Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
In issue #13 of Image Comics’ Department of Truth, the protagonist Cole Turner is given a history lesson on how centuries of Christian paranoia metastasized into the mass hysteria of the Satanic Panic. In contrast to the Devil-worshipers of fiction, the comic describes real-world Satanists as “just weird goth libertarians who like to have sex parties.” While this is a rather humorous depiction (and Satanists typically have pretty good sense of humor), the truth is often stranger than fiction.
Many Satanists do enjoy gothic aesthetics and wearing black, but really, you could walk past a Satanist and never even know it. Dressing a certain way doesn’t make you a Satanist. You don’t need to wear a robe or flash the Baphomet. Likewise, while some Satanists do self-identify as libertarian (American Satanists tend to consider the United States as the world’s first Satanic Republic), some self-identify as liberals (or even communists) just as easily. The Church of Satan does not nor has it ever dictated the politics of its members. As a religion that celebrates the individual, Satanists are free to identify with whatever political beliefs best suit their own individual needs.
As for the sex parties, Satanism has always encouraged indulgence in any and all forms of sexual gratification between consenting adults. However, to reiterate, Satanism is a religion that elevates the individual to godhood. As such, there is no expectation or compulsion for a Satanist to participate in anything which does not conform to or satisfy their own fetishes or predilections. An asexual Satanist would just as easily not have a sex party as their more lascivious counterparts!
The Department of Truth‘s shady double agent, Hawk Harrison, also says:
Virtually no organized form of Satanism worships Satan without reclassifying him as a metaphor for being anti-authoritarian. They aren’t out there trying to sell their souls in defiance of the Christian God. Most of them are atheists.
Really, it should just read, “No organized form of Satanism worships Satan.” Period. Historically, no organized form of Satanism existed prior to Anton LaVey’s founding of the Church of Satan in 1966. Satanism or being called “Satanic” was a pejorative and a very dangerous label used to Other those taboo elements and individuals within society. For centuries, it was a powerful way for ecclesiastic authorities to exercise the right to silence and exterminate anyone deemed a threat to their earthly power and the status quo.
LaVey didn’t create the Church of Satan or codify Satanism as a religion to worship a literal Devil. He was an atheist and Satanism, beginning with the premise that gods do not exist as literal supernatural beings, is a de facto atheistic religion. In a 1986 interview for The Washington Post, LaVey made this absolutely clear:
Satan is a symbol, nothing more. Satan signifies our love of the worldly and our rejection of the pallid, ineffectual image of Christ on the cross.
Some individuals, not satisfied with a mythopoetic Satan, do choose to believe in and worship a literal Devil. We however consider them heretical Christians because, after all, if you believe in a literal Satan, you must necessarily believe in a literal God for him to oppose. They are not, therefore, Satanists, but actual devil-worshipers. Other groups, unhappy with one thing or another, have tried to come up with their own brand of Satanism by picking and choosing what they want to keep, or trying to distance themselves from LaVey and the Church of Satan entirely, or merely co-opting Satanic imagery and language to advance a particular sociopolitical agenda.
Satan (particularly the Miltonian Satan) is a metaphor for anti-authoritarianism and rebellion, but to us he is also so much more. If the Abrahamic religions preach subservience to God, the total abnegation of one’s own will and carnal desires under a celestial dictatorship, and a rejection of material concerns in favor of death and a spiritual paradise, then Satan is a symbol that represents the rejection of that worldview. I might add that the very idea of selling your soul to Satan is both silly and redundant, because we don’t believe in that concept to begin with.
The Church of Satan is often criticized for being protective of the definition of Satanism, or for refusing to acknowledge other organizations as “Satanic”. There are reasons for that. The Satanic Panic never really went away. Believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory have killed people they thought were “Satanic pedophile child-killers,” and even murdered their own children for having “serpent DNA.” The last thing real Satanists need are ignorant or attention-seeking buffoons muddying the waters.
If you’d like to know more about the history and future of the Church of Satan, I recommend the new book We Are Satanists by Blanche Barton.
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