Theistic Satanism: Home > To Pagans > Stop scapegoating Satanists! > Pamphlet critiquing Bonewits
Below is a pamphlet that was originally distributed by Diane Vera at the New York City Pagan Pride Day festival on Saturday, October 1, 2005. Approximately 180 copies were distributed.
Explain your beliefs without
maligning another minority religion
by Diane Vera and Geifodd ap Pwyll
Saturday, October 1, 2005 - New York City.
Modern Pagans often feel a need to tell people they are not Satanists. Indeed, Paganism is not Satanism, and Pagans certainly have a right to say so. But we ask Pagans to avoid maligning or misrepresenting Satanism. If you aim to dispel misconceptions about your own religion, it would be hypocritical to endorse misconceptions about other minority religions.
Alas, today's Pagan Pride Day festival, an event intended to educate the public about modern Paganism, has as its keynote speaker one Isaac Bonewits, who is notorious for writings that perpetuate misconceptions about Satanism.
To be fair, Isaac Bonewits is right about at least one thing. His article “The Enemies of our Enemies” includes a brief debunking of the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare of the 1980's and the early 1990's. Even Bonewits has pointed out that the alleged criminal conspiracy of Satanists that has been written about by many fundamentalist Christians and tabloid sensation-mongers is completely imaginary and has no basis in fact.
Yet Bonewits wants Satanists to be excluded from coalitions to defend the civil rights of minority religions!
Bonewits scornfully dismisses the reality that most Satanists do NOT see Satan as a "God of Evil." To most Satanists, "Evil" is a matter of personal perspective. For example, cats are evil if you're a mouse, but not if you're a human who loves cats. Most Satanists view Satan as being "good" in the sense of encouraging human individuality, achievement, independent thinking, and a healthy appreciation of the world in which we live, as well as of our own bodies (rather than seeing them as obstacles to "spiritual enlightenment" or "salvation"). All these things have been considered "evil" by traditional Christian/Biblical standards, at least to some extent, but are "good" by the standards of many modern Westerners. Most forms of Satanism – unlike any major religion – celebrate all these things as the virtues that they have become in the Western world today.
Bonewits endorses common Pagan misconceptions about Satanism. Many Pagans have claimed that Satanism is just a "form of Christianity" or a "Christian heresy." Satanism does, obviously, have roots in Christianity. But this does not make Satanism a form of Christianity, or just a "Christian heresy," any more than Christianity is just a form of Judaism -- or just another pagan Hellenistic mystery religion, though Christianity was influenced by the Mystery religions as well as by Judaism. Most Satanists have their own non-Christian interpretations of who/what "Satan" is and do not believe in the Christian God. Most forms of Satanism derive their ideas from other sources besides just Christianity or Judaism, including various ancient mythologies (especially Egyptian), Gnosticism, and modern Western occultism (e.g. Aleister Crowley), just as Christianity has derived its ideas from many other sources besides Judaism.
It is valid for modern Pagans to point out that Satanism has partially developed out of Christianity, and that Satan is not a part of their own pantheons. But to claim that Satanism is itself a form of "Christian fundamentalism" is blatantly false -- and very offensive both to Satanists and to Christians. Most Satanists have completely different belief systems from those of Christians, and the claims of such spokespersons for Paganism as Isaac Bonewits will fail to impress any serious comparative religion scholar.
Bonewits’s article "The Enemies of Our Enemies," starts with an implied claim that Satanists in general (not just a few very immature fanatics) “would like to destroy” Pagans. He bases this on remarks by some prominent Satanist leaders, remarks allegedly similar to traditional Christian ideas about all non-Christian religions. We agree with Bonewits that the quoted comments by Michael Aquino (e.g. “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”) are overgeneralizations. But Aquino’s comments, though unflattering, do not evidence a desire to destroy. He has not claimed, for example, that everyone outside the Temple of Set will be punished eternally, or that modern Pagans are any kind of threat to other people. Anyhow, there are now more and more Satanists who would be much more cautious than Aquino about making any sweeping generalizations about other religions. See, for example, our own websites:
- Diane Vera on theistic Satanism - www.theisticsatanism.com
- Your Friendly Neighborhood Devil Worshiper (Geifodd ap Pwyll) - www.geocities.com/geifodd/
The tendency to impose clear-cut us-vs.-them dualisms on other religions is by no means confined to the Jewish/Christian/Islamic tradition. It is found in some Eastern religions too, such as Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. Isaac Bonewits himself is guilty of imposing overgeneralized us-vs.-them dualisms upon others in his own publications! In "The Enemies of Our Enemies," and "Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo-", he essentially inverts the tendency of many Christians to lump all non-Christians into one big "Satanic" box. Bonewits uses Christianity as his catch-all box for any Western belief systems he doesn't like. Not only does he classify Satanists as "Christian fundamentalists," but he also classifies "Secular Humanists and other Western atheists" as "Christian heretics" (not just, say, “Christian-influenced,” which would be accurate) because "the God and Devil they don’t believe in are the ones defined by Christian doctrine."
Bonewits's article "The Enemies of our Enemies" divides Satanists into several categories, making absurdly oversimplified and derogatory comments about each. In fact, there are many different Satanist belief systems. Bonewits's classification does not even begin to encompass them all. His article also contains blatant falsehoods such as a claim that there are only a couple dozen "Internet Satanists" (posting under multiple pseudonyms) in the entire world. Evidently he has not taken a close look at the Internet Satanist scene lately.
Bonewits accuses Satanists of ignoring “ambiguity and complexity” in non-Christian belief systems, but, at the very same time, he ignores ambiguity and complexity in Satanist belief systems and in the many possible worldviews of Western atheists/agnostics/humanists. It is a wonder that such blatant hypocrisy is not recognized for what it is.
For more information about common Pagan misconceptions about Satanism, please see the following article:
- “A Critique of Wiccan and Other Neo-Pagan Disclaimers About Satanism,” by Diane Vera - www.theisticsatanism.com/pagan/CritiqueDisclaimers.html
This pamphlet was distributed at the New York City Pagan Pride Day festival, Saturday, October 1, 2005. The authors host some large Yahoo groups on theistic Satanism, listed on the following page:
Copyright © 2005 Diane Vera and Geifodd Ap Pwyll. All rights reserved.