Within the dominant religion in North America, Christianity, there is
a wide range of belief systems.
Individual Christian faith groups use common English words like God, Heaven, salvation, redemption,
sanctification, saved, tongues, etc. However, they often assign different meanings to these
result is that dialogue within a given congregation can be difficult.
Discussions among representatives of different Christian faith groups
are even more challenging. Inter-faith dialogue sometimes experiences major
barriers and can be impossible.
Some refer to religious Satanists -- normally adults who follow Satanism
as a religion.
Others refer to teenage "dabblers," many of whom have formed an eclectic
belief system derived from many sources.
Still others refer to Gothic Satanism as it was believed to exist
Many people consider religious Satanism and Wicca (a.k.a. Witchcraft) as being
related or even identical. In reality, the two religions are quite different
and frequently hold opposite beliefs.
Many of these beliefs do not correspond to actual religious Satanist belief
This lack of agreement about "Satanism" and "Satanists" is reflected in the media
and in religious and inspirational books, sermons, articles, etc. over the past centuries.
This diversity continues today on the Internet.
Historical beliefs about Gothic Satanism:
The public's beliefs in past centuries about Satanism were largely based on religious propaganda.
Both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in Western Europe and North
America created an imaginary religion that has been called "Gothic
Satanism." This belief system was originally circulated centuries ago during
the "Burning Times" in order to justify the churches' extermination of
what were believed to be Satan worshiping "Witches" and other heretics. The churches taught that
Enter into a personal contract with the Christian devil.
lives to performing evil deeds, continuously.
Flew through the air on broomsticks.
Held secret midnight Witches Sabbats in the forest.
Cursed animals and humans, causing them to sicken, have miscarriages, or
Generated storms, hail and other weather disturbances to destroy crops.
Could shape-shift -- change their physical appearance at will from human to
animal and back again.
Boiled babies down into a magical soup and used the victim's bones
as ritual tools.
Organized in covens of exactly 13 people.
Were a massive danger to society, and had to be exterminated.
These ideas were widely accepted among the public, starting circa 1450 CE.
Some investigators believe that these beliefs about Satan worshipers in the late
Middle Ages developed from theological debates about theodicy --
the philosophical and religious discussion of how evil can exist in a universe
created and controlled by an omnipotent and omnibeneficient God. Others believe
that the church wanted to exterminate any residual minority belief systems still
in existence, and have exclusive control of the religious live of western
The beliefs in
the existence of profoundly evil Satan worshipers with magical powers had largely dissipated by
1792, when the last victim was executed in Western Europe. However, the concept
of the evil Witch as a worshiper of Satan had entered into religious legends, fairy
tales, children's stories, and more recently into Hollywood horror movies. A few
of these beliefs were still
regarded as accurate by a significant percentage of the public as late as 1995.
The text of two books from the Burning Times are still easily obtained
Montague Summers, "The Malleus Maleficarum of Kramer and Sprenger."
Francesco Maria Guazzo, "Compendium Maleficarum," 2
They are fascinating to read. They tell us little about the reality of Satan
worship during the Renaissance. However, they do give evidence of the sexual
dysfunction of the original authors.
In reality, there is no evidence that Gothic Satanism actually existed
does not exist now -- except perhaps among a very few, isolated psychotic individuals who
might regard themselves as Gothic Satanists.
The Satanic Panic (circa 1980 to 1995):
A book "Michelle Remembers" was published in 1980.
3 It was presented
as an account of recovered memories restored by Michelle Smith during therapy
with her psychiatrist Dr. Lawrence
Pazder (1936 - 2004) -- the person whom she was later to marry. It allegedly documents
horrendous ritual abuse suffered by Michelle during her childhood at the hands of a
Satanic cult in Canada. The book described that a main motivation for the abuse
was appeasement of the Christian devil, Satan.
Although there were a few isolated, false stories of
Satanic Ritual Abuse prior to Michelle being
published, this book gave the "Satanic panic" in North America a major boost.
4 It was
at least partly responsible for the initial formation of the belief in widespread
Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) in the
early 1980's. The book was followed by others on the same
theme. Three of the most popular were:
On the order of 50,000 infants and children were sacrificed yearly.
Some were eaten by Satanists.
Satanism was a type of mirror image of Christianity. Its followers
conducted inverted Christian rituals, like Black Masses, as a means of
ridiculing and denigrating Christianity.
By 1995, fifteen years of dedicated investigation had turned up no concrete evidence of
SRA. Belief in the reality of religiously-inspired ritual abuse began to
dissipate. Ritual abuse does continue today, largely in the form of physical
beatings during Christian exorcisms. Fortunately, it is rare. About one victim a
years dies in North America during such exorcisms.
Therapists generally recognize now that adults' recovered memories of
childhood SRA were false. They were unrelated to
actual events early in life. The false memories were traceable to dangerous therapeutic techniques
like Recovered Memory Therapy. Memories of ritual abuse
were also implanted in young children's minds by the dangerous
and suggestive interrogation techniques where were then accepted as
Essays on this website describe Satanic Ritual Abuse
cases among adults and Multi-Victim, Multi-Offender (MVMO)
panics among children in pre-schools and day care centers. Most of the
adults who were falsely convicted of abuse have had their cases reviewed and
have been released from jail. Gerald Amirault continues to rot in jail for
a crime that never happened in Malden MA. Three young
adults, the "West Memphis Three," were convicted of
ritual murders of three boys in Robin Hood Hills, West Memphis, AR. They remain
incarcerated, one in death row, even though there is hard evidence that they are
innocent and that the actual perpetrator(s) went free.
Recent beliefs about Satanists:
Since the mid 1990s, Christian authors have begun to base their books and
articles increasingly on primary information sources -- material that was actually written by
Satanists. Many writers now accept that Satanists do not engage in criminal
activities, such as cannibalism, murder, and Satanic Ritual Abuse. Some accept
that Satanism is an independent religion and is not a Christian heresy or a form
of inverted Christianity. However, the Internet is filled with web sites that
misrepresent Satanism. An essay giving more details and
examples is online.
The reality of Satanism:
The two largest Satanic groups in the U.S. are:
The Church of Satan is the largest organization of religious Satanists
in the U.S. They
regard Satan as a pre-Christian concept, representing pleasure, virility, and
strength. He is not viewed as a living entity. He is unrelated to the Christian
devil. Most members are Agnostics, they neither
believe nor disbelieve in the existence of God. Their prime symbol is the Sigil of Baphomet. This is a goat's head, drawn within an inverted pentagram (5-pointed
star with one point downward and two up). It is surrounded by a circle.
Satanists conduct rituals by themselves, and/or meet together in grottos.
The Temple of Set worships Satan in the form of a pre-Christian deity -- the
Egyptian god Set. Their prime symbol is a simple inverted pentagram in a circle.
They meet in temples.
Satanist behavioral codes:
A widely spread misconception is that almost all Satanists follow two
behavioral codes which were written by Aleister
"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,"
is the Law, love under will."
This error was probably caused by another error -- a widespread
misconception that Crowley was himself a Satanist.
In reality, the two main Satanist codes are:
"Responsibility to the responsible." This contradicts the
first of Crowley's codes in many ways.
"Do unto others as they do unto you."
Do Satanists engage in black magic rituals?
They generally do not refer to any of their rituals as "black magic".
Most Satanist consider the term "black magic" to be a racist term --one that
is generally used only by Christians and Wiccans to describe types of magic
different from their own.
Some Satanists do engage in "destruction rituals" which are
directed against enemies with the goal of harming them. Turning the
other cheek is not their style.