The Many Faces of Satanism
Written by: Hawkins, Craig S Posted on: 05/02/2003
Category: Cults / Sects / Non Christian Religions and Topics
Copyright 1993 by the Christian Research Institute.
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"The Many Faces of Satanism" (an article from Forward magazine [now
the Christian Research Journal], Fall 1986, page 17) by Craig S.
The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot
"There are two ways to be fooled: One is to believe what
isn't so; the other is to refuse to believe what is so."
- Soren Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard's observation was well understood by C.S. Lewis. In
_The Screwtape Letters_ Lewis noted that people often either
dismiss as mere nonsense the devil's existence and interaction with
mankind, or they believe but have an excessive interest in him
(either of which error delights the devil immensely). In an
analogous manner, many people today tend toward either of two
opposite extremes. Some consider it preposterous, medieval,
tabloid-mentality, simple gullibility and/or paranoia to think that
in this "enlightened age" people actually invoke and worship Satan.
Others (mainly Christians) are too quick to label as "Satanists"
those who participate in any variety of occultism. Seeing a
Satanist "under every rock and tree," they exaggerate the number of
people actually involved with Satanism.
We must avoid these extremes if we are to accurately analyze
and appropriately respond to our topic -- Satanism. It is a fact
that Satanism, in its various forms, exists and merits the
attention of the church and law enforcement agencies. Ignoring
it will not make it go away. But neither will overstating the case
(i.e. the extent of Satanism) contribute to its demise.
In the news media across America, Satanists are being charged
with such crimes as mutilating and sacrificing animals, desecrating
churches, profaning and robbing graves, exhuming corpses, raping,
kidnapping, child molestation, ritual murder and cannibalism. Do
Satanists really do these things, and if so, do all Satanists or
just certain ones? Why would they commit such crimes? Furthermore,
how pervasive is Satanism today? These are just a few of the common
questions that will be addressed in this article.
Due to the highly clandestine character of many Satanists it is
nearly impossible to accurately approximate the number of both the
people involved in Satanism, and the crimes directly related to it.
But it can be safely stated that the criminal aspect of Satanism is
serious enough to warrant many police departments around the nation
training staff concerning how to identify and counteract this
menace to society. Additionally, based upon information supplied by
law enforcement agencies, researchers, former Satanists, and
observers of socioreligious trends, it appears that in the
foreseeable future the situation will get worse before it gets
The extent of Satanism is often exaggerated because the topic
lends itself to sensationalism. Nonetheless, it is certain that the
church can never be too concerned for Satanists' salvation.
The purpose of this article is to help the Christian to
understand the world views and practices of contemporary Satanists
in order that he or she might more effectively share the gospel
with them (Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 9:19-22), and help prevent others
from involving themselves in this nefarious religion.
*SATANISM AND STEREOTYPES*
What is Satanism? In order to clearly and accurately expound
upon Satanism it is essential that we have a precise working
definition: Satanism is the cognizant belief in and deliberate
invocation and worship of Satan as a supernatural personal being,
or an impersonal force or energy, or a religious symbol
representing the material world and carnal nature of mankind. In
short, Satanists directly identify with Satan according to one of
these definitions of that name.
In conjunction with the above, Satanist metaphysics and ethics
are for the most part predicated upon the complete reversal,
inversion, or antithesis of Christianity. For example, Satanists
esteem pride and greed to be virtues, whereas these are vices in
Christianity (what Christians call good, Satanists call evil, and
vice versa). However, their rituals may or may not be complete
opposites or mockeries of Christian rites (especially Roman
Satanism proper does not include such people as ritual or
ceremonial magicians, witches, spiritists, psychics, or other
occultists. Many of these people claim to not believe in Satan,
let alone worship or invoke him. Their metaphysical and ethical
beliefs are not necessarily formulated upon the reversal or
antithesis of Christianity. For instance, they may believe that
some of the things called sins in the Bible are indeed wrong.
The fact that the aforementioned occultists should not be
classed as Satanists does not in any sense mitigate the wrongness
of their practices, which are clearly condemned in Scripture (Deut.
18:9-12; Lev. 19:26; Gal. 5:20). From a scriptural point of view it
is irrelevant whether occultists understand the actual source
(Satan) of their abilities -- God still sits in judgment upon such
actions. All true occultists have intercourse with the same
forbidden spiritual realm. Nonetheless, if we wish to effectively
evangelize occultists, we should not oversimplify to the point that
we do not adequately understand and refute their views.
A major obstacle in the way of Christians recognizing and
witnessing to Satanists is the prevailing and misleading
stereotypes that are held concerning them. Maladjusted. Social
misfits. Drug-crazed. Not-too-bright. Low socioeconomic status.
Just plain losers. These are some of the common terms people use to
describe what types of individuals they think get involved with
Satanism. However, these stereotypes are not only incorrect
concerning many Satanists, they are dangerous, because they foster
the idea that no "normal" person, like "our little Johnny" or "our
nice neighbor," could possibly be a Satanist. Yes, some Satanists
do fit the stereotypes, but many more do not. In fact, some
Satanists are successful professionals, and many are relatively
well-adjusted, attractive, and intelligent people. Satanists come
from all walks of life.
Also, Satanism is not a monolithic, unified whole in its
organizational structure, beliefs and practices, as some may
believe. Most local groups are pretty much autonomous, not
associating with one another. A few groups associate with other
groups, but only within their own organization and not with
Satanists outside their alliance. For instance, individual chapters
(called grottoes) of Anton LaVey's Church of Satan (to be discussed
later) interact with one another.
*The Shaping of Contemporary Satanism*
Satanism is very eclectic in the sources from which it has
derived. There are several major influences which have contributed
to the structure of contemporary Satanism in its diverse forms. The
first and most obvious of these is Christianity. Satanism arose
against the backdrop of Christianity. It is its antithesis, and for
the most part only exists as a parasite and perversion of Christian
beliefs and practices. In addition to Christianity, Satanism has
borrowed much from grimories, ceremonial magic, witchcraft, and
other occultic writings.
Aleister Crowley and A.E. Waite, two ceremonial magicians, have
undoubtedly wielded a heavy influence upon Satanism. Among the
books written by these two prolific occult writers that are popular
among Satanists are _Magic in Theory and Practice_ (Crowley), and
_The Book of Back Magic and Ceremonial Magic_ (Waite).
Anton LaVey (himself greatly influenced by Crowley and
witchcraft), who wrote _The Satanic Bible_ and _The Satanic
Rituals,_ is a figure to be reckoned with in contemporary Satanism.
His works are especially popular among the younger generation of
*TYPES OF SATANISTS*
The following system for classifying Satanists is somewhat
arbitrary, but useful and necessary for clarification. In real life
these categories at times overlap. The seven types of Satanists
are, then, 1) traditional Satanists, 2) nontraditional Satanists,
3) public Satanists, 4) fringe group Satanists, 5) youth gang
Satanists, 6) individual Satanists, and 7) individual psychotic
Satanists. We need to keep in mind that within each of these
individual categories are "true" or serious Satanists, as opposed
to "dabblers" who are involved in Satanism more as a fad, or
possess a nonchalant attitude about it. In other words, not
everyone who is caught up in Satanism has seriously thought through
the implications of what it entails. Indeed, _many_ have not.
By traditional Satanists we are referring to those Satanists
who approximate the basic stereotype that most people have
concerning what a Satanist believes and does. However, in using
this title we are not suggesting that this type of Satanist has
necessarily been around for hundreds of years. Traditional types
are extremely secretive concerning their existence, and do their
best to elude detection. Their rituals and beliefs are based
upon traditional Christianity (mainly Roman Catholicism), except
everything is reversed.
Traditional Satanists have a complete disdain for things
Christian and mock and desecrate rituals held sacred by the church.
For instance, they might recite the Lord's prayer backwards or
insert blasphemies in it. The communion cup is often filled with
animal or human blood, urine or anything else desired. Likewise,
the host or communion wafer is profaned or substituted with certain
detestable items (these practices derive from the infamous Black
Mass). In very rare and extreme cases animal or human sacrifices
may be offered in rituals to further pervert the Christian
counterpart or to add greater efficacy to the rite.
Just as Christianity's rites are perverted, so are its
doctrines. In essence, almost everything believed or done is a
reversal or inversion of the Christian counterpart. These attitudes
and practices are to a greater or lesser extent subscribed to by
all Satanists, but they are the hallmark of the traditional
The second category of group Satanists, the nontraditionalists,
are much more eclectic than traditionalists, but generally just as
secretive. Certainly they mock much in Christianity, but unlike the
traditionalist, this is not the primary catalyst for the
development of their dogma and rites. Both rites and dogma are not
necessarily antithetical to Christianity. For instance, they may
believe in innumerable reincarnations of earthly lives in which
they will be able to fully indulge their carnal appetites, and not
in the traditional Christian concepts of heaven and hell. Or they
may hold to a dualistic concept of the power of God and Satan; that
is, God and Satan are approximately equal in power and ability,
rather than the biblical view that although Satan is a very
powerful being, he is nonetheless dependent of his very existence
upon the infinite Creator -- God Almighty.
Should a particular nontraditional group perform an animal or
human sacrifice, and/or drink their blood or eat certain body
parts, this would not necessarily be a parody of the sacrifices in
the Old Testament, or of Christ's offering Himself as a sacrifice
for the sins of mankind. These actions could instead stem from the
belief that there is an invisible force (_mana_) that can be
transmitted to a recipient through the consumption of blood or
certain organs, such as the brain or heart. Thus one could
supposedly obtain immortality by periodically eating the heart of
another, or gain for oneself the attributes and power of a deceased
animal or person by drinking its blood. These are rather ancient
ideas that various societies throughout history have believed.
These groups may also be heavily absorbed in sex and the taking
of drugs. However, this may not be merely for the purpose of
recreation or escapism, but in accordance with religious and
magical rites. The role that sex and drugs play will depend upon
the level of philosophical and magico-religious sophistication of
a given group or its leader. The point to be grasped is that this
type of Satanist theology is shaped by any given number of magico-
religious beliefs and does not arise just in reaction to
Public Satanists, our third category, are so labeled because
unlike the former two, they are not "underground" or secretive
concerning their existence. On the contrary, some are quite visible
and have received much publicity. There are close to a dozen of
these groups in America. For the most part they are serious or
religious Satanists, having well developed belief systems. Most,
but not all, are greatly influenced by Gnosticism or Anton LaVey's
writings. For brevity's sake, we cannot closely examine the
spectrum of public Satanist dogma, but we will discuss one.
The most infamous public Satanist organization is Anton LaVey's
Satanic Church in America, founded in 1966. Some have alleged that
LaVey only started and continues his "church" as a lark, as a means
to gain recognition, and as a lucrative business adventure. On the
other hand, others consider him, in spite of possible past ulterior
motives, to be a serious practitioner of the black arts. Whatever
the case, one thing is clear: LaVey is a major influence on
The Satanic Church's creed is based upon a denial and reversal
of orthodox Christianity. What LaVey terms the Christian church's
seven deadly sins: greed, pride, envy, anger, gluttony, lust, and
sloth, are to be fully indulged as they lead to physical, mental,
or emotional gratification. LaVey's beliefs are a combination of
Machiavellian social ethics, hedonism, and simple narcissism as the
highest good. he states:
Hate your enemies with a whole heart, and if a man smite
you on the cheek, SMASH him on the other!...Life is the
great indulgence -- death, the great abstinence.
Therefore, make the most of life -- HERE AND NOW!
Who or what does LaVey's brand of Satanism believe in or
worship? The answer is Satan, but as defined by LaVey -- the
material world, man, and his carnal nature or appetites. Satanism
for LaVey is the worship of man, just the way he is, with all of
his fleshly desires and appetites. It is a religion of indulgence
of man's carnal passions as symbolized by the term "Satan,"
codified and practiced by the inversion of Christian ethics.
LaVey's "god" is himself, and the gods of his followers are
To be sure, LaVey's ethics tend to be a complete reversal of
Christian values, but his rituals are for the most part not based
on parodies of Christian rites, as with the traditional Satanists.
LaVey's rites are a synthesis of a number of different magical
traditions, in conjunction with his own innovations. Thus, except
on rare occasions, LaVey does not practice the Black Mass.
Youth gang Satanists is, unfortunately, a slightly misleading
title for our next category. Nevertheless, we have chosen to retain
it because it is being used by many law enforcement agencies and
researchers. Also, among the possibilities it best describes this
These groups are composed of young people (predominantly white
males), ranging in ages from early teen to early twenties, but they
do not fit the usual criteria for appropriating the phrase "youth
gang." One obvious reason is because they are Satanists. The gangs
cohere due to a commonality of Satanism, often identifying with a
particular genre of rock music (heavy metal, black metal), and not
primarily, like traditional gangs, because of ethnical or
territorial considerations. Nor do the majority come from low
socioeconomic backgrounds; on the contrary, many come from middle
to upper-middle class families.
We can make some generalizations about the typical youth gang
Satanist. Many have low self-esteem, while at the same time they
are fairly intelligent and curious. Most join a Satanic group as a
fad or lark. It is, all rolled into one, an attention-getting
device, a means to vent youthful hostilities and shock parents and
other adults, and an excuse to party and rebel against societal
norms. Indeed, some have called it "ultimate rebellion."
Over 90% who get involved are "dabblers"; they are not true or
serious Satanists. They are also termed "self-styled" Satanists
since most have read a little here, a little there (probably some
of LaVey's material), seen a few Hollywood horror productions with
alleged Satanic rites, and then improvised their own rituals. The
bottom line is that most are "playing" at being Satanists.
Nevertheless, even granting that their nonchalant involvement with
Satanism is merely a phase of "normal" adolescent rebellion, the
potential consequences to the individual's physical, emotional, and
spiritual health, and to society at large are by no means
innocuous. Furthermore, for a small percentage of these young
people, involvement goes past being a phase, and they become
religious Satanists, adopting Satanism's belief and value system as
their own adult world view.
The primary interests and activities of fringe group Satanists,
our last group category, are centered around one or more deviant,
and in many cases, illegal, activity. Satanism is only a secondary
interest which forms a kind of backdrop for the primary pursuit.
Deviant interests may include pedophilia (this type of Satanist is
the most likely to practice child abuse), group sex,
sado-masochism, homosexuality, and taking drugs. (It is not the
case that these activities do not occur in the other Satanic
groups, but as inverted Christian rituals are to the traditional
Satanists, so these practices are the hallmark of fringe group
Satanists). Also, they are known for lacking a well formulated
belief system concerning Satanism. Many, if not all, are socially
deviant, as their actions well attest.
In contradistinction to the preceding categories, which are all
group Satanists, we have the individual Satanists. They do not
participate in a group context for a multiplicity of reasons (which
will be discussed below). Their initial interest in Satanism was
likely stimulated by any one, or combination, of the following
sources: 1) reading horror stories, occult literature, or
specifically Satanic material; 2) seeing horror movies, especially
ones that romanticize the devil; 3) listening to certain types of
music with either subtle or blatant Satanic lyrics and art work; 4)
through an acquaintance who is more or less familiar with some form
Individual Satanists are so because they are not aware of any
groups in their area, or they do not feel the need to get involved
with one. Nonetheless, to some degree (from dabblers to serious
Satanists) they believe in and practice Satanism. Ages range from
the early teens to adults. Very little information can be given
about these Satanists, except that their views and practices cover
the spectrum of Satanism.
We can be a bit more descriptive regarding the second type of
individual Satanist -- the psychotic individual Satanist. All the
things said about the former type equally apply here, coupled with
being seriously mentally deranged. An example of one is the "Night
Stalker," who plagued Southern California during 1985, committing
horrific crimes. It may be that some Satanic serial killers have a
minimal knowledge of Satanism, and use it to express rage rather
In addition to the previously mentioned factors as to why
individual Satanists do not belong to groups we can add the
possibility that the psychotic types were excluded from one (any
one of the group categories) because their behavior is too
volatile. The group may have feared being publicly discovered or
linked to criminal activities.
From the Christian standpoint it is highly probable that many
of these deranged individuals are demon possessed. Demon possession
and mental illnesses stemming from natural causes, whether
biological or psychogenic, can exhibit many corresponding symptoms.
Anyone who involves himself with the occult, particularly Satanism,
is opening the door to possession.
*THE PHILOSOPHICAL SUPPOSITIONS OF SATANISTS*
As the type of people who are Satanists varies, so their views
concerning God, Satan and the afterlife, and their philosophy of
magic differ. We should remember that not every Satanist has fully
thought through or reflected upon his beliefs. Any combination of
the ideas which follow can be found within most categories of
Satanists (e.g., not all of the different nontraditional group
Satanists hold to the same philosophy as to how or why magic
*God and Satan: Their Existence and Relationship*
There are three primary perspectives concerning the existence
of God and Satan, and their relationship to one another: 1) There
is LaVey's view that God is only the balancing force in nature,
while Satan is merely a religious symbol indicative of the material
world, man, and his carnal nature. Thus, neither God nor Satan
exist as a spiritual entity. No supernatural beings exist at all,
either as personal or impersonal powers. Since LaVey does not grant
the ontological reality of either, obviously neither can ultimately
triumph over the other. 2) Both God and the devil exist
independently of each other, whether as personal beings or
impersonal forces, and are approximately equal in power (this view
is derived from Manichean dualism ). Within this framework,
some Satanists believe the balance of power will remain the same
with neither side dominating or conquering the other; others hold
that Satan will eventually conquer God. 3) Both God and Satan exist
as personal beings, but Satan is a finite being who is dependent
for his existence and power upon God (the biblical view). Given
this view, Satan's defeat and that of all evil is inevitable.
Corresponding to these perspectives regarding the existence and
nature of God and Satan, there are four fundamental notions
concerning an afterlife: 1) There is no afterlife; the here and now
is all there is. 2) Some Satanists, influenced by Eastern
sources, subscribe to reincarnation with a new twist: an eternity
of physical rebirths to unrestrainedly gorge their carnal appetites
-- for them the best of all possible worlds. 3) After Satan
defeats God, Satanists will be rewarded with great power and
position, spending eternity in Satan's new kingdom -- "hell" -- a
place of intensified sensual pleasures and unbridled debauchery
(one big party). 4) After God has judged Satan and all those
who have followed him, they will suffer eternal torment, but
nonetheless revel in their rebellion against God.
Incredible as this last view (4) may sound to the Christian,
many Satanists actually know that they will suffer excruciating
anguish throughout eternity, but still persist in their choice to
follow the devil. Satanists may hold this seemingly
incomprehensible position because of their seething hatred and
utter contempt for God and Christians. God is viewed as a
contemptible, weak-willed, spineless, maudlin chump, a cosmic bore
and "nerd" of infinite proportions. Christianity is viewed as a
nuisance and hindrance to living; as a dreary, tedious, and
lifeless religion. Thus, some Satanists reason, who could possibly
want to spend eternity with this kind of God? Satan and his ways
are seen as absorbing, exciting, provocative -- really living. They
feel it would be better to fully indulge themselves in this life,
and if nothing else be alive and burning with hatred for all
eternity than to merely exist in heaven. In short, they feel it is
more satisfying to live ungodly and follow the most ungodly of all
-- Satan -- than to live with and for God.
*Magical World Views and Ritual Sacrifices*
In common with witchcraft, Satanists share a magical world
view. There are varying views among occultists as to exactly what
magic is, and how and why it works. Nonetheless, we may safely
state that Satanists, as do most occultists, understand magic as
the ability to cause changes to result in the everyday world in
conformity with one's own will or desires by invoking or employing
mysterious forces. The key idea is that reality may be controlled
or manipulated for one's own ends. The term "mysterious
forces," the actual causal agent, may be interpreted according to
three views: 1) "latent psychic abilities" that reside within the
person (LaVey); 2) supernormal forces (impersonal) or laws of
nature, to date undiscovered by modern science, which exist
external to the Satanist; or 3) supernatural personal beings
(demons) who exist independently of the Satanist. Whichever of the
above opinions is held, Satanists believe that they could, for
instance, place a death curse upon someone and that directly
because of this curse the person would die.
Given the first two explanations of how magic works, why does
someone like LaVey invoke Satan (by this and various other names)
during magical rites? Remember, LaVey claims to not believe in any
supernatural powers. He states:
I don't believe that magic is supernatural, only that
it is supernormal. That is, it works for reasons science
can not yet understand....As a magician, my concern is
with effectively doing the thing, not with the
scientist's job of _explaining_ it.
When LaVey invokes Satan in his magical rituals this is only done
(so he says) as a device to help aid the group in focusing their
individual "psychic powers" to bring about a common purpose or
In light of the discussion concerning what causes magic to
work, we should look at the interrelating roles that animal and
human sacrifices may play in Satanic rituals. It needs to be
clearly understood that few Satanists sacrifice animals; and far
less would sacrifice a human. Some would perform such acts because
they are mentally disturbed and/or derive pleasure from committing
such atrocities, while others would be seeking to capture the
_mana_ of the victims (discussed earlier). Besides these there are
two other possible reasons for sacrifices.
The first is connected with the notions of the supernormal
latent psychic abilities and forces or laws of nature. The
sacrifice is slaughtered at the height of the ritual to augment the
Satanist's own psychic energy (a psychological charge), thus
increasing the Satanist's chances for success in obtaining the
purpose of the ritual. The idea is that the energy or life-force of
the sacrifice when killed is released into the surrounding
atmosphere and can be harnessed by the Satanist.
Second, pertaining to the supernatural (demonic) view, the
slaughtering of the victim is literally a sacrifice to the demons,
who in return will grant or cause to be brought about whatever is
desired. The greater the request, the "greater" the sacrifice must
be (e.g., asking for power, wealth, and prestige, rather than just
asking for a new Corvette, will demand a more "costly" sacrifice).
The younger and healthier the animal, and more so with humans, the
worthier the sacrifice. Also, since this type of Satanist operates
on the principle of completely perverting and reversing
Christianity, he believes that he will increase his power by
performing more and more heinous acts. The most precious and
innocent thing for a Christian is a little child; conversely, the
sacrificing of a child would be the most efficacious (supreme
sacrifice) for a Satanist. It is plainly one of the greatest
perversions of Christian principles possible, and for this reason
it is considered the more magically potent.
When Satanists who do commit animal sacrifices and mutilations,
or kill humans in sacrificial rituals, are found out, they
generally get "front press" in the news and hence these acts may
appear more pervasive than they are. A relatively small number of
Satanists may commit these acts, but perform them multiple times,
giving the appearance to the public that all Satanists are doing
it. Excepting the self-styled dabblers and public Satanists, most
Satanists are extremely secretive about their existence, and even
more so about any possible criminal activities. The serious
Satanist does not "advertise." It would appear that if and when
they commit crimes they do their best to destroy any evidence;
thus, most of the crimes that come to light are committed by the
Theoretically (it logically follows from their beliefs), crimes
can be committed by almost any Satanic group. Concerning this issue
each group has to be examined on an individual basis to determine
their proclivity for criminal conduct. Anton LaVey denounces the
sacrificing of animals and babies; he holds that not only should
Satanists obey the law, but that these acts are deplorable in and
of themselves as well. But,
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