on 24 August 2008
When I was a teenager, the Satanic Bible was considered to be the worst and most dangerous book ever written, with the possible exceptions of "Mein Kampf" and "The Anarchist Cookbook". Everyone was talking about it, but nobody had actually read it. I believe they sold copies of it in some dim lit corner of the local science fiction bookstore. Naturally, the Church of Satan were considered to be dangerous extremists, and their black-painted church in San Fransisco sure looked spooky.
Or did it? Well, not really. When I finally read "The Satanic Bible", I was very disappointed. *This* is supposedly the most dangerous book ever written?! You gotta be kidding. And, of course, Anton Szandor LaVey *is* kidding. His Church of Satan isn't really Satanist at all, and uses the designation mostly to provoke people, Christians in particular. If anything, "The Satanic Bible" is libertarian and hedonistic. When I read it, it struck me that the morality of LaVey, considered shocking 40 years ago, is actually embraced by most people today. Has the West gone Satanic? Hardly, but it has become more overtly secularized, liberal and hedonistic than it was on Walpurgisnacht 1966, when LaVey supposedly shaved his head and formed his black arts organization.
True, the Satanic Bible does contain statements that sound distinctly fascist. But it's obvious from context that this is simply another provocation, especially since these portions are deliberately plagiarized from a 19th century parody of Social Darwinism, "Might is Right". LaVey actually condemns most practices usually associated with Satanism: human sacrifice, rape, wanton violence, child molestation. Ironically, if people would follow the precepts of the Satanic Bible, they would probably be better behaved than they are! But, of course, they *would* throw the occasional kinky sado-masochistic fetish party. Perhaps in 10 years, even that will be considered normal. Strictly speaking, LaVey isn't a moral relativist or nihilist, but rather a believer in a secular version of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth", which really isn't controversial, once the principle is correctly understood. (The fetish parties might be.)
When one reads LaVey's tract, one wonders why he didn't simply become a hedonistic atheist? The answer comes in the latter sections, where it turns out that LaVey actually believed in magic (well, sort of). But his magic borders the ridiculous, and perhaps functions mostly on a symbolic level. Indeed, the present leader of the Church of Satan explains in a foreword to the black bible that the magical rituals are simply "powerful psychodrama". The idea of sticking needles in voodoo dolls to harm your enemies would strike most people as...well, hardly worth reporting to local law enforcement.
So why do some people still consider this book to be dangerous? Some might object to its hedonism, which I would consider to be a serious-minded criticism. But many others are apparently still outraged by the Satanist label. Christians are offended, but so are secular people, since Satanism is associated with child molestation or drugs. I heartily recommend "The Satanic Bible" to all such people. Read it and make up your own minds.
Hail Satan! :-)