Monthly Archives: January 2017

Happy Belated Religious Freedom Day!

29 January, LI A.S.

I am getting gradually more on top of things with this blog, I swear. 🙂

Happy National Religous Freedom Day!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Statute_for_Religious_Freedom#/media/File:Thomas_Jefferson%27s_Grave_Site.jpg

Jefferson considered the Virginia Statute an achievement of his up there with the Declaration of Independence, and his founding of the University of Virginia.

On January 16th, 1786, the Virginia General Assembly adopted Thomas Jefferson’s landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. This law, which Jefferson originally drafted back in 1777, disestablished the Church of England in the state of Virginia and guaranteed the freedom of religion which Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers professed to be a natural right of every individual. This bold law broke with the political norms of nearly every empire, kingdom, and principality of the Old World: our new Republic would have no more state religion, no more government sponsorship of proselytizing, no more requirements of one or another religious affiliation in order to hold public office, and overall, freedom of conscience and freedom of worship for everyone. Not just Protestants. Not just Christians. Everyone, according to this law, would be protected as such:

…no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities…

Jefferson’s legislation would go on to influence the United States Constitution of 1787, specifically its First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

State and federal adherence to the right of religious freedom have proven imperfect at times and remain so today. But the ideals enshrined in the Statute and the First Amendment live on, woven inseparably into the ever-vital American Experiment. If a man lacks the fundamental freedom to choose and believe whatever religious worldview suits him, (including an unreligious worldview,) what kind of freedom does he conceivably have? Considering Mankind’s long and bloody history of holy wars, inquisitions, witch hunts, and pogroms of every kind, Jefferson’s’ “Wall of Separation” between the State and any church is an unusual and precious concept worth both celebrating and soberly protecting.

I can’t think of a more fitting day to celebrate mine and my country’s religious liberty than January 16th. A lot of folks (including the last four U.S. Presidents,) seem to agree with me, and so that date is proclaimed each year as National Religious Freedom Day. And hey, check it out, the Church of Satan has a great page on the subject as well:

(Click for link to Church website)

I highly recommend checking out that page to see what many talented and articulate Satanists have to say on the topic. One little piece I’d like to highlight is the contribution made by the Satanic Player’s Society. We put together readings of a few quotations from famous authors on the topic. Mine is by Mark Twain. 🙂

There are still some in America (*cough cough*) who insist that the American nation was founded on the basis of the Christian religion, rather than on secular ideas of natural rights to life, liberty, and property. While the evidence against this myth abounds in the writings of many Founding Fathers, my favorite collective American rejection of Christian political dominance is the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli. This treaty connects to the fascinating and largely forgotten history of the young United States’ conflict with the piratical Barbary States of North Africa, the best part of that story being when Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison dispatched the US Navy and Marines to kick the pirates’ asses and finally put a stop to their bullshit. (Which is where the Marine’s Hymn gets “To the shores of Tripoli,” as well as where Marine officers get the Mameluke sword.)

Anyway, before the Barbary Wars, the United States concluded the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli in an (ultimately vain) attempt to keep the peace with the Ottoman vassal state of Tripolitania. The part of the Treaty most indicative of our country’s political leadership’s true views on religious freedom is Article 11, which reads:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims); and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan (Mohammedan) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

“NOT. In any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” Whatever other beef our country had with the terrorist states of North Africa, any future conflict hadn’t a thing to do with the religious beliefs of any party involved, but rather hostile actions towards our citizens or interests. The Treaty of Tripoli was signed by President John Adams, a key member of the Founding generation, and was ratified by 100% of the twenty-three Senators (out of a total Senate of thirty-two) present on June 7th, 1797. The political movement towards secularism is not some new invention that sprung from California college campuses in the liberal spirit of the 1960’s. It’s a key component of America’s foundation. Even if the vast majority of Americans were Christian, the Founders clearly intended for a secular state which would leave questions of religion to individuals and their freely-chosen churches. That’s our heritage as Americans, whether we’re respectively Christian, Buddhist, atheist, or Pastafarian.

In 2017, I think commemoration and celebration of this day and the achievement it represents is more important than ever. America has been at war with Islamic Jihadists for a decade and a half, while the threat of political Christian interference in Americans’ personal lives looms greater than it did a year ago. The past two centuries have seen great progress in fulfilling the American ideal of complete individual religious liberty and separation of church and state. Maintaining that progress requires vigilance, hard work, and appreciation of what our Forefathers fought for and achieved. May the ideas and reality of self-determination continue to spread across human civilization!

And I really do want to emphasize the hard, important work that lawyers and other activists from organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have done for nearly a century, and continue to this day. Whether they’re stopping illegal discrimination, or arguing in the court system to overturn unconstituional laws which stood in the way of everything from scientific progress to the individual liberty of gay Americans, ACLU volunteers take the action needed to keep religious freedom alive. While members of the US Armed Forces get a great deal of credit (and rightfully so!) for protecting Americans from foreign threats of tyranny, I think it’s just as important to give attention to those civilians, such as ACLU volunteers, who fight the good fight securing our domestic Wall of Separation.

 

Furthermore, although the Church of Satan has a strict policy on politics, it’s well worth noting the Church’s goals set forth by High Priest Anton Szandor LaVey in “Pentagonal Revisionism”, specifically Points Two and Three. Numerous members contribute to those aims through their varied private and public endeavors.

Movie Review: Event Horizon

Note: I meant to post this months ago obviously, just after Halloween. I goofed up like a big dumb baby, didn’t notice that it didn’t actually go live, and now just got back to it.

 

What if Alien, The Shining, and Hellraiser all had sex?

You’d end up with…

Event Horizon

I had a great Halloween weekend: Pandemic Legacy and chicken wings on Friday night, writing all day Sunday…but what about Saturday, you ask? Saturday night, I went to a kick-ass Halloween party at my buddy’s house. I dressed as a Medieval plague doctor (with the beak mask) and played drinking games, hung out, just had a great time all-around. There was also an out of control fog machine adding to the fun. Oh! And a pit bull puppy, can’t forget that. She’s adorable.

We decided, naturally, to watch shitty Horror movies. The first we suffered through was The Ouija Experiment, and despite a few good disbelieving laughs, we just couldn’t make it through, so we switched to the nearly-as-bad Hayride 2. Was the first installment in that series any better? I doubt it. But who knows, sometimes sequels just suck.

Finally, after much beer and debating, we settled on the 1997, big-budget but “Meh”-received film Event Horizon, directed by Paul Anderson, and starring Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, and Joely Richardson. Now, despite it coming out nearly twenty years ago and being pretty well known, I had actually never seen nor even heard of Event Horizon! One of my friend’s said it was corny but good, and another said it was just utter garbage. The former convinced me, as I’m always up for new Sci-Fi Horror, and we got underway!

I was overall pleased with this movie, especially its premise: in the future, a spaceship (its name the title’s namesake) uses an experimental gravity drive to quickly bridge two distant points in space through the use of an artificial black hole. This, like the warp drive in Star Trek, would everything, allowing mankind to rapidly explore and settle the galaxy, and perhaps reach contact with distant intelligent life. The problem is, on its maiden voyage, the Event Horizon simply vanishes without a trace. That ill-fated voyage happened seven years before the movie’s plot begins, when another ship, commanded by Laurence Fishburne’s character Captain Miller, picks up a distress signal from the suddenly re-appeared Horizon, and proceeds to investigate. Accompanying Miller’s crew is the Event Horizon’s designer, Dr. William Weir, who himself is haunted by a dark past which grows all the darker as the story unfolds, harshly testing his sanity. I don’t want to give any more spoilers from there!

The set and costume design are as Alien-esque as that ominous premise would suggest, complete with a gloomy and industrial look not too different from modern sea-ship interiors, interlaced with high-tech control panels and futuristic spacesuits. Nearly everything is top-notch in the visuals department, (some visuals rely on dated 1997 CGI, though not any more than necessary,) and I found myself quickly drawn into this oddly familiar science fiction universe, eagerly anticipating what horrors from beyond the stars will befall our ill-prepared heroes.

The horror comes fast and furious. This is especially true in the infamous “blood orgy” scene, which, at least according to Wikipedia, was originally a much longer and even more graphic sequence, until poor feedback from test audiences (some viewers reportedly fainted!) convinced director Paul Anderson to cut much of it. I found more than enough suspense, space action, and disturbing imagery to whet my appetite. Most of the acting ranges from “Great” to “Fun Over-The-Top-ness,” and to my memory never got in the way of the plot or tone. The action scenes are cool and exciting and make maximum use of the special effects available by the budget and technology of the time.

I do think the overall delivery on the film’s central premise and initial foreboding is a tad underwhelming. There is corn here, to be sure. The final delivery is a nearly inherent problem with Horror movies: you, as the creator, establish an ominous setting and then build up in the viewer’s mind this ominous, big, bad, too-terrible-to-behold monster. It’s always just out of sight, always keeping to the shadows, always leaving the details to the imagination, only letting the viewer get a tiny peek behind the curtain, via sounds or glimpses or the aftermath of what this Thing does. But then, as the plot reaches a climax, you’re basically forced to show your hand, and your art faces this challenge: does your Big Baddie match the limitless monstrosity that the viewer has already formed in his or her mind? What people find scary is often surprisingly subjective, and it’s as a result difficult to reveal a monster which matches or exceeds what the viewer’s mind already formulated. Event Horizon does…passably well in that department. There is good imagery, there are great sound effects, but never the kind of payoff I hoped for, and that sadly weakens the film beyond what its foreshadowing implies.

Overall, I like this movie. Again, remember that my viewing environment was far from ideal and that fact may taint my opinion. But I saw enough to know that Event Horizon captures what Science Fiction Horror needs to get right: that existential dread of the unknown and incomprehensible chaos which lurks on the edges of human understanding, beyond the stars. I find it safe to say that H.P. Lovecraft codified that type of Modern Cosmic Horror, and that Paul Anderson’s film embodies a good example of it. The Science Fiction premise underlying the story is interesting, the setting is ominous, and the suspense does its job. I’ve seen many better Horror movies, but if you’re looking through recent decades for something new to you, and something not as critically acclaimed as, say, Alien or The Shining, Event Horizon is a good choice.