My friend Buffy ( http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ ) recently emailed my a rather amusing assumption about Satanists. What's worrying is not this particular display of non-joined-up thinking but that people still seem to have these ideas so let's go through some of the myths about Satanists.
(UPDATE: Two corrections: The first is that, while I have heard followers of the Temple of Set refered to as "Setites" (although never by members of the Temple), the correct term is actually "Setians". Secondly, I have been informed that members of the Temple do not consider themselves Satanists. To save me rewriting this whole article and because people (including me) often think that they do, I'm leaving the article as is but let's remember that in future. Apologies and thanks to Magister Robert Adams for those corrections)
Satanists worship the Devil - Both true and false. This depends on which denomination of Satanists you're talking about. The LaVeyans (followers of Anton LaVey) don't believe in a devil and don't worship anything (except, possibly, the self). The Temple of Set (aka Setites or Setians) don't worship but do seek to emulate Set (Satan) as a model of philosophical enlightenment. Luciferians (the denomination I follow) [i]do[/i] worship Lucifer (Satan) whom we see as the kinder, fairer deity. The remaining catch-all category (which has a dozen names, mostly derogatory but which I call "Dabblers") of teen posers, shock rock musicians and the mentally unstable have a wide variety of beliefs.
Satanists sacrifice animals - Categorically false, at least with regard to the three main denominations. While animal sacrifices do happen on occasion, they are invariably linked to teen posers with no real understanding of the belief system or stoned rock muscians (Ozzy Osbourne will never live that down). In my adult lifetime, I have owned one rat and four cats. The rat died of old age. One of the cats died of conplications from FIV, which she already had when we took her in. Another died of a massive heart attack caused by a heart deformity. The other two, Sandy & Suki, are still with us and spend most of their time snoozing by the fire, eating, playing and being pampered.
Satanists sacrifice/molest babies - Again, completely untrue. Amid the Satanic Panics of the 1980s, this was often alleged but not one of the charges was ever confirmed. Even in the famous McMartin primary school case, there was not one shred of physical evidence and the stories of the children were frequently self-contradictory. It has also been alleged that Satanists keep women as "breeders" and sacrifice their offspring. Problem here, even leaving ethics aside, is that repeated pregnancies without long gaps between will cause severe internal damage to a woman's plumbing. Also, psychologically, people just don't work that way. While it is possible to brainwash someone into allowing their own child to be killed, it can't be done consistently and repeatedly. It requires close supervision and constant reinforcement, both of which would be noticed by anyone observing the woman. The saying "death to the world" which Luciferians sometimes use is not a directive to mass murder but a shorthand way of expressing a continuing process of turning away from the physical and selfish world and toward a world of spirit and service.
Satanists sacrifice something - The only things sacrificed are pinches of herbs and suchlike. They're symbolic. Lord Lucifer, to secure free will and moral self-determination for humans, sacrificed his good name, rank, place in heaven and human trust. We sacrifice a few pinches of dried herbs to remind us of that sacrifice.
Satanists hold orgies - They're recreational and entirely optional, not a required part of the faith.
Satanists have no morals - Again, completely untrue. Actually, we have a moral code which is often more exacting than those of conventional faiths because ours is not derived from a book or a preacher but arrived at through deep thought and experiance. What we do not have are sins, at least not in the conventional sense. LaVeyans don't have sins at all but they do have quite strong codes of conduct. Setites have a whole philosophy on this that I confess to not fully understanding. Luciferians have only one sin (treating another as a thing, a tool for your own gratification or glory). That is not unforgiveable but it is a big strike against you. Likewise, we don't have Holy Books in the normal sense. Conventionally, a Holy Book is treated as the final answer and discussion is limited to how to interpret it. Among Satanists, the Satanic Bible (for example) is regarded as simply the respected opinion of one man added to the discussion.
Satanists don't believe in Hell - Depends on the denomination. LaVeyans don't, Setites have their own thoughts. Luciferians believe that, although hell is ruled by Lord Lucifer, there is a corner set aside for the truly irredemable. In that corner, those who are judged to be beyond redemption will experiance the lives of everyone they have ever affected. For example, if you're Jerry Falwell, you will experiance the life of a gay man, a gay woman, a pagan, a woman in desperate need of an abortion; and you will experiance those lives over and over and over again until finally, at the end of time, you will understand fully the consequences of your actions and what they have meant. Then, perhaps, maybe, you will be able to realise why your actions were wrong.
Satanists take drugs - No more so than the congregants of any other faith. The Dabblers often do but they're teenagers who don't understand the belief system but adopt the signs and sayings because they "look cool", not because they understand what they mean.This is akin to judging Christianity by the rock stars who wear fashion crosses.
Satanists hate Christians/Muslims/Jews - Not really. We often hate their god (although some are resolved to simply ignore him) but the individual believers, we generally view as misled and misinformed, not necessarily bad (and perhaps the kinder ones would say the same of us). Nor do we "hate you for your Christ", an absurd little bit of self-serving pablum that serves to avoid responsibility for one's own actions. If we hate you, it is because of something you have done or something we have done (we are no more immune to having assholes in our ranks than any other faith). Opinions about Jesus are divided. Some believe he never existed. Personally, I think a man called Jesus lived in the area around Galilee in the early part of the first century. He was a good man with a good message of peace, love and tolerance who was eventually killed for it (as such people tend to be), was buried and remains buried still. But I do not believe he was divine. And I think the insistence that he must have been divine does a tremendous disservice to the potential for good within the human spirit.
Satanists have a vast clandestine conspiracy - Have you ever actually met a Satanist? We tend to be individualistic, argumentative people. Getting us to agree on anything is like herding cats. We can't even agree on what to call ourselves, let alone on acting in concert and in secret for years.Also, consider the sheer numbers required to pull this off. Conspiracies sometimes happen in the real world but the ones that remain secret for very long are the ones with very few people in on the secret. JFK could have been assassinated by a team of perhaps half-a-dozen and so, it's just about possible that could have been done and kept quiet. A vast conspiracy of hundreds of individuals could not be kept secret for very long.
Satanists practice magick - This one's true, after a fashion. Without wishing to write a whole dialectic on the nature of magick, it can be thought of as a way of harnessing the inate power of the human spirit to tilt probabilities very slightly toward one's objective. It is unreliable, draining and often doesn't work. When it does work, the most it can do is affect things very slightly. It cannot violate the laws of nature. We can't hurl fireballs down main street, glamour nubile young things into bed and no amount of magick can bring back the dead. If you ask for anything very much, it's going to fail. The very most you can do is very gently place your thumb on the scales of fate and if the probability is very much against what you want happening, forget it. No-one has that much power. In general, trying to do anything real by magick is going to be a pointless excercise in futility but, if you're desperate enough, sometimes it's worth a try. Even here, the ethic of reciprocity (aka the Golden Rule) holds sway. No-one but the psychopaths go around trying to level death curses on others just for the hell of it (pun intended). Oh, and the additional "K" is purely to distinguish it from the conjurer's craft of illusion, there's no spiritual or historical reason for it.
Satanists don't believe in god/spirit X - Entirely down to the individual. Some believe in no deities but Satan and Jehovah, others believe in whole hosts of them. Personally, I believe that other deities may or may not exist but this one is sacred to me.
Satanists don't help others - This is untrue. We have as many individuals of charitable intent in our ranks as any other faith. The Devil's Apocrypha (a novel which acts as a good primer to Luciferian thought) contains the line "if the lot of man is to improve, the seer must be the doer". What that means is that, if faced with injustice or suffering, it is not enough to pray about it or moan about how awful it is; get up off your knees and do something about it. So we have many charitable persons in our fold. What we do not do is talk about it. There are four reasons for that. The first is that, knowing charity came from a Satanist might disincline them from taking it. The second is that charity should not be given for plaudits. It should be something you do for it's own sake, not so that others will tell you how wonderful you are. Thirdly, knowing that charity came from a particular person (and this applies only to individuals, not to charitable bodies or governments) would create a sense of obligation to that person. The receipiant is likely to see it as a favour that must be repaid and that goes against the spirit of charity. However, if the recipient simply receives a stroke of good luck or good will, they can go on with their lives, self-sufficient and owing nothing. Finally, disclosing such charity could lead into a compteition of who is most charitable. It's not a contest.
Satanists proselytise the young - Satanists don't proselytise anyone. It is (not "commandment", that's the wrong word) strongly suggested that we not proselytise to anyone, ever. We can talk about our faith, answer questions or correct misperceptions (such as I'm doing here) but we cannot suggest someone else try it out. The whole point of Lucifer's rebellion was free will and moral self-determination. To foist our faith upon another would violate their right to make their own moral choices. That's not to say we can't intervene to prevent harm. For example, no-one is going to quibble with the Satanist who tackles an axe-weilding psycho but we cannot press our faith upon others. Each of us has their own spiritual path to walk and we learn as much, if not more, by the journey as we do by the destination. If your journey leads you to us, great. If not, that's fine too. It is your journey and no-one can walk it for you.
Satanists have wild sex - Jealous?
How do you know Satan will win? - We don't. Winning or losing the great celestial war is not the point. First off, one must realise that this is not a battle in the sense that we think of one. We're not talking here of squads of cavalry charging across plains. It's closer to trying to win the hearts and minds of a populace stuck in the middle. But whether we win or lose doesn't really matter. I like to explain by analogy: There was a time during World War II, before the Americans joined in, when Britain stood virtually alone in Europe against the Nazis. Defeat seemed certain. Should the British have surrendered? Of course not. We should have, and did, fight with every breath in our bodies for as long as we could hold out because it was morally right to do so. We hold God to be the worst dictator, the greatest monster that ever existed. Worse than Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot ever dreamed of being. Should we bend knee to a being like that? No, he is not worthy of worship, worthy of nothing except to be fought and so, we fight. Because tyrants must be fought, because it is morally right to do so. We willingly choose to damn ourselves because we cannot and will not give even nominal approval to a monster. Eternity is a very long time to live with yourself and even if we have no hope of winning, we will always know that we did what was right.