Satan at the State HousePosted: January 24, 2014
On statues, statutes, and civil society
Jonah Goldberg writes: The Constitution is powerless against Satan.
Earlier this month, the state of Oklahoma received a proposal from New York–based Satanists to build near the state capitol a seven-foot-high statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed pagan idol. The Satanists’ letter boasted that “the statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation.”
Now, while the Satanists are real, there’s a lot of fakery involved. It’s a stunt — a clever one — exploiting the constitutional injunction against governmental favoritism towards religion. The Oklahoma capitol has a statue of the Ten Commandments on its grounds, and that vexes atheist activists and Satanists alike. It’s a version of the old rule about bringing candy to school. If you didn’t bring enough for everyone, then no one can have any. If Christians and Jews can have a statue of the Ten Commandments on public property, so can everyone else. And if they can’t, no one can.
It’s doubtful that Oklahoman children will be sitting on Baphomet’s stony lap any time soon, and that’s more than fine with me. But that doesn’t mean, at least as a matter of logic alone, that the Satanists don’t have a point.
Indeed, if you want to argue that erecting a tribute to Lucifer on public property is a bad idea, the Constitution is pretty useless. That’s no knock on the Constitution, mind you. Lots of wonderful things are of little utility in fighting Satan. Puppies, ice cream, the warranty on a Ford Pinto: These are as helpful in fighting Satan as a winning smile is in putting out a house fire.
The Satan statue controversy is of course absurd, but absurdities are often useful in illuminating more substantial issues.
America is becoming vastly more diverse — ethnically, culturally, religiously, and morally. In a great many ways that’s a good thing. But in this life, no good thing comes without a downside.
Consider immigration, historically a boon to America. Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam (a liberal in good standing) found that increased immigration hurts “social trust,” causing people to “hunker down” within their own bands of friends or alone in front of the TV. Everything from trust in political leaders and the political process — both of which are at or near all-time lows, by the way — to voting and carpooling drops precipitously as more strangers move into a community…
— Jonah Goldberg is the author of The Tyranny of Clichés, now on sale in paperback. You can write to him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2014 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
- ‘Sit on the lap of Satan’ (punditfromanotherplanet.com)
- Satan at the State House On Statues, Statutes, and Civil Society By Jonah Goldberg (ruthfullyyours.com)
- Government overreliance: The devil is in the details (jsonline.com)
- Satanist Plan to Put Statue on Okla. Capitol (bobtuskin.com)
- Satanists Unveil Statue for Oklahoma Capitol (nation.time.com)
- SATANISM. Americans erect Satan’s statue (kavkazcenter.com)
- Local Satanists speak out in support of Satanic monument at State Capitol (kfor.com)
- Satanists unveil design for statehouse statue (syndicatednewsservices.com)
- Here’s the Statue Satanists Want at the Okla. Capitol (newser.com)
- NYC satanists propose 7-Foot Satan statue for OK capitol (godandcheeseburgers.wordpress.com)