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Things People Get Wrong About the Devil

Dec 15, 2020

Image: The devil incarnate -
The Devil is one of those figures that pretty much everyone has heard of, and pretty much anyone who's heard of him has a good idea of what his deal is according to They know what he looks like, what his real name is, what his secret origin story is, and all about how he wages war against God for the souls of humankind from his blazing kingdom of the damned in the depths of Hell.
And while for many people, the Devil is a folkloric figure or even just a metaphor, many others believe in a literal Devil who has real impact on the world. So even though it would be impossible to be "wrong" about a folkloric Devil, if you want to believe in a biblical Devil, you should know what the Bible does — and more often, doesn't – say about him. Spoilers: all the things you know from the first paragraph are wrong.
The Devil Isn't God's Archenemy
In the popular conception of the Devil, he is the embodiment of pure evil, and as such, he's God's opposite number. The idea is that God and Satan are constantly at war with each other for the souls of humanity, each sending out their angels against the others' in order to destroy their greatest enemy. This view, however, isn't supported by the Bible at all. As the Encyclopedia Britannica points out, it's only in post-biblical Jewish literature that Satan becomes an adversary of God. The idea of Satan as the ruler of fallen angels who rebelled against God simply does not exist in the Hebrew scriptures.
The idea of more or less equal forces of good and evil battling against each other likely entered into Jewish (and subsequently Christian) thinking as a result of the Jews being exposed to the more dualistic religion of Zoroastrianism when they were exiled to Babylon in the 6th century B.C. 
While in the New Testament Satan is portrayed more clearly as an enemy of God, he's still not anywhere close to equal in power. The best he can do is try to tempt Jesus into abandoning his mission of salvation and worship him, all of which Jesus resists without much effort. It's only weaker-willed humans like Judas who succumb to Satan's power. Satan and his minions don't stand a chance against Jesus.
The Devil Isn't All-Powerful
The idea of the Devil as God's evil opposite also creates this image of Satan as being all-powerful, the way God is portrayed in the Bible. Furthermore, he is seen as the origin of evil, a dark creator who brings suffering and ruin into the world at his whim in an attempt to destroy humanity, whom he hates. The Bible, however, paints a very different picture. The Book of Job gives a clearer impression of Satan's relationship to God by showing that he is merely one of a court of heavenly beings who seek God's favor. His power is shown to be limited throughout this book, as he constantly has to ask permission to enact suffering upon Job and his family. He can do nothing without God's express approval.
The Encyclopedia Britannica explains that the Devil cannot be equal with God, as he is a creation of God and in fact his servant, who can only act on God's behalf. Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear that Satan creates nothing, not even evil, as God is the creator of all. The Book of Isaiah says, "I [God] form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things." Satan isn't an evil god opposing a good one. He's an accuser, slanderer, and tempter on God's payroll.
Satan Isn't The Ruler Of Hell
You can see the image in any number of movies, cartoons, or newspaper comics: the Devil as the boss of Hell, torturing sinners and welcoming the newly damned to his domain. This extremely common view comes from that same dualistic instinct that makes people think of Satan as God's archenemy: just as God rules Heaven, the Devil too must have his domain. "God good, Devil bad," as the '80s Christian rock classic goes. However, as youth pastor Jeremy Edgar points out, this simply isn't the case. Hell isn't Satan's kingdom. It's his "prison." And he's not even there yet.
The Book of Revelation tells us that "the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." But this is a vision of the future, set to come after Judgment Day, which by most accounts hasn't happened yet. 
If he's not in Hell now, where is the Devil? He answers that himself in the Book of Job, saying he has come "from going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it." So if Satan is meant to be tortured in Hell, who does the torturing? Extracanonical Jewish and Christian literature says it's God's own archangel Uriel.
Satan Wasn't The Serpent In The Garden Of Eden
If you have ever attended Sunday school, it's likely that one of the earliest stories you heard was the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and how they were tempted into sin by a serpent who convinced Eve to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. For centuries, the serpent who tricked the first humans into betraying God has been identified with the Devil. However, Old Testament Studies professor John Day explains that nowhere in the text of Genesis is the serpent said to be Satan, and — if you interpret the Bible as a set of documents written by humans and not the divine word of God — the idea of "Satan" hadn't even developed by the time Genesis was written. In fact, it's not until the first century B.C. apocryphal Book of Wisdom that the Devil is blamed for bringing death into the world.
For many Christians, the Book of Revelation makes explicit the connection between the serpent and Satan, with God's angels defeating the dragon (Satan) as the fulfillment of God's statement in Genesis 3 that Eve's offspring would crush the serpent's head. And the allusion in Revelation is probably to the sea serpent Leviathan from Jewish mythology. The Eden serpent is just, as the text explicitly says, "a wild animal that God had made."
Satan's Name Isn't Lucifer
The Devil is known by many different names, including Satan, Beelzebub, the Father of Lies, Old Scratch, Clootie (if you're Scottish), Iblis (if you're Muslim) and so on. But if you were to ask someone what the Devil's "real" name is, most people would probably say Lucifer. The popular understanding is that Satan was one of God's angels, named Lucifer, who was cast out of Heaven when he rebelled. But, if you're going strictly by biblical texts, the word "Lucifer" is never once applied to Satan. UCLA Professor Henry Ansgar Kelly explains that the word "Lucifer" is the Latin translation of a Hebrew word used to refer to the morning star (now known to be the planet Venus), and it's not until the third century philosopher Origen that anyone connects the falling morning star with Satan falling from Heaven.
What's more is that the word "lucifer," which literally means "light-bringer," appears three times in the New Testament. And in all three occasions, the word is being applied not to the Devil, but to Jesus. Jesus is the morning star because he represents a new day for humanity. Like much of what is commonly believed about Satan and Hell these days, the popularity of Lucifer as a name for the Devil can be traced back to Dante's Inferno and John Milton's Paradise Lost.
Satan's Name Isn't Even Satan
So if Lucifer isn't the Devil's name, what is it? Well, the obvious response to that is to say that his name is Satan. Everyone knows that name. 'Get thee behind me, etc.' The bad news is this: that's not his name either. It's a title. As the Encyclopedia Britannica explains, the English word "Satan" comes from a Hebrew word meaning "adversary," or "one who plots against another." It's used several times in the Hebrew scriptures and very rarely to refer to an evil spirit. It's not his name, it's his job: to roam the earth and seek out people who he can accuse of wrongdoing. He's not capital-S Satan, he's the satan. The Hebrew word gets translated as diabolos ("slanderer") in the Greek Bible, which is the source for the word "devil." So again, a job description.
This is not to say that there are no proper names used to refer to the Prince of Darkness in the Bible. The Gospels refer to the Prince of Demons as Beelzebub, though as that means "lord of the flies," that might be another title or epithet rather than proper name. The best bet for the Devil's real name might be Belial, which is used in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, as well as numerous non-canonical texts. In much Jewish literature, the chief devil is given the name Samael, so maybe that's it.
The Devil's Backstory Isn't Hidden In The Old Testament
Because such a big deal is made about the Devil, it's easy to assume that the Bible must be filled with lots of ideas and stories about him. That's not really the case, though. There are only three unambiguous appearances of the Devil in the Hebrew scriptures, with the Book of Job being the only one that's more than a passing reference. 
There are two other references in the Jewish prophets that are often identified — inaccurately — as being about Satan. The first is the image of the morning star falling from Heaven (the origin of the name Lucifer) in the Book of Isaiah, and the second is the cherub in Eden described in the Book of Ezekiel. However, Professor Henry Ansgar Kelly explains that the Isaiah passage is merely a metaphor for the fall of a tyrannical Babylonian king, and it's not for hundreds of years that someone drew the connection between this king's fall and Satan's. 
Similarly, the blog Dust off the Bible shows that the passage in Ezekiel about the cherub in Eden is a warning to the king of Tyre (subsequently identified as Ithobaal III) that because he has exalted himself as a god, the true God will send invaders to raze his nation. If you read these passages from Isaiah and Ezekiel in context, it's clear that they're denunciations of foreign kings and not a fallen angel.
Satan Didn't Fall From Heaven...Yet
Just as the name Lucifer has been commonly accepted as the "original" name of the Devil, the common understanding is that his origin story, so to speak, is that he was an angel who rebelled against God for various reasons — pride, jealousy, whatever, usually related to the creation of humans. A third of the angels sided with Lucifer and fell from Heaven and became demons. This version of events became fully codified in western culture thanks to the enduring influence of Milton's Paradise Lost. However, as the Logos blog points out, there's no actual evidence of the fall of Satan and his angels in the primary canon of the Bible. The only mention of Satan falling is in Revelation, which is supposed to be referring to future events. Furthermore, the one-third of angels ("stars" in the extended metaphor) that the dragon Satan sweeps down from Heaven might not even be those who took his side, but rather ones he defeated. The text is ambiguous. 
So if there's no biblical evidence for a fall of Satan and his angels without reading things into Isaiah and Revelation, where do demons come from? The Bible is unambiguous about the existence of demons. Jewish literature tells us that demons were the ghosts of the Nephilim, the giant offspring of human women and fallen angels who fell not due to Lucifer's pride, but regular old desire for human ladies.
The Devil Doesn't Have Horns And A Pitchfork
Even a kid can tell you what the Devil looks like: he's red, with horns, a pointed tail, a pitchfork, a cape, probably a mustache and a little goatee, cloven hooves, and so on. It probably won't surprise you at this point that this image bears no relation whatsoever to the Devil of the Bible. In fact, the Bible never gives a physical description of the Devil at any point. This causes a problem for artists who want to depict Satan for religious illustrations. As Fast Company explains, artists who wanted to portray the Devil — notable among them including Hieronymous Bosch and Albrecht Dürer — had to pull from other sources to decide what a demon and the Prince of Demons looked like, most prominently Greek mythology. As a result, Satan and other biblical demons end up taking on elements of satyrs and fauns, such as cloven hooves, goat legs, and little horns. Satan's pitchfork is likely derived from the trident of the pagan god Poseidon.
Using the goatish figure of Pan and his satyrs as a starting point, medieval artists developed Satan into a bestial figure covered with horns, fur, and eventually scars, boils, and other deformities so that you end up with a figure like the famous illustration from the Codex Gigas. Sometimes also he has faces all over his body, or worse, his butt is also a face.
The Devil Doesn't Look Like A Monster At All
While in the Middle Ages illustrators depicted the Prince of Darkness as the grodiest dude they could think of, later portrayals came to depict him as sleeker and more debonair. Milton's Paradise Lost turns him into a tragic hero, but Goethe's Faust goes a step further in turning his Devil figure, Mephistopheles, into a charming, charismatic dandy — one who could easily persuade someone. It's much easier to see Jason Sudeikis's "Weekend Update Devil" or the dude on the can of ham from here than from the boil-covered Devil of the Middle Ages. And in a way, the charming, debonair Devil is closer to the version presented in the Bible.
The Discovery Series rightly points out that as Satan is a spiritual being, he's incorporeal. He has no physical body, so he doesn't look like anything. But even though the Bible never describes the Devil's true form, the apostle Paul does warn the church at Corinth to beware — not of a beastly demon, but of beauty. He says that "even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." His point is that if the Devil were to present himself to you, it would not be in a beastly form that would terrify you but rather a beautiful form that would fool, tempt, and persuade you, just as false teachers use pretty words to hide the evil of their true messages.
Satanists Don't Worship Satan
People who believe deeply in Satan often also believe in people who worship him. They might have images of people in black robes sacrificing animals or defacing churches with pentagrams or, like, playing Dungeons and Dragons probably. These fears ultimately led to the feedback loop that was the Satanic panic that hit its highs in the 1980s, with innocent people being accused of harming children to the delight of Satan. But while it's true that there are Satanists out there, all that other stuff is supremely fake. As a real Satanist told the Independent, Satanists don't worship Satan. They don't even believe he's real.
Satanists are atheists for whom Satan is a symbol of rebellion, pride, individualism, and rejection of a Christian-centric status quo. Additionally, Satanism embraces skepticism, so many of the spooky accoutrements that suburban moms likely associate with Satanists — ouija boards, tarot cards, and other implements of magical divination — have no meaning to them other than maybe aesthetics. Their central principles are nevertheless focused on egoism and carnal pleasures: indulgence, vengeance, and ethics based on self-interest. When you keep that in mind, it makes sense when the Satanist in the Independent article says that the majority of Satanists seem to be men between the ages of 20 and 45. So while they may not be sacrificing goats on Halloween like your mom thinks, still ... bleh.
Inverted Crosses And Pentagrams Are Not Inherently Satanic
Two symbols seem to be associated with the worship of Satan more than any other in the public consciousness: the upside-down cross and the pentagram. If you were a teen wanting to freak out "the man," these are definitely the things you would spray paint onto the wall behind your school gym. Furthermore, the presence of a five-pointed star in imagery has caused accusations of Satanism against anyone from Mormon churches to multinational consumer goods corporation Procter and Gamble. The fact is, though, that these symbols have origins within — not against — the Christian church. 
The inverted cross — said to be a mockery of Christ's suffering by those who think it Satanic — is, as Catholic Answers explains, a St. Peter's cross. According to Christian tradition, St. Peter was crucified upside down so that he wouldn't appear to be copying Jesus. As a result, this symbol of St. Peter can be seen on any number of bits of papal gear, because Peter was the first pope and all subsequent popes follow in his footsteps. Nonetheless, some people use this as an argument that the pope is the Antichrist.
Meanwhile, Odyssey Online explains that while pentagrams are common symbols in many religions, they were once used to represent the five wounds that Christ received at the crucifixion. As a result, the five-pointed star was actually a protective motif to drive away evil.
The Surprising Truth About The Satanic Bible
People know Satan as a snake in the grass, the sinister whisper you hear when you play awesome rock songs backwards, and the resident lifeguard at the lake of fire. And since someone would only go to that lake after they die, Satan can't be a lifeguard, which just goes to show that the Devil is a liar. But nobody associates Satan with good advice or good anything else unless you're somebody like Anton LaVey. 
A musician and ex-carnival worker, according to History, LaVey founded the Church of Satan, earning him the moniker "Black Pope." He also penned the Satanic Bible, a verbal melange of philosophy, rationalism, black magic, occult ideas, and anti-Christian criticisms. While that sounds like a recipe book for evil, this unusual cookbook might not end in eternal hellfire.
The Devil You Don't Know
Admittedly, the phrases "black magic" and "Satanic ritual" don't instill a lot of confidence when looking for sound moral guidance. People picture human sacrifices, doleful incantations, and possibly "Dungeons and Dragons." But before you burst into a Satanic panic, just know that according to Lifehack, "The Satan described by LaVey isn't the one the Church Lady warned you about." In fact, while LaVey sounds like a bonafide horndog in the text, the Devil has no horns, no dog, and no other body parts. Instead, Satan serves as a symbol for leading a joyous life.
LaVey makes it clear from the get-go that "under NO circumstances would a Satanist sacrifice any animal or baby!" There's apparently mention of sacrificing a human who's "asking to be cursed by their very action." However, per Learning Religions, just like Satan, that sacrifice is symbolic. The site explains that LaVeyan Satanists are atheists, and thus "sacrificing a life to appease Satan is nonsensical." 
Don't Be Ashamed To Be Human
While it's okay to wish harm unto people who harm others or wish you had other people's things, according to the book, people shouldn't commit crimes. Instead, you should pursue a life of pleasure by, well, pleasuring yourself. LaVey also stresses the importance of consent when looking for bedroom pleasure partner. The larger point is that there's no shame in indulging your desires in a non-criminal way. Accordingly, lust, greed, envy, and the other traditionally deadly sins aren't seen as sins at all but rather basic aspects of being human. 
Anton Lavey: The Truth About The Church Of Satan Founder
There are many different kinds of evil. Of course, you've got your just plain nasty black-on-black evil, like serial killers and tacky gold-chain wearing despots. Then you've got crazy evil (eating a firefly) and senseless evil (axing Firefly). And of course, let's not forget that there's a whole library of lesser quasi-evils: mildly foul deeds of infamy like sticking gum under public library desks or sneaking almond milk into an innocent person's coffee.
All these evils are, well, fine. But arguably the best kind of evil is the one you pronounce "eeeevillll," while stroking a python lazily curled around your shoulders. We're talking flamboyant, silly evil. This is the exact flavor of evil exemplified by one Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, wearer of plastic devil horns, and master of cheesy circus music. Come then, if you dare. Let us delve into the mystical life and times of one of the great Satanists of our age: Howard Stanton Levey, aka Anton LaVey.
Who Was Anton Lavey?
Anton LaVey (as mentioned, originally Howard Stanton Levey) was born in 1930. Raised in suburban SanFrancisco, LaVey had a conventional upbringing. His parents were non-religious, and nothing about his early years marked him as a dude destined for demonic dastardliness. By the mid-sixties, LaVey had a cozy little set up as the charismatic leader of the Church of Satan. Partly a cult, part an intellectual movement, the Church of Satan made LaVey (who later was dubbed the Black Pope) culturally infamous right through to his death in 1997. 
So, who was this guy? Well, in an interview with LaVey at the height of his Satanic grooviness (pictured), the first thing you think is that this is a person you'd probably notice if he was standing in the same line as you at Walgreens. He was tall(ish), at six feet, and something about his lean physique and gleaming, bald head gave him a flamboyantly sinister aspect. 
The interview also reveals that he was devilishly pretentious. Affectation came easily to LaVey, but something about his slow delivery, his circuitous sentences, his intense gaze, gave him an odd air of gravitas. Few people in history have been able to wear plastic devil horns and a black satin cape without inviting universal ridicule. Anton (sometimes) came close to pulling it off.
Anton Lavey Lied ... Really, A Lot
In polite terms, LaVey was a storyteller. In less polite terms, the man was a pathological liar. Throughout his life, LaVey wove a thick layer of deception about him. As compiled on the Church of Satan's website, LaVey gave many different accounts of his journey to the Dark Lord's scratchy embrace. In one story, he realized the fundamental evil of humanity when he was working as a murder scene photographer in San Francisco in the 1950s. In another, he claimed he was introduced to Beelzebub and all his hellacious minions by his Transylvanian Romani grandmother. And these are just the tip of the pants-on-fire iceberg. We know for definite that his claims of having been a lion tamer and a crime photographer are completely false. At the same time, it's on the public record that he was a professional organist, a historian savant, and that he made a good living for a time as a "paranormal investigator." 
So it's difficult to separate truth from fiction with LaVey, but we know he sat on a great big throne of lies and the vast majority of his claims about his personal history were likely heavily truth-challenged. LaVey himself said: "I'm one helluva liar. Most of my adult life, I've been accused of being a charlatan, a phony, an impostor. I guess that makes me about as close to what the Devil's supposed to be as anyone ... I lie constantly, incessantly." Good point. Well made. 
Let's Take A Closer Look At Anton Lavey's Satanism
Let's get the big, infernal elephant in the room out the way first: LaVey never claimed to believe in Satan — at least not in the sense one might imagine. To LaVey, Satan was more a symbol and metaphor than a distressingly sulfurous chap in provocative red tights. In LaVey's words, "I mean Satanic in the sense of a philosophical concept, a realm, or a state of being that would best be described as a lifestyle, an outlook, an attitude."
It's hard not to find this version of Satan,well, boring. But the depressingly mundane truth is that  LaVey's version of Satanism was more Evil-Lite (TM) than true infernal intent. More than anything else, LaVeyan Satanism seems to have been a fun diversion for folks with a penchant for amateur dramatics. As he matured, LaVey's version of Satanism fleshed out and gained more depth. He began to flirt with the idea that his Satanic movement offered enlightened people (mostly atheists) a way to "fill the gap between religion and psychiatry." LaVeyan Satanism is described as "exultation of self." It's not built on a desire to destroy all that's good, and to inflict chaos on the world. It's just a way to reconcile an enlightened skeptical worldview with potent fantasy and symbolism. Put another way, he wanted to offer non-religious folks a way of feeling religious. Clearly, he hadn't discovered barbecue flavored cheesy snacks.
Anton Lavey's Inspirations Are A Big Reveal
Let's take a step away from his big, serious Church of Satan endeavors to look at the young Anton's early influences. LaVey undoubtedly walked in the footsteps of Aleister Crowley, an acclaimed occultist and scallawag in his own right. Much of his aesthetic and esoteric lingo pays homage to Crowley's mystical dramatics. Patheos says he also references Ayn Rand, an anarchist libertarian intellectual who reviled faith and superstition in all forms. Crowley advocated extreme mysticism. Rand proclaimed unflinching humanism. Either philosophical influence in isolation might create a passionate and single-minded person, but how can they possibly be combined?
The unusual psychological glue adhering these two fundamentally incompatible life paradigms may well have been LaVey's early fascination with the circus and the life of trickster extraordinaire, PT Barnum. Barnum was a gifted marketer, self-promoter, and is widely regarded as the patron saint of scammers, grifters and silver-tongued bedevilment of all stripes. It seems as good a theory as any, and if that is the case, perhaps LaVey simply stumbled into Satanism in an attempt to reconcile the mismatched pursuits of mystical escapism, objective truth-seeking, and the joys of trickery.
How Did He Capture So Many Hearts And Minds?
To set the scene, a quick recap: It's 1966. LaVey's serious church of nastiness is growing by the day. There's a growing body of beliefs. People are beginning to take it seriously. And behind it all we have this confused drama-boi wearing a black cape. How did one highly weird individual manage to convert such schlock ingredients into a movement with lasting cultural momentum? 
LaVey was a specific kind of historian. He studied ritual obsessively. Reading between the lines of his interviews, he was far more interested in what these mystical movements did than what they believed in. In one interview he said: "Ritual represents the freeing of all intellectual thought and the opportunity to bring out the emotions ... It's a chance to be without hangups at all for a time, and really let what you feel inside come out."
LaVey knew how to rev people up with ritual, and it gained him both infamy and admiration. As one example, in 1967, LaVey sent out a press release for the "first Satanic baptism in history." The press lapped it up. And when you get down to it, this is why people are still talking about LaVey. It wasn't his natty dress sense. It wasn't his name-dropping the Prince Of Darkness. It certainly wasn't his ideas. It was his knack for bringing all this together into groovy rituals that made people stop and stare. He was a savant of symbolism.
Anton Lavey Was Also A Great Big, Bald Cornball
There's also something just deliciously corny about Anton LaVey, and it's hard to believe that he wasn't happily aware of it. As exhibit A, his ... errrm... music. Including his delightful Satanic Mass album. If anyone could listen to all of it in one sitting they are definitely one of Satan's little treasures. Basically, his attempt at being a rock star combines the spectacle of that lean figure, that perfectly bald gleaming head, that immaculate nasty-person goatee, with a guy with a Wurlitzer playing circus carnival music. It's hard to reconcile this with the authority needed to be secretary of a PTA meeting, let alone the infernal Church of Satan. 
The point is, sure, there's depth to this guy. He had meaningful things to say and maybe he was even successful at holding a mirror up to society's self-important religiosity at the time. He was also just a great big nutball nerdmeister having fun as the ringleader of his own personal freak show. This willingness to have fun with his fame makes Anton LaVey so much more interesting than his Church or the people who followed eagerly in his wake to cash in on the Satan mystique. There's an air of the embittered, cruel circus ringmaster about LaVey. But all the while, he's smirking at himself and the audience who are watching. He's fun. 
But Don't Laugh Too Loudly...
While there's a lot of absurdity to LaVey's self-indulgent forays into pop mysticism, some of his beliefs became downright ominous — and not in a cool, "hail Satan" way. In his written work and interview statements, LaVey frequently pays intellectual homage to social Darwinism, specifically the belief that superior cultures would rise to the top while inferior ones would (and should) sink into obscurity. 
This is where it gets a bit complex though. It's doubtful that LaVey was a particularly hateful or racist person. Nevertheless, through this "survival of the fittest" rhetoric, over the years The Church of Satan has attracted a white supremacist following. The Church of Satan's official line is that it is an apolitical organization, and throughout social media you'll find threads of arguments pushing accusations and counter-accusations of bigotry and fascist leanings back and forth. 
One insight into a possible internal rift over this issue can be found in an article on the anti-fascism website It's Going Down. The article points out that while the church may not officially condone fascism, it nevertheless has a permissive stance to pro-fascism content on its website. Intriguingly, both its links to examples are now dead links. Regardless of whether these articles were taken down due to public pressure or internal divisions or just technical issues, LaVey's ideas strongly resonate with white supremacist viewpoints, and his name is spoken with reverence by more than a few white supremacists today.
The Jayne Mansfield Affair
By now we have a conflicting image of LaVey. He's an eccentric grifter who harbors some pretty intense ideas. But where's his spooky occultism? That part of his story hit its peak with The Jayne Mansfield Affair. 
One of the most speculated and debated aspects of LaVey's life was his odd relationship with blonde bombshell actress Jayne Mansfield. The pair started to appear in the press in 1966. It was unclear whether they were "an item" (to use the lingo of the day), but whether they were BFFs or FWBs, an odd intimacy is undeniable in their pictures. In one famous picture, Mansfield is smiling a vacuous "Monroe-esque" smile, while LaVey looms over her like an emaciated and mildly amorous Uncle Fester. 
Sometime in 1967 their highly publicized relationship went south. Mansfield's then boyfriend, Sam Brody, is believed to have disliked LaVey's growing influence over Mansfield. Vanity Fair says the conflict escalated sharply, with LaVey allegedly cursing Brody — as one does when one is in league with Satan and feeling a bit miffed — claiming he was doomed to die in a car accident. LaVey's hex was successful. Both were involved in a fatal car accident and died instantly. Crazy coincidence? Sure. But it made people wonder if he had real power. And as his notoriety increased, LaVey doubled down on that cred. Mess with LaVey and bad things might happen to you.
Anton Lavey, The Pop-Culture Symbol
SF Gate reported Anton LaVey died of a pulmonary edema in 1997. He was 67-years-old. But even without the cartoony frontman, his cultural influence lived on. 
After death, his persona still refuses to be just one thing. He's an amorphous shadow, simultaneously devilishly cool with his smirk of knowing command, and impossibly clunky as he plunks out fairground tunes on his beloved Wurlitzer. Like the man himself, his pop-culture notoriety is filled with paradoxes. LaVey is lumped in with the same rebellious anti-authority coolness which drove rock and metal music, but he disliked both. Despite exuding an aesthetic of surreal excess and hedonism, LaVey was deeply opposed to drug use his whole life. He's just not a guy you can easily get a bead on.
LaVey is the Schrodinger's Cat of cultural icons. He defies description. He made Satanism pedestrian. He made humanism sexy. He welded circus carnival macabre with an eclectic blend of German expressionism, B-grade horror dramatics and a Frankensteinian fusion of Western philosophical schools. The result: something as gloriously ominous as it was unapologetically banal. He was, according to LA Weekly, Satanism's beloved Black Pope.
what happened to anton lavey's devilishness?
Sadly, outside of his pop-culture significance, LaVey's legacy is notably lackluster. In 1985, his daughter Zeena took her father's mantle and became the High Priestess of the Church of Satan. But Zeena was not her father. She had the same shtick, but none of the charisma which wrapped his father's ideas up into such a compelling and quirky package. As a Satanist, Anton was a rogue intellectual and a trickster. Zeena, in stark contrast, was serious, plodding and ardent. 
Gradually, LaVeyan Satanism faded into just one of many drab mystical philosophies coursing sluggishly through suburban life. But this sad decline wasn't just a product of Zeena's less-than-exemplary devilishness. The world had changed. 
According to Learn Religions, by the mid 80's, the US had plummeted into the era of "Satanic Panic." Suddenly, the notion of the occult had become more serious and intense than ever before, and Zeena found herself defending Satanism (and her father) more stridently than Anton ever had to do himself. She became most notable for defending Satanism on such quality fora for public debate as the Phil Donahue Show and Sally Jessy Raphael. It seems laughable now. No-one leaves the stage with much dignity intact. By the 90s, Zeena renounced her father completely and changed her name.
what happened to his church?
It's all quite banal, really. LaVey's Church of Satan pursued the same path so many movements follow when their founder dies or moves on: there was a rift which split the church in two. Anton LaVey's widow, Blanche Barton, retained control of the Church of Satan. Anton LaVey's daughter, Karla, founded her own Satanic Breakfast Club, the First Satanic Church. And of course, humans being what they are, both Blanche and Karla claim direct lineage and sole rights to LaVeyan Satanism. It seems a case of irreconcilable differences that only direct intervention from the big hoovéd dude downstairs himself could solve. 
One glimmer of hope for LaVey's church though: the Church is moving with the times. Blanche regularly appears on radio shows and in Youtube interviews to preach to the desecrated masses. Not that she's brilliant at it, and her interviews can be a  little awkward to watch — in large part because Blanche doesn't seem to stop talking. Maybe one of her infernal powers is not needing oxygen? In any case, two churches now carry LaVeyan Satanism into the Twenty-first century. Neither come close to its predecessor's glorious oddity.
what happened to anton lavey's ideas?
This is perhaps the saddest part of the story. LaVey obviously represents something meaningful to many people. There's definitely a body of thought you might define as LaVeyan Satanism that people continue to expound on to this day, like one who took to YouTube with a 42-minute treatise as just one example. As you trawl through the ever-expanding posthumous literature on LaVey and his teachings, there's one binding theme. It's all utterly boring. It's sad somehow; like a smirky little joke ruined by an over eager person in socks and sandals laughing way too loudly. 
And that's the depressing post script. Whatever he had to say about society is largely lost beneath layers of less interesting people harnessing his ideas for a less interesting agenda. What's left are a few outdated beliefs, a bunch of people taking Satanism way too seriously, and a faded pair of plastic devil horns tucked away in a cupboard somewhere. 
LaVey's lasting legacy isn't his Church, his ideas, or his family carrying the torch on radio shows. It's the icon of the Wurlitzer playing trickster. It's that all these years after his death, people can't completely decide if he was being serious or laughing while scamming everyone, including himself. His life was a great big gloriously cosplay, and even today, pop-culture is being dragged along on his black-satin coat tails.
the untold truth of the satanic temple
There are a few things in the world that will always be polarizing, and nothing divides people into "us" and "them" quite like politics and religion. People spend a lot of time arguing about who has the only actual real god, but what about the people rooting for Satan?
Everyone's heard of the Satanic Temple, and the name conjures up images of a group of people dressing in black, performing weird rituals and a bit of animal sacrifice, and trying to bring about the end of the world. Or raise the Antichrist. Or do whatever else it is that truly evil people do. Create new reality TV shows? Troll the good guys on social media? Put candy corn on pizza? (It's the mundane evil that's most dangerous, after all.)
But peek at their mission statement, and it seems they're something else entirely. They do stand against a lot ... like Westboro Baptist Church, corporal punishment in schools, and pseudoscientific claims in physical and mental health care. That ... doesn't sound so dark after all, does it? What's really up with these guys? Here's the untold truth of the Satanic Temple.
no, they don't actually worship the christian satan
It's the biggest misconception about the Satanic Temple: that they worship Satan. Instead, Satan is a sort of metaphor — in their mythos, he symbolizes a refusal to blindly follow authority just because. He stands for rational inquiry, defending the rights of the self in the face of oppression, and a refusal to accept superstition and the supernatural on faith alone.
It's heavy stuff, and they also say the best way to think of their Satan is to think of him as the version Milton was writing about in Paradise Lost.
Even so, they do have a set of rules they all strive to follow. Instead of Ten Commandments, there are Seven Tenets. They start with this one: "One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason." They go on to say members should value justice over laws and institutions, that a person's body is theirs and no one else's, all freedoms — including the freedom to offend — should be respected. Also, beliefs should be based in science, people are fallible, and "compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail."
Not what you expected?
That Baphomet Statue
The Satanic Temple
One of the most high-profile activities the Satanic Temple has been involved with is the installation of the horned, winged, goat-man Baphomet in public spaces, almost always alongside Christian imagery. In August 2018, they unveiled the statue at the Arkansas State Capitol.
It was the centerpiece of a rally (not a permanent installation) meant to bring awareness to the hypocrisy the Temple — and other groups like the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers — saw in the enforcement of the First Amendment. Just a few months prior, a monument to the Ten Commandments had been installed at the Capitol. (The previous monument was destroyed by a man proclaiming to be the rider on the white horse from Revelations.)
The Baphomet statue isn't necessarily meant to be a protest against the Christian monument, just meant as a reminder that if one religious group is allowed to be represented on state grounds, then all religious groups should be. And they'd been through this before: They protested a Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma in 2014, and the Christian contingent lost. According to Pacific Standard, The Satanic Temple's causes often go hand in hand with lawsuits and motions filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, and if they keep winning court cases, it could be precedent-setting when it comes to redefining the First Amendment.
Who Is Baphomet, Anyway?
The goat-man depicted in the statue is the symbol of the Satanic Temple, but it's not Satan, it's Baphomet. The BBC looked at where this demonic-looking creature came from, and they traced Baphomet's first appearance to only 1100 — positively recent as far as religious figures go.
The very first time he cropped up was in the trials of the Knights Templar. French chroniclers say the knights were accused of worshipping Baphomet, a name some believe was a sort of mistranslation of "Mahomet," or the prophet Muhammad. Is it? That's one of those mysteries that will probably never be solved.
Baphomet wasn't given his goat-like form until much later — 1856, to be precise, when occultist Eliphas Levi sketched him for the book Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual. He pictured the creature as it's still used today: as opposites existing in one creature. He's male and female, tattooed with the Latin for both "separate" and "join together," both animal and human, and pointing both up and down in a gesture that means "as above, so below." The caduceus on his stomach is an ancient Greek symbol usually carried by messengers and referring to negotiation, and his middle horn is a torch representing knowledge.
The Satanic Temple did made some changes to Levi's Baphomet for their statue. The goat-man originally sported breasts to signify the feminine, which they removed to make him a little more publicly presentable. (The male-female aspect is portrayed in the children alongside him.)
The Church Of Satan Isn't A Fan
The Church of Satan absolutely shouldn't be confused with the Satanic Temple — they're two entirely separate entities, and the adherents aren't really fans of each other.
The Church of Satan is the one founded by Anton LaVey, and while they also use Baphomet and also champion personal freedoms, their Nine Satanic Statements include things like vengeance, indulgence, and championing the sins because, essentially, they make you feel awesome. They've also condemned The Satanic Temple as "a fake religion," full of people who "are not Satanists" and who "do not have shared 'deeply held beliefs' and are unrelated to Satanism." They've even gone as far as writing and releasing their own (dismissive) FAQ, calling the Satanic Temple basically a big hoax.
Lucien Greaves, the head of the Satanic Temple, has hit back. He said the original vision for the group was a small-scale operation more focused on a cause than either a hierarchy or being "'true' Satanists" practicing rituals. Whatever the truth, don't mistake one for the other.
Their Campaign Against Pseudotherapy
In 2013, Satanic Temple leader Lucien Greaves sat down for an interview with Vice, and talked about — among other things — one of the biggest crusades the organization has embarked on. It was against a particular subset of therapy and therapists, part that encourages people to remember repressed memories. It's called "dissociative amnesia," a plot device for countless movies. It's basically when someone suffers something so traumatic they lose memory of it.
It also, Greaves says, "breeds conspiracy theory and literally indoctrinates clients into false beliefs." His beef is twofold: First, repressed memories have been used as evidence to convict people of crimes they didn't commit at the same time it's used as evidence of things like alien abduction and past lives.
He says it's also largely these memories that are used to generate false beliefs about the threat of Satanic rituals — rituals and cults Greaves has researched and never found concrete evidence for. He grew up during an era dubbed "the Satanic Panic," when games like Dungeons & Dragons were condemned for being gateways to violent Satanism. He found there were no actual cults but plenty of mysteriously rediscovered memories, and he wants to stop that type of what he calls "pseudotherapy" in hopes of replacing it with education about the techniques that real cults use to groom and recruit people.
Accusations They Don't Practice What They Preach
The Satanic Temple isn't without internal conflict, though, if a Medium piece from former member Jex Blackmore is any indication. Blackmore wrote the piece in August 2018, just a few months after leaving the Temple and her position as spokesperson.
Blackmore claimed that what was going on inside the temple wasn't necessarily in line with their Seven Tenets, writing, "As one of the few visible and prominent female voices in TST, I endured countless threats, harassment, and violations." She says that on the surface, her dismissal from her spokesperson position (which came a month before she left the group completely) came because of a performance piece where she issued threats against "the president," while she says it was actually "asserting a paternalistic need to put a woman in her place, gain control, and undermine her autonomous power."
Blackmore went on to claim that the leaders of the Satanic Temple repeatedly refused to implement policies of gender, racial, and sexual diversity, and that some exploited their positions for their own gains and had pushed already marginalized members to the sides. She also says there's a ton of money being wasted, accuses the temple of mismanaging funds, and condemns them for their lack of a board of directors and public accountability. Has the temple gotten too big for its britches? At least Jex thinks so.
Extending The Cloven Hoof Of Friendship
In 2015, the world was stunned by the events of yet another terrorist attack, this time unfolding across the city streets of Paris. Fear was at an all-time high, and the Minneapolis chapter of the Satanic Temple posted a simple message on their Facebook page that got a ton of attention. It read:
"If there is anyone in the Minneapolis area who is Muslim and afraid to leave their home out of fear for some kind of backlash, don't hesitate to reach out to us. We would be glad to escort you where you need to go without advertising our presence — just big dudes walking you where you need to be."
The message was withdrawn not long after, but according to Esquire's interview with Satanic Temple leaders, it was pulled because they didn't "want to be offering a service that we can't follow through on." While they called the Paris attacks "horrific acts of religious extremism," they also went on to point out how important it was to restart the conversation about religious freedom. They reminded everyone that "Muslim" and "terrorist" are not the same thing, and called knee-jerk reactions of oppression "every bit of the problem and never the solution."
Pink Masses, The Westboro Baptist Church, And The Adopt-A-Highway Program
While the Satanic Temple isn't doing any traditionally "Satanic" rituals or animal sacrifice, they are using their Satanism to get attention in some extreme ways. In 2013, they took on Westboro Baptist Church when they performed a so-called Pink Mass over the grave of WBC founder Fred Phelps' mother. The purpose of the mass was to turn her spirit gay, and according to what Lucien Greaves told Vice, the idea was that if Phelps and his church wanted to go around spewing their anti-gay rhetoric and hate speech, they'd better be equal opportunity about it because his mother was now gay, too.
They added that the idea came after WBC announced it would protest at the funerals of the Boston Bombing victims, and the Satanic Temple decided a celebration of same-sex love at the gravesite was a great way to join in. Bizarrely, there was another thing on the agenda: raise awareness for their attempts at adopting a highway in New York City.
As if the story couldn't get more weird, Vice also reported that the local Mississippi police department was considering filing charges against the participants, including malicious mischief, trespassing, and indecent exposure.
Twitter, The Alt-Right And Unrest Among The Chapters
It's a long, complicated saga, but here are the basics. In early 2018, Lucien Greaves and the Satanic Temple set their sights on Twitter after Corey Feldman retweeted a random person asking for someone to burn down Satanic Temple headquarters. The group filed a complaint, but their own Twitter accounts were suspended and nothing came of the threats made against them. They felt this was religious discrimination and decided to seek legal counsel.
Here's where a ton of Satanic Temple members had a problem. Greaves hired Marc Randazza. If he sounds familiar, it's because he's represented neo-Nazi groups, Alex Jones, and some other high-profile names of the alt-right.
Greaves went into damage control mode, while chapter heads spoke out against the decision. Two chapters left the temple over Randazza's appointment. TST Los Angeles withdrew and renamed itself the Satanic Collective, while the London chapter became Satanic Temple International. Greaves continued to stand by the appointment, telling Jezebel, "TST and its mission are my life. ... I'm fighting for TST, I'm fighting for Satanists. Satanists come in all varieties, from any race, religious upbringing, gender, and orientation."
Thou Shalt Not Steal
The Satanic Temple doesn't bring chaos and hatred everywhere it goes, and they've actually been at the heart of a wonderful community project that encouraged a surprising bit of togetherness.
In 2017, their San Jose chapter joined in some holiday merrymaking when they set up a Christmas tree in the local Christmas in the Park celebration. SF Gate says their tree was one of more than 600 (assembled with hopes of breaking a world record), and it wasn't long before someone stole their Baphomet tree topper. The group declined to have it treated as a hate crime and said the support they got from the community was outstanding. Numerous other groups offered to replace their tree topper for them in the true spirit of Christmas, and Satanic Temple members — led by Jedidiah Schadenfreude — proved themselves the bigger people.
"We know who we are, we know how we're perceived," he said. "All we can do is just be good members of the community and hope to change that stigma that we have."
So, if there are no rites and rituals, no crazy sacrifices, and no worshiping of Satan, what are they campaigning for?
The Satanic Temple has a pretty long and somewhat surprising list of campaigns they've begun championing since their inception. In addition to crusading for true religious equality and a separation of church and state, they've also started the Protect Children Project. It's essentially a program that encourages schoolchildren to reach out and report rights violations, like the use of corporal punishment or denial of bathroom access. The Satanic Temple then acts as advocates for them.
They also have an after-school program called After School Satan, a group that protests therapists who pressure clients into recalling false memories, and a campaign that strives to cement women's rights not only to abortion, but to accurate medical information about procedures. Turns out, some of the things they're campaigning against are more terrifying than any Black Mass.

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