Stream: Our New Satanic Moment

Screen shot from TV news report on Oklahoma City Satanic Mass.
Screen shot from TV news report on Oklahoma City Satanic Mass.

Today’s post is at The Stream: Our New Satanic Moment: A seemingly paradoxical trend of “enlightenment” and brutality. See below for important caveats.

These once United States have had Satanic moments before. Considering only the last half century, in 1966, Anton Szandor LaVey, a.k.a. Howard (‘Howie’?) Stanton Levey, founded the Church of Satan, borrowing ideas from Aleister Crowley’s Thelema “Do what thou wilt” religion and, judging by its effects, from comic books.

Howie’s was a theatrical Satanism…

Now Polanski’s wife was actress Sharon Tate, a woman who was ritually murdered by Charles Manson’s “family”. As one source reports:

One of the killers, Susan Atkins, had danced as a topless vampire in a LaVey show called the Witches’ Sabbath before joining the Manson family.

Another of the victims of that bloody night was celebrity hairdresser, Jay Sebring, who had attended LaVey’s church around the same time as Davis. The sad aftermath of the murders left the church looking pathetic rather than dangerous. While LaVey continued his work and publicity efforts, expansion slowed, and the free-wheeling Sixties attitudes that had tolerated and even welcomed satanism seemed to vanish.

…The next Satanic moment was a reversal of the Sixties’ libertinism. In 1973, The Exorcist scared the bejesus out of the nation, the very effect hoped for by the book’s faithful Catholic author William Peter Blatty. In the movie, certain dialog from a demon was spoken backwards, a haunting effect revealed when a recording of the speech was played in reverse…

The next phase began in the 1980s and swelled to panic levels in the 1990s, when it was believed systematic, widespread abuse of children (and some women) was being carried out by Satanic cultists. The most gruesome fantastical horrific crimes were reported, many plainly rumors but others conjured from “recovered memories” of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) “survivors”…

There has always been a “background level” of Satanism, taken more or less seriously, in popular culture. What’s notable is that in the 1960s, Satanism was hip and sexy, at least among trend setters, until it became serious. With backmasking Satanism became a joke, such that belief in Satan was seen as something only for hicks and zealots. Then with the Satanic Panic, belief in Satan was perceived as actively harmful.

Our new Satanic moment is Janus-faced. Facing right, we have the Satanic Temple, which is using freedom of religion legal arguments to insinuate itself into public life. [Summarized in “Satanism and Religious Freedom“, which as an earlier draft of this current article.] …

Facing left is the eerie increase in foul “entertainment”. Movies like Walk Among Tombstones (focusing on “snuff films” and sadistic child murderers), The Witch (Ask your Satanic goat if witchcraft is right for you); TV shows like True Detectives (revolving around Satanic ritual killing), Lucifer (the ultimate anti-hero); web content like “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” (mind control, gore, and worse)…

What are we to make of this new Satanic moment? The previous moments have discouraged belief in a real Satan. The new moment wants us to share the skepticism that Satan is an evil personage. Instead, our new Satan is an enlightened humanist, a good guy, he’s there but not there, an entity more in line with a Masonic Lucifer, a symbolic bringer of light.

Simultaneously, grotesque imagery assures us that human life is cheap and subject to whim, so embrace pleasure when you can. We are told attractive powerful occult forces control (some) events, that if you go along you’ll probably be fine, that anyway you can’t do much about it. There is a distinct ‘them’ and ‘us’ feel in these cultural artifacts, a notion that dreadful changes are coming…

It is a moral imperative to go to The Stream and read the rest.

Caveats. I had less than 1,000 words to tie in all main historical moments of Satanism and also describe what is happening now and what it means. This is not enough, not by far. If you have not clicked over to Stream and are commenting only on the excerpt here, you are doing yourself (and us, if you comment) a disservice.

Above, I do not—I most certainly do not—claim that no children or women were abused. I only say, what is true, that plentiful direct unambiguous public evidence tying self-named Satanists to ritual abuse was lacking. Worse, around that same time many men “oriented” towards young men and boys engaged in systematic abuse (though not, ostensibly, in the name of Satan; and no, I don’t only mean gymnastic coaches). And so on. Summarizing the “Satanic Panic” in one paragraph is no easy job.

There are also no words on the culture of death, abortion and such forth, which are obviously Satanic, but (of course) not always seen that way. I concentrated only on the outward visible admitted incidents. I have the backward masking flap but not the Dungeons & Dragons scare. And so on.

It’s also not only the USA, of course. In Mexico, the Satanic “Santa Muerte” is worshiped. The Church of Satan (Howie’s creation) teeters along here and in Canada. England has the “The UK Church of Rational Satanism“, which is similar to the Satanic Temple. The Left Hand Path has been picking up steam. France? Things like this Vogue issue dedicated to the Satanic. Germany? “German satanic couple held after ritual murder“.

And so on and so on and so on. Look for more of this topic in the future.


  1. John B()

    …how stultifying and hateful Christianity is…

    It says it all for those who don’t understand.

    For anybody interested this is a Brown University “retrospective” (academically speaking) 30 years later on the Jordan Minnesota child sex-ring (followed closely on the heels of the McMartin Preschool case in Californis.

    “Satan is the source” from Mr Ed played backwards? I don’t here it

  2. John B()

    I don’t hear it?

    (Mr. Ed isn’t hear anymore, Mrs. Torrence!
    We wonder wear he went. [The Shining?])

  3. Nate

    All is proceeding as Chesterton describes in “The Everlasting Man”. Paganism always devolves into worship of the demons, as the demons are practical and are seen to ‘get things done.’ Highly recommended reading for anyone wanting a better understanding of western religious history.

  4. Trigger Warnings

    For the dogmatic materialist, the tenets of Crowleyesque Satanism make perfect sense, and the rituals are good fun.

    The real work goes on over a catered lunch in a well-appointed conference room, negotiating the price of fetal tissue.

  5. Hoyos

    On the moral aspects of horror, Gene Veith had the best take: it is moral when it makes evil look like what it is, ugly and repulsive. The Bible itself deals with some very grisly stories, but as an example of something to be abhorred; it sharpens our moral disgust mechanisms.

    That is why you can’t judge a film or book (maybe more a film) based purely on grisly subject matter. I maintain 8MM with Nicholas Cage is one of the more morally excellent examples of the genre. It deals with terrifying evil, but it makes that evil so repulsive that it has an almost cleansing effect. The villains of the piece also show evil as a commonplace human thing, by no means the sole preserve of a caricatured villain.

  6. Ye Olde Statistician

    A Walk Among the Tombstones is a private eye thriller about a pair of serial killers who have struck upon the idea of kidnapping for ransom the wives or children of drug dealers on the grounds that the drug dealers won’t go to the cops. Neither the Lawrence Block’s original book nor the movie had to do with Satan, snuff films, or grisly child murders. Grisly, yes; and the serial killers are not fun people.

  7. Uncle Mike

    Dark Age beliefs are not a return of trendy nostalgia; they never went away. Nor are they limited to Satanism. The human race has not evolved. We are collectively (and individually) as stupid, superstitious, and prone to great evil as we have always been.

  8. Joy

    I believe that good triumphs over evil,
    Don’t you?

    but deliver us from evil,
    For thine is The kingdom, The power and The glory
    for ever and ever,

    There is an English translation to the lyrics.
    If the link doesn’t work,
    Enya “We are free now”

  9. Ken

    “Who, in their right mind … could possibly deny the twentieth century was entirely mine.”
    – Al Pacino (actor), playing John Milton (lawyer), concealing his true identity (Satan) in the movie, Devil’s Advocate.

    While I’m not one to use any Hollywood movie as a reference for much of anything credible, actor/Milton/Satan does touch on a surprisingly valid point out of the movie’s particular context:

    Satan, by all appearances a do-nothing [passive] spectral entity having, for the most part, no real Earthly human delegates (and as Briggs notes, some of these are comic-book-caricatures easily dismissed), not only seems to be winning, but seems to have been winning quite steadily for generations [in apparent soul-counts], with not only no end in sight but rather with increasing momentum — against an Almighty deity having legions of human representatives (priests, etc.) world-wide.

    Think of the implications…

  10. Joy

    The Devil can site movies for his purpose.

  11. Briggs


    The movie did indeed feature, albeit in the background, snuff films. I saw the movie on an airplane (where changes are often made). In the movie, there was a hidden or secretive video store in which these kinds of movies were available. That’s what I understood, anyway. That this video room existed was what allowed the hero to track down the bad guys. And the killers themselves kidnapped (in the movie at least) a girl and tortured her to death. The torture was off camera, but it was described in loving detail by one of the killers.

    It is true that Satanism was never mentioned, by anybody. So that’s a stretch on my part. Still, it was Satanic in the usual sense. Maybe I’m turning squeamish in my middle age.

  12. Some of this is just people looking for SCOTUS decisions, testing the Constitution. Some people find that really annoying, but I tend to think it’s a good thing as long as the goal is something reasonable. For instance, if you don’t want a giant statue of Jesus staring at you in a courtroom, say you’re a gay atheist Ethiopian Jew, you could try to test it away by trying to get a monument of Spaghetti Monster Meatballs of Fury (tm?) erected in a public library. It’s fun! Anyway, some of it is just that. I’ve heard stories of sort of Anti-Christian cults, but I don’t think it’s a big concern. There is a lot of it in the entertainment business, but complaining about that is like complaining about the level alcohol in whiskey. It’s f’n whiskey. It may as well be the Devil Himself.


  13. Uncle Mike

    I’ve heard stories of sort of Anti-Christian cults, but I don’t think it’s a big concern.

    Do you mean such as Al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam, Ansar Dine, Abu Sayyaf, ISIS, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Human Rights Campaign, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, Planned Parenthood, American Atheists, ACLU, the California State Legislature, Saudi Arabia, NAMBLA, SCOTUS, POTUS, etc etc etc?

    There are thousands of anti-Christian groups across the globe, some armed to the teeth and deadly violent, some merely puerile, but all of them stewed in pure evil. It takes pure evil to rape and murder nuns, priests, children, the unborn, the infirm, the innocent, the weak.

    Do you despise all statues, or just Christian ones? When the Taliban dynamited 3,000 year-old Buddhist statues, did you cheer them on?

  14. Uncle Mike, I meant “Anti-Christian” like “Anti-Christ” or “Anti-Hero.” Do you understand? Those other groups are not worshipers of what you’d call Satan. Understand? And why would you ask me if I “despise” statues? If you were on trial, would you be comfortable being surrounded by the iconography of a different, perhaps even hostile, belief system? How do you even understand this blog, anyway? I mean, really.


  15. Uncle Mike

    Are you a Holocaust denier, too, or are you just channelling Alfred E. Newman?

    Because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?

  16. Mactoul.

    Jersey McJones
    Why is “a gay atheist Ethiopian Jew” testing the American constitution? What is his standing? Why should Americans allow him to proceed?

  17. Uncle Mike

    You may be an ambassador to England or France
    You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
    You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
    You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
    Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
    Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

  18. andyd

    Jeezus, a Dylan quoter, of the worst kind.

  19. Salwin

    As silly as Satanism as may be, it’s no more silly than feminism and Black Lives Matter.

  20. Salwin: Some might say feminism and BLM are subsets of Statanism. Some might.

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