by Henry M. Tichenor
Foreword by Robert Merciless
Henry M. Tichenor was a writer and magazine editor prominent in the socialist and freethinking movements during the Progressive Era of American history. His writings frequently condemned organized religion, Christianity in particular, as a tool used by the upper classes to maintain control over the working class. In the realm of opposition to religion, he has been ranked beside Clarence Darrow and Madalyn Murray O’Hair as a leading American freethinker of the twentieth century.
In “The Sorceries and Scandals of Satan”, Tichenor employs the figure of Satan as a literary symbolic character to represent rebellion against tyranny — a symbolism with a robust tradition in literature and political works. In his book, the character symbol of Satan is employed as a foil against which to compare the horrors of organized religion, especially Christianity More importantly, however, Tichenor reminds us all that there was a time in American history that open skepticism and opposition to religion was a major facet of social political discourse so American’s certainly should not shy away from it today. Vocal opposition to religion is not novel or new.
Released on the 122nd Anniversary of the publishing of Nietzsche’s ”The Anti-Christ“, and the 2nd Annual International Blasphemy Rights Day – a commemoration of the publishing of the Danish cartoons of Muhammad.
“Some ‘Debsians’ who think of Eugene Debs only as a pioneer labor and Socialist Party leader may not be aware of some of his more radical associates. The unifying concerns of all these social reformers was an anti-establishment awareness of the role of religion in helping provide a moral basis for inequality, justified earlier in the divine right of kings, then in the superior rights of the capitalist ownership class over the workers. For men like Debs, trade unions and eventually a Socialist society were the mechanism. These were men who by and large emphasized the programmatic aspects of the movement. Others were popular literary figures such as Jack London, Lincoln Stephens and Upton Sinclair. Others, including Henry Tichenor, were poets, essayists and pamphleteers who in their writing attacked the mindset which caused workers to accept their powerless and exploited state. They focused on the role which organized religion played in shaping this world view. There is a literary tradition going as far back as John Milton in his “Paradise Lost” which portrays Satan as, not the evil demon of Christianity, but as the advocate of pleasure, personal freedom and equality. By late 19th and early 20th century, the focus had shifted from ridding society of the tyranny of kings as in Milton’s work, to liberating it from the capitalism born of the industrial revolution. Marx expressed the role of religion in justifying structured inequality by referring to it as the ‘opiate of the masses.’ Tichenor chooses in the ‘Sorceries and Scandals of Satan’ to develop the fictional struggle of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ from the vantage point of a ‘Good-seeking’ persona called Satan. Today we are spoiled to get our social criticism lite, perhaps from TV satirists such as Steward and Colbert, but we can be enticed at times to read a book which appears interesting. The books by Tichenor are a challenge worth undertaking, and we are fortunate to have this lesser known of his books re-released. It is fortunate also to have included the highly informative 21 page Foreword by Robert Merciless. Don’t dig into the text without first reading the Merciless essay which locates Tichenor’s work in the late 19th and early 20th century progressive movement. You may want to go back and read it again once you have finished the book.”
Secretary, Eugene V. Debs Foundation
and Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Indiana State University
“Tichenor’s “The Sorceries and Scandals of Satan” is a withering and ironic indictment of Christianity wrought with passion and wry humor. Slaughter’s handsome re-publication resurrects an almost forgotten monument of diabolical rhetoric. Exposing the lunacy inherent in twisted tales of Christian saints and surreal biblical fables, Tichenor climaxes the book by detailing the horrors of European persecution of heretics and the murderous madness of the New England witch trials. He extols anti-Christian writing from Milton to Ingersoll with deft quotations, and even champions the pagan Greek deities over the foul phantasms enshrined by Christ-lovers. The informative foreword by R. Merciless places this classic of free-thought in a historical context, listing predecessors and descendants, offering a pithy guide to literate thinkers who have embraced Satan as an image inspiring joy in life and liberty of mind.”
“In the forward to the new edition of SaSoS, Merciless discusses the author, Henry M. Tichenor, known today only to a few scholars, mostly in the study of Socialism. Meticulous research into Tichenor’s life and works is presented in the foreword of this “lost” work, and Merciless puts the book into the context of Tichenor’s lifetime, and into today. Those who research the areas of freethought, atheism, non-theism and works controversial to organized religion should read this work.”
Contributor, New Encyclopedia of Unbelief
Director of the Center for Inquiry Libraries