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An Interview with Sebastian Simpson: The Satanic Temple of West Florida

June 15, 2017

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 14.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Nine)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: June 15, 2017

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2017

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,298

ISSN 2369-6885

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Sebastian Simpson on far left.

Abstract

An interview with An Interview with Sebastian Simpson. He discusses: family background in Satanism; best argument for Satanism; tasks and responsibilities in The Satanic Temple of West Florida; After School Satan; Aleister Crowley, Timothy Leary, Anton LaVey, and others, and core values; the seven core tenets for protection from theocracy; perennial threats to Satanists in West Florida and America; protections from those threats; coming together to protect Satanists from bad law, from bullying of some religious individuals or communities, from mainstream and dominant religious encroachment and imposition, and so on; becoming involved and donating to The Satanic Temple of West Florida; and final feelings and thoughts.

Keywords: Sebastian Simpson, The Satanic Temple, West Florida.

An Interview with Sebastian Simpson: The Satanic Temple of West Florida[1],[2]

*Footnotes in & after the interview, & citation style listing after the interview.*

*This interview has been edited for clarity and readability.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Was there a family background in Satanism? What were some pivotal moments for becoming one, for you?

Sebastian Simpson: I have no family background in Satanism. My interest in Satanism goes back to the so-called “Satanic Panic” of the 1980’s and 1990’s. I was just a kid back then, but I distinctly recall seeing, for example, Geraldo Rivera’s endeavouring to “expose devil-worship.” The fear in my community was palpable. Initially I, too, was afraid that there was this invisible evil lurking in the music I was listening to and the literature I was reading (admittedly the perceived danger was also part of the appeal); however, that initial fear ebbed and transformed into genuine curiosity about Satanism and an affinity for this benign aesthetic that nevertheless had incredible rhetorical power. The realization that the Satanic conspiracy stories I was seeing in the news were nonsense also ignited a rebellious flame in my young mind, for I could see the baselessness and injustice of the witch hunts. At that point, however, my affinity for Satanism was purely aesthetic. Mostly due to the limited availability of Satanic literature such as The Satanic Bible to a youngster growing up in the American Midwest prior to the internet, it wouldn’t be until later, in my mid to late teens, that I recognized the intellectual aspects of Satanism.

2. Jacobsen: What seems like the best argument for Satanism to you? Now, what makes this philosophical and ethical worldview self-evident to you?

Simpson: Speaking only for myself, one aspect of modern Satanism that I found to be compelling, at least as I encountered it, is that it does not share with many other mainstream religions this idea of conversion. You’d be hard-pressed to find individuals who identify with mainstream Satanic organizations who also have an interest in convincing others to adopt Satanism per se. Certainly this is true with The Satanic Temple. A necessary component of what it is to be a Satanist is to identify as such. Satanism’s emphasis on individuality is patently at odds with the idea of convincing someone to identify in a certain way; I would never deign to convince someone to adopt an identity. That said, the ethic underlying the Seven Tenets of The Satanic Temple certainly isn’t self-evident and ought to be rationally defensible.

3. Jacobsen: What tasks and responsibilities come with work in The Satanic Temple of West Florida?

Simpson: I maintain an open line of communication with the National organization. Managing our social media presence, including responding to every message we receive via Facebook and our website it a huge commitment. Along with others in the Chapter, I coordinate social events such as Chapter picnics, public meetings so that interested individuals in the community can meet with us and see what we’re about, and campaigns such as our recent “Socks for Satan” campaign through which we collected over 500 pairs of new socks for Pensacola’s homeless population.

4. Jacobsen: One of the more delightful provisions for kids, or adolescents, is the After School Satan program, which broadens the landscape of programs for kids or adolescents. It seems needed now. How can parents, or students, contact The Satanic Temple of West Florida and set one up?

Simpson: The Satanic Temple is currently working towards establishing a volunteer based program for non-TST affiliates in time for the next operating school year. For more information, please email info@thesatanictemple.com with the subject line “After School Satan Clubs Inquiry.”

5. Jacobsen: Some of the more common names in the Satanist community might be Aleister Crowley, Timothy Leary, Anton LaVey, and others. LaVey wrote The Satanic Bible in 1969. It is a growing and changing Temple. Its core values are “compassion, justice, reason, free will, personal sovereignty, and science.” How do these values play out in the life of a Satanist and their worship? How do these differ from traditional religious institutions or worship structures? Why these principles above others?

Simpson: First I should mention that while LaVey’s contributions are certainly part of our intellectual heritage, we have no official affiliation with The Church of Satan. We are a distinct organization. Indeed, our core principles and their emphasis on compassion, science, and reason are in tension with The Church of Satan’s emphasis on selfishness/egoism, social Darwinism, and supernaturalism in so far as it plays a role in ritual magic. To the substance of your question: worship has no role to play in The Satanic Temple. Being a nontheistic organization, we worship no supernatural entities. The way the values you mention play out in the life of a Satanist are exactly as one would expect and would be as varied as the individuals who embrace those values. For example, there are many ways to be compassionate. As champions of reason, we seek to expose the rotten core and deleterious effects of superstition and baseless conspiracy theories. This is evident in the work of TST’s Grey Faction, part of whose mission is to expose therapists and psychiatrists who, in their professional practice, propagate the myth of organized, institutional Satanic ritual abuse and employ such discredited and pseudoscientific techniques as facilitated communication and recovered memory therapy to “discover” repressed memories of Satanic ritual abuse. See greyfaction.org for more information.

6. Jacobsen: The Temple has seven core tenets:

  1. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
  2. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  3. One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  4. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.
  5. Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
  6. People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
  7. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

Why these tenets? How can these protect society from theocracy, and continue the separation of church and state as well as respect the individual in a nation?

Simpson: Theocracy is inimical to reason. By their nature, theocracies shut down free inquiry and privilege dogma over rational inquiry. So long as beliefs conform to reason and are informed by our best science, there will be a formidable opponent to theocracy. Indeed, our very Constitution has protections against theocracy in the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of a state religion and ensures the free exercise of religion. We have been vocal proponents of the right to free and legal exercise of religion. This right accords to Satanists as well.

7. Jacobsen: What are some perennial threats to Satanists in West Florida and America?

Simpson: It is obvious that a large contingent of Christians in Pensacola/West Florida would like to silence us. This is evident from the fiasco that ensued when we were granted the opportunity and privilege to deliver a Satanic invocation at a meeting of the Pensacola City Council. Christians showed up in droves to protest and spoke over David Suhor as he delivered his invocation. A week before this event, the City Council held an “emergency meeting” to consider the possibility of instituting a moment of silence in lieu of an invocation; we would have been happy with that result since we believe that government should stay out of the religion business. However, despite the fears of Pensacolans that we would be bringing a curse to the city, the public as well as several council members, made it clear that an inclusive moment of silence was not acceptable. Consequently, we delivered our invocation the following week amid an angry horde. In West Florida, and Pensacola in particular, we are engaged in a constant struggle to keep the municipal bodies in line with the law by not discriminating against religious minorities or pandering to the religious majority by granting them special privileges. Several local government bodies hold prayers and discriminate against religious minorities by ignoring their requests to deliver invocations, ourselves included.

8. Jacobsen: What are some protections from those threats?

Simpson: The best protection against the steady efforts to impose religion into the public sphere is for secularists and religious minorities of all sorts to take a stand and resist complacency. Be visible and vocal. Elected officials do not represent only the religious majority.

9. Jacobsen: How can the Satanist and associated communities come together and protect their beliefs from bad law, from bullying of some religious individuals or communities, from mainstream and dominant religious encroachment and imposition, and so on?

Simpson: Speaking from personal experience, I reach out to other secular groups and foster good relations. Satanism isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t unite for shared causes. Be in touch with organizations known to legally represent the interests of religious minorities such as the American Civil Liberties Union or the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Document cases of religious discrimination and report them. In secular societies there are laws that exist precisely to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority; we must insist that these laws be enforced and upheld. Be aware also of bills intended to expand the reach of religious organization; we see a lot of this in the US, especially Florida very recently. This requires that one be aware of bills that may be coming before legislative bodies. Productive and peaceful civic engagement and building healthy communities—that is my advice.

10. Jacobsen: To become acquainted or involved with The Satanic Temple of West Florida, you have website, linked before, and a Facebook page. How can people support, even donate to, The Satanic Temple of West Florida?

Simpson: W do run campaigns and individuals can visit our Facebook to discover ways to contribute. For example, we set up a gift registry online for our Socks for Satan campaign. Apart from that, sharing the information we disseminate via social media is a great help in getting the message our concerning TST campaigns such as our Religious Reproductive Rights campaign and our monument campaigns in Arkansas and Minnesota.

11. Jacobsen: Any thoughts or feelings in conclusion?

Simpson: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you. Ave Satanas.

12. Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Sebastian.

References

Anderson, J. (2016, July 14). VIDEO | Satanic prayer disrupted at council meeting. Retrieved from

http://weartv.com/news/local/satanic-prayer-at-council-meeting-disrupted-by-crowd.

Barnett, C. (2016, July 6). WILL FLORIDA CITY COUNCIL ALLOW SATANIC INVOCATION?. Retrieved from http://www.worldreligionnews.com/issues/will-florida-city-council-allow-satanic-invocation.

Blake, A. (2016, July 15). Satanic prayer opens Pensacola city council meeting; police forced to remove protesters. Retrieved from http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jul/15/satanic-prayer-opens-pensacola-city-council-meetin/.

Bowerman, M. (2016, August 1). ‘Educatin’ with Satan’: Satanic Temple pushing after school clubs. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/08/01/education-after-school-with-satan-santanic-temple-elementary-school-good-news-christian-clubs/87904884/.

Bugbee, S. (2013, July 30). Unmasking Lucien Greaves, the Leader of the Satanic Temple. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/4w7adn/unmasking-lucien-greaves-aka-doug-mesner-leader-of-the-satanic-temple.

Dunwoody, D. (2016, July 14). City Council Invocation Sparks Anger, Preaching. Retrieved from http://wuwf.org/post/city-council-invocation-sparks-anger-preaching.

Gibson, D. (2016, July 1). Florida city council may halt opening prayers to stop Satanist’s invocation. Retrieved from http://religionnews.com/2016/07/01/florida-city-council-may-halt-opening-prayers-to-stop-satanists-invocation/.

Holly, P. (2016, July 20). Why a Satanic Temple member wants to perform rituals before a city council in the Bible Belt. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/07/20/why-a-satanic-temple-member-wants-to-perform-rituals-before-a-city-council-in-the-bible-belt/?utm_term=.3e75771a4c7d.

Kuruvilla, C. (2014, December 10). Satanic Temple Wins Battle To Bring Lucifer Display Inside Florida State Capitol. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/satanic-temple-florida-capitol_n_6277082.

Minogue, H. (2016, July 7). The Satanic Temple Of West Florida Will Deliver Invocation. Retrieved from http://wkrg.com/2016/07/07/the-satanic-temple-of-west-florida-will-deliver-invocation/.

Moon, T. (2017, March 19). Pensacola Satanists aren’t all pitchforks and red tails. Retrieved from http://www.pnj.com/story/news/2017/03/19/pensacola-satanists-atheists-secularism/99300312/.

Mortimer, C. (2017, March 20). Satanist church holds drive to collect socks for the homeless. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/satanist-church-pensacola-west-florida-holds-drive-socks-homeless-collect-charity-pagan-a7639881.html.

Naftule, A. (2017, May 3). The Satanic Temple on Menstruatin’ With Satan And Messin’ With Texas. Retrieved from https://phxsux.com/2017/05/03/the-satanic-temple-on-menstruatin-with-satan-and-messin-with-texas/.

News Service of Florida. (2014, December 4). Satanic Temple approved for display in Florida’s Capitol. Retrieved from http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/satanic-temple-approved-for-display-in-floridas-capitol/2208943.

(2016, July 20). A Satanic Temple Member Gave the Prayer Before a City Council Meeting in Florida. Retrieved from https://relevantmagazine.com/slices/satanic-temple-member-gave-prayer-city-council-meeting-florida. Sullivan, E. (2013, July 22). Happytown: Satanic Temple to rally in Florida. Retrieved from http://www.orlandoweekly.com/orlando/happytown-satanic-temple-to-rally-in-florida/Content?oid=2245633.

The Satanic Temple. (2017). The Satanic Temple. Retrieved from https://thesatanictemple.com/.

The Satanic Temple of West Florida. (2017). The Satanic Temple of West Florida. Retrieved from http://thesatanictemplewestflorida.com/.

 

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara; Director, The Center for Mindfulness and Human Potential.

[2] Individual Publication Date: June 15, 2017 at http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sebastian-simpson-the-satanic-temple-of-west-florida; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2017 at https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Sebastian Simpson: The Satanic Temple of West Florida [Online].June 2017; 14(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sebastian-simpson-the-satanic-temple-of-west-florida.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2017, June 22). An Interview with Sebastian Simpson: The Satanic Temple of West FloridaRetrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sebastian-simpson-the-satanic-temple-of-west-florida.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Sebastian Simpson: The Satanic Temple of West Florida. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 14.A, June. 2017. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sebastian-simpson-the-satanic-temple-of-west-florida>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2017. “An Interview with Sebastian Simpson: The Satanic Temple of West Florida.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 14.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sebastian-simpson-the-satanic-temple-of-west-florida.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Sebastian Simpson: The Satanic Temple of West Florida.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 14.A (June 2017). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sebastian-simpson-the-satanic-temple-of-west-florida.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2017, ‘An Interview with Sebastian Simpson: The Satanic Temple of West FloridaIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 14.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sebastian-simpson-the-satanic-temple-of-west-florida>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2017, ‘An Interview with Sebastian Simpson: The Satanic Temple of West FloridaIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 14.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sebastian-simpson-the-satanic-temple-of-west-florida.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Sebastian Simpson: The Satanic Temple of West Florida.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 14.A (2017):June. 2017. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sebastian-simpson-the-satanic-temple-of-west-florida>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Sebastian Simpson: The Satanic Temple of West Florida [Internet]. (2017, June; 14(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sebastian-simpson-the-satanic-temple-of-west-florida.

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Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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