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Craig S. Hawkins:
Comments on his article "The Many Faces of Satanism" (1986)

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2004 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

In 1986, a Christian apologetics ministry known as the Christia Research Institute published "The Many Faces of Satanism" by Craig S. Hawkins. Hawkins's article can be found on this page (where it is bundled together with the 1992 article "The Hard Facts of Satanic Ritual Abuse" by Bob and Gretchen Passantino). Another copy can be found on Believer's Web.

As evangelical Christian writings about Satanism go, Hawkins's article is not too bad, given when it was written. In 1986, the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare was still a rising trend. Not much skeptical literature had been published yet. Few and far between were any voices of anything remotely resembling sanity - even among secular writers, let alone among evangelical Christians.

To his credit, Hawkins states that "animal and human sacrifices" are "very rare" even among the people he classifies as "traditional Satanists," by which he means "those Satanists who approximate the basic stereotype that most people have concerning what a Satanist believes and does."

Nevertheless, his article focusses more on the criminal element than his above-quoted observation would seem to warrant. He also says, "But it can be safely stated that the criminal aspect of Satanism is serious enough to warrant many police departments around the nation training staff concerning how to identify and counteract this menace to society." That latter statement would be inexcusable today. But, back in 1986, a bunch of subsequently-discredited evangelical Christian "experts on Satanism" were still going around giving seminars to police departments on "occult crime." Since they hadn't yet been discredited, Hawkins can't be blamed for assuming that at least some of these "experts" might have had at least some idea what they were talking about.

Back in 1986, all sources of information about Satanism were necessarily very skewed, due to sheer unavailability of adequate primary sources. Nearly all Satanists themselves kept their beliefs secret, thanks to the SRA scare. So, besides a tiny handful of public Satanist leaders such as Anton LaVey and Michael Aquino, plus a tiny handful of social scientists who had done studies of members of the Church of Satan and the Temple of Set, the only other publicly available seeming primary sources of information about Satanism were: (1) self-described "ex-Satanists," some of whom were later shown to have been phonies; (2) people who had gotten into trouble with the law (at least some of whom claimed "Satanism" only as part of a Devil-made-me-do-in insanity defense); (3) those Satanists who were seeing shrinks and who were considered to be somehow interesting enough to get written about by their shrinks in psychotherapy journals; and, of course (4) "recovered memories" and other accusations of "Satanic Ritual Abuse." These sources only confirmed the popular impression that Satanism must consist solely of criminals, crazies, and people with pointy ears and ridiculous haircuts.

In a footnote, Hawkins correctly pointed out the unavailability of primary sources. However, he blamed it on "Satanists' penchant for secrecy and often violent disposition towards anyone attempting to reveal their existence" - rather than on the violence that many Satanists would have faced from fanatical Christians if they were out of the closet about their Satanism.

Hawkins did not make full use of those primary sources that were available to any serious researcher. At least he apparently did bother to read The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey. But, for some reason, Hawkins neglected to learn much if anything at all about the beliefs of the Temple of Set, or about earlier public Satanic groups such as Herbert Sloane's Lady of Endor Coven. Thus, Hawkins was not fully aware of the wide variety of Satanist theologies. In the section of his article titled "God and Satan: Their Existence and Relationship," he assumed that nearly all of us are either LaVey-style atheists or Christian-based duotheists of some kind.

Also, in Hawkins's capsule history of Satanism, he neglected to mention literary Satanism - the various 19th-century novels, poems, and plays that portrayed Satan and/or Satanists in favorable light.

Nevertheless, Hawkins was and still is one of the very few evangelical Christian writers to pay even lip service to the idea that one should avoid sensationalism and be careful about factual accuracy when writing about Satanism and other minority religions. For example, he criticizes the common evangelical Christian tendency to confuse Satanism with Paganism and occultism. As Hawkins puts it, "if we wish to effectively evangelize occultists, we should not oversimplify to the point that we do not adequately understand and refute their views."

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