Satan's Work Must Truly Be Our Own
Robert M. Price
The other day, as part of the wearying coverage of the Laci Peterson murder trial, I heard mention once again of defense attorney Mark Garagos’s "theory" that it was Satanic cultists who dismembered Laci. The extravagance of the suggestion, it seems to me, is an index of just how desperate the defense is. It is perhaps even more extravagant than most people realize.
I happen to know a little about Satanism and Satanists. In my career as a teacher and researcher in religion, I have had occasion to meet Satanists and to know other scholars who have more deeply researched them. The major Satanist group is probably the tiny Church of Satan, founded by Anton Szandor LaVey in the 1960s. As you would guess, the whole thing was just another bit of 60’s radical chic. Satanists of this stripe were often refugees from excessively rigid fundamentalism (just like old Aleister Crowley, who got so sick of the Plymouth Brethren that he decided to call himself the Antichrist by way of thumbing his nose!). Or they were in it for the lark of the thing, like Jayne Mansfield and Sammy Davis, Jr., famous converts in the 60s.
As a philosophy, LaVey’s Satanism was pretty much what I call dime-store Nietzscheanism. Friedrich Nietzsche was no critic of Jesus but also no fan of Christianity. Rejecting its values as he understood them, he, too, posed (in the title of one essay) as the Antichrist. And like Nietzsche, LaVey and his followers (including his daughter, who leads the sect after her dad’s death) do not even believe in the devil! They are atheists with a theatrical flare, as they readily admit.
They are not very good bad guys, for that matter, since they oppose drug use and anything else that would weaken the individual. In a videotaped Satanic mass, LaVey is seen praying to his dark master for—the return of civility to the world! Real scary, kids! Some Satanists believe in psychic powers and that you can send bad vibes to people, but Mary Baker Eddy (founder of Christian Science) believed in that superstition, too. And that’s all it is. These Satanists aren’t very sinister.
Michael Aquino’s sect, the Temple of Set, split from the Church of Satan some years back. Apparently they do believe in devils, but they’re just eccentrics. Are there any Satanic cults who murder people?
It’s much like the question of whether pornography makes men into rapists, a question I answer with a No. It’s just that the sex-obsessed rapist, not surprisingly, also invests a lot of free time drooling over the cuties. His obsession caused both his porn "reading" and his crimes.
Similarly, when some disturbed teenager murders another and leaves Satanic symbols (or heavy metal rock lyrics) on the scene, it is most likely that his unbalanced condition expressed itself simultaneously in delusions of Satanism and in acts of murder. He adopted the Satanist pose because he was just a nut. His should not count as "Satanic crimes," as if there were a Satanist crime wave, something right out of a 1930s pulp magazine.
What about cases of Satanic ritual abuse of children by their nefarious, robe clad parents, holding black masses in the basement after the Tupperware party? We hear of many such cases. But when you trace them down (and this has been done repeatedly), there is never anything to them. It is just like the rumor-mongered persecution of "witches" Henry Miller depicted so well in The Crucible. Nothing at the bottom of it.
It all stems from fictitious "repressed memories" "recovered" by quack therapists who have in effect hypnotized naïve neurotics into believing their parents were baby sacrificers. You need look no farther than Nathaniel Hawthorne’s "Young Goodman Brown" to understand such paranoia, though for a modern sociological approach, check out Satanic Panic by Jeffrey S. Victor. It exposes the "Satanic ritual abuse hoax" for what it is: an urban legend.
If there is a Satan loose in the world, surely he is more subtle than this. Surely his plans are both more difficult to detect and more seriously corrosive than a few overt murders and sacrifices. In fact, I think I spot them in the form of flashy defense lawyers who use every sophistical trick in the book to vindicate clients they know full well to be guilty as sin.
Robert M Price
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