Sympathy for the Devil

This Halloween Modern Satanists are just asking for a little understanding

In the heart of Hollywood’s orthodox Jewish neighborhood, outside a trendy café, Nox, a gangly and amiable satanic witch, tells me that after our interview he might go back to his hotel room and use the bible as toilet paper. Nox, 23, regularly engages in blasphemy.

Blasphemy, perhaps one of the most controversial practices of Modern Satanism, is where some individuals willfully blight or profane—either physically or verbally—religious images, beliefs or writngs, typically Christian.

Blasphemy can take the form of vulgar verbiage directed toward Jesus, Mary and the Holy Spirit or defecating or urinating on Christian symbols, including the crucifix or pictures of Christ. Blasphemy can be preformed either individually or in a group ritual.

Syn Holliday, who leads one of the largest satanic covens in the Los Angeles area, does not engage in the practice and cautions that Nox does not represent most Satanists. According to Holliday, those who do blasphemy usually come from families where religion was shoved down their throat.

Nox agrees and says that while growing up he did have a mother who often got drunk or high and lit candles with pictures of Christ on them while proclaiming, “We’re all going to hell.”

“When I engage in blasphemy, I am venting and having fun,” says Nox.

Being Blasphemous

The purpose of blasphemy, according to Nox and most Modern Satanists, is simply therapeutic. Blasphemy is a way for Satanists to exorcise any influence that religion might still have on them.

Father Lawrence Seyer of Our Savior Catholic Center in Los Angeles says that he has no doubt that people who engage in blasphemy were probably exposed to teachings and behaviors that weren’t truly Christian. “I would want to be purged from those things too,” he says.

Seyer says that if blasphemy helps them cope with their anguish, then he is saddened but believes that they don’t know the real Jesus, whose love, understanding and forgiveness can purge their pain better than anything else.

Nox separates Jesus from Christianity and believes that Jesus—though not divine—was self-actualized. “When Jesus said that he was the son of God, he never said ‘I am and you’re not.’ In that way, I have respect for the lost person of Christ.”

Satanic Magic

Despite extolling an atheistic philosophy, Modern Satanists do embrace a form of “super-normal” power, known as Greater Magic that can be invoked, often during satanic rituals, to achieve desired results. According to Anton Szandor LaVey, the founder of Modern Satanism, there are several forms of magic, including compassion and destruction.

LaVey writes that the compassion ritual is performed to help people obtain things they want in areas related to health, finances, domestic contentment, academics, etc. On the other hand, the destruction ritual is “a ceremony used for anger, annoyance, disdain, contempt, or just plain hate. It is known as a hex, curse, or destroying agent,” writes LaVey.

Nox separates Jesus from Christianity and says that he believes that Jesus—though not divine—was self-actualized. “When Jesus said that he was the son of God, he never said ‘I am and you’re not.’ In that way, I have respect for the lost person

of Christ.”

Holliday stresses that the destruction ritual is only employed for those grievous cases that warrant it and where all other avenues of redress have been exhausted. He says that his coven once performed a destruction ritual on behalf of a couple in their group who was swindled out of a lot of money. “The intended purpose of a destruction ritual is to send out negative energy to the specified individual, and whatever happens happens,” says Holliday.

In this case, a few weeks later, the targets of the destruction ritual lost their jobs and were evicted from their apartment. Holliday says that he has never done a destruction ritual for his own benefit and couldn’t—at least for the time being—ever imagine doing so.

Challenging Christianity

By conducting destruction rituals, Modern Satanists are questioning the wisdom and even practicality of some of Christianity’s most cherished tenets, including turning the other cheek. “Satan represents vengeance, instead of turning the other cheek!” writes LaVey.

Modern Satanists believe that there is a danger and even a dereliction of civic responsibility in turning the other cheek because if you let someone get away with an injustice—such as hitting you unfairly—you are only emboldening that individual to commit that same injustice to someone else.

“No,” says Holliday, “Someone needs to go up to them and slap their cheek to let them know how it feels.”

Father Seyer argues that when Jesus advocated turning the other check He was being metaphoric and challenging those in His day to go beyond what was current religious dogma and to consider the deeper meaning of love.

Tough Questions

By challenging Christianity, though, can Modern Satanists help Christians come to a better and truer understanding of their faith? “No,” says, Michael Parson, a leader of the Institute of Religion, an organization affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Los Angeles. “It’s anti-Christ, it’s anti-God, it’s anti God’s plan for salvation because it teaches that there is no Christ, no resurrection or heaven.”

But asking tough questions about Christianity is not a bad thing, according to the Reverend Elizabeth Davenport, associate dean of religious life at the University of Southern California. Davenport says that questions, whether they be from secularists, Satanists or anybody else, should be welcomed for their potential to help us reach a fuller and deeper understanding of our beliefs. And if there are things they challenge us on and that we can’t defend, “then that’s an opportunity for a debate,” she says.

[Some readers may wonder why Busted Halo®—which is sponsored by a Catholic organization—addresses various approaches to belief (or non-belief) and spirituality like the one above. Busted Halo® is an online magazine for the millions of spiritual seekers who already live in a competitive marketplace of ideas, philosophies and beliefs; our mission is to empower them to explore their own faith journeys through an open, honest discussion of their fellow seekers’ experiences. -Editor]