From as per permission listed at the bottom of the page. Noded by sleeping wolf. If you like this essay, Isaac Bonewits accepts tips via PayPal at -- a dollar would make his day, and could even prove him wrong about people being willing to pay money for things they read on the internet.

Back to Part 1...

The "Heroic" Character of Satanists

Blanche Barton, in The Secret Life of a Satanist, described Levy as "cynical, bitterly misanthropic, and violently determined in his role as founder" of the COS, as "a frighteningly deceptive man," with a "seething, brutal side," and "at times, an almost unbearable oppressiveness to his intolerance and anger" (all these phrases occur in the Introduction, the rest of the book consists of fawning admiration and total acceptance of Levy's biographical claims). Aquino, the brains and money behind the TOS, is an ex-Military Intelligence officer -- so you know just how much you can trust anything he says! -- who brags about the ritual he did in a Nazi ceremonial chamber in Germany.

Face it, most Satanists actively approve of various types of behavior, both magical and mundane, that Neopagans consider to be unethical and immoral. A few Satanists are just as evil -- at least in their own imaginations -- as the members of the Inquisition, Hitler's stormtroopers, Stalin's secret police, or Central American death squads. Most, of course, are no more evil than the average street corner con-artist, though they try to impress us as being far more dangerous. However, it's important to remember that there is nothing in Setanic doctrine (left wing, right wing, or sociopathic) to separate the genuinely evil from the merely obnoxious, for anything you can get away with is approved by their God of ("Beyond Good and") Evil, on the grand old principle of "might makes right."

Neopaganism is only thirty-five years old -- fifty-five years, if we count the early Mesopagan Wiccans. Many of us have consciously identified ourselves with the historical victims of Christian persecution -- witches, magicians, heretics, and heathens -- in part, as a way to extend our psychic history. So it's a tempting argument to say that we also should identify with every other group that gets denounced by fundamentalists. After all, they frequently target members of other minority groups that many Neopagans belong to, approve of, or at least have learned to tolerate, such as gay men, lesbians, transgendered people, polyamorous triads, feminists, science teachers, Planned Parenthood counselors, yoga teachers, crystal healers, psychics, astrologers, etc. Of course, Christian fundamentalists also denounce gamblers, drug dealers, thieves, murderers, rapists... whoops! Do we really want to defend anyone and everyone whom fundamentalists have ever denounced? Should we, going right to the heart of the Satanist toleration issue, offer support to individuals and organizations who advocate ideas and actions we consider evil, just because we have no legal proof that they have yet acted on their proclaimed beliefs?

Over the years, I have met scores of people who called themselves Satanists -- I even called myself one for eight months when I was 17 in 1967-8 (see My Satanic Adventure elsewhere on this website). I learned back then, and subsequent experience has reiterated the lesson, that most people who practice Satanism are Christian fundamentalists in drag. Once in a while I would meet a genuinely nice, if confused, person in a Satanist group, but they usually wound up dropping out and joining some other path. The overwhelming majority of Satanists I have known were sleazy, manipulative, parisitic and unethical. I can't think of a single reason why we should make them feel welcome in our community, or why we should make their activities any easier, or why we should help their groups to grow and prosper. If the Setanists were ever to conquer the world (Goddess forbid!), they would herd us into ovens just as quickly as the other fundamentalists would.

The Religious Freedom Issues

Now, I firmly believe that people are entitled to have whatever religious beliefs they wish, no matter how wrong or foolish I might consider those beliefs, because I want other folks to extend the same freedom to me. Therefore, I don't believe that members of any faith have a right to enshrine their religious beliefs into civil law or force religious minorities to live according to the majority's theological opinions. Nor, however, do members of any religion or quasi-religion have a right to use their beliefs as a cover for committing what criminologists refer to as "crimes with victims," such as murder, rape, stealing, and polluting, for example (as distinct from "victimless crimes" covered by most sex, drug, and gambling laws). The basic "don't kill, rape, steal, pollute," etc., sort of moral code, necessary for the physical welfare of any group of humans (and the Earth) is not a specifically religious one but is (or should be) a universally agreed-upon set of survival principles.

After some long, emotional discussions with a former spouse (who is a fervent civil libertarian) I'm forced to reluctantly admit that exactly the same reasoning holds whether we're dealing with Satanists or other Christian fundamentalists. We don't have the right to exclude them from our public events, nor to prevent them from shopping in our stores, nor to keep them from talking to the media, much as we might like to. We must honor their constitutional rights to practice their religion. But we don't have to be helpful to them in the process.

If a Satanic group or individual is being discriminated against in such a way as to make legal action appropriate, they can ask the American Civil Liberties Union for help. If they are just having a public relations problem, on the other hand, they can bloody well hire their own advertising agency to explain that up is down and Evil is "really kinda Good." Either way, there is no reason for us to spend our limited funds on defending them.

How exactly can we make it clear to Setanists that they are not wanted in our community? As Deborah Lipp puts it, "How do we express our disapproval, and give it clout, without violating their rights?" Her solution: "We do it just as our Pagan ancestors did -- by shunning. We don't have to be respectful or friendly to Satanists. Shunning is ethical and legal, and no one has a civil right to be liked."

What does shunning as a tactic mean? Here's an example, one that drives the more mercenary members of our community wild: Neopagans who own occult shops should not sell copies of Satanic literature, provide tools that can normally only be used for Satanic purposes (granted, a tricky judgement sometimes), nor allow local Setanists to use our stores to teach classes or to recruit new members. Of course, we can't keep Satanists completely out of Neopagan shops. We have to allow them to come in and buy other books and products, just as we would allow Christians, Jews, or Buddhists to do so, because to discriminate against them economically would violate their constitutional rights (besides, some of those proto-Pagans might be among them). But we don't have to make the practice of Setanism easier for them. Satanists are perfectly capable of opening their own shops, and shopkeepers who insist on selling Setanic materials can justly be asked where their loyalties lie. Will this policy cost Neopagan owners who take an anti-Satanist stand money? Yep. Which means that the Neopagan public has a moral obligation to support anti-Satanist occult shops, even if less ethical stores undercut their prices.

Unfortunately, we can't simply exclude Satanists from attending public Pagan festivals, for reasons both constitutional and practical. As Ms. Lipp puts it, "What are you going to do, have attendees all sign oaths that they aren't Satanists?" -- and Setanists would hardly be bothered about taking a false oath, now would they? But we don't have to go out of our way to make Satanists feel comfortable or respected, and we don't have to give them space on our program schedules. If a group of Setanists want to set up a recruiting table at a Neopagan festival, an anti-Satanist table should be set up right next to it, with large signs indicating that the festival organizers do not approve of Satanism. Knowledgeable people should talk to anyone who seems to be being taken in by the Setanists. The same procedures would hold for other conservative Christians showing up at public Pagan festivals. (As I understand it, the only way in the United States that you can legally prevent attendance at an event on the grounds of religion is when that event is a private, invitation-only party. Those of you with a background in civil rights legislation may be able to determine if there really is any way to exclude fundamentalists from Pagan festivals in your country.)

Those of us who interact with the mainstream media can and should refuse to ever defend Satanism. We can and should publicly take the stand that Satanism is stupid, unimaginative, ugly, banal, and often evil -- and that just like the Christian fundamentalism of which it is an integral part, Satanism is the enemy of the Goddesses and Gods we worship.

We sure as Hades shouldn't join in public relations or civil liberties coalitions with Satanists any more than we would with the Inquisition or the Ku Klux Klan. Such coalitions can only benefit (1) the Setanists who will cheerfully hide behind the (very slightly) superior public image that years of hard work have won us, and (2) other fundamentalist Christians who will point to such coalitions as further "proof" that Neopagans and Satanists are identical. We have absolutely nothing to gain from letting the Satanists ride on our coattails, and much to lose.

The enemies of our enemies are our enemies' enemies -- not our friends. It's time the Neopagan community closed our ranks against them. As pluralists, we're usually willing to let our members, friends, and even our clergy, belong to a wide variety of other religions. But Christian fundamentalists, whether they are wearing crosses or goat heads, are simply not welcome, and never will be.

Copyright © 1990, 2001 c.e., Isaac Bonewits. This text file may be freely distributed on the Net, provided that no editing is done, the version number is listed and this notice is included. If you would like to be on the author's personal mailing list for upcoming publications, lectures, song albums, and appearances, send your snailmail and/or your email address to him at PO Box 372, Warwick, NY, USA 10990-0372 or via email to Specify Announcements and/or Discussion list.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.