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November 21, 2015

Saudi Arabian court convicts poet of apostasy, sentences to death

Saudi Arabian court convicts poet of apostasy, sentences to death

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

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A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced Saudi-born Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death on Tuesday for allegedly committing apostasy, a crime punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of Sharia Law. The court decision was brought to light yesterday by Adam Coogle, a researcher working for Human Rights Watch.

File photo of Dira Square, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where public executions are carried out under Sharia Law.
Image: Luke Richard Thompson.

Fayadh has previously posted a video online of a public lashing by religious police. Mona Kareem, an activist from Kuwait calling for Fayadh’s release, said “some Saudis think this was revenge by the morality police.”

Fayadh was detained by police in August 2013, accused of blasphemy and promoting atheism through his poems. According to Fayadh, this stemmed from a dispute with a fellow artist. He was soon released under bail.

Fayadh was again arrested in January 2014. He was tried at a court in Abha in February under allegations of committing blasphemy, promoting atheism, and having illegal relationships with women. He was sentenced in May that year to four years of jail and 800 lashes. Fayadh appealed the decision, and the case was retried by another judge, who sentenced him to death.

Activist Mona Kareem said the judge for Fayadh’s retrial “didn’t even talk to [Fayadh], he just made the verdict.”

Fayadh was given 30 days to appeal the court ruling, but according to Kareem, Fayadh “was unable to assign a lawyer because his ID was confiscated when he was arrested” in January 2014.

Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle called the court ruling an example of Saudi Arabia’s “complete intolerance for anyone who may not share government-mandated religious, political, and social views.”



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November 30, 2010

Tony Blair debates religion with Christopher Hitchens in Canada

Tony Blair debates religion with Christopher Hitchens in Canada

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Photo of Blair and Hitchens at the debate.

Last Friday, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair debated the role of religion with atheist author and journalist Christopher Hitchens at the Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto, Canada. Organised under the auspices of the ‘Munk Debates’, the motion was: “That religion is a force for good in the world”.

Hitchens argued that religion is “a cruel experiment whereby we are created sick and ordered to be well” and that the omnipresent, omniscient God supposed by many world religions was “a celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea”.

Blair — who in 2008 established the Tony Blair Faith Foundation — conceded whilst religion is not necessary for everybody to act morally, it was still helpful for many despite violent interpretations of texts by extremists. He said the world religions unite in a moral mission to, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, describing “a spiritual presence, bigger, more important, more meaningful than just us alone, that has its own power separate from our power, and that even as the world’s marvels multiply, makes us kneel in humility not swagger in pride.”

Continuing, Blair stated: “If faith is seen in this way, science and religion are not incompatible, destined to fight each other, until eventually the cool reason of science extinguishes the fanatical flames of religion.”

Hitchens listed numerous aspects of religion he thought were negative, arguing “is it good for the world to appeal to our credulity and not to our scepticism? Is it good for the world to worship a deity that takes sides in wars and human affairs? To appeal to our fear and to our guilt, is it good for the world? To our terror, our terror of death, is it good to appeal?”

Pressing his points, Hitchens asserted: “To preach guilt and shame about the sexual act and the sexual relationship, is this good for the world? And asking yourself all the while, are these really religious responsibilities, as I maintain they are? To terrify children with the image of hell and eternal punishment, not just of themselves, but their parents and those they love. Perhaps worst of all, to consider women an inferior creation, is that good for the world, and can you name me a religion that has not done that?”

Blair responded, “I don’t think we should think that because you can point to examples of prejudice in the name of religion, that bigotry and prejudice and wrongdoing are wholly owned subsidiaries of religion.”

Before the debate, the audience opposed the motion 57% to 22% (21% undecided). Post-debate, the motion was opposed by 68% of the audience and supported by 23%.



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July 4, 2008

Over 60 members of Chadian sect killed by troops after violence

Over 60 members of Chadian sect killed by troops after violence

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Over 60 members of a Chadian sect have been killed in fighting with police that started after the group’s leader announced his wish to start a holy war. The government security minister, Mahamat Bachir, said that the death toll is “a regrettable toll, but we think we now control the situation caused by the actions carried out by these terrorists, these extremists.”

Ahmat Ismael Bichara, who led the sect and claimed to follow the religion of Islam, ordered his followers to attack villagers as part of the start of a holy war. As a result of this, he was arrested.

Members of the security forces were also wounded in the attack. There were ten injuries, four of which resulted in fatalities. In addition to the deaths from the sect, over 50 members of the group were also injured.

Government officials also claimed that the sect wanted the war to spread as far as Europe. “Since June 3, he [the leader of the group] has been calling on all Muslims to prepare to engage in a holy war against Christians and atheists, saying that the war would be launched from Chad to as far as Denmark,” said the official.

The incident occurred in an area near the town of Kouno, which is 300 kilometres away from Ndjamena, the Chadian capital.


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November 14, 2007

Dalai Lama\’s representative talks about China, Tibet, Shugden and the next Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama’s representative talks about China, Tibet, Shugden and the next Dalai Lama

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Kasur Tashi Wangdi: “We are seeking a solution within the framework of the Chinese Constitution for a meaningful autonomy. Until we are able to achieve that goal, we effectively have a government in exile with a charter—a Constitution.”
Image: David Shankbone.

Kasur Tashi Wangdi was appointed Representative of the Dalai Lama to the Americas on April 16, 2005. He had previously served as His Holiness’ representative in New Delhi. He has served the Tibetan government-in-exile since 1966, starting as a junior officer and rising to the highest rank of Kalon (Cabinet Minister). As a Kalon, he at one time or another was head of the major ministries, including the Department of Religion and Culture, Department of Home, Department of Education, Department of Information and International Relations, Department of Security, and Department of Health. He is not a Buddhist scholar but describes himself as a civil servant. He possesses a BA in Political Science and Sociology from Durham University.

Wikinews reporter David Shankbone recently spoke to him about Chinese-Tibetan relations, the status of the Panchen Lamas, the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th and current Dalai Lama, the appointment of Tibetan high monks by the Chinese government and some of the Dalai Lama’s views on topics on religions and societal topics.

The Office of Tibet and the Tibetan government in exile

David Shankbone: What is this office’s relationship with the government in exile?

Tashi Wangdi: I am the Representative of the Dalai Lama. We look after Tibetan affairs in North and South America.

DS: Are you essentially an embassy without a country?

TW: Yes.

DS: Professor Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche was elected the head of the Tibetan Administration cabinet–effectively a prime minister of the Central Tibetan Administration, the government-in-exile?

TW: Ever since His Holiness held leadership responsibilities at the age of 16 when he was in Tibet, he wanted to bring about social political reforms. He started those reforms in Tibet. Because of the Chinese invasion and the problem thereafter with the occupation, he could not get through the reforms he wanted to implement. Then in 1959, when the situation went beyond a solution and he had to leave Tibet, as soon as he went to India he continued with the reform and promulgated a draft Constitution. A parliament was elected by Tibetans in exile. He then brought about gradual changes for the democratization of the system. The political leadership is now elected. We have had a parliament in existence since 1961 and seven years ago we elected a Prime Minister. His Holiness describes himself as semi-retired.

DS: Retired from administrative functions?

TW: Yes. The governing responsibility is now carried out by the elected political leadership.

DS: The Dalai Lama exists as a spiritual leader and essentially a figurehead, similar to Queen Elizabeth?

TW: As you know, we are not seeking independence, but it’s more about the future of Tibet.

DS: As an autonomous region.

TW: Yes. We are seeking a solution within the framework of the Chinese Constitution for a meaningful autonomy. Until we are able to achieve that goal, we effectively have a government in exile with a charter —a Constitution. In that charter, his holiness is effectively head of state, and the prime minister is head of government, to use ‘normal terms’. His Holiness, however, describes himself as semi-retired.

DS: He’s a symbolic head of the people, whereas Rinpoche would be an administrative head? I understand you may want to shy away from using government-oriented terminology.

TW: No, we function as a government in exile. Nothing to be shy about; we want to be open and transparent. It is nothing to hide. Elected parliament, elected leadership; the Tibetan people consider that government as their government, so there is nothing to shy away from. But as I said, in that charter His Holiness is described as head-of-state, and the elected leadership is head of government, in normal terms.

DS: What would be some of the first actions the Dalai Lama would undertake if he were to return to Tibet?

TW: He would hand over all of his responsibilities to the new leadership in Tibet. He made in very clear as far back as 1992, in a public statement, that as soon as we are able to reach an agreement with the Chinese government, the government-in-exile will be dissolved and the responsibility for managing future affairs will be carried out by Tibetans in Tibet. In other words, people like me who have no claim for leadership and responsibilities by the mere fact that in exile we have been working for Tibet; we will have no claim that we will be in some leadership role when we go back. His Holiness has made it very clear that the people in Tibet should take the responsibility.

DS: What are the functions or responsibilities of the Office of Tibet in the Americas?

TW: My responsibilities are to inform the governments, the people of the situation in Tibet and what we are trying to achieve. Simple as that.

The Chinese invasion and occupation

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This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

DS: How many Tibetans were lost during the Reign of Terror directly after the Chinese invasion?

TW: According to our research, we believe that 1.2 million died as a result of Chinese invasion and occupation. That would include people who were killed in fighting, who died of starvation, suicide; people who died being tortured in prison, and so on. 1.2 million. Between March 1959 and the end of 1959, according to China’s own documents—we got hold of the report of a Chinese military officer, an official document—in about nine months, in Central Tibet near Lhasa alone, 87,000 Tibetans are killed in nine months. That’s an official Chinese military document. That document is available and been made public many times.

DS: How has the Chinese government’s Western China Development program affected ordinary Tibetans?

TW: Of course, development per se is to be welcomed. One of the reasons why His Holiness has repeatedly stated for wanting to be part of China is the economic benefit. Tibet is underdeveloped; materially and economically it is backward, in a development sense. Tibetan people, they need economic development and assistance. If it is meant for the Tibetan people, it is to be welcomed.
But unfortunately, the development plan they have and the impact—we suspected and we now see—it first doesn’t take into account the fragile environment; secondly, it is not benefiting the local Tibetans. It is providing facilities for the resettlement of Han Chinese in Tibet. At every point of development, and any casual visitor such as a tourist can see it, all the development is in Chinese towns and cities. The local people have become more and more marginalized. There are minor side benefits, of course, but if it continues Tibetans will become a completely insignificant minority increasingly marginalized. If Tibetans in Tibet were enjoying economic development, there would be no reason for them to be unhappy.

DS: The phrase used to describe this by the exiled Tibetan government is “Chinese Apartheid?”

TW: Effectively it is the segregation of people; the economic benefits are not going to Tibetans, who are second class citizens in Tibet.

DS: How are the local people handling this situation?

TW: Resentment! But Tibet should be opened up and we’ve always said you should be able to ask these questions of local Tibetans, and not to me. It is better to be able to ask people in Tibet openly.

DS: But that’s not possible.

TW: No, journalists are not allowed to go. Why? If Tibetan people are happy and free to express their views, then there is no reason why people should not be allowed to meet outside reporters. Journalists are not allowed to go, though. About four months back in the international news, it was reported that of the 74 Tibetans in the Tibetan Chinese Communist Party, 54 were dismissed.

DS: Why?

TW: For not being loyal to the party. They were Tibetans who were members of the Chinese Communist Party who are holding posts in the administration.

DS: Have any spoken out as to why they were dismissed?

TW: No.

Tibetan reaction to the Dalai Lama’s Congressional Gold Medal

Drepung Monastery was surrounded by Chinese troops after the Dalai Lama was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. News agencies reported that monks were arrested for exhibiting their joy.
Image: Philipp Roelli.

DS: What happened when the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal?

TW: Restrictions were imposed on people; in spite of that, people expressed their happiness. Better dresses were worn that day.

DS: Was there a crackdown?

TW: Yes. Why should that be if people are happy? We have always said that if people are happy we have no reason to continue.

DS: What is the status of the monks who were arrested after the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal?

TW: According to the reports I have seen, a large number of people have been detained.

DS: At the Drepung Monastery?

TW: Yes, one of the monasteries was completely surrounded by troops. The movement of people was highly restricted and party members—retired people—were warned that they would lose their pension. I’m sure many of them who, despite these strong warnings, expressed their happiness may have suffered. I have no recent report on that.

DS: How difficult is it to receive information from Tibet?

TW: Not very difficult. Our job is to represent people in Tibet, so our main effort is to try to understand the situation and their feelings, their views. Therefore, it is very important to us to keep in touch with them and receive accurate, objective information from inside Tibet.

DS: Do you know the situation with Ronggay A’drak, the Tibetan nomad who was arrested?

TW: What he said is nothing—it was the basic asking for the release of prisoners, that His Holiness should be allowed to return to Tibet. Because of some democratic change there has been land pressures with Tibetan nomads, so he also appealed to them to not fight amongst themselves for land ownership, which would never have happened in the past. In this country, nobody would even notice what he said.

DS: What will happen to him?

TW: He has already been sentenced to prison. I think it was 10 years.

DS: Is that standard?

TW: Yes. It’s almost a treasonable act to make that kind of a call; unfortunately, it is a very serious crime in Tibet.

The disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the eleventh Panchen Lama

DS: Where is Chadrel Rinpoche, the man who selected Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the eleventh Panchen Lama?

TW: I have no information.

DS: Does anyone?

TW: There was a report, but I have no confirmed information. At one point I heard he was not in good health. He was appointed by the Chinese government to search for the new Panchen Lama and he was in touch with us with the knowledge of the Chinese government.

DS: The Chinese government knew he was in touch with the Dalai Lama over the selection?

TW: Yes. Some of his people went to Beijing when His Holiness’ delegation was in Beijing. They met and even sent some offerings to His Holiness to pray for the quick discovery of the Panchen Lama. His Holiness has always made it very clear to the Chinese government that the search for the genuine—the important thing is we have to follow all the procedures to make sure that the genuine reincarnation is discovered. It was made very clear to the Chinese government that His Holiness and the Tibetan leadership outside was willing to work with the Chinese government in this search. At that time I was His Holiness’ representative in Delhi, so I had a number of meetings with Chinese officials to convey these messages. There were no behind-the-scenes.
Cquote1.svg They can’t keep their Panchen Lama in Tibet. They tried to bring him to his monastery many times but people would not see him. How can you have a religious leader like that? When a Panchen Lama goes to his monastery thousands and thousands of people will come from all over Tibet and outside. He is an important Buddhist leader. But when they brought their Panchen Lama, they had to force government officials and the public to attend certain public functions. Cquote2.svg

—Tashi Wangdi

DS: So at age six, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima just disappeared?

TW: When the final decision came close, there was a lack of willingness on the part of the Chinese leadership to involve His Holiness. Unfortunately, we then ended up having two people. Now we don’t know because since the age of six he has disappeared. It is totally ridiculous on the part of the Chinese officials, who say he is kept in hiding at the request of his parents, for his security. That makes no sense.

DS: And nobody knows where he is.

TW: No, nobody.

DS: What do you think will happen to him?

TW: I have no idea.

DS: Do you think he is aware of his status?

TW: I’m sure. He is mature now.

DS: But at six years of age, it is probable he was not able to completely comprehend the fight between the two governments over who he was and what role he is to play. If they were to take him at the age of six and place him somewhere in Manchuria, re-educate him and deny him his heritage, it is possible he does not even know who he is?

TW: I suppose. It’s speculative, but there are apprehensions on the part of the Tibetans that this was the plan for taking him away and keeping him in isolation. To brainwash him. At the same time, by deduction, one could say neither he nor his parents and other relatives have given in to the Chinese government. Because if they had, they would have made some kind of public statement to say, “We do not think he is Panchen Lama, we have been treated well and we are ordinary people.” Nothing has happened like that.

DS: There have been no rumors, no words through the grapevine as to his status?

TW: No. The logical deduction would be there is no cooperation from the Panchen Lama’s side to follow the official line.

DS: That’s pretty amazing when you consider it.

TW: It is amazing! It’s also very silly. Unnecessary. It’s a religious matter. Reincarnation is purely religious, and it is a very unique tradition in Tibet. If that is allowed to be followed-through, it is the best way of winning the hearts and minds of people. It’s the best diplomacy and a wise way of dealing with things. Now they have screwed it up. Unnecessary.

DS: What do you think is the thinking on the part of the Chinese government that this six year old boy would be a threat to their power?

TW: They sense their lack of legitimacy. It’s weakness. It’s fear of illegitimacy. They think everything is going to blow up in their face. In the long run it’s counterproductive.

DS: It would seem that by the Chinese government installing their own person, they have created their own symbol of illegitimacy as opposed to allowing religious practice to happen whilst keeping their governmental authority intact. They have created a symbol in the form of Gyancain Norbu of their illegitimacy and meddling in the cultural affairs.

TW: That’s right.

Gyancain Norbu, the boy selected by the Chinese government

DS: Do you think Gyancain Norbu, the boy the Chinese government selected as the eleventh Panchen Lama, is a victim as well?

TW: As a good Tibetan, when he comes to his age of making his own decisions, which he is about that age—18 or 19—he will make the right decisions.

DS: What would be the right decision?

TW: I think if he wants to pursue religious leadership, in Tibetan customs we have more than one reincarnation. If he proves himself to be a good practitioner and religious leader, people will treat him as a reincarnation.

“It’s a religious matter. Reincarnation is purely religious, and it is a very unique tradition in Tibet. If that is allowed to be followed-through, it is the best way of winning the hearts and minds of people. It’s the best diplomacy and a wise way of dealing with things. Now they have screwed it up.” Wangdi on the Chinese government’s selection of the 11th Panchen Lama.
Image: David Shankbone.

DS: But if he insists on his status as the Panchen Lama?

TW: If through his own contact and learning he proves himself to be worthy of being a reincarnation—as I said there is more than one reincarnation in our tradition—then people will treat him as a reincarnation. It’s not a political institution. Panchen Lama is a religious institution. So you can have two reincarnations. I don’t see it as a clash of interests.

DS: But he has no legitimacy now as the Panchen Lama, where as the one the Dalai Lama selected does have that legitimacy, is that correct?

TW: Yes, that’s right.

DS: Gyancain Norbu has not made any statements?

TW: No. Lately he has not been seen in public. People are starting to ask questions and there have been speculative reports that he has escaped, or ran away. There was speculation, but I can’t comment on this. The fact is that lately has not been seen in public. About a year or so ago he was prominently shown in public as a propaganda. For some reason of late he has not been physically seen or made any statements attributed to him. It raises questions, but I can’t comment on speculation.

DS: What do the Tibetan people think about him?

TW: People will respond to him when he comes out on his own. I don’t think people have any bad feelings against him personally. It’s not his fault.

DS: But they are against what he represents.

TW: Yes. At the moment it is not against him, but against the Chinese authorities. Not against him, as a person. He’s not asserting himself.

DS: He’s not towing the party line but just keeping quiet.

TW: Yes, that’s understandable.

DS: So in a sense he is a victim himself?

TW: I suppose one could say that, yes.

The selection of the next Dalai Lama

DS: In September the Chinese government has said they must approve all high monks—

TW: Yes, the state council has promulgated some order. It’s a religious matter and it’s ridiculous for any government to interfere in religious affairs. No democratic government would interfere. Not here in the United States, not in India. China’s government believes in atheism and doesn’t believe in a religious tradition, which is the Communist government in China. It believes in religion as an opiate, a destructive element; to interfere in that is irrelevant, ridiculous and meaningless. It is interference in the affairs of followers of traditions.

DS: How will it affect the choosing of the next Dalai Lama?

TW: It will have no effect. You can’t impose a Pope. You can’t impose an Imam, an Archbishop, saints, any religion…you can’t politically impose these things on people. It has to be a decision of the followers of that tradition. The Chinese can use their political power: force. Again, it’s meaningless. Like their Panchen Lama. And they can’t keep their Panchen Lama in Tibet. They tried to bring him to his monastery many times but people would not see him. How can you have a religious leader like that? When a Panchen Lama goes to his monastery thousands and thousands of people will come from all over Tibet and outside. He is an important Buddhist leader. But when they brought their Panchen Lama, they had to force government officials and the public to attend certain public functions.

DS: How do they force the public?

TW: They said if you don’t come you will be punished and each family has to send one person, and so forth.

DS: How do they keep track of that?

TW: It’s a totalitarian system. Look at the former Soviet Union and China itself. They keep track; the civil system is built like that. It’s run on the basis of fear. They have developed an effective system of control and monitor.

DS: Did the Dalai Lama support India’s nuclear testing?

TW: His Holiness has always spoken against violence, arms sales; he has signed with the other Nobel laureates against arms sales and nuclear disarmament. When India exploded a bomb, he said India is a big country and has its foreign concerns, so it would be unfair with its security concerns to deny of that ability to defend itself. He also said that in the long run, all the nuclear countries should work towards total disarmament.

The views of the Dalai Lama

DS: What is His Holiness’ view on abortion?

TW: He has said many times that as a Buddhist taking a life is wrong. But on abortion it depends on so many other factors and stages of the development of the fetus. And the circumstances. It’s a question for the mother and the child, and he did say if there are developmental issues.

DS: He believes that it should be a personal decision and not a governmental decision?

TW: Yes.
File:Tenzin Gyatzo foto 2.jpg
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.

DS: But that it’s frowned upon as a Buddhist principle?

TW: Yes. But he has certainly spoken very often on population control, but that is more on the preventative side.

DS: What are His Holiness’ views on homosexuality?

TW: He said according to Buddhist practice it is wrong. In society, it is all right. I think of it like this. I am Buddhist. You are Christian, let’s say. For me, I have to follow the precepts and principles as a Buddhist. For me it would be wrong to do that. But it would be wrong for me to say it is wrong for you because in multicultural, multireligious societies you can’t do that.

DS: So if somebody is gay they could not be a proper Buddhist?

TW: I’m sure under certain precepts of Buddhist tradition, a person would not be considered as following ALL the precepts of Buddhist principles. People don’t follow all the principles. Very few people can claim they follow all the principles. For instance, telling a lie. In any religion, if you ask if telling a lie is a sin—say Christian—they will say yes. But you find very few people who don’t at some point tell a lie. Homosexuality is one act, but you can’t say they are not a Buddhist. Or someone who tells a lie is not a Buddhist. Or someone who kills an insect is not a Buddhist, because there’s a strong injunction against that.

DS: Have you ever killed an insect?

TW: I’m sure, yeah.

DS: Is the Dalai Lama planning on visiting Latin America any time soon?

TW: There’s likelihood that it will be next year. We are looking at it. We have so many invitations from countries and every few years we look to see what we can fit in.

DS: It’s likely next year?

TW: We are thinking of it, yes.

DS: Do you know why the Dalai Lama has not explicitly said he is a reincarnation of the Dalai Lama?

TW: In the broader sense, it is a manifestation, so you can manifest in different ways. He is talking in that sense. It’s a broad principle argument.

DS: It’s that he believes he is a reincarnation, but whether he is the whole and sum of the 13th Dalai Lama is another question?

TW: Yes. Yes. Something to that effect.

DS: Do you have thoughts to share on the situation in Burma?

TW: His Holiness issued a statement soon after the recent crackdown in which he expressed his deep concern and sadness over the violation, and he expressed solidarity with the Buddhist monks and people asking for democracy. He appealed to the generals to refrain from using violence—they are Buddhists—and as Buddhists they should follow the teachings of Buddha and enter into meaningful dialog.

DS: Have you any information on their current status?

TW: No, we follow whatever comes into the media very closely. It’s a Buddhist country and historically Tibet and Burma have good relations.

DS: It’s such a difficult region with many complex disputes.

TW: There are ethnic differences, different religions, but through democratic process things can be resolved. Let’s look at India and Pakistan. India is a huge country, so many ethnic, religious—they have the second largest Muslim population after Indonesia—but through a democratic process and the federal structure that came into being the last six years, that’s through democratic process. Unfortunately on the Pakistan side with the same people, same culture, the political system is not fully developed and you see more ethnic problems. With Burma if you see more democratic process I’m sure these problems will be worked out.

DS: All over Asia so many people have long-lasting conflicts and memories never seem to die.

TW: I think it’s a problem that is remnant of the British rule and all these new states came into existence when British rule was withdrawn. But where democratic process came into place things are better. In places where interest groups came into rule, they divide. But democracy reduces special interest.

Arunachal Pradesh, an historically Tibetan area of India claimed by China

DS: What is your view on Arunachal Pradesh? Is the Government-in-Exile’s relative silence over the issue due more to a recognition of India as a friendly government, or does the Government-in-Exile view the area as less Tibetan than the areas controlled by China?

TW: We are bound by the 1914 Simla Convention under which the McMahon Line was formed between India and Tibet. It has been accepted. Both by British India and the Tibetan government, so we are treaty bound. At that time the Tibetan government entered into and signed that agreement. We can’t change. The McMahon Line is the international boundary and whatever falls on either side of that line is the territory of either India or, as of now, the People’s Republic of China (Tibet).

Shugden worship

DS: Christopher Hitchens criticized the Dalai Lama for his supposed suppression of Shugden worship?

TW: There’s no suppression! His Holiness made it very clear that according to his own observations over many years—in fact, he himself used to worship Shugden—and over many years of his own experience and observation and investigation, he found that this practice is not according to Buddhist practice. That practice is also bringing in divisions within the Buddhist traditions. The practitioners are attaching more importance than the basic Buddhist practice, and therefore he felt that it’s a practice that he would not approve of and therefore he advised people to not engage in it. But he made it very clear right from the beginning it was up to the individuals. He has a responsibility to explain the negative aspects of it and then it’s up to the individuals to decide on their own. Officially there has never been any repression or denial of rights to practitioners. But after His Holiness’ advice many monastic orders adopted rules and regulations that would not accept practitioners of Shugden worship in their monastic order. The followers have set up their own groups and they are free to function. But it’s in the right of institutions to make their own decisions.

DS: Was Lozang Gyatso, the director of Institute of Buddhist Dialectics murdered by Shugden worshipers?

TW: Yes, that’s a fact. There’s some misunderstanding that groups taking their own actions is the policy of the Tibetan government, but it’s not. Institutions take advice and it is within their right to say they do not want Shugden worship. But now if a group of people say they want to set up their own institution because they are different practitioners, which is within their right.

Karmapa controversy

DS: What is the reason for the Dalai Lama’s decision to become involved in the dispute over the identity of the current Karmapa [the leader of the largest sub-school of one of the four main schools in Tibetan Buddhism – ed.] by endorsing one candidate?

TW: There was no special decision. His Holiness was approached.

DS: By all sides?

TW: Yes. And then later on there was unfortunately some disagreement. Even Shamarpa—who had disagreements with the other regents at that time—even he did not dispute His Holiness’ decision as to who should be the throne holder. There should be no dispute.

DS: Does he still play a role as a peacemaker?

TW: No, there’s no need. It’s accepted by the vast majority of that tradition.

DS: Do you think Ogyen Trinley Dorje [one of the two contestants in the Karmapa dispute – ed.] will be able to travel freely to visit his followers?

TW: He’s traveling freely. Under the circumstances he escaped from Tibet there are security concerns about his personal safety. The government of India has to make sure he is not personally harmed, so in that sense there are some security restrictions. But as far as movement is concerned in India he can travel anywhere in India. There’s no ban on his movement.



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November 11, 2007

Antje Duvekot on life as a folk singer, her family and her music

Antje Duvekot on life as a folk singer, her family and her music

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Antje Duvekot: “My parents were ardent atheists and they drove this rationality into me, and I’m trying to stray away from that. It’s a challenge. Any dogma that’s driven into you as a kid can be hard to overcome.”
All photos: David Shankbone

Boston-based singer-songwriter Antje Duvekot has made a name for herself in the folk music world with powerful ballads of heartbreak and longing for a deeper spirituality, but coming up empty-handed. Below is David Shankbone’s interview with the folk chanteuse.


David Shankbone: Tell me about your new album.

Antje Duvekot: It’s called Big Dream Boulevard and it’s the first studio album I made. It’s not so new; I made it in May of 2006. It’s produced by Séamus Egan, who is the leader of a fairly renowned band named Solas.

DS: You mentioned you used to explore more dark themes in your work, but that lately you are exploring lighter fare. What themes are you exploring on this album?

AD: In the future I am hoping for more light themes. I feel like I have worked through a lot of the darkness, and personally I feel like I’m ready to write a batch of lighter songs, but that’s just how I’m feeling right now. My last record, Big Dream Boulevard, was a pretty heavy record and that was not intentional. I write what is on my mind.

DS: What were you going through that made it so dark?

AD: The record is drawn from my whole writing career, so it’s old and new songs as well. I wasn’t going through anything in particular because it was spanning a wide time period. I think it’s fair to say that over all I turn to music in times of trouble and need as a therapeutic tool to get me through sadness. That’s why I tend to turn to music. So my songs tend to be a little darker, because that’s where I tend to go for solace. So themes like personal struggle with relationships and existential issues.

DS: What personal relationships do you struggle with?

AD: A lot of my songs are about dating and relationship troubles. That’s one category. But a lot of my songs are about existential questions because I struggle with what to believe in.

DS: Do you believe in a higher power?

AD: I’m sort of an atheist who wishes I could believe something.

DS: What do you believe?

AD: It’s undefined. I think I’m spiritual in music, which is my outlet, but I just can’t get on board with an organized religion. Not even Unitarianism. I do miss something like that in my life, though.

DS: Why do you miss having religion in your life?

AD: I think every human being craves a feeling that there is a higher purpose. It’s a need for me. A lot of my songs express that struggle.

DS: Does the idea that our lives on Earth may be all that there is unsettle you?

AD: Yes, sure. I think there’s more. I’m always seeking things of beauty, and my art reflects the search for that.

DS: You had said in an interview that your family wasn’t particularly supportive of your career path, but you are also saying they were atheists who weren’t curious about the things you are curious about. It sounds like you were a hothouse flower.

AD: Yes. I think what went with my parents’ atheism was a distrust of the arts as frivolous and extraneous. They were very pragmatic.

DS: They almost sound Soviet Communist.

AD: Yeah, a little bit [Laughs]. They had an austere way of living, and my wanting to pursue music as a career was the last straw.

DS: What’s your relationship with them now?

AD: I don’t actually speak to my mother and stepfather.

DS: Why?

AD: A lot of reasons, but when I was about 21 I was fairly certain I wanted to go the music path and they said, “Fine, then go!”

DS: That’s the reason you don’t speak with them?

AD: That’s the main. “Go ahead, do what you want, and have a nice life.” So the music thing cost the relationship with my parents, although I think there may have been some other things that have done it.

DS: That must be a difficult thing to contend with, that a career would be the basis for a relationship.

AD:Yes, it’s strange, but my love of music is perhaps stronger for it because of the sacrifices I have made for it early on. I had to fight.

DS: Would you say in your previous work some of your conflict of dating would have been birthed from how your relationship with your family? How do you see the arc of your work?

AD: My songs are sort of therapy for me, so you can trace my personal progress through them [Laughs]. I think there is some improvement. I wrote my first love song the other day, so I think I’m getting the hang of what relationships are all about. I’m ever grateful for music for being there for me when things weren’t going so well.

DS: Has the Iraq War affected you as an artist?

AD: Not directly, but I do have a few songs that are political. One about George Bush and the hypocrisy, but it’s very indirect; you wouldn’t know it was about George Bush.

DS: How has it affected you personally?

AD: I feel sad about it. People say my music is sad, but it’s a therapeutic thing so the war affects me.

DS: The struggle to be original in art is innate. When you are coming up with an idea for a song and then you all of a sudden stumble across it having been done somewhere else, how do you not allow that to squelch your creative impulse and drive to continue on.

“I was just thinking about the whole dream of becoming a musician. I want to maybe do a research project about people’s dreams and how they feel about them after they come true. It’s really interesting. They change a lot. When I was 17 I saw Ani Difranco on stage and I wanted to do that, and now I’m doing it. Now I think about Ani very differently.”

AD: That’s a good question. I started writing in a vacuum just for myself and I didn’t have a lot of feedback, and I thought that what I’m saying has been said so many times before. Then my songs got out there and people told me, ‘You say it so originally’ and I thought ‘Really?!’ The way I say it, to me, sounds completely trite because it’s the way I would say it and it doesn’t sound special at all. Once my record came out I got some amount of positive reviews that made me think I have something original, which in turn made me have writer’s block to keep that thing that I didn’t even know I had. So now I’m struggling with that, trying to maintain my voice. Right now I feel a little dried-out creatively.

DS: When I interviewed Augusten Burroughs he told me that when he was in advertising he completely shut himself off from the yearly ad books that would come out of the best ads that year, because he wanted to be fresh and not poisoned by other ideas; whereas a band called The Raveonettes said they don’t try to be original they just do what they like and are upfront about their influences. Where do you fall in that spectrum?

AD: Probably more towards Augusten Burroughs because when I first started writing it was more in a vacuum, but I think everyone has their own way. You can’t not be influenced by your experience in life.

DS: Who would you say are some of your biggest influences in the last year. Who have you discovered that has influenced you the most?

AD: Influence is kind of a strong word because I don’t think I’m taking after these people. I’ve been moved by this girl named Anais Mitchell. She’s a singer-songwriter from Vermont who is really unique. She’s just got signed to Righteous Babe Records. Patty Griffin just moves me deeply.

DS: You moved out of New York because you had some difficulty with the music scene here?

AD: I feel it is a little tougher to make it here than in Boston if you are truly acoustic folk lyric driven. I find that audiences in New York like a certain amount of bling and glamor to their performances. A little more edge, a little cooler. I felt for me Boston was the most conducive environment.

DS: Do you feel home up in Boston?

AD:I do, and part of that is the great folk community.

DS: Why do you think Boston has such a well-developed folk scene?

AD: It’s always historically been a folk hub. There’s a lot of awesome folk stations like WUMB and WERS. Legendary folk clubs, like Club Passim. Those have stayed in tact since the sixties.

DS: Is there anything culturally about Boston that makes it more conducive to folk?

AD: Once you have a buzz, the buzz creates more buzz. Some people hear there’s a folk scene in Boston, and then other people move there, so the scene feeds itself and becomes a successful scene. It’s on-going.

DS: Do you have a favorite curse word?

AD: [Giggles] Cunt. [Giggles]

DS: Really?! You are the first woman I have met who likes that word!

AD: Oh, really? I’ll use it in a traffic situation. Road rage. [Laughs]

DS: Do you find yourself more inspired by man-made creations, including people and ideas, or nature-made creations?

AD: I love nature, but it is limited. It is what it is, and doesn’t include the human imagination that can go so much further than nature.

DS: What are some man made things that inspire you?

AD: New York City as a whole is just an amazing city. People are so creative and it is the hub of personal creativity, just in the way people express themselves on a daily basis.

DS: Do you think you will return?

In theory I will return one day if I have money, but in theory you need money to enjoy yourself.

DS: What trait do you deplore in yourself?

AD: Like anyone, I think laziness. I’m a bit a hard on myself, but there’s always more I can do. As a touring singer-songwriter I work hard, but sometimes I forget because I get to sleep in and my job is not conventional, and sometimes I think ‘Oh, I don’t even have a job, how lazy I am!’ [Laughs] Then, of course, there are times I’m touring my ass off and I work hard as well. It comes in shifts. There are times there is so much free time I have to structure my own days, and that’s a challenge.

DS: When is the last time you achieved a goal and were disappointed by it and thought, “Is that all there is?” Something you wanted to obtain, you obtained it, and it wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as you thought it would be.

AD: I was just thinking about the whole dream of becoming a musician. I want to maybe do a research project about people’s dreams and how they feel about them after they come true. It’s really interesting. They change a lot. When I was 17 I saw Ani Difranco on stage and I wanted to do that, and now I’m doing it. Now I think about Ani very differently. I wonder how long it took her to drive here, she must be tired; I’m thinking of all the pragmatic things that go on behind the scenes. The backside of a dream you never consider when you’re dreaming it. To some extent, having my dream fulfilled hasn’t been a let-down, but it’s changed. It’s more realistic.

DS: What is a new goal?

AD: Balance. Trying to grow my career enough to make sure it doesn’t consume me. It’s hard to balance a touring career because there is no structure to your life. I’m trying to take this dream and make it work as a job.

DS: How challenging is it to obtain that in the folk world?

AD: There’s not a lot of money in the folk world. In generally right now I think people’s numbers are down and only a few people can make a living at it. It’s pretty competitive. I’m doing okay, but there’s no huge riches in it so I’m trying to think of my future and maintain a balance in it.

DS: Do you think of doing something less folk-oriented to give your career a push?

Not really, I’ve done that a little bit by trying to approach the major labels, but that was when the major labels were dying so I came in at a bad time for that. I found that when it comes to do it yourself, the folk world is the best place to make money because as soon as you go major you are paying a band.

DS: More money more problems.

AD: More money, more investing. It’s a hard question.

DS: What things did you encounter doing a studio album that you had not foreseen?

AD: Giving up control is hard when you have a producer. His vision, sometimes, is something you can’t understand and have to trust sometimes. See how it comes out. That was hard for me, because up until now I have been such a do it yourself, writing my own songs, recording them myself.

DS: What is your most treasured possession?

AD: I’d like to say my guitar, but I’m still looking for a good one. I have this little latex glove. [Laughs] It’s a long story—

DS: Please! Do tell!

AD: When I was in college I had a romantic friend named David, he was kind of my first love. We were young and found this latex glove in a parking lot. We though, “Oh, this is a nice glove, we’ll name him Duncan.”

DS: You found a latex glove in a parking lot and you decided to take it?

AD: Yeah [Laughs]. He became the symbol of our friendship. He’s disgusting at this point, he’s falling apart. But David and I are still friends and we’ll pass him back and forth to each other every three years or so when we’ve forgotten his existence. David surprised me at a show in Philly. He gave Duncan to the sound man who brought it back stage, and now I have Duncan. So he’s kind of special to me.

DS: If you could choose how you die, how would you choose?

AD: Not freezing to death, and not in an airplane, because I’m afraid of flying. Painlessly, like most people. In my sleep when I’m so old and senile I don’t know what hit me. I’d like to get real old.

DS: Would you be an older woman with long hair or short hair?

AD: I guess short hair, because long hair looks a little witchy on old people.

DS: Who are you supporting for President?

AD: I’m torn between Obama and Hillary. Someone who is going to win, so I guess Hillary.

DS: You don’t think Obama would have a chance of winning?

AD: I don’t know. If he did, I would support Barack. I don’t really care; either of those would make me happy.

DS: What trait do you value most in your friends?

AD: Kindness.

DS: What trait do you deplore in other people?

AD: Arrogance. Showiness.

DS: Where else are you going on tour?

AD: Alaska in a few days. Fairbanks, Anchorage and all over the place. I’m a little nervous because I will be driving by myself and I have this vision that if I get hit by a moose then I could freeze to death.

DS: And you have to fly up there!

AD: Yeah, and I hate flying as well—so I’m really scared! [Laughs]

DS: Is there a big folk scene in Alaska?

AD: No, but I hear people are grateful if anyone makes it up there, especially in the winter. I think they are hungry for any kind of entertainment, no matter the quality. [Laughs] Someone came to us! I actually played there in June in this town called Seldovia, that has 300 people, and all 300 people came to my gig, so the next day I was so famous! Everyone knew me, the gas station attendant, everyone. It was surreal.

DS: So you had that sense of what Ani DiFranco must feel.

AD: Yeah! I was Paul McCartney. I thought this was what it must be like to be Bruce Springsteen, like I can’t even buy a stick of gum without being recognized.

DS: Did you like that?

AD: I think it would be awful to be that famous because you have moments when you just don’t feel like engaging.

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November 8, 2007

Perpetrator of Finnish school shooting dies in hospital

Perpetrator of Finnish school shooting dies in hospital

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

An interior window shot through by the killer

Pekka-Eric Auvinen, the gunman who killed eight people in the Jokela school shooting in Finland yesterday, has died in hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

“He died at 22h14 of a one-bullet injury in the head,” said traumatology physician Eero Hirvensalo, chief of the Helsinki University Hospital.

Auvinen, 18, murdered his headmistress, school nurse and six students, as well as wounding one other victim, before turning his gun on himself.

When police special units arrived on-scene and entered the school they were initially shot at, but when they reached Auvinen he was already unconscious, and no rounds were fired by the police.

Auvinen had no previous criminal convictions, and had received his gun license several weeks previously. He purchased his gun on October 19.

In a text describing himself on the video sharing site YouTube, where he had posted a total of 89 videos, including some showing him firing his gun and others directly referring to the killing, he said that he was “a cynical existentialist, anti-human humanist, anti-social social-Darwinist, realistic idealist and god-like atheist.”

“I am prepared to fight and die for my cause,” he continued. “I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection.”



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November 5, 2007

Satanism: An interview with Church of Satan High Priest Peter Gilmore

Satanism: An interview with Church of Satan High Priest Peter Gilmore

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Peter H. Gilmore: “Satanism begins with atheism. We begin with the universe and say, “It’s indifferent. There’s no God, there’s no Devil. No one cares!” So you then have to make a decision that places yourself at the center of your own subjective universe, because of course we can’t have any kind of objective contact with everything that exists. That’s rather arrogant and delusional…”
All photos: David Shankbone

In the 1980’s and the 1990’s there were multiple allegations of sexual abuse of children or non-consenting adults in the context of Satanic rituals that has come to be known as The Satanic Panic. In the United States, the Kern County child abuse cases, McMartin preschool trial and the West Memphis 3 cases garnered worldwide media coverage. One case took place in Jordan, Minnesota, when children made allegations of manufacturing child pornography, ritualistic animal sacrifice, coprophagia, urophagia and infanticide, at which point the Federal Bureau of Investigation was alerted. Twenty-four adults were arrested and charged with acts of sexual abuse, child pornography and other crimes related to satanic ritual abuse; only three went to trial with two acquittals and one conviction. Supreme Court Justice Scalia noted in a discussion of the case, “[t]here is no doubt that some sexual abuse took place in Jordan; but there is no reason to believe it was as widespread as charged,” and cited the repeated, coercive techniques used by the investigators as damaging to the investigation.

One of the most visible Satanic organizations—though one that was never a suspect or charged in any of the Satanic Panic cases—is the Church of Satan, founded by Anton LaVey. Members of the Church, such as Peter H. Gilmore, Peggy Nadramia, Boyd Rice, Adam Parfrey, Diabolos Rex, and musician King Diamond, were active in media appearances to refute allegations of criminal activity and the FBI would later issue an official report debunking the criminal conspiracy theories of this time.

Gilmore feels Satanists are often misunderstood or misrepresented. LaVey’s teachings are based on individualism, self-indulgence, and “eye for an eye” morality, with influence from Friedrich Nietzsche and Ayn Rand; while its rituals and magic draw heavily from occultists such as Aleister Crowley. They do not worship—nor believe in—the Devil or a Christian notion of Satan. The word “Satan” comes from the Hebrew word for “adversary” and originated from the Abrahamic faiths, being traditionally applied to an angel. Church of Satan adherents see themselves as truth-seekers, adversaries and skeptics of the religious world around them.

On a windy October day in Central Park, Wikinews reporter David Shankbone sat down with the High Priest of the Church, Peter H. Gilmore, who has led LaVey’s congregation of Satanists since his passing in 1997 (he became the High Priest in 2001). They discussed the beliefs of the Church, current events, LaVey’s children and how Satanism applies to life and the world.

Theistic Satanism (‘devil worship’)

Cquote1.svg My real feeling is that anybody who believes in supernatural entities on some level is insane. Whether they believe in The Devil or God, they are abdicating reason. Cquote2.svg

David Shankbone: What is your relationship to Theistic Satanists?

Peter H. Gilmore: We don’t think they are Satanists. They are devil worshipers, as far as I’m concerned.

DS: There is one in New York who does a lot of websites.

PG: Diane Vera? She’s a kook.

DS: She’s also an editor on Wikipedia. I contacted her, but I never received a response.

PG: My real feeling is that anybody who believes in supernatural entities on some level is insane. Whether they believe in The Devil or God, they are abdicating reason. If they really believe they are in communication with some sort of interventionist deity…you know, somebody can be a deist and think that maybe there was some sort of force that launched everything and now has nothing to do with it. That’s not anything you can prove. It’s also not a matter of faith. It’s a matter of making a choice between whether there was something or there wasn’t. I think maybe that is the most rational decision. I think science makes it look otherwise, but I don’t think somebody like that is mad. But anybody who believes in some kind of existence in deity or spirits or anything that intervenes in their life is not somebody I hold in any kind of esteem.

DS: Have you had much interaction with the theistic Satanists?

PG: No, I just have complete contempt for them and have no contact with them at all. If anybody does contact me and say they are a theistic Satanist we tell them to take a hike. [Laughs].

DS: Do you know what they think of you?

PG: I have no idea and I could not care. I consider it lunatic and it’s Christian. If you want to believe in an existing devil then you probably believe in an existing God and you’re really just a Christian heretic, you’re not a Satanist.

DS: What do you think is their motivation to worship a Christian Satan?

PG: I really wouldn’t know, I’d have to talk to them, but my supposition would be that they want to feel they are naughty on some level. If they really believe in these existing deities, then they have to decide what the values of them are. The Gnostics used to think that Jehovah was bad; the demiurge, and that the real God was something more in touch with what they thought humanity should be like. So, maybe these people think that Jehovah is evil and Satan is good. I just think it’s equally silly whether you believe in an Easter Bunny or Zeus…it’s just…irrational.

Church of Satan 101

David Shankbone: How would you define the word Satan?

Peter Gilmore: Satan is a model or a mode of behavior. Satan in Hebrew means “adversary” or “opposer”; one who questions. Since we generally are skeptical atheists, we question all spirituality. We believe that carnality is all that exists and the spiritual dimensions are fictional. So we stand against eastern and western religions that promote fictions, according to our perspectives. So we are adversaries. Satan to us is an exemplar. When we look at how he is portrayed by Mark Twain in Letters from the Earth, or Byron, or Milton’s Paradise Lost, he ends up being an inspirational symbol to us. We say we would like to be more like that. We will not bow our heads; we will be independent. We will constantly question.
Cquote1.svg You can’t be praying to a God or blaming a devil, or anyone else, for that matter, for what happens to you. It’s on your own head. That’s a challenge for most people. Cquote2.svg

DS: What is the Church of Satan?

PG: Satanism begins with atheism. We begin with the universe and say, “It’s indifferent. There’s no God, there’s no Devil. No one cares!” So you then have to make a decision that places yourself at the center of your own subjective universe, because of course we can’t have any kind of objective contact with everything that exists. That’s rather arrogant and delusional, people who try to put things that way. So by making yourself the primary value in your life, you’re your own God. By being your own God, you are comfortable about making your own decisions about what to value. What’s positive to you, is good. What harms you, is evil. You extend it to things that you cherish and the people that you cherish. So it’s actually very easy to see that it’s a self-centered philosophy.
But it also requires responsibility, since you are taking on for yourself the complete onus for your personal success or failure. You can’t be praying to a God or blaming a devil, or anyone else, for that matter, for what happens to you. It’s on your own head. That’s a challenge for most people. Most people tend to really feel that they want some kind of external support, that they are outward looking and might want some sort of supernatural parental figure, or even some sort of existing governmental authority, existing in their life.

DS: Why do you think people are like that?

PG: I think there are actually two kinds of people. There are the kind of people who need that, and the kind that don’t. The kind that don’t are the smaller percentage of our species. It’s as simple as that.

DS: Why do you think there are those who need to have a God or supernatural parental figure?

PG: I think it’s natural to them. I don’t think it is something developmental, but that it’s just part of their own nature. That they feel a need for something above them, whether it be human or supernatural. And they can’t get away from that.

DS: In the history of a lot of religions, a doctrine was developed by people who were oppressed as a way to explain their lot, and that their oppressors were going to “get theirs in the end.” That’s where Karl Marx was saying religion is the opiate of the masses, because it creates complacency with oppression now because in some other ethereal dimension equality will be achieved.

“We Satanists look at the universe in this wonderful context of that’s what we are part of and that’s really exciting. We don’t need to single out any special part of it unless you find a place you really enjoy. The place you were born, perhaps, or the place you grew up.”

PG: Well, see the idea of the “God” comes from the oppressors, and it’s a way of controlling folks, by saying, “I have communication with this authority figure but you can’t. I’m special.” That’s where priesthoods come in, but also governmental authorities and parties, let’s say the Communist Party or the Nazi Party at one point. They have the key to the way the universe should exist, and everyone needs to be subservient to them and take what they say as holy writ whether they are actually claiming it is divine or not. That’s why so many of those fascist and totalitarian systems function like religions, because they put the leaders and whatever they wrote as some kind of scriptural authority that is not supposed to be debated or examined, but simply swallowed whole.
Now some people might come up with a religious belief that may counter an existing system that will help them feel better about their underdog status, and then sometimes that develops into a major religion and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is crushed and snuffed out. That’s natural to our species, that people have to find a way for dealing with their existence.
The Satanist, we look at our existence and say, “We’re not going to look for something outside of ourselves. We’re going to be proactive.” We’ll go out there and try to make a change, and we’ll deal pragmatically with whatever life situations we have. So the Satanist, regardless of where he is living and under what kind of conditions, he is going to try to find a way to make his life as good as it can be based upon his own abilities and the world around him. We don’t expect everybody in Satanism to be a genius, we expect people to take whatever they have by nature, and do the best with it. So in that sense, we challenge people who are our members; the only idealism we have is directed at ourselves. We try to look at ourselves and try to realize what our potential possibly could be, what talents do we have. And then we try to take those, through whatever work is needed, to take those as far as we can.

DS: What would be their motivation for doing something for society and not for themselves? Would there even be a motivation?

PG: Oh, absolutely! It’s up for you to choose your own preferences. By being self-centered you can select your own values.

DS: Like, I get value out of what I am doing for Wikimedia, even though it’s for free, there is still a value…

PG: Absolutely! What you’re doing, David, is a Satanic example. The whole point of Satanism is again to choose your values, and if you become somebody that really feels you want to work for hospitals for free—a number of our members work for animal organizations because we generally cherish animals and think they are far less polluted than people with values that are anti- their nature. So, Satanists are often very giving.
Because our values come from the self, people who try to tell themselves that they must be selfless, they can’t really understand why you would be giving if you’re a selfish person. But I think that’s more a revelation of their own natures, meaning if they didn’t have some external force making them being nice to people, they would be bastards! We Satanists, because we are relaxed, we love our lives, we love people who enrich our lives and things that are around us that we enjoy, we can be really giving. Gods can be beneficent! So when you are your own God, you can be happy to give!

DS: How would a Satanist define evil?

Cquote1.svg [W]e believe that as animals that are social, we have a social contract. When we deal with other people, our approach is that we want to have maximum freedom, and maximum responsibility without infringing on people as much as possible. Cquote2.svg
PG: Evil is whatever is harmful to you and the things you most cherish. It’s that simple.

DS: Some people have a compulsion to rape, and it harms them to not act upon it. If it was harmful for somebody to not go out and rape somebody, how would a Satanist address that situation?

PG: We then have to go into the realm of society, and we believe that as animals that are social, we have a social contract. When we deal with other people, our approach is that we want to have maximum freedom, and maximum responsibility without infringing on people as much as possible. So we would set up laws so we really don’t have to spend all of our time defending our territory, being in some kind of castle keep situation. So anyone who is going to go out and assault undeserving people, is someone we would deem a criminal and have them locked up or dealt with in whatever way seems most appropriate, whether it’s therapy, whether it’s drugs, or if they can’t control themselves, execution.

DS: Capital punishment is not antithetical to Satanism.

PG: Not necessarily, but essentially we would rather shrink from the government having the power to take you and murder you, because we don’t have a lot of confidence in people being rational, or being truthful, and we have seen so often—especially with DNA testing—that a lot of people have been jailed and accused of murder and they were wrong. That’s wrongful. So it’s not this broad, “We accept capital punishment and it’s fine!”

DS: “Slaughter them all!” [Laughs]

PG: Right! But there are certain situations where it would be appropriate. Say, when Colin Ferguson shot all those people. There should be absolutely no time wasted on that.

DS: But should it be the government doing it?

PG: I think the government can have the ability but under control. There needs to be checks and balances. That whole idea in the United States that has come from so many other past forms of government is something we feel is necessary. We don’t want any form of megalomaniacal government with absolute power that can do anything willy-nilly to its citizens. Satanists are generally Libertarians. They may choose their specific political alliances because it might better whatever they are trying to do in their lives, but essentially most of us are fairly libertarian people. We would like to have government as minimal as possible.

DS: Do you have a 10 Commandments?

PG: We have the 9 Satanic Statements, but we don’t have commandments that are laws that are like sins. We have eleven sins that are kind of behaviors that we don’t want to be doing. For us, we try to create a situation where we have some social interaction with people that can be beneficial for ourselves. But we don’t set up these kinds of laws that somebody is going to punish you for. So with Satanism they are things where you kick yourself and say, “Why did I do something stupid? I shouldn’t do that next time.” It’s better for you. It doesn’t matter about anybody else on that level: you’ve got to not be an ass.

DS: Are there certain sites or places that are important to the Church of Satan?

PG: No, we don’t really have any holy ground or anything like that. For the Satanist, if there is any kind of architecture you like, or a place you like to visit—some people like places with devil themes or where there is historical interest. But there is nothing particularly Satanic about any location.

DS: No place with a natural significance?

PG: Well, it’s the universe. We look at it like Carl Sagan and we are star stuff, we are made of the stuff of exploding stars. We Satanists look at the universe in this wonderful context of that’s what we are part of and that’s really exciting. We don’t need to single out any special part of it unless you find a place you really enjoy. The place you were born, perhaps, or the place you grew up. Some people are interested in a historical figure and say the place where a castle was built or a particular battle was fought, or some individual took a last stand.

DS: If someone wanted to explore your beliefs, what should they read?

PG: The Satanic Bible is the place to start, because that is the foundational literature for the organization. All of Anton LaVey’s books are worth reading. The Satanic Witch is his compendium of Lesser Magic, which is our concept for how you manipulate people on a day-to-day basis to get them to do things in your favor. It’s geared toward women because we think it’s fine for women to use their sexuality to get what they want. It’s part of nature, so go ahead! Dress for success! But it works for guys, too. Whatever you have to charm people. Glamor is worthwhile, so The Satanic Witch is useful for that. He’s got collections of essays, too, and The Satanic Rituals is more for a formal setting, where different cultures were examined to see what kind of diabolical imagery was in them. Rituals can be fun to do in a large group setting; but they’re not anything you have to do. Here’s a Russian one, here’s a French one; here’s a German one. Here’s a Black Mass—what would that be like? In Satanism a Black Mass is not something we are running out and eager to do because as far as we’re concerned, Christianity is a dead horse, unless in your life you feel there has been this really negative Christian influence that you need to purge, it’s just kind of pointless.
And my book, The Satanic Scriptures, is worth reading, because it ties up where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going. So if you only picked two, I would say read The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Scriptures, because then you’ll have the book ends of the over forty year span of the Church of Satan.

On current events and politics

DS: I’d like to give you some political situations and ask how a Satanist would handle them.

PG: Okay, but I want to preface that and say we don’t really determine people’s political backgrounds. We feel that each Satanist who is a member of the church must make those decisions based upon their own personal values, so there can be a wide range of answers depending upon the people you talk to, whether it be abortion, governmental decisions of going to war…

DS: You can just speak for yourself, then. If you were President—

PG: —[Laughs]—

DS: —How would you handle the Israeli-Palestinian issue?

PG: I don’t have a solution for that. If I did, I would be out there telling people about it, because I don’t really see myself as a politician or arbiter of people’s interactions with each other. I can see that there are issues on both sides of the fence and that when people are fighting over a territory, generally speaking the folks who have the power win and then they write the histories and the world moves on. But we have a situation here where there are bigger players behind the smaller nations, and it keeps this conflict enduring. So they will either have to have compromise and discussion, or one side will have to destroy the other side and “win” and then move on, which is usually the way the world works.

DS: Where do they violate Satanic principles in that conflict?

PG: Each have their own goals. I would say killing people who are just innocent folks, that’s against Satanic philosophy. Terrorism, specifically, is against Satanism because we feel that justice is important, and that is giving people what they deserve. Blowing up somebody who is just wandering around is not a just approach. That’s something against the social contract, and we would oppose people engaging in terrorism.

DS: What about Same-sex marriage?

PG: Absolutely support it.

DS: Abortion?

Cquote1.svg I would look at it as if I was the fetus, I wouldn’t want to be snuffed out. Cquote2.svg
PG: I think people should practice birth control rather than use abortion as an easy way out. Again, the concept of being responsible for yourself and not to willy-nilly get pregnant unless you are really interested in carrying forth the child. Since we have overpopulation generally speaking, I think abortion is something fine to be used, but I think it should not be used as a means of cleaning up after people’s irresponsible sexual activity.

DS: Why do you not consider it just another operation? Some people run or exercise not realizing their limitations and pull a muscle or need an operation for that.

PG: I would look at it as if I was the fetus, I wouldn’t want to be snuffed out. [Laughs]

DS: So is the fetus a sentient being?

PG: Not necessarily, it’s just a piece of tissue and most human life doesn’t really have that much value on a grand scale. In the universe, individual life is practically meaningless, it’s sort of like droplets in a wave that crashes against a rock. Who cares about the droplets? The way life works is it is making large amounts of species of whatever it is, and it keeps moving biologically. I would just think that if it was myself as the fetus, I have a potential to become the person that I am. I wouldn’t want to be snuffed out.

DS: When do you think life begins?

PG: Life is there, whether it is conscious and valuable is debatable.

DS: You mean just on a cellular level it is functioning?

PG: Yeah, it is life. Sperms and eggs are alive, they’re organic, you can’t say that is not life. But what I think you’re looking for is the idea that Christians wants to say from conception. If people want to have abortions it really doesn’t bother me, I just think they really should be more responsible. It just makes more sense. Contraception is easy!

DS: A lot of people don’t like contraception.

PG: And a lot of people are morons and irresponsible, so—

DS: But then doesn’t responsibility come down to defining it for yourself in Satanism? Your statements seem to come down to a baseline level of what is responsibility? What is innocence? Whereas you were saying earlier that a lot of these things are self-referentially defined.

PG: Right, right. We allow people to make that definition for themselves, absolutely. But for me personally, you try to deal with other people around you so that you don’t make their lives miserable unless there is some real overriding reason that would have to happen.

DS: Who are you supporting for President?

PG: Nobody, yet! [Laughs]. Right now, there is not really one candidate that speaks to me more than others. I generally feel that so many candidates are lacking in so many ways, that it really IS the lesser of multiple evils that you are picking. I like the old Lovecraftian t-shirt: “Cthulu for President! Why choose the lesser of two evils?” [Laughs]

DS: If you had a choice between Giuliani and Clinton?

PG: I would probably go with Hillary Clinton. Giuliani was acting like such a fascist before 9/11. He was trying to use his Catholicism to control art that was exhibited in this city. It was unbelievable! His popularity was really down. It wasn’t until 9/11 that he stepped up and did things that were required to be a leader and make people feel more comfortable that his ratings shot back up, but he was really not somebody who was well regarded back then.

DS: That’s talked about now more than it used to be.

PG: It should be now that he is running for President. People need to mention that!

DS: It’s a question of how much it will penetrate the American consciousness that has mythologized him.

PG: That’s the thing: he really was so mythologized at that point. We build heroes, and so many people really do deal with idealistic portrayals and not realistic ones. We have to examine these things all the time and be careful.

Religious and Satanic symbols

DS: Could you explain your logo?

PG: The Sigil of Baphomet. Heavy metal people say “Bapho-MAY!” Because they want to take it from the French Templars, where it originally came from the trials of them. But we explain it as there is a goat face in the center of a five-pointed star. The goat face represents carnality. In ancient Egypt goats were considered representations as god symbols of lust, and we think lust is an important factor of biology that keeps humanity going so we value that. The five-pointed star really comes from the Pythagoreans. That is the one figure in which every element is within the golden mean of each other. It’s this wonderful mathematical symbol of perfection, organic perfection specifically. Since we are organic life and enjoy the idea of perfecting ourselves, that star is right for us in there and it perfectly fits the goat head inside. Now around it are two circles, one at the tip of the points of the star and one outside. In that are Hebrew characters starting at the bottom and going counter-clockwise spelling Leviathan. In Hebrew mythology, Leviathan was the great dragon of the abyss, this powerful Earth figure that even Yahweh was afraid of. So all these things taken together creates a symbol that Anton LaVey identified with Satanism specifically. When he started the Church of Satan, usually upside down crosses were considered Satanic, and he saw that these different elements and felt this was a positive symbol you could tie to the Satanism he was creating.

DS: So much of the symbology references a lot of myths and superstitions, yet you’re antithetical to that. How do you explain how those two notions comport?

PG: We have this approach that we take the dualities and find a third side to it, a way of integrating. You might find that even in Marxist theory, a way of finding opposites and coming with a new synthesis of the different thesis and antithesis. So ritual is natural to people, because humans have a conceptual consciousness. Symbols let us hold much more information in conscious focus, more so than just keeping them separately. So symbols are something we function with. It’s part of our nature. So using ritual activities that are symbolic and have deep meaning to us is common to our species if you look at our history from cave paintings up to every civilization currently existing.

DS: It’s almost difficult to come up with a symbol that doesn’t reference a superstition in some way.

PG: Absolutely! So we feel that since they are often used to support a fiction, why not let it be used to explore the inner part of our nature. For us, when we do ritual—which we call greater magic—we call it an intellectual decompression chamber. It’s a place where we release our emotions, any emotions that are hindering us, and we use the symbolism we find most stimulating. We leave it in the ritual chamber. You enjoy the self-transformational psychodrama in the ritual where you release any emotions that are hindering yourself and then you go outside and basically pursue your life, being rational and doing what you need to do to make your life as rich as it can be.

The Iraq War: A Satanic perspective

DS: Do you think our pursuing the War in Iraq is an example of killing innocent people?

PG: Oh, of course innocent people are being killed in almost any war. It doesn’t matter if it is just Iraq, because there are civilian populations who are caught between these people with agendas, and those civilians just want to live their lives.

DS: Who are the innocents?

PG: Not being involved in the particular conflict. If you are just living your life and doing what you need to do to survive, have a job, bringing in food for your family; that’s being an innocent person.

DS: How has the war in Iraq affected your worldview?

PG: It hasn’t changed it in the least. I see it as human behavior as usual. History is full of aggressors. Iraq to me is an interesting place where there was a totalitarian holding in check religious factions, and now that cap has been removed, the religious factions want to destroy each other. I think it’s a lesson for most people to say look at how these religions were important to people who are always looking above themselves to be regulated, and they found an Earthly regulator in Saddam Hussein, and now that that regulator who actually existed is gone, they are each looking to their own interpretations of their own deities and wanting to slaughter each other. It just shows how poisonous fundamentalist fanaticism can be, which to me is the most dangerous thing in all of human society.

DS: That is what you consider the greatest threat to humanity?

PG: Yes, any fundamentalist fanaticism is a vast threat. I’m looking for humanity to have a secular, pluralistic culture. People should be able to follow whatever fantasies or religions they want, as long as they don’t impose them on other people and force other people into doing things based upon whatever kind of holy writ they have. So the biggest threat to that are these fundamentalists who want to force people into their belief systems. They want to destroy people who have sexual activity they don’t think is appropriate according to their texts. It will be interesting to see in the future if people will wake up to this threat and decide to somehow corral that kind of behavior, defang people like that who are basically on a jihad, whether they be Christians or Muslims or any other religion, because we’ve seen in the past the Catholics were torturing people to death in the Inquisition, then the Reformation happened and different denominations and sects were killing each other. Heretics were being slaughtered. So this is not something just one religion is guilty of.

On New York City

DS: How do you feel about Hell’s Kitchen, where you live, being called Clinton?

PG: I despise that. It should stick to what it really is, and it’s Hell’s Kitchen.

DS: When you see how New York is changing around you—I’ve lived here for close to seven years, and even when I moved here it was very different.

PG: I like the sleaze, I like the history, I like to see New York being this amazing range of the highest and the lowest and I don’t think New York should be cleaned up and Disneyfied.

DS: But it is.

PG: It’s getting there. I did a Black Mass for the BBC in the old Hellfire Club, and that’s gone and Apple is putting up a store in that neighborhood. [Laughs] Everybody just feels safe walking around all the time now. There’s still some parts of Chinatown that are still pretty rough.

DS: Where do you think the culture is going to go? Is the sanitized version here to stay?

PG: No, because if you look at anything that at one point is sleazy, at one it was new and spiffy and wonderful. So, at this point, New York is Manhattanland, it’s for tourists and we’ve made this almost Las Vegas simulacrum of the whole thing. But it will change. As soon as the money isn’t worth pumping into it to keep up the façade, all of the roughness around the edges will creep back in. It’s still here, it just hides in the daytime. There’s still all kinds of weird crime going on in the city when you watch the news.

DS: You see that in all the old Rust Belt cities. Reading, Pennsylvania was one of the most dangerous cities I’ve ever walked around in, and I thought, “This is what 1982 New York must have felt like.”

PG: Yeah, I moved down to New York in 1980—that was pretty rough! [Laughs]

DS: A friend of mine once said if you took someone from 1982 New York and you transplanted them into 2007 New York, the first thing they would say is, “Where did all these people come from?!” That the streets just used to be barren back then.

PG: I’m like that too. Where I live my view of the sunset is gone because two new luxury towers have gone up. They’re building two additional ones. I don’t know who these people are or where they get all their money because they are charging $6,000 a month for these apartments, and I’m thinking who is spending all this money and wandering around the city like it’s a pedestrian mall that could be in any kind of suburbia.

Marilyn Manson

DS: Marilyn Manson is a member?

PG: Yes, he’s a member who has been given an honorary priesthood. When asked about what Satanism is he can be very articulate in explaining it. But his own music is his own art. His stage shows are his own, and they don’t really exemplify Satanism in particular.

DS: It’s more of a character.

PG: Yeah, he’s created a character. We say people forget about past orthodoxies, something that was culturally popular or permeating at one point or another, people forget about that. What Brian Warner did was he looked at David Bowie and Alice Cooper and re-created and repackaged them, and made a fortune.

DS: Is he an active member?

PG: He’s an honorary priest, but he does his own thing. If asked about our philosophies he can explain it. The interesting thing is when his first album came out the two of us met on a panel that we were doing about racism in music that was being sponsored by Seconds Magazine. Nobody knew who Brian Warner was at that point, and he came up to me and gave me a CD and he was all in costume. But he said “I heard about you and I wanted to meet you,” so we moved aside and talked for a little while and I learned he really did understand Satanism. I told Anton LaVey that this guy was pretty smart and this gimmick is going to do well; it’s clever. He’s using this serial killer and Hollywood star combination, and he’s a smart guy and creating his own persona that is probably going to be successful. It took off immediately, and when Marilyn Manson was out on tour in California he asked if he could meet Anton LaVey and he was impressed. He is a really sweet and sincere guy, which has nothing to do with what all of the world sees in just his act and his art.

On the church after Anton LaVey

DS: Does the Church of Satan have relationships with other churches?

PG: Not at all. We’re not ecumenical.

DS: It would seem there are pagans or humanist religions that follow your general philosophy.

PG: I wouldn’t say that. Most pagan religions are theistic on one level or another. They generally think their deities exist in some part. We don’t believe Satan exists as a deity. I think there are some pagans who may look at their Gods and Goddesses as archetypes only, and in that sense that would be closer to our position because you can look at the symbol of Satan as an archetype. But, we generally don’t feel we have any relation to any kind of religious organization.

DS: What is the membership numbers for the Church of Satan?

“I’m looking for humanity to have a secular, pluralistic culture. People should be able to follow whatever fantasies or religions they want, as long as they don’t impose them on other people and force other people into doing things based upon whatever kind of holy writ they have.”

PG: We never give out numbers. The reason for that our founder came up with and I agree with him and keep to his policy: if people think there are too few of us, they tend to not want to take us seriously. If they think there are too many of us, they think we’re a threat. There was even a point back during the Satanic Panic in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when there was governmental legislation proposed to ban Satanism because they thought there were all these metal heads out there sacrificing babies, doing drugs and making child pornography. Of course, now we know, it was mostly people who were borderline Christian evangelists pretending, but then accusing their own family members and getting them put in jail, or acting as therapists and most of those people have been sued and properly censured since then.

DS: Has the church thrived after LaVey’s passing?

PG: It has. Partially because we are taking advantage of technology with the Internet and global media; our website gets hundreds of thousands of hits a day and literature keeps getting translated into many different languages the world over. My own book, The Satanic Scriptures, the hardcover came out in April and the paperback is coming out this month. I’ve already got five different languages coming out and I’m negotiating for others. We are thriving, we have many members.

DS: What is your book about?

PG: It’s a collection of my essays I’ve written over the past twenty years talking about Satanic philosophy, how it’s applied. I talk about music since I am by training a composer; I went to NYU. I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s in music composition, mostly focusing on orchestral work. One conception in the book I wanted to dispel is the stereotype that Satanism is always associated with Metal and the cookie monster voice. That’s Satanism? No.

DS: It’s not all Gene Loves Jezebel sounding.

PG: No. Satanic music is specific to each person. So to me, Satanic music is the symphony, which to me is the highest art form. So Beethoven, Mahler, Bruckner, Shostakovich — to me that’s some of the most Satanic music ever written because the architecture is there, the expressivity is there; the reflection on the human condition is all present and it’s not idealistic. It’s mostly questioning or showing what a human is capable of doing. And I love architecture. Cathedrals are wonderful. I have no hatred of those because they are put to religious use. They have symbols on them, but I know those are just symbols. I love skyscrapers too.

Anton LaVey’s children and estate

DS: Do Dr. LaVey’s children have anything to do with the church at all?

PG: His son Xerxes is a member because he asked to be. We generally don’t let people under 18 join. We used to let people whose parents allowed them to join, but because people are so litigious we changed that. We just don’t want to take the chance that some parents say, “Yes, it’s okay if my kid joins the Church of Satan,” and then decides that’s the reason they can’t control their kid. We’re just not willing to go there. But if our members have children who are interested, they can participate and become members, but that’s the only way you can if you’re not legally an adult. So Xerxes could become a member because his mother was High Priestess at one point, and still remains a member.

DS: But not Zeena?

PG: No, she left years ago. She’s not very bright and is very jealous. She and her paramour, Nikolas Shreck, got married I think. They wanted to take the Church of Satan over at one point and wanted Anton LaVey to retire, but he was a feisty guy and said “Hell no!” So they quit in high dudgeon and ran off to Europe and said, “America is corrupt and horrible and we’re going to Fortress Europa!” They played with being Nazi occultists, which is kind of funny because both of them have Jewish blood. They’re just like clowns. They then joined the Temple of Set, which was an organization that split off from the Church of Satan years ago, in 1975, when Michael Aquino—

DS: Based on the Egyptian god?

Cquote1.svg His oldest daughter Karla isn’t a very bright girl. She kind of hung around the background and once in a while she would come out to speak in public and support her father. When Xerxes was born she kind of got miffed because she wasn’t the center of attention. Karla is also a jealous type. Cquote2.svg
PG: Yeah, and they’re theists. They believe that Set exists and that their priests can commune with him and that their founder is the voice of Set. So, it’s like, good that they left for housecleaning. But Zeena went and joined them and became High Priestess because Michael Aquino has this Anton LaVey obsession, which is obvious since he wrote a book about him that’s about a thousand pages, so he made her the High Priestess of their organization. Then she left to form an even more orthodox Setian group called “The Storm”, which to us is just funny. Such theatrics. His oldest daughter Karla isn’t a very bright girl. She kind of hung around the background and once in a while she would come out to speak in public and support her father. When Xerxes was born she kind of got miffed because she wasn’t the center of attention. Karla is also jealous type. She withdrew from her father, which hurt him a lot.

DS: How did the legal wrangling surrounding his estate pan out?

PG: They finally settled. What ended up happening is he had written a will. Anton LaVey’s idea was that if he acknowledged he is going to die, then he’d be giving in to death, so he didn’t want to go to an attorney and make out a will. He was very feisty and had his own perspective on that. So he finally wrote a will out and signed it, but it wasn’t notarized and there were no witnesses. So when it came to court they said it wasn’t good enough. They basically split everything up between the three children, so Karla and Zeena and Xerxes all got part of the estate.

DS: Who received the copyright to The Satanic Bible?

PG: The estate. The money that comes in from that gets split up and goes to the three kids. Also there is a small percentage that goes to LaVey’s companion, Diane Hegarty; she says LaVey. But they were never married and had a falling out in the early 1980’s. She went off and left Satanism and sued him for palimony and he had to sell his house because of all of that, and he sold it to an old friend and member. Diane got a pile of money and she got a tiny percentage of the books that had been written up to that point. Every once in a while she comes creeping in off the periphery to say, “Ah! I’m Diane LaVey!” and it’s like, you were Diane Hegarty and you were kind of involved in it, but before the Satanic Panic happened you left and had nothing to do with it. She was never someone who wrote or said anything of interest. She was just the pretty blonde wife of Anton LaVey. She was a nice figurehead, but wasn’t of much use beyond that.



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September 29, 2007

Creation Science Evangelism removes section of copyright controversy in Wikipedia article

Creation Science Evangelism removes section of copyright controversy in Wikipedia article

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

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File:Kent Hovind.jpg

Mr Hovind
Image: A Barnett.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

In September Kent Hovind‘s Creation Science Evangelism (CSE) ministry filed several DMCA copyright complaints on YouTube causing the video-sharing website to ban several users. On 27 September 2007 an IP address belonging to CSE Enterprises removed all mention of the controversy from the Wikipedia article about Kent Hovind. The editor of the whitewashing included the edit summary, “Removed because their is no evidence that CSE requested accounts to be suspended. It is not certain if videos were part of public domain. This section is pure speculation and gossip.”

Hovind, who is now serving ten years in federal prison, turned CSE over to his younger son, Eric Hovind, in January 2007. As previously reported, CSE claimed copyrights on critical videos that had material produced by Hovind and at least one video that contained no Hovind/CSE material despite CSE’s website stating, “none of the materials … are copyrighted.”

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September 26, 2007

Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science officially deemed a charity

Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science officially deemed a charity

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Richard Dawkins

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science was recently approved as a charitable foundation in the United States. Started by biologist Richard Dawkins in April 2006, the IRS has approved the foundation’s effective date of the tax-exemption as 20 April 2006. As a result, the donors who gave money before the 2007 IRS decision can deduct their donations when they file taxes in 2008.

Dawkins started the foundation to combat pseudoscience and attacks on the Enlightenment through educating the British and American publics via research, humanitarian efforts, and lectures. It intends to finance research into the psychology of belief and religion, finance scientific education programs and materials, and publicize and support secular charitable organizations. In addition, the foundation has helped sponsor the “Out Campaign,” which encourages atheists to come “out of the closet.”



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July 15, 2007

US congressman causes controversy by comparing Bush to Hitler

US congressman causes controversy by comparing Bush to Hitler

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Congressman Keith Ellison

Freshman Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), the only Muslim in the U.S. Congress, has caused controversy after comparing President Bush to Adolf Hilter, and suggesting that the Bush Administration may have been complicit in the terror attacks of 9/11.

Speaking to a group of atheists in his home district in Minnesota, Ellison equated the 9/11 attacks and aftermath to the 1933 Reichstag fire in Germany, which helped cement Hitler’s power.

He carefully parsed his words stating that he would not ‘accuse’ the Bush Administration of planning 9/11 because “you know, that’s how they put you in the nut-ball box – dismiss you”.

Ellison, a co-sponsor of a bill to impeach Cheney for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” described the Vice President as “the very definition of totalitarianism, authoritarianism and dictatorship” and further condemned his refusal to answer Congress’ questions.

Ellison’s promise: “You’ll always find this Muslim standing up for your right to be atheists all you want,” reportedly “raised eyebrows” among the 300 present.

Ellison later clarified that he believes that Osama bin Laden was in fact responsible for the attacks of 9/11.

Condemnation came quickly with Republican Mark Drake of Ellison’s home state saying: “To compare the democratically elected leader of the United States of America to Hitler is an absolute moral outrage which trivialises the horrors of Nazi Germany.”

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