Unlike my previous posts, this week I’m investigating something that actually exists. However, the Church of Satan is probably nothing like what you expect.
If you do an internet search for “devil worship” you’ll find all kinds of discussions about the Church of Satan and its founder, Anton LeVay. Some of these sites will even tell you that LeVay invented modern Devil worship and connect him with the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare from the early 90s. When I was a kid, everyone was sure that his temple was filled with unholy people bowing down to demons and working to bring about the Apocalypse.
But I found out that I was wrong when I actually talked to a Satanist. He wore an upside-down cross and openly carried a copy of The Satanic Bible wherever he went. My friend and I decided to find out what this Satanism was all about, so we approached him and kindly asked him about worshiping the Devil and how odd that seemed. We were surprised to find out that he didn’t believe in the Devil, at all. He opened up his book and showed us passages that describe the Church of Satan as an atheistic organization that had no appreciation for Christianity, and, furthermore, didn’t believe in anything spiritual.
That’s right – they call themselves the Church of Satan even though they don’t believe that Satan exists. If there was an award for giving your religion a confusing name then these guys would win, hands down. Anyone who associates this group with Devil worship can be forgiven, since that’s exactly what the name implies.
Here’s what the current high priest of the Church of Satan, Peter Gilmore, has to say: “My real feeling is that anybody who believes in supernatural entities on some level is insane. Whether they believe in The Devil or God, they are abdicating reason.”
They will go on to say that, to them, Satan represents things like carnality. They teach that a person should live a life of indulgence and seek to please themselves, and that seeking spiritual gratification is waste of time. There’s no doubt that these teachings are strongly antithetical to the teachings of Christ, but it’s still important to point out that these people do not pray to Satan, cast spells, or do anything else we associate with spooky religions. Being in the Church of Satan will lead a person to a life of hedonism, perhaps, but it’s not very different from the worldview of a college fraternity at a party school. In fact, LeVay tried to sue people who associated him with Satanic Ritual Abuse claims, because it was a defamation of his character.
I knew at least one other member of the church of Satan. Just after college I met a lady who had been part of the Temple of the Vampire – an odd group that lives like vampires and is a part of the Church of Satan (depending on who you ask). She had quite a colorful past, as you can imagine, but by the time I met her she had changed her ways, learned a few ancient languages, and started teaching theology at a university; she’s probably one of the most unique people I’ve known. So, there’s actually a group of these Satanists who live like vampires (literally drinking each other’s blood in dark, Gothic-ly decorated rooms), but it’s not a matter of dark mysticism – it’s just simple carnality.
So, these Satanists are very real, but not very dangerous to anyone but themselves. I would advise someone against this group for the same reason I don’t like to see young people get involved with certain college groups that are known for wild partying – most people grow up to regret those days of reckless indulgence.
Speaking of indulgence, don’t you love those candy pumpkins? Why don’t they make those all year? Anyway, happy Halloween!
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)