On a website called God Discussion, with the ability to send its blog posts to Google News, there’s a post titled “Theistic Satanism Booming on the Internet, says Catholic Conference: But Why Would anyone want to Worship the Devil?” by johnthomas didymus, June 7, 2011.
First, thanks to the author for linking to a page on my Theistic Satanism website. Alas he also linked to, as an alleged authoritative source, a page about “The History of Satanism” on the website of the Satanic Kindred Organization. That page contains some serious errors which are echoed in the God Discussion post.
The Satanic Kindred “History of Satanism” page says:
Some Satanic cults are alleged to be involved in drug, prostitution and pornography trade and to have real estate holdings. Members are said to include white-collar professionals. These do not pertain to the modern day Satanists(LaVeyan)
Michelle Remembers (1980), by Michelle Smith and Lawrence Pazder, M.D., recounts the terrors Smith experienced as a child of five in Satanic rituals in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1954-55. She said her mother yielded her to devil worshipers, who used her as a living pointer in rituals. She witnessed the ritual killings of animals and infants and was shut in coffins that were put into graves and into which were thrown dead animals. She also watched the cult members attempt to bring life to a white statue of a man with horns. She said she was tricked into defacating on the cross and was asked to renounce the christian god. Smith descibes instances in which during the rituals, she witnessed the devil emerge from the fire, a man animal with a whipping, snake-like tail that struck her on the neck and seared her flesh. Fire shot from his finger tips and filled his mouth. He had clawlike hands, steaming nostrils and odd toenails. His shape constantly changed, and he appeared to be apart of the fire. Smith was able to purge her memories in psychiatric therapy at age 28.
The Satanic Kindred page doesn’t mention that the book Michelle Remembers, which launched the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” scare of 1980 to 1995, has been definitively debunked as being, at best, a collection of false memories — if not an outright hoax. (See the Wikipedia article on Michelle Remembers. See also “Satanism” scares and their debunking – a brief introduction on my website Against Satanic Panics.)
The Satanic Kindred page goes on to say:
Perhaps most dangerous of all are small cults whose members call themselves Satanists and practise ritual murder and animal mutilation. Such groups are said to kidnap runaway children and the homeless and use them as sacrificial victims.
Such cults were alleged to be commonplace in the 1980’s, and were a common feature of the highly questionable “recovered memories” that were faddish back then. However, in real life, only one cult even remotely resembling this description has ever been found and prosecuted: the drug gang led by Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo.
The Satanic Kindred page then says:
Ex-Satanic cult members have reported gruesome rituals in which hearts are cut out of living victims. Others report that victims are sexually abused before being killed; then their blood is drunk and their flesh is eaten. Women “breeders” produce babies for the “ultimate” and “ideal” human sacrifice. Former breeders report witnessing their babies being skinned alive, eaten, burned, poured in concrete and cut up and thrown in the ocean. Ritual tools are made from their bones.
These are classic “Satanic Ritual Abuse” allegations, most of which have long since been discredited and have never been substantiated. (See various pages listed in my collection of links about The “Satanic Ritual Abuse” scare of the 1980’s and early 1990’s on my website Against Satanic Panics.)
The Satanic Kindred page then talks about the infamous Bakersfield cases:
n 1985 a ten year old boy in Bakersfield, Califonia, said that he and about two dozen other children were taken to a bad church by some 40 adults, who took off their clothes while chanting prayers to Satan. The children were forced to throw knives at a living baby, which was killed and dissmembered. The children were then forced to drink its blood. Then the boy said that the adults molested the children.
The Satanic Kindred page fails to mention that 34 convictions were overturned on appeal. (See the Wikipedia article about the Kern County child abuse cases.)
Then, finally, the Satanic Kindred page gets around to the following very brief note of mild skepticism, buried in the middle of a paragraph:
Similar cases were reported throughout California, but the authorities found little evidence to support the claims.
Nowhere does the Satanic Kindred page put these allegations into historical context. In reality, the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” scare was a full-fledged witch hunt that ruined the lives of thousands of probaly-innocent people.
Instead of any further skepticism, that paragraph ends with:
In 1987 a report issued by the Alberta Royal Canadian Mounted Police suggested that Satanism might be related to unsolved cases of missing children. Satanists where also believed to be responsable for some grave desecrations and robbings.
The Satanic Kindred page never mentions the 1989 report by FBI special agent Kenneth Lanning, who concluded that the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” scare was almost entirely nonsense.
The Satanic Kindred page then presents, without any hint of skepticism, the claims of Maury Terry:
Author Maury Terry, in the Ultimate Evil (1987), asserts that David Berkowitz, the convicted “Son of Sam” killer who terrorized New York neighborhoodsin the late 1970’s, was a member of a Satanic cult that operates in Westchester County and planned the Son of Sam murders. Terry states the cult is linked to a network of cults across the country, with a primary headquarters near Los Angeles, and that Charles Manson may have been involved with it. The cult is reportedly an offshoot of a Satanic group in England.
Maury Terry’s The Ultimate Evil is well known to have been trash journalism. I bought that book many years ago and stopped reading when I got to the list of alleged Satanic holidays. Supposedly it was significant that a lot of the murders committed by various serial killers occurred within a few days of a Satanic holiday. But there were so many alleged “Satanic holidays” that almost every day on the calendar was within a few days of a “Satanic holiday.”
The Satanic Kindred page echoes “Satanic Ritual Abuse” scare claims without any attempt to debunk them. Instead of debunking them, the Satanic Kindred page’s sole concern is to classify these alleged crimes as “Devil Worship” and, thereby, to absolve LaVeyan Satanists and Setians:
LaVeyan Satanists, Neo-pagan Witches and neo-pagans are wrongly blamed for devil worship activities. Several organizations carry on public relations and education programs for the media and members of the law-enforcement community to counteract such accusations
Satanic religious organizations, such as the Church of Satan and Temple of Set, DO NOT condone the violent blood sacfifices of the cults and are not associated with them in any way. According to Aquino, the Temple of Set emphasizes “rational self interest” and taking responsibility for one’s own intellectual and ethical decisions.
The Satanic Kindred’s “History of Satanism” page also contains, without any note of skepticism, various other questionable historical claims, such as Anton LaVey’s claim to have participated in the filming of Rosemary’s Baby. But I’m not nearly as concerned about those as I am about the Satanic Kindred’s endorsement of long-debunked “Satanic Ritual Abuse” claims.
It is vitally important that Satanists not endorse such claims. When Satanists – of all people! – repeat such claims without debunking them, it gives the claims undeserved credibility in the eyes of the general public, because a Satanist’s endorsement of such claims will be seen as an admission that goes against our natural bias.
Anyhow, the God Discussion page echoes the Satanic Kindred page as follows:
There is a tendency for Theistic Satanists who come to the open on internet to present a refined form of practice. There is, however, evidence that some of the small and clandestine Theistic Satanic groups are indeed dangerous and often include extreme personalities such as race supremacists, criminally inclined and deviant individuals. Some of these groups practice ritual murder, animal sacrifices and mutilation and some kidnap runaway children and homeless people for their rituals. LaVeyan Church of Satan members do not refer to such groups as Satanists but as Devil Worshipers. There are police documented cases of Devil Worship activity in California. The best example being that of a ten year old boy who, in 1985, in Bakersfield, California, reported to the police that he and other children were kidnapped by Satanists and subjected to gory rituals. Similarly in 1987, Canadian Police had reasons to believe that Satanists might have been involved in a series of unsolved cases of missing children. Ex-Satanic cult members have reported extreme rituals to the police in the past.
Alas it is true that there are some people who commit violent crimes in the name of Satan — and they can’t all be accurately characterized as “Devil worshipers,” as I have discussed at length elsewhere. But the specific allegations referred to in the above paragraph have long since been debunked.