Visible and Invisible SatanistsPosted: February 21, 2014
Real Satanists are invisible which is a problem because a lot of people calling themselves Satanists aren’t.
Recently there were several reports of a person who claimed to be a Satanist doing terrible and obscene things. In truth this person probably thought she was indeed a Satanist. She described being initiated into a Satanic sect in her early teens. This may indeed have happened much as she described it. She may have been encouraged by other members of that particular sect to do evil and perverted things. That does not excuse or mitigate her actions in any way. Those of us in the real Satanic community tend to scoff at such things and the media attention they generate. Some of us look down on those who unquestioningly believe that such things represent Satan or Satanism. “That was just a sect” we might say, “and there are crazy sects that attach themselves to all religions and philosophies…” But I think that type of reaction is a bit lame and short sighted.
We real Satanists have to recognise that there are many understandable reasons why people might be quick to think the worst of us. Moreover other people’s ignorance about us is no worse and no less understandable than our own ignorance of beliefs we have never studied or our habitual beliefs in things we have never had cause to question. People didn’t believe the world was flat because they were stupid, they believed it because it made sense at the time. Likewise, most people who think we Satanists are evil do not think so because they are stupid but rather because much in our culture leads them to believe so and they have never had cause to question it.
The western culture I and most of my readers have grown up in is a culture that is largely based on Christian principles and history… A culture which has uniformly painted Satan as the epitome of evil and his followers as immoral evil doers. A culture which painted all other beliefs as false, wrong, bad or evil. A history which saw many non Christians and heretics as deserving of death. A culture and history which often gained dominance by destroying or slandering any opposing culture. A culture which for hundreds of years has deemed all witchcraft as evil. And even in more recent, scientific and enlightened times popular culture continues to portray Satan and his followers as the arch villains; the bad guys in black with nothing but evil on their minds. Let’s face it even in our so called enlightened times there are places where you can still be sentenced to death for practicing witchcraft or even just for being homosexual. It is not hard to see why in this environment, Satan as a concept remains for a significant majority the personification of evil.
And then of course there are evil people who do sick and perverted things in Satan’s name… Why should anybody question the cultural archetype of Satan as the very bad guy?
Well perhaps if more Real Satanists were visible people might begin to question their assumptions. I’d like to think that the people who read this blog will realise that I am not evil and I don’t do very bad things even if they don’t agree with my views or lifestyle. But even I am only visible to a limited degree. My internet identity is just enough removed from my everyday life that I can hide to a degree. A few close friends and colleagues know I am a Satanist but if it were more widely known it could cause me problems. I imagine quite a few people would have reservations about the idea that a Satanist is teaching their child. The popular misconceptions about Satan and Satanism are indeed strongly ingrained even in many otherwise enlightened and scientific minds. Many people will simply never question the idea that Satan and Satanists are synonymous with evil.
But some will; and therein I see signs of hope and change. I questioned it. All of my Satanic friends questioned it. More and more people are questioning established religions and seeking their own spiritual paths. It is not important if they become or call themselves Satanists, what is important is that they are questioning established conventions. The veil of lies is slipping and people are challenging moral and spiritual rules and norms; they are thinking for themselves, and that is what matters. The power of the institutions which dominated the last two thousand years is waning significantly.
So as Satanists we must be as visible as it is sensible to be. We must be good examples and good ambassadors where and when we can be. And if we can be prepared to do that maybe we can depend on the spirit of the age, of enlightenment, of Lucifer, of Satan to do the rest.
Perhaps that sounds naive, over optimistic and even a bit new agey… After all, the perverts who occupy the headlines by reinforcing the negative stereotypes of Satanism aren’t going to go away anytime soon. Some people may be beginning to question things, but being prepared to turn deeply ingrained cultural norms on their head does not come easily to anybody.
Oddly I think we can take some hope and inspiration from the earliest days of Christianity. Before the power that became the Catholic Church was established, the people who called themselves Christians were a tiny, persecuted minority who were routinely vilified and regularly fed to the lions. While I don’t agree with any of the beliefs they had even at that time, it is clear that many of the stories spread around about them in those early days were false and slanderous. I think if I had been a neutral observer at that time I wouldn’t have given much for their chances of surviving a decade let alone a century. But they did survive. Fate and politics lead them to dominate the whole of the western world for the next two thousand years.
How much better are the chances for a religion which is far more egalitarian, enlightening, logical, scientific, life affirming and has at its core the notion that humans as individuals and as a species can progress without limit? I think we can afford ourselves a little optimism.