December 2014 Pulse
In May this year, about 50 members of the Satanic Temple dressed in black ropes held a black mass at a Chinese restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. According to the BBC report, dated 19 May 2014, the satanists wanted to conduct the ceremony on the Harvard campus itself, but was forced to relocate because a Harvard campus group pulled its support.
A statement issued by the Archdiocese of Boston warns of the ‘danger of being naïve about or underestimating the power of Satan’. ‘This activity’, it continues, referring to satanism, ‘separates people from God and the human community, it is contrary to charity and goodness, and it places participants dangerously close to the destructive works of evil’.
Contrary to popular belief, satanism and the occult is alive and well in the modern world. Many factors have contributed to the revival of satanism and occultism in the West including secularism, the rise of a new militant atheism, a reaction to Enlightenment rationalism, distrust in institutionalised religion and a renewed interest in neo-paganism and esotericism.
There are basically two types of satanism. Perhaps the most famous version is LaVeyan satanism, named after the colourful founder of the first Church of Satan in California in 1966, Anton Szandor LaVey (real name: Howard Stanton Levey). LaVey is also the author of many books on satanism and the occult including the infamous The Satanic Bible (1969), which has sold millions of copies.
According to scholars of the occult like Carl Raschite and Jeffrey Russell, LaVeyan satanism is an anarchist cult that promotes hedonism, amoralism, atheism, and a rejection of everything Christian. Interestingly, LaVeyan satanists do not believe that God and Satan are real metaphysical beings. Satan, for them is but a Jungian archetype, a collective unconscious that devotees share that shape their understanding of reality and life.
For LaVey and members of the Church of Satan he founded, satanism has to do ultimately with the promotion of the self. At the founding of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey declared: ‘The flesh prevaileth and a great Church shall be builded, consecrated in his name. No longer shall man’s salvation be dependent on his self-denial’.
LaVeyan satanism is therefore very different from spiritual satanism (also known as theistic or traditional satanism and Luciferism), which dates to ancient times and whose followers not only believe in the existence of Satan, but regard him as the true creator of the world. Spiritual satanists claim they have met and talked to Satan.
Spiritual satanists regard Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, as a false entity. They claim that Jesus Christ is a fictitious figure Christians concocted from pagan legends to deceive the masses. Thus, one of its documents states: ‘The Nazarene is a fictitious entity, whose identity was stolen from some 18+ crucified Pagan Gods, such as Odin, who hung from a tree and is nothing more than a tool to keep humanity under the control of a chosen few’.
Modern satanism promotes itself through various expressions of popular culture including music (especially but not exclusively heavy metal), films, video games, pornography and books. Young people are introduced to satanism in its various forms mainly through the Internet, and many find its anti-authoritarianism, sexual license and anti-aestheticism attractive.
Satanism in whatever stripe is destructive and enslaving.
Various heinous crimes have been committed in the name of Satan by self-styled satanists. Of special notoriety are the Manson murders of 1969 in America for which Charles Manson and his followers were responsible. Another well-known case is the murders committed by the Matamoros drug-smuggling cult led by Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo in 1989. Both Manson and Constanzo were occultists and satanists, and the murders they and their followers committed were ritualistic killings.
The Lutheran theologian Ted Peters, in his book entitled Sin calls modern satanism and occultism ‘radical evil’ because they represent the ultimate blasphemy, a blatant and systematic attack on God. Modern satanism may also be described as the new barbarism because it creates a destructive subculture that seeks not only to undermine but also to dismantle the fundamental mores and values of society.
Needless to say, Christians should have no truck whatsoever with satanism and occultism.
Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.