SYSOP'S NOTE: Let's clear the air about Satanism. It is, apparently, a real phenomena in A
SYSOP'S NOTE: Let's clear the air about Satanism. It is,
apparently, a real phenomena in America today. All too often
the topic of Christian fundamentalist ire, most discussions
on it (including this one) are naive, over-generalized, and
confused. Real Satanism is a Christian heresy. It is
irrelevant to involve a discussion of Satanism with Dungeons
and Dragons games, rock music, homosexulity, or to confuse
it with witchcraft, magick, and other Pagan beliefs. Nor are
most Satanists involved in criminal practices. Someday I may
try to write an unbiased article on Satanism. In the mean
time, this one, with all its falacies, will have to
IS SATANISM LINKED TO CRIMES?
By Thomas D. Elias, Scripps Howard News Service
SAN FRANCISCO - From small towns like Sanford, Me. and big cities like
San Francisco and Los Angeles, a steady stream of crime reports are
indicating that Satanism - devil worship - is becoming a fast-growing but
still unmeasurable force in America.
When Richard Ramirez, the accused Night Stalker, raised his right hand
in a Los Angeles courtroom, where he was accused of 14 murders and dozens
of other felonies, his palm displayed an inked pentagram.
The five-pointed star within a circle positioned with two points up to
symbolize the devil's horns was found at several Night Stalker murder
scenes and the wife of one victim testified that Ramirez forced her to
"swear on Satan" she wouldn't alert neighbors by screaming.
In Huntington Beach, Calif., 33 small animals kept in an elementary
school yard were slaughtered last May, a crime that police say was
apparently part of a Satanic ritual.
In Contra Costa County, Calif., the battered body of a 17-year-old boy
who had graduated from playing "Dungeons and Dragons" to being involved
with a Satanic coven was found dead at the bottom of a cliff near San
Francisco Bay last year. He had told his father and otherws that he wanted
to leave the group.
Police call the death a suicide, but a coroner's report says the body
bore marks more like those from a beating with sticks than bruises
typically received in a fall.
Scores of reports link child molestations to Satanic rituals featuring
chalices of blood and participants either nude or wearing black hoods.
Altogether, as many as 800 crimes now under investigation by police
nationwide are said to be linked somehow to devil worship.
Detectives from seven western states last spring held a closed-door
session to play strategies against Satanism.
One tactic they reportedly agreed upon: Deny its involvement in crimes
to discourage publicity and copycats.
Consistent with that idea, police and prosecutors are almost invariably
hesitant to label devil-worship and sacrifice as the motive behind any
crime and no one has been convicted of a crime on the basis of Satanic
involvement for more than a decade.
"There was talk about drinking blood and allegations that people
involved worshipped the devil and had certain ceremonies," says Stephen
Tauzer, a Bakersfield, Calif., prosecutor handling a case where as many as
80 adults have been suspected of molesting up to 60 children. "But we're
not trying the case on religious grounds. I know Satanism exists as a fad
and that there are reports of cremated victims. But I have a hard time
concluding that anything as large as cremating victims would not have
Police usually say Satanism exists, but has only peripheral involvement
at most in crimes committed by alleged Satanists.
"One hears about cases," says Joseph Kranyak, a crime analyst for the
San Bernadino, Calif., police department. "But when you track them down
you find you're mostly chasing shadows. The vandalous nature of these
things may not be organized and conspiratorial, but a response to stimuli
like rock music."
And some of the leading fighters against Satanism say there is a
distinct difference between organized Satanists like those belonging to San
Francisco's Church of Satan and "freelance Satanists."
"In the formal churches, you get no murders, only symbolic actions,"
says Karen Hoyt, executive director of the Berkeley, Calf.-based Spiritual
Counterfeits Project. "But freelancers sacrifice animals and reportedly
infants, although no one has found a body as yet."
Church of Satan members adamantly deny any use of actual or animal
sacrifice, although "The Satanic Bible" written by church founder Anton
LaVey spells out rituals calling for "symbolic" human sacrifices.
"I'm a Satanist and I don't want to molest children," says Blanche
Barton, LaVey's personal secretary. "The Satanic Bible says both animal
and child sacrifices are illegal, so the whole idea of sacrificing to
release energy is bull. But a lot of groups have adopted Satanist images
like hoods and gongs."
But the Satanic Bible does say that "Satan represents indulgence,
instead of abstinence" and that "Satan represents all the so-called sins,
as they all lead to physical, mental or emotional gratification." And in a
chapter titled "On the Choice of a Human Sacrifice," LaVey adds that
"anyone who has wronged you" is a "fit and proper human sacrifice" and "you
have every right to (symbolically) destroy them."
Opponents of Satanism believe many "freelance" practitioners omit the
admonition to make sacrifices "symbolic," and use the Satanic Bible to
justify psychoses or perversions.
Covens centered around drugs, homosexuality, sexual fetishes, child
molesting and other illicit activities are known to use rituals from the
Satanic Bible and a later companion volume. So do groups using Druidism,
Celtic witchcraft and Egyptian mythology. Even "children's covens" are
known to use such rituals.
Like many fundamentalists, Roger Burt, an evangelical minister and
president of the Christian Counseling Association in suburban Los Angeles,
believes the current spate of Satanism is part of a long war between the
forces of good and evil.
"People who are getting involved in Satanism are looking to get the
power of demons and use it for themselves," he says. "It all centers on
power over their peers, especially among teenagers, which is where this is
growing fastest. This is not just a fad of the '80s. It is actual
spiritual warfare. Spiritual possession has great power in attracting
Games like Dungeons and Dragons, with medieval imagery, help attract
children and teenagers to Satanic rituals, which sometimes involve archaic
Rock music groups are even more of an influence, according to many
Burt lists heavy metal groups like AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath,
Motley Crue, Blue Oyster Cult and Merciful Fate among the most influential.
All have performed music with a Satanic-style message that critics contend
is taken literally by many listeners.
Burt says membership in Satanic groups has grown to "at least 60,000,"
with about one-third in California, the world's main center of modern
Hoyt and Burt agree that young children are often recruited by parents
or teachers, then molested or forced to watch and participate in ritual
killings of animals. Some are photographed during rituals and later
blackmailed into continuing either via threats to show the pictures to
parents or threats of harm to the parents.
Runaway teenagers, the anti-Satanists say, are an especially fertile
class of recruits.
Other experts contend that many teenagers join Satanist cults willingly.
"Many kids believe there is a force for evil in the world and some think
it is the really powerful force in the universe," says Rabbi Jack Bemporad
of Tenafly, N.J., a nationally-known expert on cults. "A lot of them
believe in demons, which are mentioned in the New Testament. Kids also
have a lot of range and anger and a feeling of powerlessness because of the
threat of nuclear war and the increasing complexity of the world. The come
to feel if the world is going to destroy itself, they might as well glory
In short, says Bemporad, they feel "If you can't beat evil, you might as
well join it."
'SATANIC BIBLE' AUTHOR DENIES RESPONSIBILITY
By Thomas D. Elias, Scripps Howard News Service
SAN FRANCISCO - Some people call him Satan. Others say he's merely the
Anton LaVey says he doesn't care what they think, although with a shaved
head, a small pointed beard and an all-black costume broken only by a red
necktie, he takes pains to look like the common image of a devil.
"If the shoe fits," says the author of "The Satanic Bible," "I'll wear
it. But I don't claim it. I'd rather be known as a devil's advocate with
a small 'd,' a champion of individual freedom."
Many opponents of Satanism claim LaVey's books, "The Satanic Bible" and
"The Satanic Rituals," inspire many of the crimes linked to Satanic symbols
LaVey doesn't argue with them.
"Anything can be misused," he says. "When I was a kid, every time there
was a murder, the murderer would say something like, 'God made me do it.'
A lot of psychotics are doign whatever they're doing and saying they're
Satanists as a way of getting themselves off the hook. There are crazies
and there will always be crazies. Whatever is around that they can lay
blame on, they'll do it."
Many of Satanism's opponents point to passages in LaVey's books that
they contend specifically encourage crimes ranging from murder to grave-
One instruction in "The Satanic Rituals" calls for waving a human arm or
leg bone through the air, but offers no hint of where to get it.
"I figured people the bone someplace other than by killing a person,"
LaVey said. "But if they're going to kill, I hope they at least get a
LaVey says he has no personal knowledge of any murders attributed to
Satanic practices, although he recalls meeting Richard Ramirez, accused
Night Stalker killer in the Los Angeles area.
"When I met Richard Ramirez, he was one of the nicest, most polite young
men you'd ever want to meet," said LaVey, 56. "When I met him in 1983, he
was a model of deportment. I suppose that shows even murderers may not be
all bad. Maybe he did his murders for reasons other than Satanism. Maybe
he was disturbed or had an axe to grind."
His Satanic Bible specifically prohibits animal and child sacrifice, but
approves of "symbolic" adult human sacrifice. Readers are told to choose
their own victims and to graphically visualize "appropriate" revenge in a
"It's just a short step from that to action," says Rabbi Jack Bemporad
of Tenafly, N.J., a cult expert.
Says LaVey, "Of course murderers can use my books. But they can use the
Holy Bible, too. That's the most incendiary book ever written. There's
raping and patricide and matricide and killing your own kids in there."
Responds Bemporad, "Comparing his book to the Hebrew Bible is like
trying to compare Shakespeare to a comic book. There's violence in
Shakespeare and the Bible, sure, but there's a great moral sense, too. The
Bible has the ethics of the western world in it, but it couldn't legislate
away the reality of its time."
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank