Why I, a Christian, Am in Favor of the OK Capitol Satanic Monument

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Recently, new attention has been brought to the separation-of-church-and-state debate when, in response to a Ten Commandments monument placed at the Capitol Building in Oklahoma City in 2012, the Satanic Temple in NYC began an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to put up their own monument.  Then, a few weeks ago, they garnered more attention when they released the design for their Satanic monument: Baphomet, a goat-headed creature with wings, sitting in front of a pentagram with two children at its sides — an album cover-worthy image of any one of my favorite metal bands from the 1980’s.

Basically, the Satanic Temple’s argument goes like this: Either take down the Ten Commandments or we have the right to put up the Satanic monument.

The organization American Atheists had a similar strategy when a group of private citizens raised money and placed a Ten Commandments monument outside a courthouse in Florida.  When the Ten Commandments monument wasn’t removed, American Atheists raised money and placed their own monument at the courthouse in the summer of 2013.

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Granted, maintaining a separation of church and state in a country that guarantees freedom of speech and religion, a democratic country (therefore, ruled by the people – people primarily with religious convictions), is tricky business – actually, I would say impossible – but I humbly forgo the bulk of the debate about the correct implications and interpretations of those crucial characteristics of our country here.  I’m not the right guy for that debate.

(Though I would like to throw out one question before moving on: Why do people in NYC have any say about public land in OK?)

Yet concerning the case of the proposed (threatened–?) Satanic monument at the OK Capitol Building, I would like to weigh in.  So, I say thus:

Put it up.

Here are my reasons why I think a Satanic monument in OK is… well, OK:

(1) It’s only fair.

If we live in a democratic country with freedom of religion and speech and if a group of private citizens decide to put up a monument to honor Satan, then they have the right.  To quote someone much more famous than me: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”  If they want to erect said monument on public, instead of private, land and other faiths have been allowed to erect monuments to their faith on this public land, again, it’s only fair.  So, let them put it up.

(2) Religious monuments – especially Satanic ones – will promote discussions about religion, faith, and God.

Where I don’t necessarily agree with the idea that any publicity is good publicity, any controversy gives Christians an opportunity to speak about their faith.  I doubt the Ten Commandments monument in OK would’ve made national news or caught the interest of social media, yet the Satanic Temple in NYC has given Christians a platform to discuss their faith.  Thanks.  Put it up.

(3) If Satan exists, so does God.

By erecting a monument to Satan, the Satanic Temple of NYC is affirming God, the Bible, and a realm of our existence that transcends the physical world.  And what better reminder of the presence of a holy, good, and just God than a symbolic idol of evil set up for all to see?  Put it up.

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(4) Satanist should be allowed to have monuments on public land, but atheists should not.

Now, this isn’t because I have anything personal against atheists, but I say this according to their own logic.  Many atheists have made it perfectly clear that atheism is not a religion.  I agree.  Furthermore, outspoken atheists have made it very clear that those of us who believe in God are the ones with beliefs, not them, and the burden of proving the existence of God is on us.  If fact, many atheists even resent being labeled “atheists” because it implies there is a God to disbelieve.  A quote in Psychology Today sums up their argument nicely: “I refuse to identify according to what I reject.  I don’t believe in astrology or unicorns, but I don’t label myself according to that – so why should I identify according to my rejection of god-belief?”  Fair enough.  Thus, atheists don’t exist.

So, please immediately remove the American Atheists monument at the courthouse in Florida.

One may argue that groups without religious affiliations also have the right to put up monuments, but that doesn’t concern us here since the belief-formally-known-as-atheism doesn’t exist.  How can we have a monument to something that doesn’t exist or to something that’s not a belief?  A monument to nothing?  Absurdity.  So, take it down.

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(5) Their true goal is more about stifling faith than promoting freedom of speech.

The true goal of many of these aggressive secular groups is to banish all things of faith from sight, as seen in the case of the 13-foot cross set up by a group of marines (not some government institution) at Camp Pendleton in California to commemorate their fellow soldiers who had been killed or injured in combat.  The atheist group MAAF demanded the cross be taken down even though I know of no reports that other faiths had been forbidden from erecting similar monuments.

The true strategy of some of these groups is not to put up a monument to counter every religious monument in the country (because, let’s be honest, they would fail miserably), but to encourage other groups to erect monuments and so clutter up public land that local governments will ban all such monuments.  In an article on the American Atheists monument in Florida, the New York Times reports, “But building monuments to atheism from sea to shining sea is not really their goal. They figure that once atheists join the fray, every other group under the sun will demand the same privilege — including some that Christians might find objectionable, like pagans and Satanists.  In the end, the atheists hope, local governments and school boards will decide that it is simpler to say no to everyone.”  Furthermore, many of these “Satanist” groups are not Satan-worshippers; they’re simply angry atheists.  Go to their websites and read their beliefs to see.

So, put it up.  Let the great monument contest begin!  Let’s make America so cluttered with monuments that it’ll rival ancient Rome.  Heck, once we banish monuments to the belief-formerly-known-as-atheism, militant unbelievers will react by pretending they worship spaghetti monsters and such to mock those with faith in God, but let them put their idols up anyway.  Their monuments won’t serve as a mockery of belief in God, but a mockery of our Constitution and the freedom of faith and speech it protects.

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(6) There’s no neutral stance.

Whether you like it or not, or you think you care about it or not, there is no neutral stance when it comes to the God debate.  Militant atheists and so-called Satanists want the world to believe that Christians and others who believe in God are the ones forcing their beliefs on others.  But no culture in the entire history of the world has ever been atheistic.  Interestingly, all these diverse faiths have a belief in a creator, an afterlife, a sense of their own sins being offensive to their creator, and a need for reconciliation.  That means if the naturalistic atheist is right, and humans evolved solely by a long series of random, happy accidents and spread throughout the world into thousands of diverse cultures, we’re to believe they all developed some sort of understanding of God by sheer coincidence.  It seems to me if the militant atheists were right, belief in God would be the exception, not the norm, yet atheism is the exception — vastly.

If outspoken atheists want to convince us that unbelief in God is the true state of humans, then they’re going to have to explain away the search to understand God by every culture since the dawn of man.  No matter what the situation, humans always return to pursuing God.  Even in Communist countries where religion was outlawed, people have continued to search for God despite the high risk of harsh persecution.  Ironically, even ardent atheists can’t help but return to the patterns of religion as seen by the movements to start atheist churches, by the presence of atheist chaplains at colleges and in the military, and, yes, even the making of symbols of their beliefs in the form of monuments.

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The greatest irony is certain atheists want us to believe we’re all the product of random, mindless chance — we’re stardust that became creatures; we’re an advanced accident of cells — but they want us to believe life still has meaning.  Meaning can’t come from random, mindless forces.  If the atheistic materialist is right, freewill, love, and even your mind don’t exist; they’re just illusions; they’re all just chemicals firing off in your brain.  You’re not thinking; you’re just responding to stimuli.  So, if this upsets you, don’t be mad at me because I can’t help writing this.  I’m just a flesh computer and this is how I’m programmed.

Militant Atheists desperately want their rights, but why does a cosmic accident deserve any rights?  If I shove a person into traffic instead of listening to him, it’s just one accident running into another.  The chemicals in my brain made me do it; it’s nothing personal.  And can you prove your rights please? — Because I have never seen, touched, tasted, smelled, or felt a right before and if I can’t see, touch, taste, smell, or see it, I don’t believe in it — because no strictly material process can birth immaterial things – like rights.

There’s no neutral stance.  So, put up the Satanic monument.  Let’s remind everyone that there’s a spiritual war going on.  Let the Satanists slap nominal, cultural Christianity in the face and say, “Decide what you believe and pick a side, but you can’t be lukewarm anymore.”  Let’s throw a bucket of cold water on those Christians who stay safe in their Christian bubbles and remind them of the adversity that’s out there – yes, there’s opposition; yes, there’s hostility; and yes, there’s even evil.  Put it up.

I want to be perfectly clear that I am NOT labeling atheists as evil.

Many of my friends don’t follow God but are fantastic, beautiful, loving, thoughtful people.  But I have this to say: Just like the nominal, cultural Christians, you have to make a choice.  And I want you to see that the way you live right now in your unbelief is in a way that shows there’s a God.  You live as people who believe there’s meaning to life, that people have rights and value, that there’s beauty in the world, and that friends are worth dying for.  Your thoughts aren’t the thoughts of something that somehow became living from lifeless, mindless matter and developed by chance into an advanced accident that ponders its own existence.  You are more than flesh machines.

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There is no neutral stance in scripture.  Jesus clearly stated whoever is not with him is against him (Matt 12:30; Luke 9:50, 11:23).  He wasn’t the all-affirming hippy modern Americans try to make him out to be.  Jesus speaks of hell more than any other person in the Bible; he understood the cost of sin so much that he was tortured and died because of it.

There is no “grey-area” in scripture.  We all fall short of godliness.  We are all sinners, and sin separates us from a perfectly good, just God.  But God became man, lived the perfect life we never could, and took the punishment when he didn’t need to — for us — so we could be united with him.  This is a free gift, but all gifts must be accepted.  That’s all you need to do; you don’t have to earn it and you don’t have to be “good” in order to accept it because none of us, Christians included, are wholly good.

There is no neutral stance.  Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).  We are either slaves to sin or we are set free through Christ.

Some people who are opposed to God have honest intellectual questions that need answering.  I understand that.  I was an atheist longer than I have been a Christian.  Christians need to be ready to gently and humbly answer them, and if they can’t, they should be honest about it and find someone who can.

Some people are opposed to belief in God because of emotional reasons.  The church has hurt many.  Christians need to humbly acknowledge this and give apologies.  But those hurt must also realize that Christians are imperfect sinners too.  Just as we find the sick in hospitals, we find sinners in churches.  Christians need to do a better job of representing God, but also remember they aren’t God.  Don’t reject God because of Christians.

Finally, some reject God for reasons of their will — because admitting there is a God is admitting that there is more to life than what they want to believe.  Admitting there is a God brings with it a certain responsibility, a certain way of understanding the world, and a humbling and admitting you’re not the center of the universe.

A person may reject God for any of these reasons or for all of them.  When I was an atheist, my rejection of God was a combination of all three.

So, put up the Satanist monument.  Let’s start the discussion.  Let the “Satanists” shove Satan in our collective faces because, to quote something said in a movie by someone a lot more famous than me: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

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Interview: Ian J. Keeney, director of The Meaning & former Satanist, Atheist/Christian relations & “The War on Religion” (Part 1 of 2)

*Can atheists & Christians have civil discussions?  Is there some middle ground they can agree on?*

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**My interview with Ian J. Keeney, director of the documentary The Meaning, where we discuss his film, how he became a Christian, and atheist/Christian relations **

A review on IMDb describes The Meaning as “a comprehensive study into the lives of people of various belief systems. The pacing of the film runs smoothly, considering the enormity of this project.  Name the last time you saw a film that had this much jam-packed into an hour and forty-five minutes.  In your travels, you come across motorcycle gangs turned “Holy Rollers”, surfers for Christ, rappers in the ‘hood talking about Jesus, university professors who believe God created Evolution, crazed Disney World naysayers, transgendered women, Catholic monks, animal rights activists, and former self-proclaimed “Vegan Satanists”—I mean, my God, Ian out did Geraldo on this one!”

 (Watch The Meaning trailer here.)

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The first time I learned of Ian J. Keeney it was memorable.  It was baptism day at our church, and several people I’ve never seen before were setting up professional movie cameras.  Was a celebrity getting baptized at our small, unassuming church?  Then Ian, who I had never met, stood up to be baptized, and while giving his testimony he tells the whole church that he used to be a “Satanist.”  Later, I would find out Ian worked in the film/TV industry and the people with the cameras were his friends.  I would also find out later that a Satanist isn’t the same as a Satan-worshipper.  Satanist was  a title some atheists who are extremely hostile towards Christianity give themselves.  Ian immediately went on my list of people I’d like to know.

Ian is the one person I know that can truly be labeled a Renaissance Man.  He writes movies, novels, poetry, and music.  Not only that, but he shoots and edits his own films, he records his own music, and he performs his poetry and music live.  You would think someone with this much creativity would be bursting with emotion and exuberance at all times, but Ian is laid-back and reserved – a guy anyone can sit down and have a decent talk with.  Even if the discussion goes into deep waters, Ian’s friendly demeanor and humor never waivers.

The following interview discusses his documentary The Meaning, Christian/atheist issues, and how he went from a Satanist to a Christian.

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Steve: Tell us about your documentary, The Meaning.  What do you hope to accomplish with this film?

Ian: The Meaning is a film about the so-called “War on Religion” in the United States (or even, the world) and what that means for Christians and atheists particularly. What I hope to accomplish with this film is to open some hearts and minds for Christians and atheists to meet in the middle and discuss their concerns, rather than resorting to quips on billboards and bumper stickers.

Steve: It’s great that you worked with people of varying beliefs (and unbeliefs) about God on The Meaning.  It seems the project was a success, but was there any butting of heads on any aspect of the film?

Ian: There was not one time we ever clashed on set. Some of the most interesting conversations happened once the cameras stopped rolling. The whole tone of the movie is to be open, share ideas and never come to the conversation thinking, “I have to make this person believe my point of view.” When people are open to sharing ideas in a non-threatening manner without an agenda, there’s really no reason why there should be any butting of heads. It’s when the Christian starts trying to “sell” Jesus or the atheist tries to belittle your belief, that’s when things get ugly.

Steve: Did you purposely have atheists help make The Meaning to keep yourself honest — so you couldn’t be accused of editing the film in Christianity’s favor? 

Ian: I would not have made this movie if I were not able to include people of varying beliefs because one of my main concerns is that this is never viewed as a film with an agenda slanted toward atheism or Christianity. It’s simply a platform for sharing ideas – something I don’t think Christians and atheists do often enough. If I’m saying atheists and Christians should be more open to discussions with each other for understanding, how could I say that if I didn’t invite others along for this discussion and give them an equal voice?

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Steve: I know one of the big things you want to do is promote an open, honest dialogue between Christians and nonbelievers.  We both agree that people can disagree on “big” topics, but still remain friends and have discussions about things they disagree on without hard feelings and putting down each other.  But why do you think this is so hard for people to do?

Ian: I think there are several factors to this. For one, I think it’s human nature for people to always want to be right. It’s so hard for someone to admit that they’re wrong. Secondly, I believe there are a lot of misinformed people out there on both sides of the conversation just regurgitating something someone heard from someone else who heard something on TV. It’s important before we take a stance on anything that we have our facts straight and know the sources of those facts. Family Guy is not a reliable source.

There is also a conundrum with the fact that the Bible says to go in all the world and preach the gospel. The problem with that is, a lot of people don’t want to hear the gospel. Imagine you’re sitting peacefully at home having your coffee and cereal watching Joel Osteen on TV when there comes a knock on your door. It’s an atheist. He has a booklet and pamphlets to tell you why there is no God. Jesus is a lie and you need to just let it go. You’d probably be irritated by this unannounced guest just as much as most atheists would feel when someone comes like a door-to-door salesman but instead of selling vacuum cleaners, he’s selling Jesus. I think it’s important to try to put ourselves in each others shoes. We can’t communicate with someone we don’t understand.

Steve: Good points.  I’d just like to add no one should watch Joel Osteen.  I’m saying that in a joking manner, but I’m serious.

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Steve: Talk a little about The Meaning’s Facebook page and the interactions on there.

Ian: We have a Facebook page for the movie and I use that as a way to keep this conversation going. I want this to be more than just a movie. If I’m trying to open a dialogue between Christians and atheists, I can’t just show a movie in a dark quiet theater and then say, “Thanks for coming. Now go home.” Whenever possible, we interact with our audience personally after the film and hold a Q&A. I don’t want it to stop there. You can continue to interact with us through Facebook and others who are there to discuss what’s going on in the world today. I try to keep things light and humorous sometimes too because I find value in laughter. These topics can be difficult enough, so a little comic relief is needed.

Steve: I’ve had some really great discussions on the Facebook page with people on both sides of the fence of belief and recommend people visit it.  Unfortunately, the disconnected nature of the internet — the lack of personal, face-to-face connection — sometimes makes people defensive and even rude, and I know this is what you don’t want to promote, Ian. 

This may sound funny, but I would recommend people to jump into conversations on your Facebook page because it’s a great way to discipline ourselves in interacting with people of differing views.  It’s a great way to practice having an honest conversation and not a debate where you’re just trying to one-up the other guy.  It’s a great place to practice being fair-minded and to practice disagreeing with someone with grace and patience, especially if the other person does get rude.  If nothing else, since it takes place in “internet-time,” it teaches you not to respond immediately with your gut or emotion.  If someone writes something you disagree with and you feel yourself getting heated, don’t write back right away.  Take some time to calm down and think clearly, and then think out a rational, fair response.  If you care about the subject, it’s a challenge not to get emotionally involved — trust me — but it’s a great exercise in self-discipline. 

Tell us about your radio show/podcast.

 Ian: The radio show is an extension of The Meaning as well (BlogTalkRadio.com/DiscoverTheMeaning). We have several episodes up now and we have more scheduled for release very soon. On the show I talk with people in depth. You get a half hour long interview with all types of different people from theologians to atheists, musicians to poets.

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NEXT: (PART 2) We’ll get into DEEP waters with Ian J. Keeney about how he went from a Satanist to a Christian, about atheist/Christian issues, and more about his documentary The Meaning.)

IN THE MEANTIME:

For info on the upcoming showings of The Meaning, including one in Paterson, NJ click here.  

Making an independent film and getting it in front of audiences takes a lot of $$$.  Find out about The Meaning‘s fundraising campaign by clicking here.

To contact Ian J. Keeney or to learn more, click one of the following: The Meaning’s Facebook page, Ian’s Facebook page, The Meaning’s official site, Ian J. Keeney’s official site.

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