Satanic Struggle

Around these parts folks are in an uproar about an after-school Satan Club.  The idea is an action to get Evangelical undies in a bunch, and it’s only proposed when a school system supports an overtly Christian club.  Reaction more than action, really.  Right now is bursting at the seams with indignation about something most people don’t understand.  I can’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve read plenty of books about Satan and many of them deal with Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan.  The Church of Satan believes in no literal Devil or Hell.  It was established to draw attention but also to make a statement when Christian Nationalists start to get too pushy.  Still, people are afraid of Satanism as the numerous international panics about it have shown.  And conspiracy theories don’t help.

It seems to me that the solution to all of this is education.  People, naturally enough, react to things emotionally.  I do it all the time.  (This is one reason that Artificial Intelligence will never be truly that—humans think with their emotions as well as with reason.)  The sad thing is, there are many easy ways to correct mistaken assumptions.  The information is out there and it’s easily found.  It’s easier, however, to spout off on social media like you’re an expert on something you know nothing about.  Trump introduced a culture of outrage—did his supporters suppose nobody else was capable of doing the same?  The Church of Satan was established as such an outrage.  In a nation of literalists, they hit a nerve.

The Church of Satan does not worship the Devil.  It supports social causes and it cooperates with law enforcement when some unbalanced individuals think it means something that it doesn’t.  To my way of thinking, this creative endeavor, despite getting the attention it sought, might’ve been better thought through.  Although extremism appeals to those who, like Herostratus, crave fame at any cost, does it really move us any closer to where we want to be?  Part of the problem is that many outspoken political figures want us all to be the same as them.  White, Christian, male, heterosexual.  I really can’t imagine a worse kind of nightmare.  Humans crave variety and new ideas.  As I sit here watching a new, uninformed Satanic Panic developing in my own backyard, I wonder if we all wouldn’t do our blood pressure a favor by sitting down with a book.  And maybe learning what this really is about.  Shoving matches seldom end well.

2 thoughts on “Satanic Struggle

  1. Thanks for addressing this. I’ve looked at Satanism in the academic literature, and have engaged in dialogue with members of The Satanic Temple, the group putting on the After School Satan Clubs. I’ve been able to do a few podcasts on them with representatives of TST as well as Child Evangelism Fellowship, the group that puts on Good News Clubs in schools, and to which TST is responding to. I think Satanic Panics are an ongoing phenomenon, and groups like TST do a good job with efforts that are provocative and challenging to Christian hegemony. Unfortunately, the Christians don’t have the self-critical capacity to assess such things in new ways. In the end I think that Joseph Laycock is right in his book on TST when he says that the group, and Christian responses to it, provide us with a great opportunity to work through a deep rather than pretend pluralism, wherein we support religious freedoms and freedoms of expression not just for our religious fellows, but also for those religions we find most distasteful.


    • Thanks John! I thought about bringing Laycock into it, but Speak of the Devil is still on my “to read” pile. I agree with all of this. I was just reading another local blogger who wrote about this and came to similar conclusions. Sitting and talking together rationally seems to make the most sense to me.


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