In the PhD Thesis I’ll finish one day, I make the connection between the rise of pirates, libertarianism and democracy with sacrilege and devil worship – not “real” devil worship of course, simply people who openly rebelled against the idea of God and aligned themselves openly with the politics of Satan.
So I’ve been pleased to watch the sudden increase in pirate fascination… which I thought was running dry after the Pirates of the Caribbean movies but keeps popping up in new TV series like Black Sails.
Tonight I’m watching Episode One of Crossbones, and after some fighting and not great acting, we reach the first real conversation between a doctor and the infamous Blackbeard, which turns immediately theological.
What led you to the physician’s life?
An interest in the mechanism of the human body.
Is that what the human body is – a mechanism?
In many respects… in most.
That doesn’t strike me as a very godly proclamation. Do you accept God?
I fear I have no love for him.
Why ever not?
Because he wishes me to fear him.
That is a splendid answer.
And you… do you call yourself a Christian?
Why would I not?
Because many legends abound about you, not all of them flattering.
You’re the devil. You spit upon the cross at sunset. You feast on the marrow of infants.
Here’s my creed: I suspect that God is a clockmaker who wound creation up and now sits back, watching it unwind, whether for pleasure or otherwise is anyone’s guess.
That’s a cold philosophy, is there room for the devil in it?
Of course – the devil is an Englishman.
Are you not an Englishman?
A fellow who has no wish to be governed, inspected, indoctrinated, preached at, taxed, stamped, measured, judged, condemned, hanged or shorn.
I’m not the Devil, Mr. Lowe, I’ve cast out the devil – that depraved distinction between rich and poor, great and small, master and valet, governor and governed.
Are you not this island’s king?
This island has no king nor wants one. I serve at the pleasure of the people until it is no longer their pleasure.
Who’s the hero?
All of this rhetoric firmly positions Blackbeard in the Satanic tradition – freethought, rebellion, the right to refuse government. These values are also of course, essentially modern.
The banner for freedom against controlling forces of order, legality, process is always taken up by “the good guys” – no matter how immoral their specific actions may be, they’re forgiven because the Cause is Just.
Blackbeard rebels against normalcy and is called the devil; he defends himself by proclaiming he simple wants freedom. But freedom is not an option under the mantle of religious faith: believers are saved and non-believers are not allowed to simply exist or go live on an island and govern themselves. Non-believers cannot coexist with believers. Nonbelievers must be punished, scorned, destroyed or converted.
They cannot be permitted to simply not believe; their refusal puts everyone else’s faith at risk.
Hence the innate conflict between religion and freedom.