THE WHITE DEVIL: SATANISM, RACISM, AND OTHER SHIT WE’D RATHER NOT TALK ABOUT
Ever wonder why most Satanists seem to be white people?
If your answer is no that’s okay, it’s not the sort of thing that comes up in TED Talks or at most parties. (Not that I’m ever at TED Talks or most parties.)
We did a Black Mass Appeal episode about this back in 2018, and then another one at the beginning of 2020. And it’s probably time for another, since the rest of 2020 happened after that, chronological time being what it is…
It’s on my mind now because, as mentioned last week, it’s Patron Sinner season, and we try to maintain a diverse slate of historical and public figures. Perpetually aggrieved Twitter critics spend a lot of time these days caterwauling about “forced diversity,” but there should be no need for force: the world is naturally diverse.
Homogeneity, however, must be engineered.
On one hand, maybe this is what we would expect. Most Satanists are atheists, and in America, atheists most often fit a specific profile: According to Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, of the roughly four percent of Americans who identify as atheists, 78 percent are white.
I strongly suspect it’s much easier and more likely for people who are already atheists to become attracted to atheistic Satanism–whereas falling out of another religious practice straight into Satanism is probably less common.
Pew surveys also suggest that atheists are more likely to be college educated, and if there’s a causal connection between higher education and skepticism about traditional religion, then institutional hurdles that make it more difficult for people of color to enroll may affect religious demographics.
Non-white atheists and Satanists we’ve met often testify that there’s also simply a different, more intense culture of traditional religiosity in many of America’s black, Latino, and immigrant communities.
In a 2015 interview, Mandisa Thomas (founder of Atlanta-based Black Non-Believers), said, “Our community has been based around the church and religion. To question those beliefs and to somehow challenge the idea that a god doesn’t exist is very, very polarizing. It becomes like a betrayal, sort of, to even bring it up.”
Satanists of color also tell us anecdotally that there are simply more risks involved: If you’re black in America but orthodox in every other way, there is still a great degree of social pressure on you.
Some people who feel attracted to provocative minority religions like Satanism might still be put off simply on account of they perceive that the dangers for them are higher–because when are they not?
All of these potential answers are mostly comforting for the white Satanist: If broad cultural factors are to blame, that means we’re not.
It’s also true, however, that for the past 50 or 60 years we’ve had a very weird and uncomfortable flirtation between American and European Satanism and white supremacy. While this is a relatively small element of the Satanic milieu today, it was a few decades ago perhaps more prominent–and even a little bit is too much.
Old Anton LaVey lifted significant passages for his Satanic Bible out of a wild-eyed 19th century anti-semitic tract titled “Might Is Right,” and he referred to the frothing madman who penned “Might” as “a writer who had profoundly reached me.” Which, oof.
In footage apparently shot for a documentary by white supremacist cartoonist Nick Bougas, LaVey rambles–fuck, content warning, for, uh, just about everything you can imagine here:
“We call for the destruction of all those n*ggers, k*kes, f*gs, wops, greasers, degenerates that are inferior.”
Rhetoric like this is perhaps why certain creeping Neo Nazis like onetime Church of Satan priest Boyd Rice–seen here making a mockery of the resources expended keeping him alive into adulthood–seemed attracted to the org.
In his hernia-inducing 2016 Satanism history Children of Lucifer, Rubin Van Luijk asserts that old Anton flirted with the Neo Nazi scene not because he was a Nazi, but because he perceived the angry young white men as spiritually hungry and thought they might prove susceptible to his message.
At the same time, Van Luijk points out that LaVey’s own far-right politics, swaddled in eugenics and Social Darwinism, were in many ways thematically similar to those of the white hate scene, and hence his comfort courting their cast-offs.
Temple of Set founder Michael Aquino over the years appeared something of a Nazi history buff, collecting Reich memorabilia and discussing Mein Kampf at length. While not incriminating, this did sometimes cast a disquieting atmosphere around some of his activities, such as a magical ritual he held in a German castle that once belonged to former SS leader Heinrich Himmler in 1982, in the very same chambers where Himmler may have himself conducted magical ceremonies.
Speaking of “Might Is Right” (since we must, dog help us, apparently continue to speak of it), when he was in college, Satanic Temple cofounder Lucien Greaves illustrated an edition of it, attracted to the text’s association with LaVeyan philosophy. Later he appeared on a podcast that featured some anti-Semitic remarks that, when they resurfaced years after the fact, shocked many of his Temple cohorts.
Greaves said in an email to Satanic Temple chapter leadership that he no longer agreed with the opinions of his youth and referring to his earlier self as “ignorant white trash,” characterizing the principles of the Temple as a refutation of his old, LaVey-tinged Social Darwinist ideas. But from these anecdotes we can see how the norms of certain Satanisms at that time could lead a person to a darker place.
To be honest, as Satanists there’s incentive not to talk about these things: Much of the public already thinks we’re a bunch of baby-eating devil worshipers, so do we really need all this heat too?
The point, however, is not that Modern Satanism is racist. Rather, the societies we live in are steeped in the legacy of racial violence, misogyny, transphobia, gay-bashing, and even more intricate bigotries.
If you’ll pardon the analogy in this, the year of Oh Lord 2021, this history is like a contagion: We can work to stay healthy and to sanitize our spaces and to guard ourselves from infection, and that work is both significant and important.
But it does not cure the disease–and it doesn’t insulate us from the risk of spreading it ourselves. Nothing does. That’s what makes the work of curtailing it so important. Disease only dies when it runs out of potential carriers.