I was just tidying up my room and finally decided to tackle that growing pile of paper next to my bedside drawer as it’s now threatening to swallow it whole If I don’t put a stop to it. It’s a stack of countless notes, articles, flyers, bits of paper – all sorts of ‘interesting’ things I haven’t yet managed to put away, but am sure will come in useful at some point in life. As I got stuck in I found one note that said ‘Piles of paper are bad for feng-shui’, and so chucked it in the recycling bin and resolutely continued. And then I found this little article from Metro, 25/10/04, with a post-it note that said ‘file under bizarre’.
I guess back then I would’ve just dismissed it as just a bizarre news story, and Chris Cranmer as a bit of a nutcase and a freak. The only thing I find bizarre about it now is the inaccuracy of the article, which doesn’t appear to be doing anything else but reinforcing popular misconceptions, albeit with a catchy title (it is Metro after all…).
For one, Satanists do not believe in the devil, let alone worship him. Satanists from the Church of Satan as founded by Anton LaVey reject any type of Christian ideology, including the existence of a metaphysical entity known as the devil. This was quite a surprise to me when I interviewed a Satanist priest from that church, and whenever I’ve tried to tell people that the devil and Satan are not one and the same (even though nowadays they are referred to that way more often than not), they look at me in disbelief; some people even get angry.
Why are Satanists called Satanists?
Anton LaVey named his church after Satan as to him the idea of Satan represented man’s true nature as a critic who can think for himself – a notion that recalls the traditional role of Satan in the Old Testament as the critic or ‘accuser’ whose role it is to question and oppose (to play devil’s advocate, if you like, but obviously not literally as the devil didn’t exist yet).
Isn’t Satan evil?
No. And there wasn’t just one satan – there could be several Satans at the same time, and when one Satan appears in a biblical story it is not necessarily the same that appears in another. The point is: Satan is not an entity or being as such – it is a function, and whatever a Satan does is in service of God. In the Old Testament, the word ‘satan’ is not used as a word to indicate an evil being, but to describe certain angels or messengers of god (e.g. Numbers 22:22 & 32), members of God’s inner council (e.g. 1 Chronicles 21:1, Zecheriah 3:1-7) or heavenly court (Job 1 & 2) – even to generally denote an enemy or adversary (e.g. 1 Samuel 29:4). All things, both good and evil, came from God and no one else.
So how did satan become the devil?
By the time the New Testament was being written, the idea of there being only one Satan who represented evil and was God’s adversary had taken hold, mainly under the influence of the Zoroastrian religion. As the New Testament was written in Greek, the word for Satan (as in ‘opposer’ or ‘accuser’) was diabolos. Enter the Devil, who has been the Christian church’s best friend ever since (‘Look what we save you from!) in a sustained effort to make God look good / nice / lovely as opposed to the Old Testament god who avenges and kills like a tyrannical psychopath (I’ve just read the whole of Jeremiah and it’s not pretty… ).
Why Satanism is not a religion
So, satan and the devil are not traditionally one and the same, or even comparable like, say, an apple and a pear. Secondly, Satanism is not a religion, as they reject all beliefs in anything metaphysical or supernatural, and for a religion to be a religion there needs to be a deity of some sorts. Satanists believe that you’re born, you live, and you die – end off. This is why they believe in vengeance – there is no afterlife to get punished or pay your dues, so it needs to happen in the here and now. That doesn’t mean you go around killing people or making their life hell – Satanists love life and want to make the most of it, so doing anything that could limit your ability to do so (like being in prison) would be most un-satanistic. So essentially they are atheists, but what sets them aside from other atheists is the structure they have in their organisation and their ritualistic practices, where the figure of Satan plays an important part. However, this is not worship – the Satanist priest told me they simply use the idea of Satan as a focal point during rituals, knowing full well that there is no such thing as an entity called Satan, but acknowledging that humans need a degree of theatre and ceremony in order to harness their minds or heighten certain experiences. Satanism is not a religion per se, but a very specific ideology that comes with very specific principles and practices.
So why is it called the CHURCH of Satan?
To piss off the real church. Satanist priests are called priests for the same reason.
So what about devil worshipers?
These are by definition not Satanists, as Satanists do not believe in the devil. Some people believe in the devil, are rather attracted to him and want to worship him – when these people turn up at the Church of Satan, they often leave quickly, and rather disappointed at the general lack of evilry and baby-eating at that.
So Satanists are just getting a bad rap?
Basically, but they don’t mind – if people can’t see through that they feel those people aren’t suited to their organisation in the first place, so it acts as a ‘bullshit filter’, according to the Satanist Priest. Moreover, they quite like it when people are unnerved by them – they think it’s funny.
Are you a satanist?
No, and not a devil-worshiper either (groan).
This article reinforces stereotypical ideas of what Satanism is, and is an example of how the mainstream press like to dumb things down. That, of course, is nothing new, so don’t just skim the surface, but open your mind and ask questions. Like an old-school Satan would (although that won’t automatically make you a Satanist). You’ll find, like so many other things, that the idea of Satan has been taken out of context and appropriated for other purposes. Like the idea of the Apocalypse – did you know that word originally meant enlightenment?
If you haven’t seen my documentary ‘The Face Of The Devil’ yet, have a look on YouTube and feel free to like / comments 😉 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oqMmBcoZV0