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Why are Satanists so obnoxious?
by Diane Vera
Copyright © 2007 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.
It is by no means true that all Satanists are obnoxious. There are all kinds of people in the Satanist scene.
However, if you're involved in the Satanist scene, especially online, it's easy to get discouraged by all the infighting, which can get incredibly nasty.
Why is there so much infighting in the Satanist scene? And why is it so nasty?
To understand some of the reasons why, and to put this matter into perspective, I think it's useful to compare the Satanist scene to another subculture that has been notorious for especially nasty infighting, namely the feminist movement. Some of the reasons are the same. These include:
- Both LaVeyan Satanism (the best-known and most popular form of Satanism) and feminism include a critique of social pressures to be too nice for one's own good. Feminists critique, specifically, the social pressures on women to be too nice for our own good, whereas LaVeyan Satanism rejects "turning the other cheek" in general. Therefore, both feminism and Satanism attract people who are tired of being expected to be nice. This will inevitably include both (1) some people who really were too nice for their own good, and who are learning to assert themselves, and (2) some people who never were nice at all, and for whom feminism and/or Satanism serve as an excuse for their obnoxiousness.
- Both feminism and most forms of Satanism promote personal freedom and rejection of outmoded morality. Although these are worthy goals, they have the unpleasant side effect that, when you jettison traditional rules and social expectations, a flood of misunderstandings will inevitably ensue. Revolution is always messy. A group of people simply cannot get along without an agreed-upon set of social expectations.
A society which values individual freedom needs something to replace the old rules. In my opinion, what would help the most is more widespread knowledge of conflict-resolution skills and respectfully assertive communication skills.
The Satanist scene has some problems in common with other nonmainstream subcultures too, as well as the feminist movement:
- A tradeoff of virtues: Courageous people are often obnoxious, whereas nice people are often cowards. People who are both nice and courageous do exist, but they are rare. To be nonmainstream in any way - especially if you are public about it - requires at least some courage. This in itself creates a predisposition toward obnoxiousness.
- Satanism, like many nonmaintream subcultures, tends to attract more than its share of emotionally unstable people. Fringe subcultures naturally attract those people who have been hurt the worst by the flaws of the mainstream, or who are least able to cope with those flaws.
- What I call the underground sleaze factor. See The underground sleaze phase - a historical perspective in my article Don't give up! Some reasons to hope that the Satanist scene will improve. As explained in that article, this and related problems will likely solve themselves in time, as the Satanist scene continues to grow and diversify.
But the Satanist scene also has some unique problems of its own, some of which stem from the LaVey legacy:
- One big problem is LaVeyan Satanism's emphasis on vengeance. In my opinion, neither the extreme of all-forgivingness nor the extreme of vengefulness is healthy. Unfortunately, the Satanist scene now has way too many people who seek vengeance for every little slight, and who fear that backing down from any fight is a sign of weakness. No wonder the squabbling never ends.
- Too many Satanist leaders have claimed that their own particular brand of Satanism is the one and only "true Satanism" and that all others are "pseudo-Satanists." Alas, LaVey himself set a very bad example in this regard, especially in his later years. Too many of LaVey's opponents have responded in kind, rather than accepting the reality that there are many Satanisms.
- Yet another problem, also stemming in part from the LaVey legacy, is the lack of a sense of a common enemy. Too many Satanists would rather pick fights, either with other Satanists or with Wiccans, than join forces with anyone against the religious right wing, about which many LaVey-derived Satanists are still in denial. Many LaVey-derived Satanists are still living back in the 1960's, when LaVey lived in San Francisco surrounded by hippies and a lot of people thought that Christianity was on its deathbed.
In my opinion, the Satanist scene desperately needs to outgrow its continuing (though starting to fade - fortunately!) domination by groups with a fixation on LaVey. LaVey did have some very good ideas and should be remembered for them and for his role in getting the public Satanist scene off the ground. But we need to outgrow the LaVeyan emphasis on vengeance, in favor of a more balanced approach to human relations, and we need to outgrow the LaVeyan dogmatic tendency. Therefore, we need to resist any pressure to define "Satanism" itself in terms of LaVey or his writings or his ideas.
For more about this matter, see Needed: new kinds of Satanism on the Church of Azazel site. See also Don't give up! Some reasons to hope that the Satanist scene will improve, on the Black Goat Cabal site.