I have met a lot of people in my lifetime. Some of my college professors were notable. Several of the inmates I’ve met through our church’s jailhouse ministry were quite interesting. I got to meet several famous entertainers during the year I worked at MTV Networks in New York. I have lived in many towns growing up. In fact, I attended three high schools in my senior year. That exposed me to a lot of friends. I spent some time working in radio, and I had a portable DJ set-up for several years. I hung out with local rock bands and hauled drums in my Chevy van. I worked as a paralegal for thirteen years, meeting numerous clients, expert witnesses and plaintiffs. I love people, and I have been exposed to many fascinating individuals.
And yet the most interesting person I’ve met in my life was a Satan worshiper. I was serving a three-year prison sentence at the time. He was serving time for a drug-related offense. I always wondered what makes someone want to worship the devil. It seems like a sure way to invite the wrath of God upon your head. The focus has to be on the dark side, on evil, on the negative. Worship is often done in secret. Public perception is that devil worshipers run around in the woods at night, killing animals and drinking their blood. So what exactly is the draw to this “religion?” And what is it that they believe any way?
The Satanist I met told me that the Church of Satan was founded on April 30, 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey. He said it is the first above-ground organization in history openly dedicated to the acceptance of Man’s true nature—that of a carnal beast, living in a cosmos that is indifferent to our existence. To the Satanist, Satan is the symbol that best suits the nature of we who are. He said we’re carnal by birth. Satanists are people who feel no battles raging between their thoughts and feelings, who do not embrace the concept of a soul imprisoned in a body. He said Satanism represents pride, liberty, and individualism—qualities often defined as evil by those who worship external deities.
He told me that man, using his brain, invented all the gods, doing so because many of us cannot accept or control our personal egos, feeling compelled to conjure up one or a multiplicity of characters who can act without hindrance or guilt upon whims and desires. He said all gods are externalized forms, magnified projections of the true nature of their creators, personifying aspects of the universe or personal temperaments which many of their followers find to be troubling. Worshiping any god is thus worshiping by proxy those who invented that god. He said Satanists believe that all gods are fiction. Instead of bending a knee in worship to, or seeking friendship or unity with, such mythical entities, the Satanist places himself at the center of his own subjective universe as his own highest value. Satanists are thus their own “gods,” and as beneficent “deities” they can offer love to those who deserve it and deliver wrath upon those who seek to cause them harm.
The young man told me that the Church of Satan wants people to stop calling ‘devil worshiping’ alleged murderering Satanists. There are people who you and I would call “devil worshipers” for whom a belief in the existence of actual demons and worship of Satan is a part of their practice. A tiny subset of that group includes alleged or convicted criminals who act in the name of a stated belief in Satan or demon worship. The Church of Satan, the Satanist told me, is a “rational, atheist philosophy” based on Anton LaVey’s “Satanic Bible.” The Church of Satan is generally quite protective of that claimed lineage and has a specific, somewhat rigorous membership application process. The group believes that it is the only “authentic” Satanist group in existence.
According to the Satanist I met, the organization’s leadership believes that the purpose of the Church of Satan is solely to communicate its philosophy to a worldwide audience with utmost clarity and precision. He said what makes a good Satanist is someone who believes in pride, liberty and individualism. He said Satanism, as defined by the Church of Satan, believes in Satan only as a symbolic, rather than as a supernatural, representation of these values. No matter what they believe, Satanists are typically represented in the news as evil people who practice a black religion that includes sacrificing animals on an altar surrounded by black candles, while wearing black robes and chanting in Latin.
Meeting this Satanist was one of the most interesting experiences of my life. I have such a negative reaction to devil worshiping that I did not give him my real name. I didn’t even hint at where I lived. It was hard for me to be open-minded. I was respectful and curious, but not swayed in the least. I believe in the existence of the devil and his demons, and have what I consider to be a healthy fear of their practices. Despite him giving me the creeps, I enjoyed meeting and talking with him. I was not able to persuade him to consider converting to Christianity. He has been brainwashed into believing that Jesus Christ and the God of Abraham are an invention of ancient Jews and Christians, and that the only true “god” is man himself. I told him there is no way I want to be him on Judgment Day. He just smiled and said, “I’m not worried at all.”