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Open Letter to Colin Ross:
Comments on the Preface to Colin Ross's book Satanic Ritual Abuse
by Diane Vera
Copyright © 2004 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.
To Colin Ross:
I just now came across your online copy of the Preface of your book Satanic Ritual Abuse. Your desire for a balanced and objective approach is admirable -- and probably in the best interests of your patients. However:
- The "problem of Satanism"?
- "Orthodox Satanic cults"???
- "Levels" of Satanism?
- Frank Fuster case as evidence against the SRA-skeptics' position?
- Satanic theology
- More about today's Satanist subculture
- The "problem of Satanism"?You wrote:
In none of this literature did I find a comprehensive context for thinking about the problem of Satanism. Realizing that an adequate discussion would have to be grounded in detailed knowledge of the clinical reality of ritual abuse cases, I sought in vain for a comprehensive study of such cases.
When you speak of "the problem of Satanism," do you really mean "the problem of Satanism" or do you mean "the problem of ritual abuse"? Satanism and ritual abuse are two very different things -- and would still be two very different things even if they actually went hand in hand as often as has been alleged. Even in that case, treating these two terms as synonyms would be a little like treating the word "Christianity" as a synonym for "the Inquisition" or "burning heretics at the stake".
By now, hopefully you're aware that there exists a public Satanist scene, which, for the most part, is NOT criminal. I myself have been a law-abiding public theistic Satanist since 1991 C.E.
- "Orthodox Satanic cults"???You speak of "multigenerational orthodox Satanic cults" implying that the alleged "multigenerational cults" constitute an "orthodoxy" within Satanism. If, as even you point out, it is not clear that such cults even exist, then they certainly do not constitute an "orthodoxy" within a larger Satanist subculture. In future editions of the book, I hope you'll seriously reconsider your use of the term "orthodox".
To the extent that one can speak of a Satanist "orthodoxy," the "orthodoxy" within the public Satanist scene for at least 30 yaers, starting in 1969 C.E., was LaVey Satanism. But the Satanist scene is now growing and diversifying quite a bit, thanks to the Internet, so it currently cannot be said to have any "orthodoxy" at all. There is now a growing network (mostly online) of theistic Satanists, who hold a wide range of views.
- "Levels" of Satanism?You speak of "five levels of Satanism." According to this review by Bruce Robinson of the Ontario Committee for Religious Tolerance, your "five levels" are (1) "isolated criminal deviants (serial killers)," (2) "teenage dabblers," (3) "non-criminal Satanic churches (Church of Satan, Temple of Set)," (4) "narcosatanistos (drug runners, as in Matamoros Mexico) [not really Satanists]," and (5) "orthodox multigenerational Satanic cults." Since I haven't yet read your book myself, I'm not sure whether Bruce Robinson is representing your scheme accurately. If indeed he is, then your scheme puts law-abiding public Satanic churches halfway up a hierarchy of mostly-criminal categories (with "teenage dabblers" being an ambiguous category w.r.t. criminality). And your scheme doesn't include, at all, the many law-abiding adult Satanists who don't belong to Satanic churches.
PLEASE reconsider your terminology in future editions of your book. In particular, please reconsider the notion that your categories constitute a linear hierarchy of "levels" with, of all things, a probably-nonexistent category at the top.
Your hierarchy is similar to the classification schemes used both by some SRA proponents and by some SRA skeptics. Still, I and many other Satanists consider these schemes to be both misleading and offensive. In future editions of your book, I hope you'll take into account the reasons why we feel that way.
The Satanist subculture should be thought of as centering around those Satanists who (1) definitely do exist and (2) have had a publicly verifiable longterm commitment to Satanism. For the most part, these people are NOT criminals. Therefore, Satanism itself should NOT be treated as a primarily-criminal phenomenon.
Alas, there are indeed some very twisted violent criminals who identify as Satanists. But, as far as organized Satanism is concerned, they are a despised and atypical fringe. They are certainly not on any kind of "higher level" than us public Satanists. I, for one, don't look up to them in any way.
There are violent criminals among adherents of more mainstream religions too. Some of them commit crimes in the name of their religions. This doesn't put them on a "higher level" within their religions -- at least not in today's world. (Back in medieval Europe, which was a Christian theocracy, the Inquisitors were indeed "high level Christians," politically speaking. Fortunately, we don't live in a theocracy, whether Christian or Satanist.)
- Frank Fuster case as evidence against the SRA-skeptics' position?You wrote:
Those who are skeptical that Satanic ritual abuse could be real should read Dzeich and Schudson's book on how U.S. courts deal with child sexual abuse, entitled On Trial: America's Courts and Their Treatment Of Sexually Abused Children (1991). Dzeich and Schudson describe a non-Satanic case which resulted in conviction. The Country Walk case from Miami, Florida, resulted in a prison sentence without chance of parole until the year 2150 for Frank Fuster. Dzeich and Schudson write: 'The victims, predominantly infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, were subjected to sexual abuse and pornography; to being drugged and terrorized by sadistic games, disguises, and animal slaughter; and to having to drink urine and consume excrement. Authorities estimated the couple [Frank and Iliana Fuster] had access to as many as fifty children; but by the time the case reached court, only eight were able or permitted by parents to testify' (p. 78). Fuster's wife corroborated the children's stories under oath.
The fact that Frank Fuster was convicted for acts that include all the alleged activities of Satanists except human sacrifice proves that such acts can take place and have occurred in North America in recent years. Though there is no evidence that he belonged to an organized cult, Frank Fuster had prior convictions for murder and child molestation, though these facts were not admissible in court and not known to the jury.
First, the Frank Fuster case is controversial. Quite a few people believe he was wrongly convicted. (For details, do a Google search on "Frank Fuster".)
But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that he was indeed guilty as charged. Even so, if you think that this case should somehow give pause to SRA skeptics, then it would seem that you've missed the main point of most SRA skepticism.
As you mentioned, in the Frank Fuster case, there was no evidence of an organized cult. What most skeptics find hard to believe is NOT the mere fact that humans can commit atrocities, including horrendous forms of child abuse. Rather, the main thing most skeptics find hard to believe is the idea of a large-scale, generations-old organized cult that has somehow managed to conceal all evidence of its existence for so long.
Now, I'll admit I haven't read every single book or article by every single SRA skeptic. Perhaps your two paragraphs that I quoted above were intended to challenge an extreme position I haven't yet encountered? Years ago, I did read several skeptical SRA books (including the one you recommend, The Satanism Scare by Richardson, Best, and Bromley, 1991), plus lots and lots of online articles. In all these writings, I don't recall ever seeing a blanket statement like "No one would ever torture a child." In contrast, some SRA proponents are notorious for blanket statements like "children don't lie."
As far as I am aware, no one denies the existence of at least a few individual criminals -- and at least a few isolated small groups of criminals -- who have committed heinous acts, some of whom have committed their crimes in the name of "Satanism." There are indeed some very sick people out there, some of whom believe that the Devil made them do it, while others believe that God made them do it.
But it's a BIG leap from the existence of such criminals to the idea of a large-scale underground multigenerational cult devoted to extreme child abuse.
Of course, SRA skeptics don't confine their skepticism to cases involving allegations of large-scale organized multigenerational cults. Given the witchhunt climate of the 1980's and early 1990's, and given the unsound methods used by some police departments and child protection agencies at that time, it is likely that a lot of people were wrongly convicted of child abuse, with or without the more bizarre allagations. (Among other problems, there were a lot of new and inexperienced child protection bureaucrats flexing their muscles, due to an increase in funding for child protection programs during the 1980's.) Also, as you yourself admit, there is plenty of reason to be skeptical of testimony based on "recovered memories." But, as far as I am aware, no one has concluded that child abuse doesn't exist, or even that the more extreme forms of child abuse don't exist.
- Satanic theology.You briefly mention "Satanic theology." If you're interested in learning more about the various kinds of Satanic theology, you might want to take a look at my article Who and what is Satan? Various Satanist reinterpretations on the Church of Azazel website. See also the article Satan and "Evil" in Christianity (and Satanism) on my Theistic Satanism site. For other opinions, see the websites listed on my page about The varieties of theistic (traditional) Satanism.
- More about today's Satanist subculture.In general, if you're interested in learning more about today's public Satanist scene as it is now developing, you might want to have a look at my Theistic Satanism website. See especially the section on The varieties of theistic (traditional) Satanism.