Opinion: The misconceptions about Satanism
Why the public’s perception of the belief is false
May 4, 2021
Satanism is frequently associated with very negative connotations, the majority of which are misconceptions and generalizations. Although thought of by the public as a cult, Satanism is very different from stereotypical sacrifices and rituals; it is closer to a belief in independence and individuality. I believe that Satanism fell victim to attempts intended to undermine it along with other minority religious groups.
Interpreting a Satanist as someone of malicious intent who partakes in rituals and sacrifices is, for the most part, a mere stereotype. If you asked somebody who identifies as a Satanist if they partake in these activities, they would very likely respond with “No.”; there is a major distinction to make between Satanists.
There are theistic Satanists, those who believe that Satan exists as a living entity and uses his actions as inspiration for their actions. But there are, however, atheistic Satanists. This is the sect of Satanism the majority of Satanists are classified under. Those who identify as atheistic Satanists don’t believe Satan actually exists but use him and other “demonic” symbols such as the number 666 and the famous pentagram as more of a symbol of individuality and independence.
How are these symbols, typically perceived by the public as evil and malicious, now becoming associated with more positive traits, such as independence? I think it stems not only from the rise in atheistic Satanists but also the repudiation of Christian theology in today’s society and the general decline in religious people. The relative “norm” of religion in the past contrasts the lack of it today. According to Gallup Inc., a news company, people in the US who belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque reached 70% in 1999. In 2020, for the first time since 1937, when Gallup initially began collecting data on the topic, the percentage of people in the US who belonged to religion had dipped below the majority of the population, declining to 47%.
The dip in religious people can help propagate the idea of Satanism to an extent. This is on account of the fact that Satanism stands in direct opposition to religion. Now, this may appear contradictory as Satanism is technically classified as a religion, but through associating themselves with “the devil,” they effectively reject religion. It is imperative to delineate association and worship, as Satanists don’t worship the devil. In fact, Satanists don’t worship anything besides themselves. That is the primary purpose; worshipping yourself may be misinterpreted as a narcissistic act, but it simply believes that you should be the main priority in your life, not a god or the litany of other beings worshipped in various religions.
It is important to recognize the innocuous nature of Satanism. The stereotypical rituals and sacrifices that allegedly pervade the belief are false sentiments that originated primarily through what is widely referred to as the “Satanic Panic” of the ’80s and ’90s. The purpose of this movement was to remove Satanism from society. Despite this widespread belief, Satanism wasn’t a major issue, and the movement was based upon false pretenses. One of the primary contributors to this rife concern was the 1980 book “Michelle Remembers,” written by Michelle Smith and her psychiatrist and eventual husband, Lawrence Pazder. This book attempted to perpetuate the idea that Satanism is inherently immoral and that Satanists conducted sexual abuse on children. According to the book, Michelle Smith was abducted by Satan-worshipping pedophiles, and they proceeded to torture and sexually abused her. It has since been debunked as it was discovered the contents of the story had been fabricated in an attempt to create a false sense of danger encapsulating Satanism.
Unfortunately, Satanism’s reputation had been fundamentally destroyed, and it had a ubiquitously negative public perception. Throughout history, people in power have shifted the narrative on Satanism drastically. In the Hebrew Bible, Satan was considered an “accuser,” not the entity from which all evil originates from. Substantial amounts of shifts in religious beliefs took place for us to get to how we perceive Satan today.
The remnants of the “Satanic Panic” can still be found in the modern-day. One notable example of this is Qanon, an infamous conspiracy theory that originated among those on the far-right political ideology. Qanon maintains that the American government is being orchestrated by a group of satanic pedophiles and that former U.S. President Donald Trump is fighting to liberate America from their grasp. Another very topical example is the reaction towards Lil Nas X’s music video “Montero.” The music video contains satanic imagery and an overt display of Lil Nas X’s sexuality. The scrutiny of this video likely stems from homophobia and aspects of Christian beliefs.
Overall, belief in Satanism is just that, a belief. It isn’t operated by pedophiles, nor is there murder or sexual violation present. It is for those that want to defy, to be your own person. Satanism isn’t deserving of universal contempt, nor is it necessarily deserving of appraise. It is a belief that is deserving of respect and acknowledgment.