear that “Church of Satan” and “Church of God” can also be accurately rephrased as “Satanic Christianity” and “Godly Christianity.” “Satanic Christianity” is a logical extension of modern Satanism’s Christianity-based appropriative mode, seen in formulations such as “Satanic Church” and “Satanic Bible.” Finally, it could almost go without saying that the words “Satan” and “God” are closely associated with binary opposites like good and evil, positivity and negativity, truth and falsehood. The only inconsistency might be that, for most people, the phrase “Positive Christianity” would likely be seen as pairing better with “Godly Christianity” rather than “Satanic Christianity.” However, contrary to linguistic intuition, it is the claim of many, if not most, modern Satanists that “Satan” is actually not a word-symbol for evil and negativity, but, quite the opposite, represents all that is virtuous and positive. This concords with the fact that a major factor in the growth of modern Satanism’s cultural appeal is the belief that God, or the idea of God, is a great source or cause of evil in the world. (See here for a cringeworthy example [note: the hyperlinked video, which featured an interview with a supporter of modern Satanism, was deleted with the closing of Alex Jones’ InfoWars channel on Youtube]). From all this, it is clear that there is a considerable amount of compatibility between the idea of “Satanic Church” and that of “Positive Christianity” as conceived by the Nazis. Indeed, a Satanist and former US military officer named Michael Aquino (1946–present), one of the most prominent figures on the scene of modern Satanism (who will reappear in later sections of this work), argued that “Mein Kampf is a political Satanic Bible,” (Mathews 148). Dorothee Soelle, the Liberation Theologian who coined the term “Christofascism” to describe a form of religion which outwardly professes to be Christianity but which replaces God and Jesus with Caesar and Satan, grew up in Nazi Germany and was 15 years old when it collapsed. It may be reasonably supposed that this experience of living under the regime which attempted to institute duplicitous “Positive Christianity” informed her idea of Christofascism as a form of Satanism.
Is it not logical that the figure of “Satan,” viewed as the quintessential “anti-Christ” in positive form (i.e., without the anti-), would become attractive to those who see all mainstream forms of Christianity as “Negative Christianity”? After all, if one considers that what is widely understood to be “Christianity” is actually “Negative Christianity,” then so-called “Positive Christianity” might in fact be better understood as “anti-(Negative) Christianity” or, to put it more simply, anti-Christianity. Here we can see that the philosophical influence of German idealism is evident in the Nazi formulation of a “Positive Christianity” which negates “Negative Christianity.” In Hegel or Spinoza, Pierre Macherey elucidates “the Hegelian conception of truth” as it relates to positivity and negativity, highlighting the fact that, in Hegel’s system, “the false is not a negative that can be nothing but negative and that would be so through its complete exteriority to truth” because “knowledge is inseparable from the process through which it is realized” (71). According to the Hegelian dialectic, to posit a false statement, which may nevertheless be considered to express “a true idea if not an idea that is true,” is necessarily a positive action, just as “the truth itself is equally a negative in relation to the falsity that it overcomes” (Macherey 69, 71). Thus, due to the fact that a positive proposition expressing an idea, which, though it is false, can still be considered to be a “true idea” in the sense that, however confused it may be, it truly is an idea (e.g., “cats are birds”) forms the basis for the production of a negative proposition that expresses a true idea that is true (in this case, “cats aren’t birds”), it is said that “it is no longer possible to maintain dogmatically a rigid separation between the true and the false,” nor can “a positive and negative […] be fixed in […] opposition” to each other (Macherey 71). The lack of “rigid separation” between positivity and negativity, truth and falsity in this system of dialectical idealism goes a long way towards explaining the blatantly negative ambitions of the proponents of so-called “Positive Christianity,” such as eliminating all clergy and priests, banning the Bible, removing the cross from churches, and “irrevocably” eradicating Christianity, all of which make it patently obvious that their pretense of adhering to a form of Christianity was false.
Another question: What better way to sow division within the Church than by dividing it into “Christian” and “Satanic” camps (which, culturally speaking, is much more incendiary and provocatively polarizing than a division between “Positive” and “Negative” camps, arguably making it far better suited to the pursuit of a “divide and conquer” strategy)? Moreover, what better way for fascism to conceal its cryptic inner secret than by taking up the traditional symbols of Satanism, especially given that old conventional wisdom “predicting” that fascism would come bearing a cross, renewed by the entertainment industry’s recent TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Christofascist dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale?
Clearly, the connection between neo-fascism and modern Satanism is real. There is a vast number of examples of this phenomenon, several of which will be analyzed in this work, but for now let us consider a couple of illustrative cases. In 2006, it was revealed that the so-called “National Socialist Movement” or NSM (widely reported to be one of the largest openly neo-Nazi organizations in the United States, if not the largest) had been using the same post office box as a Satanist group called “Joy of Satan Ministry” (“National Socialist Movement,” SPLC). As it turned out, the wife of the Chairman Emeritus of the NSM, Cliff Herrington, who co-founded the NSM in 1974, was the “Joy of Satan” group’s “High Priestess” (Zaitchik). Although the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the revelation of the NSM’s close relationship to “Joy of Satan Ministry” generated some friction inside the NSM, leading Herrington to step down, there is still a “Joy of Satan” presence on the internet, where the group publishes a variety of antisemitic and racist content. As of 2018, so-called “National Satanist” opinions continue to be published on NSM social media web pages as well (Vkontakte). Moreover, although NSM “Commander” Jeff Schoep publicly announced on the group’s online forum that “Chairman Emeritis [sic] Herrington” would be “retiring from his position […] as he attends to some personal and family matters” (a nonsensical, self-contradicting statement because “chairman emeritus” already refers to a retired chairman who retains the title of chairman in an honorific capacity), Schoep nevertheless praised Herrington as “a tireless and valuable worker for the [NSM’s] cause” and noted that “[p]erhaps after his personal matters are squared away, [the NSM] will see him again in the future,” (nsm88forum.com, “The Chairman has retired effective immediately”). Like many of the other self-proclaimed Satanist sects, “Joy of Satan Ministry” argues that “Satan” is not “evil,” but rather that the “Judeo-Christian” deity “Jehova” (sic) is. Not surprisingly, this idea closely resembles the neo-Marcionist rejection of the God of the Old Testament as a negative, evil entity which was central to the Nazi tactic of so-called “Positive Christianity.”
To posit the modern Satanist movement as an encrypted expression of neo-fascism is not to suggest that neo-fascism is by the same token precluded from encrypting itself (or “cleverly adapt[ing]”) by means of the appropriation of Christian phraseology or that individuals sincerely fancying themselves to be Christians cannot be fascists. Nevertheless, the fact that neo-Nazis who are also self-proclaimed Satanists have openly advocated the idea of hiding behind Christofascist front groups, arguing that “in order to […] increase anti-Judaism,” Satanists should pose as adherents of “Christian Identity,” a heretical belief system whose central tenet is that the ancient Israelites of the Bible were actually the ancestors of a population some anthropologists would later call the “Nordic race” (associated with northwestern Europe) and thus that “God’s chosen people” are “white,” and which also incorporates a Satanization of Jewish people (Sieg, Ixaxaar 4). A number of white supremacist criminals have also expressed a desire to affiliate themselves with the so-called “Phineas Priesthood,” a heresy closely related to “Christian Identity” which is based on the belief that God offers special spiritual rewards to those who murder couples engaged in so-called “miscegenation” (i.e., “race-mixing”) (SPLC). Tellingly, the Satanism-linked NSM and a large number of other leading neo-Nazi groups involved in the infamous August 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally publicly announced that they had formed an alliance called “Aryan Nationalist Alliance” (later renamed “Nationalist Front”) with believers in the “Phineas Priesthood” in 2016 (Buntovnik). And in 2012, a leading NSM member with known links to a Mormon Republican Arizona state senator named Russell Pearce (1947–present) and to disgraced racist and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (1932–present), who was also the first person to receive a presidential pardon from Donald Trump, killed a one-year-old “half-Latina child,” along with her parents and grandmother before killing himself (Lemons). These violent, hate-filled misinterpretations of Christianity appear to be seen by the Satanists who advocate their “utiliz[ation (…)] in pursuit of […] aeonic aims” (i.e., referring to long-term objectives relating to the manipulation of historic forces to do things like, perhaps, establishing a “thousand year Reich”) as forming what in contemporary Satanist jargon is called a “Sinister Dialectic” with Satanism, empowering the latter in the long term, much like the Nazis’ sinister dialectic of “Positive Christianity” and “Negative Christianity” (Sieg; Long, Ixaxaar 14).
Despite the plausibility of certain Satanists posing as Christians or appropriating a Christian mode of expression in bad faith, it would nevertheless appear somewhat farfetched to attribute all guilt for bad behavior within Christian churches to crypto-Satanic wreckers. In any case, the neo-Nazi and white supremacist sects like “Christian Identity” which Satanists have recommended infiltrating or appropriating are marginal in comparison to mainstream forms of “conservative” Christianity. It is thus appropriate to consider how the immorality now associated with “mainstream” Christianity (e.g., anti-abortion fanaticism, support for Islamophobic imperialist wars in the guise of neo-Crusaderism, misogynistic campaigns to rescind basic human rights for women, etc.) developed. This largely means examining the emergence of what has been termed the “Religious Right.”
While Protestantism has traditionally been the predominant religious tendency in the United States, there is a considerable amount of divergence between the various Protestant churches and denominations in terms of political orientation, and it is therefore misleading to consider the country’s Protestantism in monolithic terms. The main antagonism existing within Protestantism in the United States today is between those Protestant churches which are considered “Evangelical” and those that are considered “Mainline” (Green). While the terms “Evangelical” and “Mainline” can be somewhat ambiguous (with certain Mainline churches, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA] also employing the term “Evangelical”), we can nevertheless recognize that they have come to signify a broad dialectical polarization of American Protestantism into progressive and reactionary camps. We may thus use these terms advisedly to highlight this social fact.
This division is apparent beginning from the late 20th century, though it was the culmination of a long historical process with roots in the split over the question of American capitalist chattel slavery. In the same post-WWII period during which the aforementioned leftist or left-leaning religious leaders who preached liberation from systems of oppression were being systematically assassinated by neo-fascists and capitalist governments throughout the Americas, there was a significant decline in the perceived power and influence of the “Mainline” churches, which have tended to be more left-leaning (and, historically, were associated with the abolitionist movement) and, conversely, a significant growth in “Evangelical” denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention, which was originally a pro-slavery formation, and is now the largest grouping of Protestant churches in the US, making it the nation’s second most popular form of Christianity after Roman Catholicism (Tarico). As the composition of the Protestant population of the USA was in the process of transforming, there was a corresponding emergence of a variety of right-wing fundamentalist sects and propagandists, such as the Westboro Baptist Church and Jerry Falwell, culminating in the formation of what has become known as the “Religious Right,” which emerged in the late 1970s and has made up an important bloc of Republican Party voters since 1980 (McVicar).
In any discussion of “modern Satanism,” the seminal Church of Satan, founded in 1966 (in between the assassinations of Malcolm X and Dr. King) and its original frontman, Anton LaVey, inevitably appear. This group is often touted as the first to openly and explicitly profess Satanism. We will see that the sect to be decrypted in this work (i.e., “The Satanic Temple”) is indebted in many ways to the (still existent) Church of Satan, which is both its acknowledged predecessor and its competitor in the struggle to claim the mantle of face of the modern Satanic movement. It is interesting to note that the emergence of “modern Satanism” as an organized entity (a would-be “religion”) preceded the rise of the so-called “Religious Right” between 1976 and 1980 by a full decade. Leaders of “The Satanic Temple” often claim to be in the process of carrying out a “Satanic Reformation” (Greaves; “I regret…”), apparently referring to their ostensible efforts to disassociate modern Satanism from established connotations of far-right extremism, which, as this work will show, were quite explicitly articulated by LaVey, who opined that “[i]ndications are everywhere that we, as Satanists, have an affinity for […] Nazism (recognized and spoken),” (8).
It can be observed that the strength of the “Religious Right” is dialectically proportional to the ability of “The Satanic Temple” to invert the political valences of Satanism and Christianity. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, as the era of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim-led civil rights movement was being brought to a close through assassinations and COINTELPRO repression (think, for example, of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, Dr. King, and Malcolm X) and the only Satanists in the game were openly providing “indications […] everywhere” of their “affinity” with “Nazism,” it would have been to difficult to imagine Satanism as a politically “progressive” force. That has now changed, in no small part due not only to the brutal repression of Liberation Theology and every progressive tendency within the Church and Mainline, non-cultic religious institutions described above, but also because of what came in the wake of that repression. It has been suggested that the rise of the Evangelical “Religious Right” contributed to the astronomic increase in disaffiliation from Christianity which began in the 1990s, which some have referred to as “The Great Decline” of Christianity (Haut and Fischer; Hawley). Sociologists Michael Hout and Claude S. Fischer suggest in their article “Why More Americans Have No Religious Preference: Politics and Generations” that this decline is fueled by the fact that “moderate and liberal” (read: left-leaning) Christians (or ex-Christians), disturbed by the perception of a rightward, crypto-fascist shift in Christianity’s political engagement, stopped identifying as Christians. Meanwhile, right-wing Evangelicals claim the opposite. They assert that the Mainline churches’ decline can be attributed to acceptance of things like multiculturalism and gay marriage, while Evangelicals have become the dominant Protestant faction in America due to their steadfast theological degeneration into cultic Christofascism (Peters). Dennis Prager of the far-right propaganda outlet “PragerU” (Kelley) has espoused similar arguments in regards to Judaism, accusing rabbis who speak out on issues such as racism and sexism of being “one reason synagogues are in decline.” In reality, it is the reactionary supplantation of theology by neo-fascist ideologies, and especially of Christianity by Christofascism, which is fueling the rise of literal, explicit Satanism, as crypto-fascist Satanic groups are able to exploit the anomic situation arising from the alienation of moral people from cultic Christofascism, which is wrongly called Christianity, leading to the converse false supposition that Satanism is anti-cult and antifascist. A recent survey showed among so-called “white Evangelicals” an all-time high approval rating of 75% for Donald Trump, who, as we should all know by now, openly extols sexual assault, torture, murder, refoulement, and adultery (Moore and Kramnick). Make no mistake: the Evangelical “Religious Right” is, in the United States of the 21st century, the equivalent to the Nazi-affiliated “German Christians” of the 1930s and ’40s. They claim to follow Christianity, but actions speak louder than words, and their actions, beginning in the 1980s, correlate strongly with “The Great Decline” and the simultaneous rise of Satanism.
We thus see in Christianity’s so-called “Great Decline” not just a move away from Christianity, but against Christofascism, provoked by the perception that the views associated with right-wing Evangelical sects have become synonymous with what “Christianity” means. For many, especially those belonging to the younger generations and especially those identified as “white,” it would seem that identifying oneself as a “Christian” is virtually tantamount to saying “Hi, I’m a Ku Klux Klansman!” i.e., a great way to preemptively poison one’s interpersonal relationships. It would also seem that many left-leaning ex-Christians, turned off by the right-wing Evangelical turn, are unaware of the critique of Christofascism advanced by people like Dorothee Soelle, much less of its anti-Satanist connotations. Because of this, it becomes easy for “modern Satanism” to step in, presenting itself as a kind of religious (and political) antidote. Indeed, at least on the surface, “Satanism” seems to follow quite naturally (and semiotically) as the force of symbolic opposition to “Christianity.” Thus it can be seen that this politically-tinged “sinister dialectic” between right-wing “Christianity” and “left-wing” Satanism improves the prognosis for “Satanist” sect recruitment efforts, the attractiveness of Satanism growing as it posits itself as an enlightened force of opposition to ideologically and intellectually backward right-wing extremist “Christian” boogeyman cults like the Westboro Baptist Church (outliers in that they actively berate deceased members of the US military) and, more broadly, the modern “Religious Right.” This increases the plausibility of the notion that Satanism is a “left-leaning” force, which is at the same time seized upon by simple-minded Evangelical right-wingers, legitimizing their wild fears of “godless communism” as the political expression of the “Anti-Christ,” creating a feedback loop that increases the perceived political polarization of Satanism as “antifascist” and “left-wing” and Christianity as “fascist” and “right-wing” in the eyes of the certain segments of the public. This simplistic, though carefully crafted, “culture war” narrative of “progressive” modern Satanism versus the reactionary “Religious Right” provides an excellent smokescreen for the camouflaging of neo-fascist entryism and movement co-optation. Inevitably, whenever “The Satanic Temple” refers to Christians or Christianity, they mean the “Religious Right,” best epitomized by its most outrageous, cultic, and absurd elements, such as the Westboro Baptist Church. This is because this particular form of “Christianity” (i.e., Christofascism) works in a dialectically sinister, hand-in-glove fashion with Satanism to draw out precisely the kind of binary oppositions which “The Satanic Temple” desires to emphasize between itself and “Christianity.” The framing of social conflict in these “cultural” (i.e., aesthetic) terms reduces proclivity to engage in Marxian class analysis, displacing debate into a depoliticized or pseudo-politicized realm as the aesthetic-idealist Manichean dualisms of the “Christian” versus the “Satanic,” the theist versus the atheist, the “Left-Hand Path” versus the “Right-Hand Path,” and the clever versus the dumb come to supersede political-material dialectics of exploited versus exploiter, the haves versus the have-nots, the oppressed versus the oppressors.
The dubiosity of this “culture war” narrative is visible on “the walls of the crypt,” in the fact that modern Satanism was in no way conceived as a response to the “Religious Right,” but rather preceded it and can undoubtedly be said to have contributed to facilitating the latter’s ascendancy onto the national political stage. This is because the mere existence of a “Church of Satan” operated in a psychologically predictable way to provoke and inflame anti-Satanist sentiment among Christians, which probably had more more to do with the millenia old semiotic association of the word “Satan” with evil and antagonism in Abrahamic religions than with the Church of Satan’s neo-fascist affiliations, although these affiliations, along with the LaVeyan embrace of Nazi aesthetics (and politics) did undoubtedly help to reinforce the perception that evil and sinister forces were afoot. Nevertheless, because the provocation of anti-Satanist feeling and backlash coincided with the rightward political shift of the Christian demographic in the US, the idea that the anti-Satanism of the late 20th century, particularly mobilizations of anti-Satanist sentiment in the 1980s (dealt with in depth in Chapter 6), can essentially be equated with the “Religious Right” has become somewhat fashionable, bolstered by the efforts of self-proclaimed Satanists to absurdly represent themselves and, more generally, those “falsely accused” of sexual abuse, as a persecuted minority (Aquino). In reality, not only has modern Satanism been instrumental in the rise of the “Religious Right,” but it is itself in concrete dialectical unity with Christofascism. The religious fracture in the crypt of neo-fascism—its split into “Satanic” and “Christian” camps—built on violence and repression, is the basis for the working of a sinister dialectic which, to the extent that it empowers crypto-fascist Satanic sects, also necessarily empowers crypto-Satanic Christofascist sects.
We conclude this preface with a brief word on etymologies. With the understanding that fascism is a crypt, Satanism’s connection to fascism immediately becomes more comprehensible. Two words of Greco-Latin origin figure prominently as leitmotivs in fascist attempts to develop a semblance of spirituality, and it is therefore worth considering what the real sense of these somewhat cryptic words is: (1) the esoteric and (2) the occult. Often times, peppering discourse with these and semiotically adjacent terms does little more than promote mystical obscurantism. Studying the etymology of words can be a useful tool in the service of decryption. We may find that the “sinister” connotations of such “exotic” words comes largely from the strange, foreign, or alien quality which they retain in spite of their incorporation into the English language. The word “esoteric,” often used to mean, “intended for or understood by only a chosen few, as an inner group of disciples or initiates” derives from the Greek “esotero” [ἐσωτέρω], meaning “more within” or “further inside” (Collins; etymonline.com; Wiktionary). The word “occult” derives from the “Latin occultus [meaning] ‘hidden, concealed, secret,’ [which is the] past participle of occulere ‘[to] cover over, conceal,’ […] a verb related to celare ‘to hide,’ from [the Proto-Indo-European] root *kel-(1) ‘to cover, conceal, save,’” (etymonline.com). Interestingly, the word “Hell,” often depicted as the dwelling place of Satan, derives from the same Proto-Indo-European root as “occult.” These words evoke a place that is beyond us, though contained within something which is at the same time approachable, signalling in a paradoxical manner both distance and closeness, making possible a break-in, decryption, or topographical rearrangement.
CONTINUE READING… 1. Introduction
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