I’m truly, deeply, sincerely hoping I’ve got some of the key facts wrong in the great Boston Black Mass clusterfuffle, because what it looks like is that Harvard as an institution paid some fairly cheap lip service to the notion of free expression all the while actively working to literally marginalize the Satanists and drive them off campus. James Croft explains:
The outcry was sufficient to first get the event moved off campus, then to get it effectively cancelled, with the latest reports suggesting that some version of the Mass was held in a Harvard Square Chinese restaurant beneath a comedy studio, no longer under the auspices of the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club. The jokes just write themselves.
What disturbs me most about how this turned out is not that Harvard’s administration privileged Christianity over a marginalized minority worldview, but rather that the Humanist Community at Harvard passed on a chance to engage in “building, educating, and nurturing a diverse community of atheists, agnostics, and the nonreligious at Harvard” by engaging constructively with the Satanists. As you might already know, these Satanists are actually atheists, part of the diverse community that the HCH claims to support and represent. Instead of supporting Satanist efforts to engage in what is effectively a piece of provocative performance art, HCH chaplains such as Epstein and Stedman have condemned the Satanists for “mocking a sincerely practiced Catholic ritual” and engaging in “direct mockery of Catholic tradition and belief.”
The Black Mass is a form of anti-religious mockery, to be sure, but then so was Candide, The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters, The Life of Brian, much of the best of South Park, and basically every parody religion. Mockery has long been and always will be part of the Humanist arsenal for freeing minds from religious bondage, and it is a terrible shame to see the brilliant Humanists of Harvard advocating for unilateral disarmament on this point.