Satanism: Is it really that bad?

Barry Kane

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If you’re going to be a sinner, be the best sinner on the block”-LaVey

On the 30th of April 1966, in the city of San Francisco, the Church of Satan was established by philosopher, occultist, musician, film-director and author, Anton Szandor LaVey.  In what was referred to as Black House, LaVey would serve as the High Priest of this controversial new religion, until his death in 1997. Before we talk Satanism though, who the hell was Anton LaVey?

Anton LaVey Photo Credit: Dominobaines Flickr
Anton LaVey – Photo Credit: Dominobaines (Flickr)

Born Howard Stanton LaVey in Illinois, April 1930, little truth is known about the High Priest’s formative years. His autobiography, The Secret Life of a Satanist (1992), details many intriguing tales, but judging by some of the webites refuting such information,I am quite skeptical in this regard.

LaVey was clearly intent on portaying a certain image. At the humble beginnings of his church, LaVey spoke to journalists, appeared on American talk-shows and even directed films. All of which helped to both publicise Satanism and arguably, mold a desired percepion of himsef as an eccentric maverick who faught against a restrictive, suburban America.

According to his biography, LaVey had been a member of a circus long before ever writing The Satanic Bible, but like many of the sensational and bizarre stories about his life before the church , little has been proven to be true or false. It is however evident that the original lord of darkness was a talented musician. At least on the organ anyway…

I could go on and on about LaVey, but the questions surrounding his life and fame are ultimately irrelevant when discussing Satanism vs major world religions.

So, what is Satanism?
The most recognised and ‘official’ form of Satanism is The Church of Satan, founded by LaVey. If you haven’t researched the beliefs of this religion, you might assume that it’s a faith based around devil-worship and angsty black-metal.

Cradle of Filth - Photo Credit: GiacomoAstorri (Flickr)
Cradle of Filth – Photo Credit: GiacomoAstorri (Flickr)

The reality is far different. Firstly, The Church of Satan are not devil-worshipers. In fact, they don’t even believe in a ‘devil’ or a supernatural being, known as Satan. Essentially, Satanists are theatrical atheists. These members are predominantly believers in human instinct and desire, with an ethical code of conduct to live by.

This code is not unlike the Ten Commandments of Christianity, but there are differences. Firstly, they are more specific. “Do not harm little children”, being the 9th rule as set in LaVeyan Satanism. Secondly, there is strict attention paid to issues of cruelty and malice upon innocent life. In Satanism, animals can only be killed if it is to protect one’s self or obtain meat. Sexual harrassment is forbidden also.

In general, a Satanist should not harm anyone unless it is absolutely necessary. Having said that, a lot of the teachings in the Satanic Bible appear to be deliberately sensational and provocative, from a cultural perspective of traditionally Judeo-Christian values.

We must remind ourselves that the church started in a liberal location of the USA, as a part of the 1960s ‘counter-culture’. There certainly were messages of free-love and acceptance of the human condition, but they were never quite ‘hippies’ either. One could suggest that the striking imagery from the church’s sermons and the physical appearance of LaVey were just part of a social reaction to conservative Christian America. Perhaps the dark clothing and horror-movie rituals portayed in the media contained little importance within the actual church, but acted as a fantasic form of self promotion. As LaVey joked, “Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!”

The word ‘Satan’ is an ancient Hebrew description. Essentially, it pertains to the verbs, ‘oppose’ and ‘obstruct’. Due to the fact Western culture has been historically designed under the ideology of Christianity, we as a society have learned to see the word in a negative context. Why wouldn’t we?

‘Satan’ represented a direct opposition to any conformist or traditional values. The irony is that Christians are technically closer to worshipping a literal Satan/Devil, because they actually believe one exists. I can’t imagine any Christian would agree with that statement, but it’s surely a LOT harder to worship an evil monster in the depths Hell if you deny he/she is even real.

As far as I can see, the general teachings of the church are not ‘evil’ in comparrison with the religious texts of its historic opposer, Christianity. For the sake of argument, let’s take a quick look at the Holy Bible.

Holy Bible - Photo Credit: Virshawn (Flickr)
Holy Bible – Photo Credit: Virshawn (Flickr)

The ancient text from which Christians are (in theory) supposed to extract information to live by has some pretty interesting guidelines. Slavery, sexism, homophobia, child-murder and many other ideas are spoken about very clearly in this book. Is it fair of me to bring up the worst parts of the Bible,as some kind of justification that Satanism is squeeky clean and wholesome? Probably not. However it does rasie the issue in question; is Satanism really that bad?

In the past, Satanists have been branded as murders and perverts, sacrificing babies and generally being pretty lousy human beings. There have indeed been cases where groups (usually  pagan devil-worshipers) have committed terrible acts, but does that necessarily mean that anything and everything connected to ‘Satan’ is evil? Most of the last 2,000 years have involved wars and genocides of the spiritual variety.

From the Crusades, to the Inquisition and from the ‘witch’-burnings to the modern-day clerical sex abuses, Chistianity doesn’t exactly have a spectacular track-record in terms of being nice. This is not to say that Christianity hasn’t helped a lot of peope. I don’t have an agenda to demonise conventional values and praise Anton LaVey. This article is merely raising a question to those who hold Satanism in contempt, about why it is that they believe this religion represents true ‘evil’.

To end this discssion for today, I invite you to watch this short video by one of my favourite Youtubers, Daniel Sulsback. For some reason, he’s decided to set his videos on ‘playlist’, so you might have to click the icon on the top left in order to play the right video. Daniel I love you, but you make watching Youtube very annoying! Please remember that I’m merely trying to get people thinking about misconceptions of faith, I’m not consciously intending to insult anyone’s religious beliefs. Toodles.

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Barry Kane

  • Leslie

    I enjoyed your article! I’m writing an essay about the good role that Satanists play in society. I googled “theatrical atheists” and ended up here 🙂 Anyway, again, enjoyed the article. Seeing that someone else has the same view was comforting, haha.