A few quick news notes to get you through your Friday. Sacred Tribes Explores Dark Green Religion: Sacred Tribes, an academic Christian journal for the study of new religious movements, has released a special edition devoted to Bron Taylor’s book “Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future”. Taylor’s work has gained attention for its thesis that the future of religion may be nature religion. “…traditional religions with their beliefs in non-material divine beings are in decline. The desire for a spiritually meaningful understanding of the cosmos, however, did not wither away, and new forms of spirituality have been filling the cultural niches previously occupied by conventional religions. I argue that the forms I document in Dark Green Religion are much more likely to survive than longstanding religions, which involved beliefs in invisible, non-material beings.
Here’s something that doesn’t come along every day. Media critic, scholar, and practicing Witch Peg Aloi interviews Father Gary Thomas, a Catholic exorcist who was featured in the book “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist”. That book has since been adapted into a feature film starring Anthony Hopkins, and Father Thomas has been getting interviewed quite a bit in the process. Aloi’s interview is excerpted at The Boston Phoenix, but an unedited version, which features direct questions regarding the priest’s feelings regarding the occult, Wicca, polytheism, and indigenous spiritualities can be found at her blog The Witching Hour.
PA: So, in your view, polytheistic traditions are unacceptable, or evil?
Reminder: We are in the midst of our second annual Winter Pledge Drive! If you value this blog, its mission, and its content, please consider making a donation to keep The Wild Hunt open, ad-free, and updated daily. Spread the word, and thanks to all who have donated so far! Laughing Squid and io9 link to an inadvertently (I hope) creepy clip from the “Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults”.
Here’s another clip from the same video.
Yesterday the Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley Jr. (aka the West Memphis Three) should receive a new evidentiary hearing, and that claims of juror misconduct should be examined. “The court also pointed out Thursday that Circuit Judge David Burnett erred repeatedly in the case, including dismissing requests to consider DNA and other exculpatory evidence without a hearing. Burnett has been the focus of activists’ campaigns because of his pro-prosecution stances. He will not hear the new case because he was recently elected to the state legislature. Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has also fought against a new hearing.”
Considering the ever-unfolding revelations about ongoing and pervasive cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in America, Ireland, Germany, and most likely everywhere else, the more that I wonder if the Satanic-Panic mongers of the 1980s and 1990s were tapping into something they couldn’t understand. That there was “organized abuse”, but that it wasn’t being done by an underground network of “Satanists” or “Witches”, but by the Christian forces for “good” they were supposed to trust. Of course, being broadly correct about an epidemic of abuse doesn’t absolve the panic-mongers that have destroyed lives, fabricated testimony, enriched con-men, tainted our legal system with bad information, created a subculture that still believes in the lies, and sent innocent men and women to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Now, in addition to dealing with the real issue of pervasive abuse by Catholic clergy (and some Protestant clergy), we also have to reckon with the ongoing fallout from the years when SRA (Satanic Ritual Abuse) was riding high and receiving serious attention from folks like Oprah and the television news magazine 20/20. One high-profile case of the damage SRA did to an already fragile mind is that of Steven Richard Burky, 37, a born-again Christian who was recently institutionalized after stalking actress Jennifer Garner.