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 Nextdoor.com 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.