Theistic Satanism: Home > Popular > Witchhunt > Xian writers
Christian writers and the Satanic Panic
by Diane Vera
Copyright © 2004 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.
- Nonsense by Christians about Satanism
- The "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare
- Some rare Christians who helped end the SRA scare
- Other unusually good writings by Christians on the Internet
Christians who spew nonsense about Satanism are, alas, a dime a dozen. Here on this page, I'll briefly mention a few of the better-known scaremongers, plus a few others who aren't so well known but who do have a large Internet presence. But my main focus will be on the rare few Christians who have actually sought to learn the truth about Satanism.
- Nonsense by Christians about Satanism
Christians supposedly believe in the Ten Commandments, one of which is "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." One would think this ought to mean, "Do not make accusations against other people -- or groups of people -- without first investigating the matter yourself to make sure that the accusation is true." One would think that Christians ought to think twice about spreading questionable or unverified rumors.
Some Christians do take that particular commandment seriously; but the vast majority do not, it seems. In particular, when talking about people of other religions -- especially Satanism and other post-Christian religions such as Neo-Paganism and modern occultism -- many Christian preachers and writers seem to think it's perfectly OK to throw all the mud they possibily can and hope that some of it will stick. They apparently see nothing wrong with repeating unverified rumors. Or perhaps they just assume that if another Christian writer said it, then it must be true. Or perhaps they're just afraid to do any first-hand research, lest they contaminate their own souls by associating with non-Christians?
Below are my critiques of some fairly typical Christian articles with a high Internet profile:
- My comments on "Satanism: The World of the Occult" by Russ Wise
- My comments on Jerome Dominguez's page on "Satanism"
- More later, as I come across them and have time to respond.
I wouldn't ask conservative Christians to approve of any non-Christian religion whatsoever, let alone approve of Satanism. They could not possibly do so while remaining true to their own beliefs. However, there's a world of difference between disapproval and slander. It's one thing to disagree with my beliefs. It's quite another thing to assume that I am a criminal.
Another Christian article I've taken the time to comment on, though it does not have a particularly high Internet profile, is "Satanism: Bunk or Blasphemy?" by Ted Peters. (See my comments here.) I found this article interesting because Ted Peters is a mainline Protestant theologian, whereas the vast majority of Christian writings about Satanism are by fundamentalists, evangelicals, or conservative Catholics. Alas, the moderateness of Ted Peters's Christianity didn't make his article any better than what I would expect from, say, a professor at a typical fundamentalist Bible college. In fact, in some ways it was worse.
The "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare
Before the SRA scare got going in the 1980's, the best-known Christian writer on Satanism was Mike Warnke, author of a book called The Satan-Seller, in which he claimed to have been the high priest of a secretive criminal Satanic cult that was involved in drug smuggling and which had connections with "the Illuminati," an alleged centuries-old world-ruling conspiracy. The Satan-Seller was published back in 1972 The "Satanists" were portrayed as violent criminals, but their activities were not nearly as horrific as those depicted in later books.
The SRA scare itself was launched in 1980, with the publication of Michelle Remembers by Lawrence Pazder. Michelle Smith's story has been investigated by various people, including the Catholic Church. As far as I am aware, no one has found any evidence to corroborate her story. (See the article Michelle Remembers: The Debunking of a Myth by Denna Allen & Janet Midwinter, London Mail on Sunday, September 30, 1990, Page 41.)
There were many similar alleged cases thereafter. Lots of people, undergoing questionable forms of therapy, "remembered" all manner of horrific "Satanic sult" activity from their childhoods. At the same time, quite a few toddlers in child care centers were asked leading questions by psychotherapists until they "disclosed" sexual abuse by the child care center staff and other adults; and in some case the "disclosures" turned into allegations of full-blown "Satanic Ritual Abuse." Lots and lots of probably-innocent people were charged with terrible crimes. The vast majority were not even Satanists of any kind.
Eventually, a lot of people noticed the flimsiness of the evidence in many of these cases. (See Satanism: Skeptics Abound by John Johnson & Steve Padilla, Los Angeles Times, April 23, 1991, Page A-1. See also the 1989 and 1992 reports by FBI Special Agent Kenneth V. Lanning. See also the many sites listed here on my Against Satanic Panics site.) By the mid-1990's, the entire "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare was pretty thoroughly discredited in the eyes of most people in law enforcement, academia, and the major mass media.
Some rare Christians who helped end the SRA scare
The SRA scare was discredited primarily by secular folks. But a few evangelical Christian writers did play a key role, too:
- In 1992, the evangelical Christian magazine Cornerstone published a series of articles exposing several sensationalistic tales about Satanism as frauds. One was Mike Warnke's tale, exposed by Cornerstone writers Jon Trott and Mike Hertenstein. Trott and Hertenstein later expanded their article into a book, Selling Satan.
- Also in the early 1990's, a Christian apologetics ministry known as the Christian Research Institute published some articles skeptical toward the SRA scare, including The Hard Facts About Satanic Ritual Abuse by Bob and Gretchen Passantino in 1992.
Back in 1986, when the SRA scare was still a rising trend, the Christian Research Institute had published "The Many Faces of Satanism? by Craig S. Hawkins. That article didn't do anything to debunk the SRA scare, but it was nevertheless a relatively sane article, as evangelical Christian writings on Satanism go, given when it was written. (See my comments about that article here.)
- Bob and Gretchen Passantino wrote some SRA-debunking articles for Cornerstone too. and on their own "Answers in Action" website, as well as for the Christian Research Institute. (See my comments on various writings by the Passantinos.)
- At some point, ex-Jehovah's Witness Paul R. Blizard co-authored (with G. Richard Fisher and M. Kurt Goedelman) the article Drugs, Demons, & Delusions: The Amazing Saga of Rebecca Brown MD and "Elaine". (No date is given, but this article seems to have been written in the early 1990's.)
Other unusually good writings by Christians on the Internet
By the mid-1990's, the SRA scare had been almost completely discredited. Nevertheless, lots of misinformation about Satanism continued to circulate and continued to find an audience among conservative Christians.
On the other hand, here are some evangelical Christian critiques of some of the misinformation:
- The Truth About Satanism by Lance E. King, Spiritwatch Ministries. Critiques the gullibility of many Christians. Surprisingly good, on the whole. It even contains links to (gasp!) some primary Satanist sources. But it contains some of the usual oversimplifations, e.g. omitting 19th-century literary Satanism from its capsule history of Satanism.
- Giving the Devil more than his due: Supernatural sensationalism and the need for discernment by John W. Morehead. Another critique of gullibility on the part of many Christians, this time concerning an "ex-Satanist" who claimed to be a daughter of Anton LaVey.
- False Witness? by Philip S. Johnson, in a collection of articles on Wiccans and Christians: some mutual challenges. Mostly about Wicca, not Satanism. But Wiccans have certainly been impacted by anti-Satanism witchhunts too, due to the tendency of too many Christians to confuse Wicca and other forms of occultism with Satanism.
- Spiritual Warfare Profiles of Satanism: Are They Misleading? and Methods and Perspectives in Understanding and Reaching Satanists by John Smulo, in Sacred Tribes Journal. A bit out of date, insofar as the author was unaware of the existence of theistic Satanism. But, more recently, he has begun learning about theistic Satanism.
The one big fly in the ointment is that these writers' main justification for critiquing the Satanic panic is so that Christians can avoid looking like complete fools when they try to evangelize Wiccans and Satanists. Alas, that's the only argument likely to have any chance of success at persuading conservative Christians to learn anything at all about other religions, beyond what is said in highly biased Christian sources.