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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
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.
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