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Rafael Martinez:
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Out Of The Broom Closet - Witchcraft Today

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2006 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

Pentecostal evangelist Rafael Martinez is Co-Director of Spirit Watch Ministries, whose website includes The Truth About Satanism, an unusually well-informed (as Christian writings on Satanism go) article by Lance E. King. King's essay is a bit out-of-date and contains some of the usual oversimplifications typically found in even the better writings on Satanism, such as omitting 19th-century literary Satanism from his capsule history of Satanism. And he does not clearly make the crucial point that the more serious, longterm Satanists are typically not criminals, though he does suggest this by saying, "While some self-described Satanists (primarily youths) do occasionally commit so-called 'satanic crimes',' such isolated events are hardly indicative of a massive conspiracy." But King's article does concisely refute a lot of common Christian misconceptions about Satanism. Certainly it is, by far, the best article about Satanism on any Pentecostal-run website that I'm aware of. King even dares to be intellectually honest enough to include links to some primary source material, i.e. (gasp!) Satanist websites.

Also on the Spirit Watch site is an article by Rafael Martinez himself, Out Of The Broom Closet - Witchcraft Today. This article is mainly about Pagan Witchcraft but contains some statements about Satanism too. Martinez's stance toward Pagan Witchcraft is as follows:

We do not support and will firmly resist the demonization of Wiccans as subhuman monsters and believe that their right to worship as they would must be respected. However, we feel that while witchcraft is not Satanism, it is still Satanic in spirit. Wiccans may well reject any belief in Satan, which in no way dismisses his own actual existence and work which is still very real. At the core of Satan's resistance of God is his rejection of what God has revealed as ultimate spiritual truth, that being the revelation of the Gospel and Person of Jesus Christ ....

Martinez's essay is devoted primarily to debunking common Christian notions about Pagan Witchcraft. As I explained in my article To Pagans and occultists: Why it behooves Pagans and occultists to oppose a Satanic panic on my Against Satanic Panics site, Martinez's attitude is the friendliest that Pagan Witches can possibly hope for from most conservative Christians - especially from most Pentecostals, who are among the fastest-growing branches of Christianity these days.

Martinez's page contains a link to the Wicca-based Pagan essay We Really Are Different by Gini, a psychologist, about some of the differences between Christianity and Wicca-based forms of modern Paganism. I would encourage Satanists to read this because, just as too many Pagans have had a tendency to dismiss Satanism as "just upside-down Christianity," likewise too many Satanists have had a tendency to dismiss Wicca as "just Christianity all over again."

Now for what Martinez says about Satanism, which he discussed in the context of refuting the claim that "Witches practice Satanism and worship the devil!" Martinez first says:

This common claim is one of the most common and sensational, implying that Wiccans are involved in rituals of baby sacrifice and multinational conspiracies bent on Satanic global domination.

Actually the statement "Witches practice Satanism and worship the devil!" doesn't directly imply that Wiccans "are involved in rituals of baby sacrifice and multinational conspiracies bent on Satanic global domination" because real-life Satanists aren't involved in those things either. But it's true that those Christians who most stridently push the claim that "Wiccans are Satanists" typically also promote sensationalistic claims about Satanism.

Martinez then says, after some brief further comments about sensation-mongers like Bob Larson:

Contemporary Satanism is loosely based on a 16th century philosophy of rebellion against Church-sanctioned moral absolutes and is actually devoted not to Satan but to the lower carnal self, practically equating irresponsible abandonment to self-indulgence as "devil worship."

Self-indulgence, yes, "irresponsible abandonment," no. Nearly all forms of Satanism say that we should take responsibility for the consequences of our actions. And LaVey's Satanic Bible advocated "indulgence, not compulsion."

As for what Satanists are "devoted to," that varies with the type of Satanist. The Temple of Set, for example, is devoted to xeper ("becoming," i.e. self-development). And there do exist theistic forms of Satanism that worship Satan as a deity.

Most Satanists can barely articulate their professed belief in Satanism except to bitterly harangue Christianity and Christians and to declare themselves as supreme in their own scheme of existence.

I wonder who he is referring to as "most Satanists." It's true that there are a lot of websites out there by inarticulate kids. But there are plenty of more articulate sites too, and there are plenty of articulate Satanists who post in the Theistic Satanism forums. Were Martinez to explore the writings of the more articulate Satanists, he would encounter much more than just anti-Christian rants and declarations of personal supremacy.

And many, if not all Satanists are actually atheistic in belief, which is in stark contrast to Wiccans who worship the deities of many pagan traditions.

The number of theistic Satanists has grown recently thanks to the Internet. And the Temple of Set always was theistic (although, as of the mid-1990's, the Temple of Set has moved away from calling itself to a "Satanist" organization). There are also atheistic Pagan Witches who see the Goddess and God as symbols for Nature.

The Biblical revelation of Satan as the fallen angel Lucifer, the great opposer of God, is one that simply isn't accepted as a binding truth by most, if not all witches because of its origins out of an explicitly Judeo-Christian spiritual worldview.

Theistic Satanists don't, as a general rule, accept the Bible as "binding truth" either. Most reinterpret the figure of Satan in terms of ideas from other cultures outside the Abrahamic tradition, in some cases identifying Satan with a pre-Abrahamic god (e.g. the Temple of Set). Many theistic Satanists do use at least little bit of Biblical lore too, but, in the vast majority of cases, not as "binding truth."

The only common thread that some Satanists have with Wiccans is an occultic belief in "magickal" access to supernatural powers by ritual and spells.

As I've shown, and as I'll show further below, there are more common threads than just the belief in magick. nevertheless, Satanism and Pagan Witchcraft are indeed distinct religious categories. The commonalities don't make them the same religion, any more than Christianity is the same religion as any of the ancient Hellenistic Mystery religions, despite many commonalities. (Nor is there any evidence that Christianity is secretly controlled by an underground conspiracy of the surviving adherents of any of the ancient Hellenic Mystery religions....)

I should also mention here that not all Satanists and not all Wicca-derived Pagans believe in magick, although apparently the vast majority do.

In short, Satanism is secular humanism wearing a devil's mask that turns Satanists inward toward self-gratification, while Wicca is a religious pantheism wearing many hats from many pagan traditions that seek to connect pagans to the "divine" in all creation.

There are pantheistic forms of theistic Satanism too, including OFS Demonolatry and the theology of John Allee, high priest of the First Church of Satan. There are also polytheistic forms of Satanism, including my own.

The two are entirely incompatible belief systems; Wiccans are not Satanists and wouldn't want to be mistaken as one any more than you or I.

It's certainly true that Wiccans are not Satanists and don't want to be mistaken for Satanists. But they've sometimes overstated or otherwise misstated the differences. (See my Critique of Wiccan and Other Neo-Pagan Disclaimers About Satanism, plus my update here. See also Stop scapegoating Satanists! Various Pagan sites and their not-Satanists disclaimers.) Many Pagans are ignorant about Satanism, sometimes willfully so.

To Rafael Martinez, if you're reading this:  Thanks for hosting Lance E. King's article on the Spirit Watch website.  To Lance King:  Thanks for your attempt to quell the hysteria among Pentecostals.

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