Hell freezes over: how the Church of Satan got cool

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Stuart Jeffries — The Guardian Jan 8, 2018

Anton LeVay and partner, Diane Hegarty, at a ceremony in California. Click to enlarge

Disappointingly, Chelsea Clinton has denied she and her husband practise satanism. Her tweet wishing the folks at the Church of Satan a happy new year should not be taken as endorsement of the dark lord’s manifold heresies.

One hopes that like her father’s denial of having had “sexual relations with that woman”, Chelsea’s disclaimer isn’t for real. Doesn’t she realise that the radical power of Satan is having a moment unparalleled since Milton unwittingly made him the badass rebel hero of Paradise Lost?

According to the LA Times, “a heterodox generation of new self-described satanists is upending old Rosemary’s Baby and Helter Skelter stereotypes in service of radical politics, feminist aesthetics and community unity”.

The paper sent a reporter to investigate a satanic soiree in a California basement where they found a coterie of artists, writers and musicians who chanted “Hail Satan!”, while someone, unacceptably, played minor chords on the organ.

Satanism is attracting counter-cultural Californians because it is seen as a community-based response to the Trump era. As the paper writes: “Traditionalists might debate if any of it is properly ‘satanic’ at all; this new take is much more feminist than nihilist, flexibly self-aware and better versed in internet culture than orthodox theology.”

Better versed is right. Consider the Church of Satan’s laconic Twitter feed that wryly corrects those taking the dark lord’s name in vain.

Consider, too, the good sense found in the website’s FAQs: “We see the universe as being indifferent to us, and so all morals and values are subjective human constructions” contends the “fundamental beliefs” section, while the “selling souls” section argues: “There are no souls – and nobody to buy them. If you want something out of life, get off your lazy butt and work for it.”

Satanism has been associated with moral panics over witches or the ritual abuse of children during its history, sometimes unfairly. It has also attracted devotees such as Leamington Spa’s most wicked son, Aleister Crowley, who scandalised Edwardian society by claiming to be a master of black magic. Modern satanism, riven between theistic and atheistic sects, may owe something to Crowley, who called himself Great Beast 666and who made a posthumous appearance on the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album cover, but chiefly because he preached free love and drug experimentation.

Satanism’s latest mutation is something else, a contrarian uprising against a patriarchal world order that deserves its comeuppance.

How inspiring to find that in 2018 satanists are more progressive than the Great Beast even now tweeting diabolically from the Oval Office.