With its tagline of “Stop the Fluff. Think For Yourself. Fight the Bunny,” Wicca for the Rest of Us is a Wiccan website even this atheist can get into. For example, the site hosts a series of essays debunking some of the historical falsehoods bandied about by some Wiccans/pagans/neopagans/whatever. The site’s take down of Margaret Murray’s bizarre, discredited theories about European witchcraft is especially well-written.
I had to laugh a bit when I was surfing the web and came across audioblog Scar Stuff hosting Mike Warnke’s 1979 spoken world album, A Christian Perspective on Halloween.
In the 1973, Warnke co-authored a book called The Satan Seller in which he claimed that he had been a “high priest” in a satanic cult. Warnke followed that up with a number of spoken-word albums, typically recordings made from numerous live appearances that he made touring the country talking about his Satanic past and his conversion to Christianity.
In a very odd coincidence, I saw Mike Warnke perform at a 5,000 seat theater sometime in the early 1980s. At the time I was 16 or 17 and was attending a local church (I was still an atheist, but this chick I was trying to have sex with wasn’t, so . . .) I went to the show as part of some youth group affiliated with the church.
What I remember was that Warnke was very theatrical. He wasn’t good enough to be a professional actor or anything (though technically, I guess, he was), but good enough to probably scare your pants off with scary stories around a campfire.
He went on at length about all of the satantic rites that he had supposedly participated in. As he got more and more into his onstage personae, he got more and more graphic with the horrors that he had supposedly participated in. I didn’t find him at all believable, but clearly quite a few in the audience did — Warnke was, by all accounts, making quite a living off of the selling of his Satanic anecdotes.
The event was actually free (required ticket, but still free), and at the end of the event he had people pass buckets for donations.
It was a very very odd act.
What was odder still was that it wasn’t until 1992 that Cornerstone essentially ended Warnke’s career with its long expose, Selling Satan: The Tragic History of Mike Warnke. Warnke was a liar, of course, and since he had gotten away with his lies for almost two decades, he apparently didn’t even feel the need to bother with even the most tenuous link to reality. So Cornerstone was able to show very obvious lies.
For example, Warnke had claimed that Charles Manson was part of his cult at one point, but at a time when Manson was incarcerated. Cornerstone also interviewed more than 100 friends, relatives and acquaintances of Warnke’s who disputed key points of his accounts of his life while he was supposedly wrapped up in Satanic cults.
The Cornerstone article was devastating, putting an end to Warnke Ministries which closed just a few months after publication of the article. According to Wikipedia,
Warnke largely disappeared from the public scene. He suffered a heart attack in 1997, and in 2000 was attempting a comeback, limited to small churches around the Kentucky area. In 2002, he published Friendly Fire: A Recovery Guide for Believers Battered by Religion (ISBN 0-7684-2124-1), an unapologetic account of what he perceived as his unfair treatment by fellow Christians in the wake of the Cornerstone exposÃ©.
The Amazon.Com product page for Friendly Fire is revealing in how Warnke apparently describes himself today,
A comic by nature and an evangelist by calling, Mike Warnke reigned for 20 years in the 1970s and 80s as the #1 Christian comedian in America, appearing before sellout crowds all across the country.
Warnke, who did release a few Christian comedy albums in the 1970s, apparently forgot to tell the audiences who fell for his Satanic spiel that the joke was on them.
Sgt. Patrick Stewart, 34, was killed in Afghanistan last September when his helicopter came under enemy fire. His widow and family are in a dispute with the Department of Veteran Affairs over the religious symbol on his grave. Specifically, Stewart was a Wiccan and the Department of Veteran Affairs doesn’t have an approved symbol for Wiccans/pagans/neo-pagans/witches/whatever-the-hell-they’re-calling-themselves-this-week.
It is a bit strange that there is no approved Wiccan/whatever symbol given that there are almost 40 other approved religious-oriented symbols. On the other hand, the Wiccans might want to be careful what they wish for. As the Associated Press notes,
The Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetary Adminstration allows only approved emblems of religious beliefs on government headstones. Over the years, it has approved more than 30, including symbols for the Tenrikyo Church, United Morovian Church and Sikhs. There’s also an emblem for atheists — but none for Wiccans.
Sounds good, except the atheist symbol is that piece-of-crap symbol that the American Atheists in the 1960s — a stylized picture of an atom with a capital A in the middle. According to the American Atheist site,
When American Atheists was formed in 1963, a contemporary scientific symbol was chosen; this acknowledges that only through the use of scientific analysis and free, open inquiry can humankind reach out for a better life.
This is a bit like approving a single image of Akhnaton to be used by Jews, Christians, Muslims and other monotheists (and, in case you haven’t noticed, atheists for some reason are litigious-prone — someone’s bound to sue at some point). And the explanation for the symbol makes no sense. Hundreds of years from now, future generations are going to come along and think people buried in those graves were some strange electron worshipping cult or something.
Frankly, I’ve always thought that a better choice for an atheist symbol would be the logical negation symbol: ¬
Then again, I think we should put Cthulhu on the $5 bill, so I may be a bit out of the loop with my fellow atheists.
For Wiccan soldier, death brings fight. Associated Press, May 25, 2006.
As part of his American Ethnic Geography courser, Valparaiso professor Jon Kilpinen has posted a gallery of maps that show how religious belief/church membership is distributed across the United States. The data is taken from the Glenmary Research Center’s Religious Congregations and Membership in the United States, 2000.
Lisa sent me a link to The Official God FAQ. Looks about right to me. 😉