This post is prompted by TWO Yahoo articles concerning Satanism posted within one week of each other. The first, titled “Women Slash Teen 300 Times During Satanic Sex Ritual” (source) is about two Milwaukee roommates accused of slashing and stabbing a teenager 300 times in an apparent satanic sex ritual that lasted for two days. Actually the girls had some books on necromancy and dark magic – which is NOT Satanism.
The confusion is that for anybody within a Christian mindset (as the cops involved probably were) all magic and ritual is Satanic. However anybody who actually practices magic, ritual sacrifices, etc. are not Christian! Hence they don’t believe in Satan. Worshiping Satan is moronic because if you believe in him, then you also believe in God, Jesus and everybody else – so you know already that Satan will lose. What’s the point?
Nevertheless, it is firmly established in popular culture and social anxieties that there are Satan-Worshipers out there stealing babies and practicing blood sacrifice. Why? Let’s look at the 2nd article: “Therapist ‘Brainwashed’ Woman Into Believing She Was In Satanic Cult” (source). Lisa Nasseff, 41, of Saint Paul, Minn., is suing her former therapist, Mark Schwartz, after getting treated for anorexia, because while under hypnosis, her therapist convinced her that her family was Satanists, that they wanted to hurt and sexually abuse her, and that she had sacrificed her sister’s baby on a Satanic altar.
This is a modern story of how powerfully hypnosis can insert false memories. This can even be done accidentally; if the therapist asks leading questions like “What happened to you then? Was there an altar? Do you remember seeing a baby? What were they doing to the baby…” etc.
But wait – aren’t there historical cases of Satanism? Hasn’t everybody known a guy who’s known a guy who said he knew somebody who was involved in Satanism? Here’s the truth: In the 1980’s, the FBI dealt with nearly 50,000 cases of kidnapped children and abuse. They responded with the “stranger danger” posters, teaching kids not to get in cars with strangers or accept gifts or candy from strangers. Things got a lot more complicated when they realized that in the majority of child abuse cases, the abuser was a parent, friend or neighbor— someone the child already knew and liked.
Then things got really weird. There was an immense reservoir of belief in North America that underground Satanic cults were kidnapping, ritually abusing and killing children. These fears were fueled by two popular books, Michelle Remembers and Satan’s Underground. Michelle Remembers documented the alleged memories revealed under hypnosis of a woman who had been abused by “The Church of Satan”, which was reputed to have thousands of members and be particularly active in the Pacific Northwest. Lauren Stratford, the author of a memoir titled Satan’s Underground, was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show aired in May of 1989 and introduced as someone who was used in worshipping the devil, participated in human sacrifice rituals and cannibalism.
But these wild stories about satanic worship and infant sacrifice were part of a nationwide panic about child abuse that saw hundreds of people accused and dozens convicted for bizarre crimes that had no basis in reality. Historians believe the ritual abuse panic was sparked by several fraudulent memoirs, like Michelle Remembers and Satan’s Underground. The authors and publishers of these books are responsible for causing thousands of families untold harm. Not only were people falsely accused of ritual child abuse, but thousands of women seeking therapy for depression were led to believe that they had repressed memories of ritual abuse from their childhoods.
A 1992 poll in Utah revealed that over 90% of adults believe that Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) was happening in their state.
But the FBI has never found any evidence of a well-organized satanic cult. Michelle Remembers has been shown to be a hoax by three independent investigators. The abusive events described in the book are based on jazzed up versions of African native rituals. Satan’s Underground has been shown to be a hoax by Evangelical Christian investigators.
Nevertheless, by the late 1980s, various levels of governments, the FBI, state and local law enforcement had spent in excess of $200 million in a fruitless search for these nonexistent groups.
The appeal of the satanic conspiracy theory is twofold:
First, it is a simple explanation for a complex problem. Nothing is more simple than “the devil made them do it”. If we do not understand something, we make it the work of some supernatural force. During the Middle Ages, serial killers were thought to be vampires and werewolves, and child sexual abuse was the work of demons taking the form of parents and clergy. Even today, especially for those raised to religiously believe so, Satanism offers an explanation as to why “good” people do bad things. It may also help to “explain” unusual, bizarre, and compulsive sexual urges and behavior.
“The devil made you do it” helps people to understand and forgive. This makes it even easier to deal with the child molester who is the “pillar of the community”. It is not his fault; it is not our fault. There is no way we could have known; the devil made him do it. This explanation has tremendous appeal.
“Satanism” is really just the perverse, backward, diversive, violent underbelly of mainstream religion; its strange “satanic rituals”, which include drinking blood, costumes, candles, and incantations, are little different from the holy rites carried out in churches across America. What appears to be “Satanism” is often just ultra-cultish behavior by religious fundamentalists; either those who believe in God but think themselves to be under the influence of Satan, or those who imagine they are doing God’s bidding.
Satanism is an enormously powerful temptation: If there are witches or Satanists in town, suddenly all behavior is permissible because there is a scapegoat. Suddenly we can do whatever we want, make up any kind of stories about the powerful forces who made us do it, against our will, and people will believe us. So if I’ve always a crush on my neighbor’s underage daughter, or homosexual fantasies, or violent urges, I can allow myself to act on these temptations knowing that I’ll be forgiven – both by God and my community.
How do you distinguish acts performed in a precise manner to enhance or allow sexual arousal from those acts that fulfill spiritual needs or comply with “religious” ceremonies?
In a religious content and setting, bad things seem to happen with greater frequency, because people believe that they will. People believe that Satan is tempting people to do terrible things… and paradoxically, these evil things, when blamed on Satan, indirectly ‘prove’ that their faith in god is justified.
People who believe in a supernatural world excuse themselves from all responsibility. Actions are either God’s will, or they are tempted by Satan. This is why successful preachers with thousands of followers can get convicted of child abuse, apologize and have their flock respond with pity, forgiveness and sympathy. Mankind was weak. Satan is powerful. Of course we can’t deal with our temptations. Of course we will fall. It’s in our nature. We can’t help it… the failure of the leader ironically strengthening his grip on his followers by expanding their fear: Satan is real and strong enough to convince this good man to do terrible things. If he fell, how much more easily am I in danger? So I better follow all the crazy rules and do whatever it takes to stay pure.
With God and Satan in the equation, humanity can quickly sink back to prehistoric shamanism, ritual, and nature magic involving expiation of sin, sacrifice, penance. They can be justified for forceful, obscene or ridiculous behavior, working long hours, inflicting physical and psychological pain and abuse.
Somehow, despicable accounts of sexual abuse, when blamed on the maneuverings of Satan, became a proof of the existence of God.
But take God and Satan out of the picture and you just have a sick fuck who likes to touch children, or a violent psychopath (interestingly, in my experience most psychopaths, child molesters or criminals are religious – religious belief and ideology is part of their pathology and justification for their actions.)