The Enemies of Our Enemies

(Version 2.9.6)


Welcome Satanists?Are You Crazy?

Copyright © 1990, 2005 c.e., Isaac Bonewits

Toleration over Common Sense?

Like most Neopagans, I believe that toleration in general is A Good Thing. Unlike some, however, I also think it can be foolish, when exercised too much towards those who would like to destroy us. For example, when I go to a Pagan festival, I don’t mind Buddhists, agnostics, or liberal monotheists showing up to check us out. Yet I feel violated when Christian fundamentalists arrive with intent to spy upon us, to convert us, or to interfere with our activities. I have much the same reaction when I see Satanists at our festivals or in “our” bookstores trying to recruit new members.

Some Satanists/Setanists (or “Setians”) will claim from time to time that, like Neopagans, they are an “oppressed” religion, that they are “misunderstood,” that they are the victims of the Christian press. They will quote the old saying, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and argue that we should become their allies. All of which makes sense only if you are ignorant about both Satanism on one hand and Paleo-, Meso- and Neopaganism on the other.

Varieties of Satanic Belief and Practice

As I have written elsewhere, there are several kinds of Satanist: One type is the Liberal Heterodox or hippie/punk/gothic Satanist. These are the anarchist sorts, generally young, who stress the revolutionary or Luciferian side of the Satan myth. They are essentially rebelling against subservience to the Christian God, the sickness of Christian morality, and their parents. A sizable proportion of them might have become Neopagans if they had heard of us first, and some of them do so later on. Some of them alternate between calling themselves Satanists or Pagans, depending on whom they are addressing, much to the annoyance of real, adult Pagans. As far as I can tell, they seem to grow out of being Satanists when they finish adolescence (which can, alas, take decades for some).

Another type of Satanist is the Conservative Orthodox or fascist sort: generally middle-aged, uneducated, and unsuccessful (the basic vigilantee or militia type), though their leaders can be quite clever and successful. These are the right wing Satanists who like to stress the might-makes-right, dictatorial side of the Satan image. Major denominations would include the Church of Satan (“COS”) and the Temple of Set (“TOS”), both of whom are careful to distinguish themselves from the other types. Note that right wingers (whether Satanic or other Christian sorts) often present themselves under more appealing terminology, such as by calling themselves “Libertarians.“

A third kind of Satanist is the sincere sociopath or crazy kind. These folks are obsessed with the death, torture, rape, and madness parts of the Christian Satan archetype. Usually from extremely dysfunctional families, these people have grown up being told that they are evil, so they try to fulfill everyone’s expectations. They tend to commit various horrible crimes in Satan’s name, and sometimes belong to one of the other sorts of Satanism as well. Right wing Satanic leaders, when speaking for the public record, always deny that the sincere sociopaths are “real” Satanists, much as other Christians disown criminal behavior by people calling themselves Christian.

A fourth kind of Satanist is the smooth-talking (or sometimes just whiney) Internet Satanist, of which there are a couple of dozen or so (posting under multiple psuedonyms) in the world. This sort relies on the short memories of Internet surfers and the ignorance of beginning Neopagans to slip into their minds a wide variety of shallow, ingenuous arguments (usually based on deliberately blurring the distinctions between Mesopaganism and Neopaganism) that “Satanism and Paganism are really the same thing.” This is usually combined with declarations of personal and group innocence, pious denunciations of criminal behavior by “psuedo-Satanists,” and sanctimonious appeals to their freedom of religion — none of which has anything to do with Neopagan polytheology. If you don’t fall for their nonsense, or even worse, argue with them, their veneer of civility vanishes swiftly in a firestorm of invective, slander, and occasional email bombing.

Of course, being the Christian Dualists that they are, most Satanists of the four sorts I’ve mentioned so far insist that, “There are no categories of Satanists — there are Satanists and nuts” (Tony Levy, aka “Anton Szandor LaVey”). In other words, “us real ones” vs. “all those other fake ones.” Sound familiar? Each Satanic organization and individual insists that it and it alone is the arbiter of who is or is not among the elect and actively despises all the others. That “all” is important, for while members of any religion may want to know who is or isn’t a fellow religionist, and may even have a low opinion of some other faiths, the wholesale dismissal of all other paths as evil or inferior is perhaps the defining characteristic of a Christian (or Islamic or Zoroastrian) Dualist. Keep this in mind, especially when reading the Aquino quotes below.

Imaginary Satanists and Ritual Abuse Accusations

Another category of Satanists is the imaginary global conspiracy of child-molesting, kidnapping, human sacrificing, cannibalistic, multigenerational criminals who haunt the dreams of fundamentalist Christians and third-rate tabloid journalists — I’ve even been accused of being one myself! The primary evidence for this conspiracy comes from people who believe themselves to be “ritual abuse survivors” and from Christian preachers who claim to be ex-leaders in the Conspiracy. Of course, the accusations of incestuous orgies, human sacrifice, and cannibalism come from an ancient urban legend and have been falsely laid against many minority religions over the centuries, including the early Christians, Jews, “witches,” and various heretical groups. These claims have always served to whip up public hysteria against the chosen target groups (see Satanic Panic by Jeffrey Victor). Today the targets are modern Neopagans, New Agers, and Satanists, all of whom are deliberately equated with each other by fundamentalist preachers.

Some of the people who call themselves “survivors” do appear to have been through some kind of horrible experiences that their minds have chosen (perhaps with help, see next paragraph) to interpret as Satanic rituals, just as others with similar stories have interpreted their experiences as encounters with UFOs. However, verifiable evidence of organized Satanic abuse activities has yet to be found. Some, of course, will insist that the inability of law enforcement agencies — from the FBI and Scotland Yard down to the smallest local constabulary — to ever discover tangible evidence of the Global Satanic Conspiracy just “proves” how powerful the Conspiracy really is! It doesn’t. The conspiracy can’t be found because it is imaginary!

According to those who believe in the “False Memory Syndrome” explanation, claimed abuse survivors of fantastic events may be “Therapeutic Abuse Survivors” — having been misled by therapists and/or hypnotists accidentally or deliberately implanting false memories, sometimes on top of accurate or imagined events of abuse happening to oneself or one’s friends. Recent brain research supposedly indicates that false memories are fairly easy to create, since even true memories consist of tiny fragments of perception (an eyelid shape here, a nose dimple there) routinely combined by our minds into the full images we think we “remember.” Indeed, a growing number of people who were formerly claiming to have been ritual abuse survivors have in recent years recanted their claims and sued their former therapists for the damages such claims have caused to their families, friends and communities. Visit the Satanic Ritual Abuse Page for details on all the arguments.

One reason the “False Memory Syndrome” theory, which is also invoked in discussions of non-fantastic claims of abuse, is so controversial is that it’s all too easily cited by both the innocent and the (presumed) guilty. Indeed, the sorts of crimes suspected of being committed by “Satanists” are, in fact, well within the “might-makes-right” and “do as thou whim” attitudes that many modern Satanists do have and promote. I’m sure that more than a few Satanists over the years have taken advantage of their “moral freedom” to commit crimes, even against their own children. I just don’t believe that these jerks and psychos constitute an organized conspiracy. Considering how much difficulty the Satanists who post on the Net have agreeing or cooperating with each other about even the most trivial issues, the odds of Satanists ever having a successful conspiracy to order a pizza, let alone torule the worldas they and others fantasize, are slim to none.

As for the professional “ex-Satanic High Priests,” they seem to be short on evidence of their claims too. Oddly enough, although some of these preachers have confessed to multiple felonies on widely broadcast radio and television shows, and in “best selling” Christian books, it seems that none of them has ever been arrested, nor have any of them gone to local police and confessed their crimes. Subsequently, none has ever served prison time for deeds that would normally put them away for the rest of their lives. Apparently, if you claim to have reformed yourself and become a good Christian, you no longer need to pay your debt to society, no matter how terrible the crimes you’ve admitted committing. Any of you attending public lectures by supposed “ex-Satanists” might want to bring this up with local law enforcement officers and insist that they be arrested — I for one would love to see such liars forced to testify under oath in a court of law. At this point, all of the majorex-Satanistsandex-baby-breedershave been exposed by Evangelical Christian journalists as frauds, in such books as Selling Satan (about Mike Warnke) and The Todd Phenomenon  (about John Todd aka Lance Collins). Unfortunately, little matters like facts don’t stop the fearmongers from repeating their lies.

This brings us to the last, and by far the largest, category of Satanists: the fundamentalist Christians themselves, who spend all their time inflating the image of Satan, feeding psychic energy into the archetype, and publishing detailed descriptions of the sorts of evil acts that devil worshippers are supposed to engage in — descriptions that some other sorts of Satanist are only too eager to imitate. Ironically, the attribution of godlike power (as in, for example, the supposed ability to perform “counterfeit miracles”) to their Satan by fundamentalists, who pride themselves on being so orthodox, is historically a sign of Christian heresy — monotheists are not supposed to admit that their Evil God is as powerful (or even nearly as powerful) as their Good God.

The Unwisdom of Welcoming Satanists

Neopagans are constantly having to explain to the general public that Satan is a figure in Christian and Islamic (and Zoroastrian) mythology, that our deities are far older and more powerful than their Satan/Shaitan, and that you have to be a Christian, a Moslem, or a Zoroastrian in order to worship or even respect the Devil because nobody else believes in him. We know full well that many Christians actively try to blur the distinctions between Satanism and Paganism in the public mind, and we should know that having a cozy relationship with Satanists is going to play right into such Christian smear campaigns.

So why are some Neopagans tolerant of obnoxious, unethical, or nasty behavior when the people involved are calling themselves “Satanists” when we wouldn’t cut other fundamentalist Christians engaging in the same kind of behavior so much slack? Granted, Satanism is a part of the occult community — being the “occult” or hidden side of Christianity — and many Satanists do practice various sorts of ceremonial magic. As we know, however, the occult/magical/metaphysical community comprises a wide variety of organizations and individuals — good, bad, ugly, and just plain weird. We don’t have to be friendly to all of them, nor do we have to accept them all as equals or allies. Neopagans have enough trouble interacting with Mesopagans (such as the Thelemites, Odinists, and Voodooists), many of whom engage in activities of which many Neopagans disapprove, without allying ourselves with and defending a bunch of jerks, fascists, and psychopaths who have publicly and proudly announced their allegiance to the supreme figure of Evil in Western mainstream culture.

I don’t care if it’s possible to come up with superficial arguments that the Devil “isn’t really such a bad fellow,” or to claim that you’re really worshipping the Norse deity Loki, or the Egyptian god Set (who supposedly was “originally” a Not-Completely-Bad Guy 4,000 years ago), or various Lovecraftian critters, and that all these spirits were “victims of bad public relations.” Such arguments don’t change the subconscious images that most people (including the Satanists themselves) have of these entities, nor the nature of the psychic energies that they tap into. Nor does it matter that public representatives of Satanic organizations are frequently charming and charismatic indviduals — most con-artists are. If some Satanists are really “proto-Pagans,” we can give them the information they need to mature without having to pretend that their juvenile sophistries deserve respect.

Speaking of juvenile sophistries, lets review the facts about the origins, philosophy, and character of Satanism and its practitioners…

The Origins of Satan and His -isms

Satan as a demigod was created by the early Christians to slander the Paleopagan horned gods and to fulfill the necessary role of the Evil God who fights their Good God. They took the ancient Jewish prosecuting attorney of Yahweh’s royal court, made this “tester” a metaphor for the Jews who didn’t accept Jesus as their Messiah, then for the secular authorities of the Roman Empire who considered the Christians to be “atheists,” then still later for differing Christian sects opposed to the forces of orthodoxy. See The Origin of Satan by Elaine Pagels, and Satan: The Early Christian Tradition by Jeffrey Burton Russell for details (though Russell willingly plays the theologians’ ingenuous games as described below).

In order to explain why the early Christians were being successfully perscuted by the traditional Jews and those few Roman Paleopagans who considered them treasonous threats to the Empire, Satan’s nature and power had to be continually inflated until he essentially became the Evil God. This mythic role was one of several ideas “borrowed” from Zoroastrianism’s dualism via the cult of Mithra, Christianity’s primary competitor for political control of the Empire, and that dualism’s influence on Jewish (Essene) and Paleopagan Gnosticism. Although early Church theologians were careful to never call Satan a deity, and indeed to insure that those who more honestly considered him one got labled as “heretics” (the most famous of whom were the Manichaeans and later the Cathars), they nonetheless treated Satan (as they did the Virgin Mary) as divine in all but official title.

A deity of absolute evil makes no sense in a polytheistic system, only in a dualistic one — which is why all the other ancient Zoroastrian deities had been reduced to subordinate status to the Big Two, and why the Christians tried to turn all the Paleopagan deities they encountered into either “saints” or “demons.” Indeed, that Evil God is critical to the Christian worldview. As Alan Watts put it in Myth and Ritual in Christianity, “A Christianity without the Devil is, then, lacking in something which is of the essence of the Christian consciousness.”

Two important polytheological principles need to be mentioned in passing here: (1) don’t confuse “dualism” with “polarity” — the former assumes hostility between opposed principles, the latter assumes harmony and mutual dependence — and (2) don’t assume that dangerous or tricky deities and spirits in Paleopagan religions were viewed by their peoples as being cosmically Evil or in any other way similar to how Christians and Moslems view their Satan/Shaitan.

All the different forms of Satanism now active in the West are branches of conservative Christianity, whether they will admit it or not. “Satanism” as an organized concept (an “-ism”) was created by the Roman Catholic Church as an inverted version of itself, with a little help from leftover Gnostic heretics (see Jeffrey Burton Russell’s A History of Witchcraft, for details), in the process of justifying the European Crusades against the Albigensians and Cathars, and later the Witchhunts. It was the Roman Catholic Christians who defined the symbols and beliefs of Satanism in the first place, and who invented rituals for them to be supposedly performing, based on the ancient urban rumours mentioned earlier. Christian ceremonial magicians then elaborated these into actual rituals, mostly for the purpose of entertaining wealthy and jaded nobility with “depraved Satanic orgies,” rather like people today who run “S&M supper clubs.” The writings of modern Satanists have merely given a “blackwash” to the fundamentally Christian worldview involved — they are still allowing the most repressive forms of Christianity to define the universe of discourse! The Temple of Set and its doctrines were created to give Satanists another name (Set) to use in public, while still calling their deity Satan in private. The many “independent Satanists” who post on the Net that they don’t actually believe in Satan as a real spirit, nonetheless show that their atheism/agnosticism/existentialism, like that of their fellow Secular Humanists, is saturated with Scientism and Social Darwinism — both of which are offshoots of Christian Dualism. Which leads us to…

Satanic/Setanic “Philosophy” vs. Neopaganism

Satanists/Setanists are obsessed with forcing everyone into simplistic Christian/Islamic Dualism, just as other fundamentalists are. That’s why they insist on lumping the “White Witches” (Wiccans) and Neopagans in with their official enemies, the Christians — that is, whenever they’re not trying to recruit us as allies. In The Church of Satan, supposedly by “authorized biographer” Blanche Barton, Tony Levy actually went so far as to denounce several well known Neopagans (including yours truly) by name in the same paragraph with the “ex-Satanic High Priest” fundamentalist Michael Warnke and Setanic competitor Michael Aquino (who had stolen much of LaVey’s membership).

As for Aquino himself, not too many years ago he was denouncing Neopagans and other Goddess worshippers as being worthy only of his contempt. Here are some exemplary excerpts from Nevill Drury’s book, The Occult Experience (NY: Avery, 1989):

However, where [Aquino] differs from Christians, mystics and Pagans — whom for this purpose he lumps together — is in his belief that the psychic dimension separates mankind [sic] from the rest of Nature. Mystics and occultists alike are content to subsume their individual self-hood in a wash of cosmic consciousness — a type of surrender to a higher force. Christians, he feels, are bogged down with feelings of guilt and hypocrisy, endorsing “hackneyed moral standards” in an effort to appease God…” (p112).

“Other religions,says the Temple’s introductory screed, areerroneous in principle and therefore unworthy of peer status.” If this seems arrogant, Aquino has his reasons: “All conventional religions, including the Pagan ones, are simply a variation on the theme of reunion and submergence of the self within the natural universe. So from our point of view it really makes no difference whether you pray to a father god or to a mother goddess — or to an entire gaggle of gods and goddesses! You’re still wishing for their acceptance. You’re waiting for them to put their arms around you and say, ’You belong. You are a part of us. You can relax. We will take care of you. We approve of you. We endorse you…’ The Satanist or black magician does not seek that kind of submergence of the self. We do not seek to have our decisions and our morality approved or validated by any higher god or being. We take responsibility unto ourselves.” (p112-113).

“We consider Set to be our activating force and the entire notion of good and evil is something which is determined by human beings themselves. We cannot pass the responsibility to any god, whether it is a so-called benevolent god or a so-called evil god” (p113).

Now, these are Aquino’s own words, captured in print and on videotape. They make it very clear that, however erroneous and shallow his understanding of Paganism might be, (1) he clearly does not consider Satanism and Paganism to bethe sameand (2) that he considersSetiansto be Satanists — as he also states directly in quite a few internal TOS documents — and so I will refer to them for the rest of this essay. Among the references cited by Drury are: Aquino’s own “The Crystal Tablet of Set,” p. 23; “Runes,” Vol. II: 6, 1984; “Runes,” Vol. I:2, 1983; and Aquino’s monograph, “The Church of Satan,” 1983, p. 193.

Of course, when Satanists want to ingratiate themselves with (or just annoy) the Neopagan community, they publish letters or newsgroup posts that deliberately ignore the important distinctions between Paleo-, Meso-, and Neopaganism, so they can show how much “like” Paleopaganism or Mesopaganism their versions of Satanism supposedly are. The similarities to Mesopaganism shouldn’t be surprising — most Mesopaganism is Christianity mixed with Paganism. The fact that Paleopagans often had customs that modern Neopagans would consider bad ideas, doesn’t mean that ancient Pagans were “proto-Satanists” worshipping Forces of Evil — and only a fundamentalist Christian would believe they were. These deliberately deceptive Christian Dualist arguments lead some Satanists to claim that Neopaganism “should” include Satanists in their ranks, “because we’re really the same.“

Long-time members of the Norse Pagan community may remember when Stephen Flowers (aka “Edred Thorson,” author of several books on runes), acting as Aquino’s second-in-command (head of the “Order of the Trapazoid,” yet another idea stolen from Anton LaVey), tried to convince them that Odin was “really” just another name for Set, and so they should all join the Temple of Set and do Nazi rituals with him (I have copies in my files of the letters he sent out). This opinion got the Satanic Runemaster thoroughly (and rightly) rejected by the majority of the Norse Mesopagan community; rightwing and racist as they were, this was too much for them to swallow. (Supposedly, Flowers is no longer making these claims and is now calling himself an “Odian,” though he is still within the Temple of Set.) Today, it’s Loki rather than Odin who gets pointed to, along with other trickster deities, as “evidence” that our Paleopagan ancestors supposedly worshipped Satan under other names. This, of course, entirely ignores the fact that trickster deities are “good, weird, horny, whimsical and/or confusing” as often as they are “evil,” and shows once again the Christian Dualist habit of shoving all spirits into airtight Good and Evil pigeonholes while ignoring ambiguity and complexity in non-Christian systems.

What about people who call themselves “Pagan Satanists“? Well, they may exist, just as other “Christo-Pagans” do. But these Mesopagans no more represent the mainstream of Neopaganism (or Paleopaganism, for that matter) than the Jews for Jesus represent Judaism or the Theosophists represent Buddhism. We wouldn’t accept arguments that Christianity is the spiritually superior fulfillment, or even a logical variation of, either Taoism or Buddhism, so why should we accept that the “flip side” of Christianity — Setanism — is somehow just another kind of Paganism? For that matter, do these “Satanic Pagans” even exist outside of the Net? Or are they just another set of masks for old-fashioned Christian Satanists to wear when talking to Neopagans?

Lately, Setanists have taken to misquoting Jung and other modern psychologists about the “shadow side” of human nature, erroneously equating it and what they call “Dark Side” deities and impulses (based on the words of that famous theologian, Darth Vader) with Evil. Then they claim that we are supposed to “embrace it” (rather than understand and calmly control it), and all become Satanists.

Most other Satanic “philosophy” simply consists of turning Catholicism or other forms of conservative Christianity upside-down and inside-out (as if that’s going to be an improvement), advocating hedonism, and adding some warmed-over quotes from Hitler and misquotes from Crowley, Nietzsche, Darwin, etc. and a dash of Scientism to the mix. Way down deep inside, it’s shallow.

The “Heroic” Character of Satanists

Blanche Barton, in the Introduction to The Secret Life of a Satanist, described Levy as “cynical, bitterly misanthropic, and violently determined in his role as founder” of the COS, as “a frighteningly deceptive man,” with a “seething, brutal side,” and “at times, an almost unbearable oppressiveness to his intolerance and anger.” While the rest of the book consists of fawning admiration and total acceptance of Levy’s biographical claims, he hardly comes off as a noble or heroic person. Aquino, on the other tentacle, who is the brains and money behind the TOS, is an ex-Military Intelligence officer (so you know just how much you can trust anything he says) who brags about the ritual he did in a Nazi ceremonial chamber in Germany.

Face it, most Satanists actively approve of various types of behavior, both magical and mundane, that Neopagans consider to be unethical and immoral. A few Satanists are just as evil — at least in their own imaginations — as the members of the Inquisition, Hitler’s stormtroopers, Stalin’s secret police, or Central American death squads. Most, of course, are no more evil than the average street corner con-artist, though they try to impress us as being far more dangerous. However, it’s important to remember that there is nothing in Setanic doctrine (left wing, right wing, or sociopathic) to separate the genuinely evil from the merely obnoxious, for anything you can get away with is approved of by their God of (“Beyond Good and”) Evil, on the grand old theological principle of “might makes right.“

Neopaganism is only fourty years old. We can add another twenty years, if we count the early Mesopagan Wiccans. Many of us have consciously identified ourselves with historical victims of Christian persecution (witches, magicians, heretics, and heathens) as a way, among other reasons, to extend our psychic history. So it’s a tempting argument to say that we also should identify with every other group that gets denounced by fundamentalists. After all, they frequently target members of other minority groups that many Neopagans belong to, approve of, or at least have learned to tolerate, such as gay men, lesbians, transgendered people, polyamorous triads, feminists, science teachers, Planned Parenthood counselors, yoga teachers, crystal healers, psychics, astrologers, etc. Of course, Christian fundamentalists also denounce gamblers, drug dealers, thieves, murderers, rapists… whoops! Do we really want to defend anyone and everyone whom fundamentalists have ever denounced? Should we, going right to the heart of the Satanist toleration issue, offer support to individuals and organizations who advocate ideas and actions we consider evil, just because we have no legal proof that they have yet acted on their proclaimed beliefs?

Over the years, I have met scores of people who called themselves Satanists — I even called myself one for eight months when I was a teenager (see My Satanic Adventure elsewhere on this website). I learned back then, and subsequent experience has reiterated the lesson, that most people who practice Satanism are Christian fundamentalists in drag. Once in a while I would meet a genuinely nice, if confused, person in a Satanist group, but they usually wound up dropping out and joining some other path. The overwhelming majority of Satanists I have known were sleazy, manipulative, parisitic and unethical. I can’t think of a single reason why we should make them feel welcome in our community, or why we should make their activities any easier, or why we should help their groups to grow and prosper. If the Setanists were ever to conquer the world (Goddess forbid!), they would herd us into ovens just as quickly as the other fundamentalists would.

The Religious Freedom Issues

Now, I firmly believe that people are entitled to have whatever religious beliefs they wish, no matter how wrong or foolish I might consider those beliefs, because I want other folks to extend the same freedom to me and supporting religious freedom is more important to me than living in a world where everyone practices a religion I like. Therefore, I don’t believe that members of any faith have a right to enshrine their religious beliefs into civil law or to force religious minorities to live according to the majority’s theological opinions. Nor, however, do members of any religion or quasi-religion have a right to use their beliefs as a cover for committing what criminologists refer to as “crimes with victims,” such as murder, rape, stealing, and polluting, for example (as distinct from “victimless crimes” covered by most sex, drug, and gambling laws). The basic “don’t kill, rape, steal, pollute,” etc., sort of moral code, necessary for the physical welfare of any group of humans (and the Earth) is not a specifically religious one but is (or should be) a universally agreed-upon set of survival principles for post-barbarian cultures.

After some long, emotional discussions with a former spouse (who is a fervent civil libertarian) I’m forced to reluctantly admit that exactly the same reasoning holds whether we’re dealing with Satanists or other Christian fundamentalists. We don’t have the right to exclude them from our public events, nor to prevent them from shopping in our stores, nor to keep them from talking to the media, much as we might like to. We must honor their constitutional rights to practice their religion. But we don’t have to be helpful to them in the process.

If a Satanic group or individual is being discriminated against in such a way as to make legal action appropriate, they can ask the American Civil Liberties Union for help. If they are just having a public relations problem, on the other hand, they can bloody well hire their own advertising agency to explain that up is down and Evil is “really kinda Good.” Either way, there is no reason for us to spend our limited funds on defending them.

How exactly can we make it clear to Setanists that they are not wanted in our community? As Deborah Lipp puts it, “How do we express our disapproval, and give it clout, without violating their rights?” Her solution: “We do it just as our Pagan ancestors did — by shunning. We don’t have to be respectful or friendly to Satanists. Shunning is ethical and legal, and no one has a civil right to be liked.

What does shunning as a tactic mean? Here’s an example, one that drives the more mercenary members of our community wild: Neopagans who own occult shops should not sell copies of Satanic literature, provide tools that can normally only be used for Satanic purposes (granted, a tricky judgement sometimes), nor allow local Setanists to use our stores to teach classes or to recruit new members. Of course, we can’t keep Satanists completely out of Neopagan shops. We have to allow them to come in and buy other books and products, just as we would allow Christians, Jews, or Buddhists to do so, because to discriminate against them economically would violate their constitutional rights (besides, some of those proto-Pagans might be among them). But we don’t have to make the practice of Setanism easier for them. Satanists are perfectly capable of opening their own shops, and shopkeepers who insist on selling Setanic materials can justly be asked where their loyalties lie. Will this policy cost Neopagan owners who take an anti-Satanist stand money? Yep. Which means that the Neopagan public has a moral obligation to support anti-Satanist occult shops, even if less ethical stores have lower prices.

Unfortunately, we can’t simply exclude Satanists from attending public Pagan festivals, for reasons both constitutional and practical. As Ms. Lipp puts it, “What are you going to do, have attendees all sign oaths that they aren’t Satanists?” Setanists would hardly be bothered about taking a false oath, now would they? But we don’t have to go out of our way to make Satanists feel comfortable or respected, and we don’t have to give them space on our program schedules. If a group of Setanists want to set up a recruiting table at a Neopagan festival, an anti-Satanist table should be set up right next to it, with large signs indicating that the festival organizers do not approve of Satanism. Knowledgeable people should talk to anyone who seems taken in by the Setanists. The same procedures would hold for other conservative Christians showing up at public Pagan festivals. (As I understand it, the only way in the United States that you can legally prevent attendance at an event on the grounds of religion is when that event is a private, invitation-only party. Those of you with a background in civil rights legislation may be able to determine if there really is any way to exclude fundamentalists from Pagan festivals in your country.)

Those of us who interact with the mainstream media can and should refuse to ever defend Satanism. We can and should publicly take the stand that Satanism is stupid, unimaginative, ugly, banal, and often evil — and that just like the Christian fundamentalism of which it is an integral part, Satanism is the enemy of the Goddesses and Gods we worship.

We sure as Hades shouldn’t join in public relations or civil liberties coalitions with Satanists any more than we would with the Inquisition or the Ku Klux Klan. Such coalitions can only benefit (1) the Setanists who will cheerfully hide behind the (very slightly) superior public image that years of hard work have won us, and (2) other fundamentalist Christians who will point to such coalitions as further “proof” that Neopagans and Satanists are identical. We have absolutely nothing to gain from letting the Satanists ride on our coattails, and much to lose.

The enemies of our enemies are our enemies’ enemiesnot our friends. It’s time the Neopagan community closed our ranks against them. As pluralists, we’re usually willing to let our members, friends, and even our clergy, belong to a wide variety of other religions. But Christian fundamentalists, whether they are wearing crosses or goat heads, are simply not welcome, and never will be.

Copyright © 1990, 2005 c.e., Isaac Bonewits. This text file may be freely distributed on the Net, provided that no editing is done, the version number is retained, and everything in this notice box is included. If you would like to be on one or more of Isaac Bonewits’ emailing lists, click here to get subscription information.

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Snailmail: PO Box 1010, Nyack, NY, USA 10960-8010
This webpage is copyright © 1990, 2005 c.e., Isaac Bonewits
Most recently updated: January 22, 2005 (advertising)
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