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About Satanism:

Religion has probably the least exact language of any field of human study. Many common religious terms have multiple and often contradictory meanings. For example, the single term "Satanism" has at least eight meanings: Two refer to actual, but very different, Satanic religious belief systems; the remainder are unrelated groups:

bullet16th Century Satanists: "Satanism" is sometimes used as a modern name for a Christian fable introduced during the late Middle Ages. The Church taught that some "Witches," mostly women, worshiped Satan. They gave an oath to submit their lives to him; they kidnapped and killed babies; they devoted their life to harming others through the use of curses and black magic; they flew through the air on broomsticks; they changed shapes from human to animal and back. This type of "Satanist" who allegedly engaged in Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) did not exist then and does not exist today. However, a "Satanic Panic" was triggered in 1980 and continues in a much diminished form today, largely among a minority of feminists and conservative Christians. Their beliefs about evil Satanists has largely evaporated because of the complete lack of hard evidence that abusive Satanists exist, or that these crimes actually happened. There has been considerable "soft" evidence about SRA. It was in the form of recovered memories of childhood abuse. These were eventually shown to be false memories of non-existent events, created during recovered memory therapy and other dangerous therapeutic techniques. 1
bulletReligious Satanists: Some of these are adults who worship a pre-Christian deity, (e.g. "Set" from the ancient Egyptian pantheon of deities).  Others are Atheists or Agnostics who do not view Satan as a living entity; they see him as as a symbol of power, vitality and pleasure. To our knowledge, there has been only one conviction since the 17th century Salem Witch hunts of Satanic perpetrators of a serious crime. This involved the sentencing of three teenagers for multiple murders and a mutilation of children in Robin Hood Hills, West Memphis, AR. However, recent bite mark evidence on the skin of one of the victims has indicated that the alleged perpetrators were almost certainly not responsible for the crimes. Also, they knew little about Satanism when they were interrogated. One was a Wiccan and is now a Buddhist. The other two were and are Christians.
bulletSatanic dabblers: These are typically rebellious teenagers who have created their own form of black magic. It is composed of rituals taken from benign sources: religious Satanism, Wicca, other Neopagan religions, ceremonial magic, etc. These are the individuals who are typically responsible for the Satanic graffiti that is occasionally seen on the sides of buildings. Some dabblers might sacrifice a cat or small dog; but this is quite rare.
bulletOther meanings:  
bulletSometimes, the term "Satanist" will be used as in articles or sermons of religious hatred as a general-purpose "snarl" word. 
bulletSatanism may be used to refer to a follower of a small minority religion such as Wicca, Santeria, Vodun, etc. 
bulletSometimes it will refer to the follower of a major world religion such as Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. 
bulletOccasionally a mass murderer will claim to have been under the influence of Satan when they committed their crimes. Investigations generally reveal that the perpetrators knew little or nothing about Satanism, but were simply using the "Satan made me do it" defense.
bulletOccasionally an abusive pedophile will pretend to engage in Satanic rituals in order to better control his child victims. But these molesters are not actually Satanists; they are merely abusers who find Satanic trappings useful.

Quite often, a writer will mix and match all four types of "Satanists" in a single article, without differentiating among them.  

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Satanism and the Police:

A series of Satanic Panics swept North America in the 1980s and 1990s. Satanists were accused of kidnapping, killing, and even eating infants and children. Estimates of 50,000 ritual murders per year were common. Many in law enforcement were initially convinced that a secret, underground, multi-generational, international cult of Satanists were perpetrating horrendous crime on an enormous scale; they were literally getting away with mass murder. Some police officers became alarmed. They devoted enormous effort in an unsuccessful effort to  track down those believed to be responsible. They were unsuccessful because the crimes never happened. Satanic ritual abuse "experts" began giving seminars to social workers, law enforcement personnel, and others. In the early 1980's, Kenneth V. Lanning of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, VA started to follow the escalating reports of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA). He became convinced that SRA was non-existent (or almost so), largely because of the lack of hard evidence that any crimes had actually occurred. A second indicator was that a conspiracy of the magnitude necessary to support large scale SRA could not remain secret for long. He documented his conclusions in a report in 1992 titled "Investigator's Guide to Allegations of 'Ritual' Child Abuse. By the middle of the 1990s, most of law enforcement had become very skeptical of the existence of SRA. Only a few -- commonly called "cult cops" -- remain as true SRA believers today.

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Anti-Satanic hate literature:

Typical hate literature directed at Satanists is characterized by a number of beliefs:

bulletSatanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) exists as a massive conspiracy.
bulletCommunity leaders are often involved in SRA. These include city government, lawyers, physicians, judges, police, etc. They are sufficiently powerful able to cover up evidence of serious crimes.
bulletCriminal Satanists exist as a multi-generational, underground movement, controlled by a secret international organization.
bulletCriminal Satanists, religious Satanists, teen-age dabblers in Satanism, psychotic killers, etc. are all different aspects of the same movement.
bullet(Sometimes) other religious groups are perceived as being forms of Satanism. Wicca and Santeria are most often targeted in this way.

Some of these beliefs are seen in the article which is analyzed below.

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Analysis of the article "Satanism and Crime:" 

This article was published in POLICE magazine. 2 The author is Sgt. Craig Meissner, a member of the New York City Police Department. Some points raised in the article are listed below, with a brief description of reality:

bulletSatanic crimes are a major challenge to law enforcement.
bulletSome teenage dabblers engage in crimes that are minor in nature, and almost invariable involve minor acts of vandalism. But other "Satanic crimes" (i.e. criminal activities motivated by a belief in the Satanic religion) appear to be non-existent.
bulletSome religious Satanists have undoubtedly engaged in criminal activity, just as Christians, Jews and Muslims have. But it is unreasonable to call any crime by a Satanist by the title "Satanic crime" just as it is unreasonable to call all crimes by Christians as "Christian crime."
bulletThe total number of Satanic cults is unknown.
bulletBy far the largest religious Satanic tradition is the Church of Satan. They do not release their membership numbers.
bulletThe term "cult" is not a useful term with which to describe any religious group. It has essentially lost its original meaning, and is now generally used as a general purpose snarl word used to denigrate groups. The most common meaning in the media is of a destructive, doomsday religious group that has led to loss of life among its members. None of these factors are found in Satanism.
bulletThe most common criminal acts by Satanists are: desecration of cemeteries, vandalism of churches, mutilation of animals, arson, ritual abuse, assault, murder, and use of illegal drugs.
bulletHere, the author has linked religious Satanists with the minor trespassing and vandalism of teenage Satanic dabblers. The latter do occasionally desecrate and vandalize cemeteries and perhaps even churches. Very rarely, they have been known to mutilate and kill small animals. However, most animal mutilations in which Satanist perpetrators are suspected, are found to have been killed by non-human predators. Very rare instances of arson, ritual abuse, assault and murder have been done by people who claim to be Satanists. However, further investigations have shown that their prime motivation was their own mental illness, not their religion.
bullet"Although intelligent, creative and possessing a highly developed sense of curiosity, they usually experience a high degree of stress, anxiety and fear."
bulletSome studies have indicated that although many teenage dabblers enter Satanism with feelings of stress, etc., the religion helps them overcome these problems.
bulletSatanists may suffer from underachievement, poor social skills, low self esteem. 
bulletMany if not most teenage dabblers n Satanism form social groups, often called temples or grottos, with other like minded youth. Again, some studies indicate that their involvement in Satanism improves their self esteem and social skills.
bullet"Satanism fills a void in their lives."
bulletThis is commonly found in all religions. Youth are attracted to a religion because it gives them answers, allows them to fellowship with other believers, and (sometimes) gives them a deity to worship. This is true of Satanists, Christians and members other faiths.
bulletSatanism promotes destructive behavior, and promotes teen rebellion.
bulletLike other religions, Satanism may have positive or negative effect on a teen's life. It has motivated some teens to engage in acts of minor vandalism; it has motivated others to lead very ethical lives.
bulletSatanists deny the existence of the Christian God.
bulletAll the great religions of the world, other than Christianity, deny the existence of the Christian Trinity. Satanism is no exception.
bulletA few Satanists believe that "violence and service to Satan" will bring them money and power.
bulletHere, the author has suddenly switched from discussing teenage dabblers to talking about Christian legends about nonexistent 16th century Satanists. We have been unable to find instances of ritual abuse, or murder that were associated with religious Satanism.
bulletSome Satanists are obsessed with fantasy role-playing games (RPG) and heavy-metal rock music.
bulletThe author appears to have switched back to teenage Satanic dabblers again. Studies of RPG players indicate that they are above average in intelligence and creativity. We have not seen any studies which indicate a higher than normal involvement with RPGs among Satanic dabblers. Enjoyment of heavy-metal rock music is near universal among youth.
bulletPossession of ritual tools, such as candles, robes, and knives may indicate Satanic involvement.
bulletCandles, robes, an athame (double-edged ritual knife with a black handle) are far more likely to indicate involvement in Wicca than Satanism. Wiccans are far more numerous than are religious Satanists, outnumbering them by perhaps 30 to one. 
bulletOccult-related crimes...
bulletThe author has suddenly switched from Satanism to the Occult. He incorrectly assumes that all occult activities are Satanic. The "Occult" is simply a collection of religions, pastimes, men's fraternal organizations etc. which do not publicize their belief systems. Rather, they reveal their secrets only gradually to their trainees. They have little or nothing in common with each other. The Masonic order, Wicca, Satanism, and astrology are four examples of occult activities. Other parts of the occult are tea-cup reading, palm reading, Tarot cards, casting runes, etc.  There is no linkage between occult activities and criminal actions. "Occult crime" does not exist any more than "Christian crime" or "Buddhist crime" or "stamp collecting crime."
bulletOccult related crimes tend to occur on occult holidays.
bulletThe author lists the believer's birthday and 8 Wiccan Sabbats as Satanic holidays. He substituting Halloween for the Wiccan New Year celebration of Samhain.
bulletWalpurgisnacht, is one of the three main Satanic holidays. However, the author appears unaware of this.
bulletThe remaining many dozens of activities that form the occult do not have any holidays associated with them (with the possible exception of the Masonic order; we do not know if they observe seasonal days of celebration).
bulletHere, the author may be equating Wicca, (a reconstructed Pagan religion that is based in part on ancient Celtic beliefs, practices and symbols) with Satanism. This is incorrect. They are two very different, and essentially unrelated religions.
bulletSuicides and homicides are often timed to occur on a Satanic holiday
bulletSuicides have been committed by Satanists, just as they have by Christians and Buddhists. But investigations reveal that the cause of suicide is intense depression and emotional distress, not religion. We have never been able to detect evidence of a homicide motivated by religious Satanism.
bulletSatanists hang crucifixes on the walls where they perform rituals. They use drop cloths to collect blood.
bulletThe crucifix is a Christian symbol and is not used by religious Satanists. The main Satanic symbol is a Baphomet - an inverted 5 pointed star inscribed with the head of a goat. 
bulletChristian authors who write anti-Satanic hate literature often believe the fables from the Renaissance period that Satanist rituals are parodies of Christian practices. With the exception of a few "black masses" conducted for their publicity value, Satanic rituals are totally unrelated to Christian rituals.
bulletA very small percentage of Satanic dabblers do sacrifice a small animal, but this is very rare. A drop cloth would probably be useful in this instance.
bulletThe most important symbol for cult members is a 5, 9 or 13 ft. diameter circle drawn with "paint, flour, chalk or blood.
bulletThe word "cult" is a general-purpose snarl word used to discredit religious groups. We advocate that it never be used, except to refer to the very rare doomsday, destructive cults.
bulletA 5 ft. diameter circle would be almost useless, except for rituals by a solitary practitioner.
bulletA 9 ft. diameter circle is very common among Wiccans. The author may be confusing Wiccans and Satanists here.
bulletThe use of the number 13 may be related to the Renaissance myth that Satan worshipers organized covens of 13 individual. The story was that they ridiculed Christianity by having the same number of peoples in their groups as did Jesus and his 12 disciples.
bulletSatanic ritual abuse includes carving symbols into the flesh of a victim, smearing a victim's blood over the perpetrators' bodies, dismemberment and removal of organs, forced ingestion of body fluids, ritual sacrifice, etc.
bulletTo our knowledge, some gang members have carved symbols into the flesh of their victims. Some murderers have dismembered bodies to avoid detection. Some psychotic individuals have removed organs from bodies, etc. But no religious Satanist has ever been charged or convicted of such a crime. The prosecution believed that the three teenagers charged in the Robin Hood Murders cited above were Satanists who engaged in mutilation and murder. However, recent evidence shows that they are innocent. As mentioned above, none were Satanists; one identified himself as a Wiccan; the other are Christians.
bulletThe investigator should look for pieces of paper or parchment on which pacts with the devil were written. 
bulletThis fable formed part of the teachings of the Christian church during the Renaissance. It does not form part of religious Satanism. 
bulletDisturbed earth may indicate where victims were buried.
bulletTo our knowledge, no victim of ritual abuse, motivated by religious Satanism, has ever been found -- buried or not.
bulletInvestigators should look for a Book of Shadows at a Satanic crime scene.
bulletA Book of Shadows is a tradition of Wicca and other Neopagan religions.
bullet"...crimes associated with Satanic cults are committed by violent and unbalanced individuals.
bulletThere is an element of truth in this statement. Although Satanic-motivated crime committed by religious Satanists does not exist, some terrible crimes (including mass murder) have been done by psychotic individuals. Belief that they were controlled by Satan is often one element of their psychosis.

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  1. We define Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) as referring to non-consensual physical, mental, emotional or spiritual attacks on individuals, primarily motivated by a desire to appease the perpetrator's deity, Satan. SRA thus does not include the crimes of mass murderers who, when caught, claim that they were influenced by Satan. Investigations show that they were motivated primarily by mental illness, and that they had little or no knowledge or association with Satanism.
  2. Craig Meissner, "Satanism and Crime: Look at the whole picture," POLICE magazine, 1999-DEC, Vol. 23, # 12, Pages 48 & 49.
  3. POLICE magazine is published by Bobit Publication Business & Editorial Office in Torrance, CA. Their E-mail address is: police@bobit.com. Their web site is at:  http://www.policemag.com

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Site navigation: Home page > World religions > Satanism > here

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Copyright © 2000 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally written: 2000-JAN-12
Latest update: 2005-NOV-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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