From the Arizona State University State Press, Friday March 4, 1988, vol. 70, no. 102.

Satanistic sensationalism


How disappointing to see that the State Press has jumped on the media bandwagon hyping the problem of "Satanism." Victor Barajas' irresponsible article is full of unsubstantiated and misleading claims. For example, at one point it is stated that "experts at ASU claim that 10,000 college students disappear from college campuses around the country each year." No doubt most of these vanishing students are simply dropouts. But, Barajas tells us, "some lay the blame on religious and Satanic cults."

Another appeal to unnamed authority occurs in the totally absurd sentence: "According to experts, there are signs that indicate involvement with Satanism: an obsession with Satanic music and videos, a preference for dark clothing and satanic jewelry and an obsession with the popular video and role-playing game called Dungeons and Dragons." Whatever the source, I seriously doubt any correlation between these "signs" and Satanism. Little music contains Satanic references. Most habitual wearing of dark clothing among teens comes from a desire to be trendy, not to worship Satan. Dungeons and Dragons has long been a scapegoat for the results of bad parenting.

The article repeatedly refers to "Satanic cults" when talking about cults in general. The vast majority of cults are not "Satanic"--they are (at least loosely) based on Christianity or other major world religions. I have seen recruiting at ASU by the Unification Church, Nichiren Shoshu, and myriad Christian fringe groups, but not once have I seen any recruiting by Satanists.

Finally, I think Mr. Barajas was duped by "Angel" and "Cat," the self-styled "Satanists" he interviewed. Acording to Barajas, these people claim to follow the "Satanic Bible" and to perform "sacrifices of animals and humans." These two claims are contradictory. An examination of Anton LaVey's book shows: "Under NO circumstances would a Satanist sacrifice any animal or baby! ... There are sound and logical reasons why Satanists could not perform such sacrifices. Man, the animal, is the godhead to the Satanist. The purest form of carnal existence reposes in the bodies of animals and human children who have not grown old enough to deny themselves their natural desires." Other passages regarding human sacrifice state that "Symbolically, the victim is destroyed through the working of a hex or curse, mental or emotional destruction of the 'sacrifice' in ways and means not attributable to the magician." There is no killing of a human being in a Satanic ritual, only a "working of a hex" which is supposed to cause someone to die.

Further, if Mr. Barajas believed this claim about human sacrifice, why hasn't he reported these Satanists to the police?

"Angel" is also quoted as saying that "I know Satan is real because I've seen and spoken to him," yet the "Satanic Bible" states that "most Satanists do not accept Satan as an anthropomorphic being with cloven hooves, a barbed tail, and horns. He merely represents a force of nature--the powers of darkness which have been named just that because no religion has taken these forces out of the darkness." It is my impression that LaVey's "Satan" is more similar to Wilhelm Reich's "orgone" or New Age "energy fields" or "chakras" than to the Christian Devil.

There is no question that there have been crimes committed by self-styled Satanists (though none, to my knowledge, involving LaVey's Church of Satan). Yet these are an extremely small minority of the crimes committed in our society. There have been at least 100 documented cases of ministers involved in child molesting just in the years 1986-87 (see "Betrayal of Trust" by Annie Laurie Gaylor).

In short, claims of a huge Satanic conspiracy of murder, mutilation, molestation and mayhem have so far been sensationalism without substance. Like other urban legends, they are based on people's fears and fantasies. To promote such claims without adequate factual support is an irresponsible contribution to paranoia.

Jim Lippard
Senior, Philosophy