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The Watchman Fellowship:
Comments on various articles about Satanism on their website
by Diane Vera
Copyright © 2004 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.
The Watchman Fellowship is a Christian apologetics ministry specializing in critiquing "cults."
Some relevant pages I found on the Watchman site include Christian Comedian and Author of The Satan Seller Ex-Satanist Mike Warnke Fabricated Story, Critics Charge and two articles on Lauren Stratford, Critics Charge: Best Seller "Satan's Underground" a Fabrication and Questions Concerning "Satan's Underground". These articles, all apparently written in the early 1990's, report on the controversies without taking sides. (The webmaster appears to have made some errors regarding dates. For example, the review of Cornerstone's 1992 article on Mike Warnke is dated 1990.)
Although the above articles are reasonable for the most part, the Watchman Fellowship has published at least one pretty awful article too. On the Watchman site I found an anonymous, un-dated article, titled simply Satanism, which (1) cites the Christian Bible as its main source of information about "Satanism," even though Satanism didn't even exist back in Bible times, (2) insists on conflating Satanism with "witchcraft, the occult, and the New Age Movement," and (3) outlines four alleged "levels of Satanic involvement," of which all but the bottom level (dabbler) involve violent criminal activity. The highest level is an alleged international conspiracy.
Such systems of "levels" were common among the "Satanism experts" who went around giving seminars to police departments back in the 1980's. Most of these "experts" were later discredited.
More recently, in 2003, the Watchman fellowship published one of its better articles, Satanic Cults, Ritual Slaying, and the Laci Peterson Murder Case: An Interview with Bill Ellis on Satanism, the occult, and folklore. This article isn't about Satanism per se but does contain some good analysis of the popular folklore about Satanism. Bill Ellis is an Associate Professor of English and American Studies at the Hazleton Campus of Pennsylvania State University.
The Watchman Fellowship's 2001 Index of Cults and Religions had this to say about Satamism:
Satanism: Represented by two separate groups, secular and traditional Satanists. The secularists do not believe in in a literal, personal, spiritual being called Satan, but rather consider Satan to be an archetype or symbol that represents the ideas of Satanic philosophy. Various satanic ideals include self-interest, indulgence, an anti-herd mentality, and an emphasis upon rational self-interest. Examples of modern Satanism include The Church of Satan founded by Anton LaVey and now led by Peter Gilmore as High Priest, Michael Aquino's Temple of Set, and Lord Egan's First Church of Satan. Traditional Satanism, which involves the worship of the Satan of the Bible through a perversion and parody of Roman Catholicism, appeared in the fifteenth century coming out of the Inquisition. Contemporary expressions of traditional Satanism are rare, and popular elements of it, including the testimonies of alleged former Satanists and Satanic Ritual Abuse have been discredited.
Pretty good, as Christian writings on Satanism go. At least the above paragraph puts the SRA scare in its proper place. But it oversimplifies what the Satanist scene was like in 2001. It does correctly identify the largest organizations, but does not describe them accurately. The Temple of Set regards Set as more than just a symbol, and Egan's First Church of Satan welcomes Satanists of all kinds, theistic as well as atheistic/symbolic. The above paragraph also omits, entirely, the majority of theistic Satanists, whose worship of Satan doesn't usually feature a parody of Roman Catholicism. (Rituals are more commonly derived from other sources, e.g. the Western occult tradiition.) Admittedly, there still weren't very many public theistic Satanists even in 2001. Since then, more and more theistic Satanists have emerged from the shadows, at least on the Internet.