Theistic Satanism: Home > Politics > Should we care about our reputation?
Should Satanists care about the reputation of Satanism?
by Diane Vera
Copyright © 2005 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.
- Some arguments against the idea of Satanist public relations
- Comments on these arguments
- Why the Satanist subculture needs to grow, at least a little bit
- Some arguments against the idea of Satanist public relations
Should we Satanists care about our reputation amongst the general public? Some argue that we shouldn't, on the following alleged grounds:
- Satanism is a highly individual path. To the extent that Satanists worry about our reputation, we allow ourselves to be pressured to conform to society's expectations, thereby defeating what some see as the essence of Satanism.
- Satanists are or should be supermen, utterly beyond caring what the lowly herd thinks of us.
- If our reputation were to improve, Satanism might be in danger of becoming a fad, which, in one way or another, would be bad for the Satanist scene. Some people in the Satanist scene want it to remain tiny and underground, for various reasons.
- Satanism should maintain a scary reputation for the sake of elitism -- so that Satanism will be attractive only to people intelligent enough, independent-minded enough, and curious enough to look beneath the surface of its reputation.
- Nobody will ever listen to us anyway. Any attempt at Satanist public relations is futile and pointless.
- Satanism, according to some folks, is or should be all about facing down our fears and facing danger. Satanism's nasty reputation is, itself, one of the dangers that a Satanist ought to be willing to face, as part of one's own initiatory path.
- A small but vocal minority of people in the Satanist scene say that the aim of Satanism should be to tear down Western civilization as it now exists, usually in favor of an old-fashioned warrior society, either tribal or feudal. Therefore, according to these people, Satanists shouldn't try to be respectable at all in today's world.
- Some folks just like to be thought of as "Evil," for whatever reason - the more "Evil," the better.
Of these arguments, I consider only the first one to have any validity at all.
Comments on these arguments
Below, I'll address the above arguments in reverse order.
- Wanting to be "Evil." There are many different kinds and degrees of "Evil." Many people enjoy feeling naughty. Far less common, at least among adults, is the desire to be seen as a violently dangerous nut. But some people enjoy having a thoroughly nasty reputation.
I suspect that most who feel this way are teenagers. If you happen to be one of the less popular teenagers in a typical public high school, it may indeed be to your advantage to be feared by your peers, as an alternative to being picked on. Better to be a scary oddball than just an oddball.
In the adult world, with only very rare exceptions (e.g. musicians in some genres), it is almost never to one's advantage to be thought of as a violently dangerous nut. And there can be many practical disadvantages, such as loss of job and/or (in most businesses) customers. If you have children, you can lose them, either in child-custody disputes or if neighbors claim that you are abusing them.
Even for teenagers, there can be some pretty severe disadvantages. If you are known as a dangerous nut, you can be much more easily framed for a crime you did not commit. Also, your parents and/or school can force you to see a shrink or even have you committed to a mental institution, and your parents have the legal right to seize and destroy your books, ritual items, etc.
So, if you're a kid who needs to scare away bullies, I would suggest that you learn martial arts or something.
If you still think you need to hint that you're a crazy, dangerous violent criminal in order to scare off bullies, go ahead. Just leave Satanism out of it, please. Be an embarrassment to someone else for a change - like maybe the Neo-Nazis, for example. (In fact, quite a few teenage dabblers in "Satanism" do end up becoming Neo-Nazis. Others end up becoming fundamentalist Christians.)
Satanism isn't just a religion for dorky kids and metal musicians. As far as I can tell, the vast majority of the "Evil" folks are dabblers, by which I mean that their "Satanism" is a phase which they soon outgrow. On the other hand, the more serious and dedicated Satanists - that is, those who actually remain Satanists for more than a year or two - typically are not violent criminals and do not want to be known as such.
(For more about "Evil" in general, please see my articles Satan and "Evil" in Christianity (and Satanism) and Elliot Rose on the absurdity of "Evil" as a principle. See also Why "Satanic ritual crime" doesn't make sense even from a Christian point of view.)
- The idea that Satanists should aim to tear down Western civilization. As far as I can tell, people who advocate this idea are usually either Neo-Nazis or deep-ecology extremists seeking to recruit Satanists to do some of their dirty work. (For example, it is believed by many knowledgeable people that the real person behind most of the "Order of the Nine Angles" pseudonyms is probably David Myatt, a longtime British neo-Nazi who has been involved in many different religions and forms of occultism, using each in turn as a recruiting tool.) Most Satanists would not agree that the aim of Satanism should be to tear down Western civilization.
I personally do not believe that Satan has tied Himself to any specific social or political agenda. I believe that Satan has inspired a wide variety of different new ideas, in different times, places, and circumstances.
Regarding modern Western civilization in partiular, I personally regard Satan as its Muse, not as an entity who is gung ho on tearing it down. Perhaps Satan does intend to give us some needed kicks in the rear. But what god would gain the most from a new Dark Age in the West? Jehovah, whose religions are spreading fastest in the poorest and most war-torn parts of the world.
- The idea that Satanists should be willing to face danger, including the dangers of a bad rep. Facing down fears can indeed be a worthwhile experience. Likewise facing actual danger. However, if you're looking for some dangers to face, there is no shortage of other dangers you can choose from besides the specific danger of being thought of as a violent criminal. As for facing down irrational fears (as distinct from actual danger), the very name "Satan" will still inspire fear in a lot of people, especially those from Christian backgrounds, even after it has become better-established public knowledge that many Satanists are okay people.
- "Nobody will ever listen to us anyway." Simply not true, as the history of the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare attests. See We are not friendless.
- The idea that Satanism's scary reputation keeps out all but the most intelligent and independent-minded. Simply not true. Satanism already attracts its share of idiots, plus some folks who display a pretty blatant goat-herd mentality. And, up to a point at least, some moderate improvements in Satanism's reputation would most likely increase -- not decrease -- the proportion of intelligent and independent-minded people who are attracted to Satanism.
- The idea that Satanism should remain small and secretive. Some people love to be part of small, hidden, secret club. Others worry about Satanism getting "diluted" in some way if the Satanist scene gets any bigger.
People who love secrecy aren't confined to Satanism. I've even heard of some gays who miss the bad old days when nearly all gays were closeted. For some people, a large, semi-respectable gay community just isn't as much fun as the older, thoroughly furtive and underground gay scene. But I think most gays would say that things are much better now than they were back then.
People who worry about Satanism getting "diluted" are usually purists who hope to monopolize the Satanist scene under the banner of their own particular brand of Satanism, whatever it might be. Obviously this would be even more difficult for them if the Satanist scene were even bigger and more varied than it is now.
- The idea that Satanists are or should be supermen. Well, we obviously aren't. There has been way too much talk about Satanists being a purported "Elite." All it has accomplished is to attract a bunch of losers with ego problems. The sooner we all get over it, the better.
Yes, we should strive for excellence at whatever we do. But we're still human.
- The fear that public relations will lead to conformism. This is, to some extent, a legitimate fear. But I don't see it as an insurmountable problem. We need to keep in mind that there is a big difference between (1) trying to be totally respectable and (2) just letting people know that we (or at least the more serious and dedicated among us) are basically sane and not a bunch of violent criminals.
We should NOT aim to be totally respectable. To do so would indeed stifle individuality among us. For example, while it would certainly be desirable for at least some of our public spokespeople to look and act like perfectly normal people, we shouldn't feel ashamed of the reality that some of us - including some of the more serious Satanists, not just the dabblers - are goths or metalheads, or like to dress in all-black. We need to remember - and, when necessary, remind the public - that there's a big difference between dressing in all-black and being a serial killer.
We can take a lesson from the gay community, in which there have been tensions between transgender people and the more conservative gay rights activists who felt embarrassed by the existence of transgender people in the gay community, especially drag queens. Of course, it is legitimate to point out that the majority of gays aren't transgender people. But to feel ashamed that even some gays are transgender people is sheer herd-conformism. Fortunately, the drag queens and other transgender people won these battles within the gay community - which, in most places, is now officially known as the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender) or LGBT community.
Another point of similarity between Satanism and the gay community is that gays, too, were once seen as a bunch of violent criminals. Back in the 1950's and 1960's, before the gay rights movement got off the ground, a lot of people had the idea that both gay men and lesbians were all a bunch of potential rapists and/or child molesters. Back then, gays generally were hated and feared every bit as much as Satanists, if not more so.
But gay activists did succeed in improving the reputation of gays. At the same time, the gay community has become more diverse, hence more accepting of individuality over the years, not less so.
Why the Satanist subculture needs to grow, at least a little bit
We shouldn't aim to become a mass movement. It doesn't seem to me that Satan even wants to be revered by more than a small number of people. It seems to me that Satan's purposes would be better served by religious diversity than by having large numbers of people worship Satan Himself.
However, it would be desirable for the Satanist subculture to become at least a little bigger than it is now.
It would be nice if, at the very least, there were enough of us in any given locale to make it easier for us to meet our fellow Satanists. It would be even nicer if, in and around any given medium-to-large city, there were at least several different public Satanist groups, with different styles, theologies, and worldviews, so that we could all have a real choice as to which group to join.
Not only would these things be nice; they are essential to Satanism's health. The Satanist scene is, now, only beginning to emerge from a very unhealthy state that I refer to as the underground sleaze phase.
Other subcultures, including the gay community and the Pagan community, have gone through an underground sleaze phase too. Back in the 1950's, the gay community consisted of a bunch of sleazy Mafia-run bars. In the 1960's and early 1970's, the Pagan community was a thoroughly unpleasant scene, dominated by obnoxious, endlessly-bickering, ego-driven leaders and their ass-kissing followers - much like the Satanist scene today. There were also quite a few predatory leaders who, for example, expected their followers to have sex with them as part of initiation or what not.
The underground sleaze phase is probably characteristic of all or most small but notorious, popularly-hated subcultures below a certain critical size. As long as the subculture is small and hard to find, seekers will be desperate for information and contacts. And, wherever there are desperate people, there will be folks happy to take advantage of their desperation.
To outgrow the underground sleaze phase, the main thing a subculture needs is simply to grow. Once there are enough easily-found groups around that people have a real choice, then seekers will no longer be desperate. There will be more of a free market, which in turn will raise the standards for the behavior and qualifications of leaders.
What turned the tide for the Pagan community, around 1980 or so, was becoming big enough to hold large Pagan festivals.
The Satanist scene doesn't need to become nearly as big as the Pagan community. Thanks to the advent of the Internet, the critical threshold size necessary for a popularly-hated subculture to outgrow its underground sleaze phase is probably much smaller now than it used to be.
But we do need to grow bigger than we are now.
And, to that end, we need to do a better job of public relations -- NOT to try to reach everybody, but to reach the more intelligent and independent-minded folks out there.
However, if you personally don't want to be involved in any public relations effort on behalf of Satanism, that is certainly your right. Just don't knock those who do. This article is addressed mainly to those who preach that we all shouldn't care about the reputation of Satanism at all, rather than to those who, due to their personal situation, feel that they personally can't do anything about it. It is up to each of us, individually, to decide what we can and will do.