Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Halloween Special: Satanism! My interview with a Satanic priest.

Satanism. The very word itself conjures up images in most people's heads of men in hooded robes gathered around altars adorned with candles made of baby fat ready to sacrifice virgins, babies, and animals. Many envision deals with the Devil, Satan appearing in monstrous forms, and wild orgies while blaspheming Christ and his saints.

It's hard not to see this image when it's the subject of so many Hollywood movies, was all over the news in the 1980's and early 1990's, and news stories about satanic murders popping up every few years or so. In fact, only a couple weeks ago from the time I wrote this, a couple in North Carolina was arrested after two bodies were found in their back yard. The couple are alleged Devil worshipers and the crimes are being labeled as possible satanic sacrifices.

Is this Satanism? We all have heard of The Church of Satan, and lately, another Satanist group, The Satanic Temple has been in the news seeking to erect statues of Baphomet in Oklahoma and wanting to distribute Satanic literature in public schools. Are these groups seeking to honor Satan on our government properties, teach kids how to worship Satan, and lead to more things like the atrocities mentioned above? What is Satanism?

That's a good question with a lot of diverse answers. While there are individuals who have done horrific things in the name of Satan, this isn't typical of Satanists. It's no different than a woman killing her children because she said God commanded her to. People do truly evil things in the name of God and in the name of Satan, but this is not typical of either group.

There are some groups and individuals who do worship Satan as a literal being, either the fallen angel who rebels against Heaven, or as a quasi-god or God himself with the Christian God being a deceiver and wicked. These people are Satanists, but aren't what Satanism has become known for. These people are what are called Theistic Satanists. However, there's another more common and philosophical version of Satanism known as Atheistic Satanism. This is the subject of our blog today as this is the typical form of Satanism.

Let's begin with the part that will probably shock most of you, Satanists don't actually worship Satan. In fact, Satanists don't believe in God or Satan. Most Satanists are atheists or agnostics. Satanists instead use Satan as a metaphor for mankind's carnal nature and various other aspects that are traditionally associated with the figure.

Satanism as we know it today started with Anton LaVey in 1966 when he founded The Church of Satan. LaVey's Satanism focused on individualism, mankind being an animal sometimes better often worse than other animals, indulgence, and vengeance against those who had wronged you.

Other Satanic organizations appeared over the years including, The Sect of the Horned God, The First Satanic Church, The Church of Satanic Brotherhood, The Satanic Temple, and The Temple of Set (though this group isn't recognized by all as a Satanist group).

Now, many of these groups promote different things and have diverse beliefs and practices just like various Christian groups.

Some things most of these groups ascribe to:
  • Individualism is seen as virtue.
  • A strong focus on your individual will.
  • Indulgence is seen as a virtue. Those who abstain often obsess over various vices or commit them in private while hypocritically denouncing them in public. With Satanism, there's no issue with indulging in your desires, provided they don't intentionally harm others or yourself, and they don't become compulsions as compulsions take away your free will.
  • Strong emphasis on science, knowledge, and learning. Belief in the supernatural is discouraged in most groups.
  • Focus on knowing how to interact with, charm, and work with people to achieve desired outcomes, called Lesser Magic in some groups.
  • Some participate in rituals that they believe help purge them of unwanted feelings or help them focus their desires and will. Most do not believe there is anything supernatural about these rituals, though some believe in the Law of Attraction. These rituals are called Greater Magic in some groups.
  • A willingness to accept and use the darker parts of one's personality to their advantage rather than cover them up and pretend they don't exist.
Aside from The Church of Satan, the other primary group I'll be referring to in this blog is The Satanic Temple. The Satanic Temple is a relatively new, but already very well known Satanic church. While The Satanic Temple draws inspiration from The Church of Satan they differ from them in several ways.

Differences in The Satanic Temple and The Church of Satan:

  • The Satanic Temple eschews the more selfish and Social Darwinism tendencies of The Church of Satan, instead focusing on compassion, social justice, and individual freedom.
  • The Satanic Temple has a very strong emphasis on science, believing that science shouldn't be manipulated to fit beliefs, but the other way around. Many in The Church of Satan believe in Law of Attraction or other things that render spells effective and are encouraged not to doubt their magic or they'll lose what they have gained. Though this isn't the case with all members of the Church of Satan by far.
  • The Satanic Temple doesn't have as strict of a membership entrance nor strong demands on their members. The Church of Satan has a very in depth process to become a member and members are expected to hold to the tenants of the faith found in The Satanic Bible, a book written by Anton LaVey and other church sources.
  • The Satanic Temple's strong focus is on social activism. They have proposed a Baphomet statue in front of the Oklahoma courthouse in response to a monument of the Ten Commandments being placed there. The Satanic Temple sees this as a violation of the separation of church and state and demands that other religions, including Satanists be represented equally as the state cannot favor one religion over another. They also have done similar campaigns generally in response to religious favoritism from government bodies. The Church of Satan doesn't engage in campaigns such as these.

Now, I visited Grace Presbyterian Church on Sunday, which is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, a conservative branch of Presbyterianism. But, I am holding off on that blog to bring you guys a very special Halloween edition of this blog. Last night, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zach Black. Zach is a Satanist with quite a long background in Satanism. Zach has the following credentials under his belt:
  • Member of The Church of Satan from 1994 - 2010.
  • Priest in The Satanic Temple.
  • Member of The Sect of the Horned God.
  • Member of The Church of Satanic Brotherhood.
  • Featured in a Comedy Central skit about Satanism.
  • Been a guest on several podcasts talking about Satanism.
  • Written several news articles on the subject.
  • Been featured on several news outlets in reference to Satanism.
  • Has two YouTube channels on Satanism with 40,000 subscribers between the two of them and over 3,000,000 views.
  • And founded and currently runs a Satanic social network called the Satanic International Netowrk, or SIN.
So, without further adieu, onto the interview.

I asked Zach what initially led him to Satanism. He told me that he grew up in a home that wasn't strongly Christian, but he would go to church with his dad some weekends and became disenchanted with Christianity at a very early age. Around age 10, he says he considered himself an agnostic leaning towards atheism. He said he started studying other religions and philosophies. Eventually, his studies led him to Satanism which he said was like looking into a mirror as to what he had always been. At age 18, he officially became a member of The Church of Satan.

I asked him if there's anything he wanted people to know about Satanism. He said that he's not out to educate people about Satanism, that most are content with their Hollywood image of it and you can't educate people who don't want to learn about it. He said that if he had to choose something, it would be eliminating the common misconceptions, that Satanists are evil, that they do evil things, or worship the Devil. All of that is untrue.

I asked him what led him away from The Church of Satan. He said that the leadership after Anton LaVey, particularly the new leader of the Church, Peter Gilmore, are much more militant and strict and he didn't like the direction the Church was moving in. He stated he felt that some of the writings of Peter Gilmore were way over the top and not practical guides for life in the modern world.

I asked him how he sees himself now. He said that he identifies as a self styled or modern Satanist. I asked him for an example. He explained that The Church of Satan discourages drug and alcohol use as it can lead to compulsion and harms the self. But he doesn't see an issue with indulging yourself in drugs or alcohol as long as you don't harm yourself and they don't start taking over your life. It goes back to personal gratification which is a tenant of Satanism, though it must be done responsibly.

I asked him how he became involved in The Satanic Temple. He said that he learned about them when he did a comedy skit on Comedy Central about Satanism. The people in the skit thought he was a member of The Church of Satan, but he wasn't and that they thought The Church of Satan was involved in the monument in Oklahoma. After this, he sought out The Satanic Temple and started getting involved with them. Prior to that, he had been working with The Sect of the Horned God, of which he is still a member.

I asked him to talk a little more about The Sect of the Horned God. He said that they're an educational group focused on teaching, mythology, and ritual, but that I'd have to talk to the members of the Sect for better information on it.

This led me to ask him if he practiced rituals himself. He said he did when he was younger, but hasn't since he got older, with the exception of a Blood Moon ritual he did with The Sect of the Horned God earlier this year. The ceremony was patterned after traditional Satanist ritual, but largely their own creation and involved writing intentions and burning them. He wouldn't go into much more detail than that.

He said that that's about to change, however, and he and other members of The Satanic Temple are going to go on tour across several states to perform reenactments of historical Black Masses for educational purposes. The Masses aren't intended to be magic rituals, but historical reenactments to help people better understand the history behind Satanic rituals. I'm excited to hear more about that, personally.

He also said that he finds that Satanism is misunderstood a lot by society, and briefly touched on why, the same reasons I mentioned earlier in this blog. He says it's easy for people, like serial killers to justify their actions by saying that the Devil made them do it, and many will see this and latch onto it. He said this isn't the norm for Satanists. But then again, Satanists aren't necessarily the nicest people you'll meet. There are extremists and awful people in all religions and philosophies. For Christians, you have groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, for example. The same thing applies in Satanism.

This was really the end of the interview. I spoke with him a little more afterward. He seemed like a very sincere individual with a very strong, dominate personality and strong opinions. He was very nice to me, and he seems like he is very big on education, dialogue, and questioning authority and the status quo. I really enjoyed speaking with Zach Black and would definitely love to hear from him and other Satanists in the future.

Additional Notes:

We now have only five groups left to investigate! I wanted to thank my readers so much for all they've done and sticking with me through this. I have a big announcement for all of you soon. I will have the blog on Grace Presbyterian Church up soon, and this weekend, I'm visiting a Quaker service.

Until next time, peace be with you.

1 comment:

  1. Looks good man. Nice job. Thanks for the interview.