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I have been busy all month converting, for the Internet, the book, "The History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe," by Irish historian William E. H. Lecky. It details the Inquisitions that ravaged Europe for centuries.
Could anybody study this era without bursting into tears? I cannot. Such study always affects me deeply.
The so-called witches were supposed to have been in league with the biblical Satan. This charge is now admitted by most to have been pure fabrication.
Modern practitioners of Wicca are not dualistic: there is no "God versus Satan" in their world view. Today's Witches tend toward pantheism and monism, disallowing even symbolic notions of a Satan.
Uninformed Christians often confuse modern Witchcraft with Satanism. One prominent atheist assures me that Satanism is a denomination of Christianity, the inverse of Christianity; Satanists worship the biblical devil. This is falsehood. Both Wiccans and Satanists are misunderstood and misrepresented by people you hope would know better.
While I have known a few self-avowed Satanists who believe in a personal devil, I couldn't take them seriously. Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey would call such people impostors, to be avoided.
Think about it: Phony Satanists exist.
Most Satanists would agree with me, saying there is no such thing as Satan and no such thing as God. In other words, all but the outer fringe among Satanists are atheists or atheistic agnostics.
I am not stretching the meaning of "atheism"; I am talking about traditional, garden-variety atheism. Were it not for the misunderstanding of Satanism and the fierce independence displayed by the Satanists, they'd be accepted warmly into any atheist or Humanist group.
Satan is a symbolic archetype, not a real being. If someone says "Hail Satan!" translate this to mean "Hail Me!" because you are your own master, your own god. Satanists do not pursue evil; rather, self-indulgence, a unique form of dignity, and an outlook not unlike that of Mencken.
They do not slaughter animals. Like the Wiccans, many Satanists find truer companionship from pets than from humans.
Satanists tend toward a dark æsthetic. One couple I know purchased a hearse as their family vehicle.
The ritual practiced by Satanists seems solely a form of self-enhancement. I am reminded of the nineteenth-century occultist, Aleister Crowley, who wrote: "In this book it is spoken of ... Spirits & Conjurations, of Gods ... & many other things which may or may not exist.... Students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophical validity to any of them."
Many atheists demand that others stop misrepresenting atheism. We are not self-consistent if we misrepresent others.
It's also good to know the true sources of evil. To start with, we could study the beliefs that inspired the Inquisition, and the thinking that ended it. We can work to end the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and to prevent similar madness at home.
See also: Rationalism in Europe by William E. H. Lecky
Copyright ©1999 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon