One hell of a good sailor
October 24, 2004 7:17 AM   Subscribe

Devil and the deep blue sea. A devil-worshipping non-commissioned officer in the Royal Navy has become the first registered Satanist in the British Armed Forces. Chris Cranmer, a naval technician serving on the Type 22 frigate Cumberland, has been officially recognised as a Satanist by the ship's captain. That allows him to perform Satanic rituals aboard and permits him to have a funeral carried out by the Church of Satan should he be killed in action. A spokesman for the Royal Navy insisted that Mr Cranmer's unconventional beliefs would not cause problems on board ship. "We are an equal opportunities employer and we don't stop anybody from having their own religious values".
Followers of the Church of Satan live by the Nine Satanic Statements, which include Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek
posted by matteo (37 comments total)
If I were asked if I were evil, I would say yes - by virtue of the common definition. However, if you asked my family and friends you would hear a resounding 'no'. I get a massive amount from my career, while sacrificing little.

What a pretentious asshole. At least fundamentalist christians aren't purely in their religion to shock. But I suppose, if the Royal Navy admits "druids" and the like, it has to recognize all of the "I Hate My Parents" religions.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:23 AM on October 24, 2004

Just wonderful. Makes perfect sense to me. Why is this any different from any other religion?
posted by influx at 7:41 AM on October 24, 2004

A devil-worshipping non-commissioned officer...

Satanists don't actually believe in the devil. (At least those of the Anton LaVey/Church of Satan variety).
posted by jsonic at 8:10 AM on October 24, 2004

Satanism looks more like hedonism than anything else.
posted by tetsuo at 8:45 AM on October 24, 2004

Not a pretentious asshole. I read the article in the paper this morning and thought - in spite of my initial chuckle - that Crammer has as a rational a world view as any other person with a religion. More rational in some ways, because its ethical framework - though not my cup of tea by any means - isn't confused and discredited by unsubstantiated metaphysical bullshit.
In effect, Satanists are pragmatic regarding their beliefs concerning reality. Thus, as Satanists do not claim to know the absolute “truth” regarding what is real they are, by definition, not “Objectivists” who hold that reality is totally objective. Satanists proclaim that doubt is vital in the absence of proof.

Seems fairly laudable to me.
Mayor Curley: Which are the "I hate my parents" religions?! Anything not monotheistic? Those that don't form part of the western establishment? I'm curious.
posted by pots at 8:46 AM on October 24, 2004

Wicca would be a good candidate for an "I hate my parents" religion.
posted by Hildegarde at 9:03 AM on October 24, 2004

That guy is a perfect fit for the military.
posted by fleener at 9:11 AM on October 24, 2004

*plays Judas Preist backwards, kills parents, rapes dog*
posted by jonmc at 9:14 AM on October 24, 2004

That guy is a perfect fit for the military.

Meaning what?
posted by tetsuo at 9:22 AM on October 24, 2004

Ignore fleener, tetsuo, he's possessed.
posted by jonmc at 9:25 AM on October 24, 2004

the "i hate my parents" religions are a damn sight better than the "i hate everyone who doesn't share my faith" religions
posted by lord_wolf at 9:37 AM on October 24, 2004

He's probably a hell of a sailor.

(ducks, runs for nearest exit)
posted by alumshubby at 9:38 AM on October 24, 2004

Which are the "I hate my parents" religions?! Anything not monotheistic? Those that don't form part of the western establishment?

I would venture a definition of "I hate my parents" religions as those faiths which are adopted in order to shock or cause a reaction in other people, rather than those faiths which are adopted because something in them rings resonant in the adoptees soul.

I'm sure that somewhere out there are people who ready Levey's book and thought "Yes! That's the truth for me!". Of course, there are people for whom we have to print instructions on not injuring themselves with a q-tip...the world is full of....for lack of a better word...people.

Now, keeping in mind that I find most western religions a tad spooky, the vast majority of Levey "followers" that I've known are almost certainly doing it in the "I hate my parents" kind of way. I say this having read the book, and spending a lot of time trying to understand what it was they were trying to do.

They're like Trekkies with a better uniform fetish. Seriously, as a rule, most of the ones I've met are trying to shock people...and they made the rest of the PIBs (People in Black) wish they would go away...or pick another color...frankly, they made the rest of us black-wearing, anti-establishment, old punks look bad.

At the risk of pissing off the "Satanists" and the "Scientologists", Levey was just a low-rent L. Ron Hubbard. A wannabe messiah with a penchant for pretty girls and good drugs. Good lord, everybody with access to acid and a copy of Milton's Paradise Lost came up with a religion in the 60's.

That said, as bizarre as I find the's not really any weirder than believing in more power to the British Navy and Mr. Cranmer.
posted by dejah420 at 9:38 AM on October 24, 2004

Mayor Curley: Which are the "I hate my parents" religions?! Anything not monotheistic? Those that don't form part of the western establishment? I'm curious.

One that you shop for to reject the religion that you were raised in. In the various flavors of Christianity (for example), its adherents are taught the tenets of their belief almost from birth. So it's understandable that an otherwise rational adult could think that you have to eat wheat crackers or taunt snakes or wear camisoles with nipple patches to be saved by the Big Micromanager in the sky-- they've been taught it all along, were probably warned not to question it and most of their associates think similar things.

It's quite another thing to get into late adolescence and say "Those wheat crackers are bullshit! I believe in Wotan and his Chernobyl-affected animals!" Or "Handling serpents is for suckers! Obviously, power comes from dancing around stone phalluses and throwing sacrificed people into peat bogs!" Then you're just selecting something that will put you on the fringes of society, whether it's because of your parents or not.

If you need a philosophy masquerading as a religion, you could choose buddhism. But you'd choose satanism to say "Take that mom! Take that dad! Send me to a psychiatrist, will you? Take that, Dr. Sally Wachsler!"
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:55 AM on October 24, 2004

Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!

Meanwhile, in a little house in hell, SheDevil is all busy with his lover PapeSatan

*papesatan* I wanna suck yer psychic blood and the some !

*shedevil* Mhhh why not !! ..but hey what the didn't wash yourself did you ? What is wrong with you and showering ? Don't you fucking FEAR your own smell ? Oh nooo did you just pass this huge plume of red hot venefic gas ? Told you not to eat them , but nooooo blessed evil you have to indulge in mexican beans ah ?

*papesatan* PFfff you know I can't resist the mexican beans...they're sooooo deliciously evil ! Besides, our belief system is based on in unrestricted indulgence!

*shedevil* It's unrestricted indulgence not unrestricted gas ! Aw you expect me to "indulge" in hot steamy evil sex with that hot gas plume of yours looking at us ? When the hell freezes over my dear !

*papesatan*'s only august ! I summon all the evils, Martha , Oprah, Belzebu I summon your archane powers !

*shedevil* Oh no no why why do I love this moron ?
posted by elpapacito at 10:18 AM on October 24, 2004

As long as he does his job well, he can engage in any belief system he wants. Besides, he probably has the best collection of heavy metal albums on the ship.
posted by AccordionGuy at 10:58 AM on October 24, 2004

Levey was just a low-rent L. Ron Hubbard

LRon hobnobbed with Satanism for a while.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:59 AM on October 24, 2004

Hey, I resent that, elpapacito! I rejected Satan and all his works more than 20 years ago...

So, here's the thing. I don't understand how anyone can join a church that was invented in their own lifetime, or even in their parents' lifetimes or their grandparents'.

We have photographs and films of L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology), Anton LaVey (founder of the modern Church of Satan), and Aleister Crowley (founder of Thelema), and they're all clearly alcoholic old men who veer between the gibbering delusional and the cold-hearted con artist.

Now, I admit that the church I was raised in (holy Roman catholic and apostolic) and the church in which I am currently a communicant (Episcopal church of the US of A) have a lot of weird, random bullshittery in 'em. But at least it's sanctified by hundreds of years of distance.

Also, the thing that bugs me about "new religions" is that they seem to have all of the bad qualities of old religions--metaphysical puppet shows, philosophical handwaving, imbuing their followers with a sense of entitlement--and none of the good qualities of old religions--networks of charitable organizations, encouraging congregants to help others, engagement with civic life.

When was the last time, for example, that you saw an ad for the Satanist Children's Hospital? Or the Thelemic Blood Drive? Or the Scientologists building schools in war-torn Third World nations?
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:00 AM on October 24, 2004

History does not a religion make. Not all religions are about historical "truth". Sometimes they're about spiritual truth instead, which is more to the point.

I don't think you should criticize a religion for being new. I say criticize it when it trying to fake a history for itself to make it seem older (and thus more important somehow) than it is.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:06 AM on October 24, 2004

Is Satanism really a religion? I thought the definition at least required the belief and the practice (however poorly realised) of the betterment of mankind - on a personal or social level.

Satanism seems to involve the throwing away of personal restraint - "Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence" - which generally leads to self-harm, not least through the loss of freedom which that path entails.

Doesn't sound like a religion to me. But then, since the figure-head is often referred to as the Prince of Lies ...
posted by Blue Stone at 11:07 AM on October 24, 2004

I don't understand how anyone can join a church that was invented in their own lifetime, or even in their parents' lifetimes or their grandparents'.

I wonder what Paul would think about that

have a lot of weird, random bullshittery in 'em. But at least it's sanctified by hundreds of years of distance.

well, yes, there are no photos/videos documenting what really happened to that possibly married, first century CE charismatic Galilean faith healer. no interviews with Pilate, no TV specials live from Golgotha. no satellite feed of the (possibly) empty tomb

posted by matteo at 11:22 AM on October 24, 2004

"Followers of the Church of Satan live by the Nine Satanic Statements, which include Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek" - It sounds like George W. Bush and much of the Christian right are members of this movement in spirit, if not in name.

Vengeful God, or merciful God ? - Pat Robertson's apologia for Genocide :

"Now you say, " God told the Israelites to kill them all: men, women and children; to destroy them." And that seems like a terrible thing to do. Is it or isn't it? Well, let us assume that there were two thousand of them or ten thousand of them living in the land, or whatever number [note: there were more like 100,000] I don't have the exact number, but pick a number. And God said "Kill 'em' all." Well, that would seem hard, wouldn't it? But that would be 10,000 people who probably would go to hell. But if they stayed and reproduced, in thirty, forty or fifty or sixty or a hundred more years there could conceivably be ... ten thousand would grow to a hundred [thousand], a hundred thousand conceivably could grow to a million, and there would be a million people who would have to spend an eternity in Hell. And it is far more merciful to take away a few than to see in the future a hundred years down the road, and say, "Well, I'll have to take away a million people, that will be forever apart from God because the abomination is there." It's like a contagion. God saw that there was no cure for it."
posted by troutfishing at 11:25 AM on October 24, 2004

Normally, I wouldn't sink to something so obvious, but I cannot resist:

Well first of all I'd like to apologize for the behaviour of certain of my colleagues you may have seen earlier, but they are from broken homes, circus families and so on and they are in no way representative of the new modern improved British Navy. They are a small vociferous minority; and may I take this opportunity of emphasizing that there is no cannibalism in the British Navy. Absolutely none, and when I say none, I mean there is a certain amount, more than we are prepared to admit, but all new ratings are warned that if they wake up in the morning and find any toothmarks at all anywhere on their bodies, they're to tell me immediately so that I can immediately take every measure to hush the whole thing up.
posted by gimonca at 11:27 AM on October 24, 2004

"I thought the definition at least required the belief and the practice (however poorly realised) of the betterment of mankind - on a personal or social level."

Religion? Really? I never really got that, my impression was that religion didn't typically give a crap about man. Dictionary definition for example: "belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe." See, no concern for man. How can you want to better man when you're making him second best from the get-go. This is more looking at western religion though, eastern religion has some striking differences obviously. Secular that's the good stuff.

And don't freak out on me MeFi religious types, I'm not out to offend, just commenting to Blue (plus its 1am on this side of the world..I'm going to bed).
posted by tetsuo at 11:40 AM on October 24, 2004

Trout: but who is rubbing elbows with the Man himself?!

The plot thickens.

posted by blackfly at 11:46 AM on October 24, 2004

Hildegarde, I'm not criticizing religions for being new, but maybe my post was confusing.

A) My problem with many "new religions" is that they don't have the apparatus of charitable and civic engagement that most older religions have.

B) My other question about many "new religions" is my wonderment that there are people who can look at video footage of Anton LeVay, Aleister Crowley, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, L. Ron Hubbard, and not see that these people are nutcases and con artists--or, somehow, ignore the fact that these people are nutcases and con artists and still join the religions these folks founded (or popularized).

In my own case, the hundreds of years between the founding of my religion and my life allow me to ignore the personal qualities of the founders in favor of the "spiritual truths" I find there. Similarly, I could imagine becoming Buddhist or Sufi despite my doubts about Siddhartha Gautama or abd al-Qadir, because the religion has grown long enough since its founding as to not be dominated by any one individual's ideas.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:03 PM on October 24, 2004

A rock and a hard place await for for me
Between the devil and the deep blue sea
Everything I ever did right or wrong
Hid out of sight where I belong, belong
posted by homunculus at 12:09 PM on October 24, 2004

Satanists proclaim that doubt is vital in the absence of proof.... Seems fairly laudable to me.

I recently read an article where Stanley Fish, discussing Paradise Lost, points out that Satan and Adam were on equivalent epistemological grounds. Here...

Earlier Satan had justified his rebellion by invoking freedom and liberty; Abdiel now points out that these terms have no weight when the agent from whom you would be free made and sustains you. Satan in turn finds this argument preposterous and replies to it with a classic statement of rational empiricism:

That we were form'd . . . say'st thou? . . . strange point and new! Doctrine which we would know whence learnt: who saw When this creation was? remember'st thou Thy making, while the Maker gave thee being? We know no time when we were not as now; Know none before us, self-begot, self-rais'd. (V, 853, 855-60)

This is the philosophy of the man from Missouri: show me, seeing is believing, and since no one, including you, has seen the moment of his creation, I don't believe in it. There is nothing in the present scene or in my experience that leads me inescapably to the conclusion you urge. Where did you ever get this absurd notion? What's your proof? ("Doctrine which we would know whence learnt?") I must have made myself.

Satan's way of thinking is contrasted directly in the poem with Adam's.... Like Satan, Adam knows no time before he was what he now is, but he gives a quite different answer to the question he immediately poses: "how came I thus, how here? / Not of myself, by some great maker then / In goodness and in power preeminent" (VIII, 277b-79)....

It might seem that in presenting these two moments in Paradise Lost, I am placing in opposition two ways of knowing, one by evidence and reason, the other by faith. But in fact on the level of epistemology both are the same. Satan and Adam begin alike from a point of ignorance-they know nothing prior to (the precise word is "before") the perspective they currently occupy; and the direction each then takes from this acknowledged limitation follows with equal logic or illogic. Adam reasons, since I don't remember how I got here, I must have been made by someone. Satan reasons, since I don't know how I got here, I must have made myself, or as we might say today, I must have just emerged from the primeval slime.

In neither case does the conclusion follow necessarily from the observed fact of imperfect knowledge. In both cases something is missing, a first premise, and in both cases reasoning can't get started until a first premise is put in place. What's more, since the first premise is what is missing, it cannot be derived from anything in the visible scene; it is what must be imported-on no evidentiary basis whatsoever-so that the visible scene, the things of this world, can acquire the meaning and significance they will now have. There is no opposition here between knowledge by reason and knowledge by faith because Satan and Adam are committed to both simultaneously. Each performs an act of faith-the one in God and the other in materialism-and then each begins to reason in ways dictated by the content of his faith.

posted by gd779 at 12:15 PM on October 24, 2004

Satanists proclaim that doubt is vital in the absence of proof... Seems fairly laudable to me.

To be clear, my point is that this philosophy necessarily leads to unchecked skepticism or, at best, solipsism. Waiting for "proof" denies the possibility of all knowledge, and if you don't acknowledge that, it's probably because you haven't examined your assumptions. So when people like pots condemn condemn religion's "unsubstantiated metaphysical bullshit", they ignore the fact that scientific materialism (and any other worldview, for that matter, except arguably pragmatism) necessarily contains a similar unsubstantiated metaphysical "leap of faith".

"There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination." -- Daniel Dennett

Crap. I've somehow turned my comments into a general defense of religious faith. That isn't the point of this thread and it wasn't my intent, and if I hadn't already made my previous post, I'd delete this one now. Sorry for the derail.
posted by gd779 at 12:29 PM on October 24, 2004

BlackFly, I'm sure you're kidding...but in case anyone else decides to take this rather excellent photoshopping job seriously...

If you check the image where it makes it's debut on the internets (, you can see the ghost of a February 2004 date on the top edge of the newspaper.

2.) It's a mirror of whatever original image it was taken from...the symbols on the star are backwards.

3.) Even the Freepers counted this one as a hoax.

posted by dejah420 at 12:29 PM on October 24, 2004

It's a reversal of this photo of LaVey with Marilyn Manson.
posted by majcher at 12:44 PM on October 24, 2004

gd779: I don't think I condemned religion, though I am critical. I certainly didn't condemn religion or the religious for making the "leap of faith" that the Adam of your quotation made. I understand and completely accept that atheistic belief is just as irrational as any theism - this recent pretty_generic thread certainly helped clarify my thinking on that score. Instead, my reference to "unsubstantiated metaphysical bullshit" was rather more about the - to my mind ridiculous - fairy story baggage which tends to accumulate after someone follows in Adam's footsteps. The post-facto rationalisation of the original, entirely valid leap of faith - that's what I find difficult. To be critical of that doesn't deny the possibility of an objective cosmological truth that as yet I don't comprehend - it just says that the "truths" as promulgated by the established religions are manifestly man-made, subject to human foibles and politics and as such, not something I should automatically give respect to.
posted by pots at 3:10 PM on October 24, 2004

pots: I didn't think that you condemned religion. I thought that you condemned religion's "metaphysical bullshit". You tried to explain the difference, but I'm afraid that I still don't understand is how you can admit that religion and atheism are equally logical or illogical, but then turn around claim - moments later - that religion's claims are manifestly "fairy stories". Since you are an atheist, you are obviously not a pure skeptic. Are you saying that the scientific materialism of Atheism is provably less a "fairy story" than the Devil of Satanism/Christianity? Or are you just irritated by the certainty that some religious individuals feel regarding the truth of their leap of faith?

If your answer is the former, what makes one leap of faith better than another? If your answer is the latter, why aren't you a skeptic or a pragmatist?

When you accept Satan's leap of faith (I'm referring here to Milton, of course) and then turn around and reject Adam's leap of faith as "manifestly man-made", you do that only because you're viewing things through Satan’s faith-based metaphysical lens rather than Adam’s.

This, incidentally, is basically the thesis of Quine's famous paper, "The Two Dogma's of Empiricism". Quine's point (as I understand it) is that no matter how disciplined and rigorous a thinker you try to be, the empirical worldview cannot rationally deny even the most outlandish-seeming propositions, unless those propositions are very near the border of pure observation. If you want to believe that Jesus didn't walk on water, or if you want to believe that he did, then you can adjust your belief structure to accommodate that belief, and you can probably do so while remaining perfectly consistent with all of the empirical evidence available. Therefore, the empiricist that criticizes even the most fantastic religious beliefs doesn't have a rational basis for doing so, because his or her beliefs are on precisely the same epistemic footing. It just doesn’t *feel* that way to us, because the human mind is designed/conditioned for pragmatic but unjustified belief rather than for philosophical skepticism.

Which returns me to my original point. Faith is arbitrary; the important parts of empiricism are not empirically verifiable; pragmatism doesn't work. Man is therefore wretched, and faces a choice between arbitrary faith and unreasonable skepticism.

Because of this, "freedom of religion" requires us to refuse to privilege one religion over another (which prevents the government from discriminating against a Satanist in the military). It also requires us to refuse to privilege religion generally over secularism. But, contrary to the myth that has sprung up around at least the American conception of religious freedom, we must similarly refuse to privilege secularism over religion. Religion and secularism are the same, rationally speaking, except in the substantive content of their beliefs.

Or am I missing something here?
posted by gd779 at 4:28 PM on October 24, 2004

My bad! LRon hung out with Crowley. Not the LeVay satanists. Nutcases, all, to be sure.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:35 PM on October 24, 2004

Here's one of the most lucid debunkings of contemporary satanism. Whether or not you like the writer's own faith - wiccan - he's definitely knows his stuff when it comes to The Church of Satan and it's cohorts.
posted by echolalia67 at 9:20 PM on October 24, 2004

gd779: You're not missing anything, I've just not been very lucid.

I am not an atheist. If asked I would say that I believe in some form of original creative force which no longer works in the world; in short, a kind of deist. I have made the same leap of faith as those who believe Christ walked on water. The difference is that I stop right there, after I've chosen which way to jump but before I have to swallow the received revelations of institutionalised faiths. It's not that I don't concede that maybe Jesus did walk on water, it's that at this moment in time, I don't require that idea in order to believe and have an understanding of God.

But obviously there's more to my cursing and to my dismissive "fairy tales" comment than simply a subjective, personal preference regarding the form of my faith in a God. You said, "the empirical worldview cannot rationally deny even the most outlandish-seeming propositions" - in short I have to accept that anyone's explanation for the universe could be correct and must be respected. I do accept this. What I don't accept is any religion claiming a monopoly on truth and refusing to consider the possibility that another worldview is potentially more true. I'm intolerant of that intolerance if you like. But that's still not all. I'm angry because the response of many of those who follow an established faith, to the suggestion that a received revelation was designed to rationalise a certain form of society - and as such seems to me to be far more about social engineering than metaphysics - is to say "prove it!". This riles me because while I have to accept that I can't prove them wrong, they would rarely offer me the same courtesy. Further it would be a rare Christian/Muslim/yourreligionhere who is willing to state that while their faith does have the appearance of being very human and of this world nevertheless, it is the complete unvarnished, ultimate truth.

It is this intolerance and blindness, which is inherent in most institutionalised faiths that prompts my "fairy tales" contempt, not the substance of their belief.
posted by pots at 12:42 AM on October 25, 2004

pots: Wow, I'm impressed. Your opinions are thoughtful and lucid. If you don't mind me asking, what made you believe in God as the "original creative force". For some time now, I've been trying to decide whether to believe that or not.
posted by gd779 at 6:52 PM on October 25, 2004

« Older Masamania   |   The time has come to set the record straight Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments