June 4th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Study: How Satanists see death

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - You probably won't hear "Amazing Grace" at a Satanist's funeral, but you just might hear "My Way" by Frank Sinatra. A researcher from Concordia University recently published a journal article with some rare access to high level Satanists exploring what they think about death and dying.

Members in the Church of Satan are traced back to Anton LeVey who in 1966 founded the church in San Fransisco. He is also the author of the canon of sorts for the group, The Satanic Bible first published in 1969. Today, the church is based in New York and membership numbers are hard to come by.

One of the main tenets of the faith is atheism. Not just a disbelief in God but also in the devil or Satan. Satanists believe God is an invention of man and instead deify themselves.

According to the official website of the Church of Satan: "We Satanists are thus our own 'Gods,' and as beneficent 'deities' we can offer love to those who deserve it and deliver our wrath (within reasonable limits) upon those who seek to cause us—or that which we cherish—harm."

Cimminnee Holt, the author of the journal article explains further:

"Members of the Church of Satan, that is Satanists, assert that they are a life-affirming religion, yet reject the notion of an external mystical dimension and a spiritual afterlife (yet retain a particular understanding of a “worldly” afterlife), while also actively engaging in ritual practices infused with death imagery."

Holt writes that even though the Church of Satan does not believe in a physical afterlife (neither heaven nor hell), their doctrine speaks to a practitioner living on in this world through the life they led.

"By building on their own charismatic display of autonomy and exhibiting mastery in their respective fields, individuals increase the likelihood of more people remembering them after death. Satanists are, literally, creating their own afterlife in the memories of those they have

After a long back and forth between Holt and two high level clergy in the Church of Satan, the two Satanists agreed to speak as official representatives of the church.

The Satanists gave the researcher unique insights into how they saw death and their own funerals. Holt writes:

Warlock JPL states that a secular ceremony containing no religious elements would be acceptable, but outward signs of his religious affiliation are unnecessary. He would like to be remembered fondly by loved ones and for his life to be celebrated. Similarly, Reverend JR agrees that those whom he knew and loved should attend his funereal. The funerary details are to be decided by family. However, as a “strictly endogamous man”, the Reverend maintains that his funeral would “naturally” be “Satanic in nature if not in strict ritual.”


"The memory of the Reverend JR’s father is an example of Satanic afterlife; it was the father’s life that is important, not his death, and the imprint of that life on his loved ones creates a posthumous legacy. The Reverend informs me that his father requested Frank Sinatra’s 'My Way' to play at his funeral. Reverend JR expresses that he felt his father had lived up to the sentiment of the song, a sentiment the Reverend shares in his own life (pers. comm. Oct. 26, 2007)."

The communications between Holt and the Satanists stretched over four years. Holt said she deliberately left out identifying details, like occupation and geographic location, about the two Satanists. The wall of privacy seems to have helped the Satanists to open up about their thoughts on death.

Holt's article appeared in The Journal of Religion and Culture, which is produced by graduate students from the Department of Religion at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Death • Satanism

soundoff (1,068 Responses)
  1. Apepi

    whether you religious brainwashed people like it or not, all reigions ARE CULTS! GET OVER IT! on top of that, they harbor pedophiles!! then try to cover it up!!! the bible should be put in the comic book section where it BELONGS!!

    June 4, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Patty Biller

      Religions are man's outreach. Christianity is a relationship where my God reaches out to everyone through His son Jesus' death. Simple and childlike….

      June 4, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Aneriz

      I think you are confusing Catholicism with Christianity. Christianity is Bible based and anyone can become a follower of Christ thru repentance. Christ is God's Son that died for our sins. God's plan, God's way. Catholics started there and added human rituals, doctrines, sacraments, dogmas, worship of people and all kinds of other things that the Bible clearly warns about. Havign said that, many Catholics still find Christ in the midst of all that. But do not be mistaken, Christ is real and if you seek Him in spirit and truth, you will need no religion to find HIm.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:08 am |
  2. frank

    I hope they don't bite bats. I like bats.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:35 pm |

    Ok, Im I think its about time and you have come of age to know this. OK, here it goes. There is no santa, easter bunny, tooth fairy, god or devil. Oh and they did not eat turkey on thanksgiving! You people are so F-ing weak!

    June 4, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • Christian

      try harder troll

      June 4, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Apepi

      those people just don't get it!! it just blows my mind on how they believe in such NONSENSE!! LOL

      June 4, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  4. frank

    I don't believe in this hogslop, but in re: this Satan character, can somebody tell me why rebelling against a maniacal baby-murdering tyrant is considered a bad thing?

    June 4, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Christian

      Stupid troll is Stupid

      June 4, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  5. Reason

    Satanism is about self-empowerment, and (ironically) has almost nothing to do with Satan (except for the name of course). I believe that people should be able to do as they please as long as it harms no one else. Reality is what you choose it to be. A lot more people would probably do Satanism if it wasn't called Satanism (because of the negative connotations), as it (as stated in previous comments) bears many similarities to early Buddhism.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • Jen


      June 4, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • 2manyhorses

      So agree! It is what I totally espouse but the name is such a problem. At 52, I have fought the mainstream all my life and am tired of trying to open people's eyes. How about something that doesn't create such a knee-jerk reaction? My Pitbulls and I would appreciate it!

      June 5, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • MrHand

      If Satanism is so great, then they are truly stupid for using that name for it. How great can it be when they are so dumb?

      June 5, 2011 at 4:31 am |
  6. Jen

    How about no one knows anything and let's just see how it all pans out? What more can you say of the afterlife since we have all never experienced it?

    June 4, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Reason

      Touché. We're all just searching for the truth.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • MrHand

      I have found some truth. I can't even give the stuff away, though. Disillusionment is painful and therefore avoided by a majority of people in all walks of life. Thus the ongoing conflicts continue. We are winning by the way. 😛

      June 5, 2011 at 4:33 am |
  7. Michelle

    The Devil Didn't make me do it....I did. Whether I do right or wrong, I am the only one who made the decision. I'm not a Satanist, but a neo-pagan, leaning towards the Wiccan faith.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Amen.


      June 4, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  8. MadManMax

    What the Hell!?!?!?

    How can you be called a satanist and not believe in satin? That's some grade A bull shiz right there. Because if they where true atheists they wouldn't be going to ANY church. I mean what are they worshiping there? The fact that they don't worship...come on!

    Thats like me saying im a democrat but i don't believe in democrats. What kind of retards do they take us for?

    June 4, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Reason

      ... The whole point of Satanism is, well... that you can do what you want (within reason). If you want to go to a church, go for it. If not, don't. And again, Satanism has almost nothing to do with Satan (a bit uncreative, I admit...)

      June 4, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • jmho43

      Amen! If they're atheist then say they're atheist. Atheist don't believe in and gods or devils. I grew up Catholic and was scared all my life of Satan. Then I finally grew up. Guess what, Satan doesn't scare me any more. It's just another silly story from people who need to read a science book. And for you holy-rollers out there, GROW UP. There have been thousands of religions throughout the history of man, what are the chances that yours is the one true one?

      June 4, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • KTF

      You're totally right! I mean, if they don't believe in satin, then what are my favorite sheets made of, hmm??

      June 5, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  9. chad miller

    Narrow is the path to heaven and few shall enter..... over here, aiming for the road less traveled, thats for sure.

    philipians 4:13 (words to live by)
    i can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.

    i can assure you that we will all fall to our knee, like it or not.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • How2Dougie

      You get on your knees for Jesus, Chad. Give him all you've got... Feel that warm, sticky salvation as it flows over you.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Nick

      I beg to differ. I will only get on my knees for 7 inches or greater.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  10. Jim

    Based on their assertions, they're not actually Satanists. It sounds like they're simply a "religion" of humanists and hedonists.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • Amen.

      you can ignorance any name;these are lost children!

      June 4, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • Amen.


      June 4, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • Reason

      Although, Hedonists /only/ do things if it brings them pleasure. Satanists are about self-fulfillment.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  11. BENJI

    These Satanist are wrong and have just given in to the devil and his demons. Hell is real and so is satan and these people are being fooled into thinking otherwise. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only way and no one can get into Heaven unless they accept Him as their Personal Savior.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Amen.


      June 4, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • Emvaz

      And the boogeyman is going to water-board you if you don't make a donation to Joel Osteen

      June 4, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • Emvaz

      Waiting for some mystical being to miraculously come down and fix all of your problems is a quick road to nowhere and can lead to a life full of inactivity and stagnation. Trusting in the power of yourself and your intellect above some ancient piece of propaganda places oneself among the Gods (figuratively of course) and serves as your own 'guiding light' so to speak.

      I've got news for you folks, this viewpoint has been around since long before Christianity, and it has nothing to do with Satan (Lucifer, maybe).

      June 4, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • Truth Teller

      Most popular beliefs arn't Bibical. The doctrine that hell is burning right now is not bibical. How can the wicked be punished when judgment day hasn't happened yet ? Satan distorts the Bible to make God look like a cruel sadist. If Christ died for our sins, and he payed the full penalty. 7 hours on the cross. and then death. He didn't suffer for eternity, cause the wages of sin is death, no less and no more. Stop asking your pastor about the bible, and start asking your Bible about your pastor.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • MadManMax

      The thing i dont get is how im all ways told "god has a plan" or "this is all part of gods plan" well then where dose my free will come in to play? And if im simply playing a part in gods plan then why is he judging me for his plan?

      And all that aside no one has ever told me WHY!!!???? Why are we here what is the point? to live a life and then be judged? Why did god make us what is our purpose what is it all for? Is this just some game for god or what?
      But i guess this works well for those in charge because you now have an army that follows with out asking questions and anyone who dose is deemed the "non-faithful" and banished from the click.
      And then to have the self righteous gall to say Islam and there 30 some virgin heaven is crazy and just a ploy to get people to join. But your version of heaven is not even limited to one thing or set of things its "Everything and Anything you could ever want" and thats not a clever carrot on a stick?

      And thats why im Buddhist because unlike faith based religion the Buddha told us why not just what...

      June 4, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • Patty Biller

      Amen, Benji!

      June 5, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  12. sarah

    CANON, not cannon!!!! C'mon, I hate seeing typos in newspapers and online.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  13. RAISIN

    I dislike how they assume their disbelief in traditional gods define them as atheists.

    If they believe they are gods – if they believe anything based on "faith" – they are theists, not atheists. Atheism rejects this type of crap. I think their beliefs are just as preposterous as beliefs from any other religion.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • chad miller

      Narrow is the path to heaven and few shall enter..... over here, aiming for the road less traveled, thats for sure.

      philipians 4:13 (words to live by)
      i can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.

      i can assure you that we will all fall to our knee, like it or not.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • Reason

      And I respect your belief and right to say so. But reality is what you make it. Even Atheists believe in Science (energy and matter as the cosmic fiber of the universe, governed by the laws of physics). Not all "religions" have a god.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  14. ngc1300

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster says you guys are bad, so knock it off, or no sauce for you.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • chad miller


      June 4, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • chad miller

      ngc1300 is oozing of insite

      June 4, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Joshua Partridge


      June 4, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Reason

      For it is he who holds us to the earth with his noodles?

      June 4, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • SLCNNReader

      chad miller is oozing in ignorance of how to spell! In all the many years you've lived thus far, you've gone through your whole life thus far thinking that the word "insight" is spelled as "insite"? Really? I mean we ALL can makes "slips of the fingers" (which i what a TYPO is) but it is apparent that typing "insite" instead of "insight" is NOT a typo but rather a reflection that you actually think that this is how that most-basic word is spelled. Really, Chad?

      Question for you, Chad: Why didn't the Holy Spirit that is supposed to reside within you (as a believer) inform you of your error before you placed it here for all the world to see? It makes you look like a less-well-developed person in terms of basic intelligence, which doesn't do well for your cause as a proselytizer. Tsk, tsk, tsk!

      June 4, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • MayonnaisePatty

      For in that most holy and ancient of menus it is stated that "It is easier for a glass of Calabria to pass through the loop of a noodle than it is for a man without sauce to order the crostata di frutta." People please! Open your eyes and turn from the deception of the Terrestrial Biscotti Deamon. The spaghetti longs to be consumed, but it will not keep indefinitely! WHOA BE ONTO ANY WHO FAIL TO PARTAKE OF THIS BOUNTY.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • SLCNNReader

      To MayonnaisePatty:

      Have you lost your noodles? (get it? arr arr arr arr arr!)

      Sounds like spaghetti logic to me. (get it? arr arr arr arr arr!)

      June 5, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  15. chad miller

    "I would much rather live like there is a heaven and hell and find out they do not exist than live like they do not exist and find out they do."

    think about this. very true and simply put.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • RGeneration

      Amen...the ignorant will start whining now. About fairies and spaghetti monsters and all that. But that's just plain confidence on the outside – a hope that their brave exterior will somehow make everything true. That they are truly alone in this universe.

      You won't hear people say "There's no such thing as satan..." or compare satan to flying spaghetti monsters.....its only God they ridicule.

      I totally agree with your quote. I for one am sure....and not a thing in this world can convince me otherwise....even if I'm seen as the stupidest person on the planet.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Elaine

      I like to live my life being a kind person that does no harm to others, and helps and comforts when she can. If it turns out there is a "God" and "He" is angry with me for not worshiping him the right type of way and dams me to "Hell", then "He" isn't the type of "God" I would care to please anyway. If there is an all knowing, powerful being that judges us based on our actions and feelings, "He" should be able to recognize the good from the bad without forcing us to practice religious ceremonies and such.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • ian

      I would rather spend an eternity in hell with my honorable ancestors than spend a day in heaven with all of you christian pansies

      June 4, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • PsiCop

      Your appeal to Pascal's Wager is noted, but dismissed as fallacious ... since, like the Wager, it's predicated on a false dilemma.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  16. Alfie

    "Satanists believe God is an invention of man and instead deify themselves." What does this sentence mean?

    June 4, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Chris

      It means that people, humans can be a "First Cause". The idea is certainly not new with this group.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Blake

      Alfie, it's a way of them saying that since man created the image of god, then man as a satanist is also therefore equally capable of viewing himself as a god, deify themselves as in the word "Deity" which roughly translates to "Central Spiritual Figure" example: Jesus, Zeus, etc. So through their actions they commit in their own living lives, the goal is to accomplish things so significant, especially in the eyes of those either near to them or loved, that even if there is no heaven or hell, they technically live on forever, in the memories of those still living, thus obtaining a form of immortality. Examples: Elvis, 2Pac, John Lennon, Jim Morrison, etc. (And just about any other person of either fame or infamy that will quite literally never die, because their image or their legacy is damn near everywhere.)

      June 4, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • Blake

      In short: You can kill a man or a woman, but if that man or woman's image or ideals echo forever into the eternity of those still living, then I suppose you could say that man or woman has quite literally deified themselves. We may have killed Hitler, and Jesus may have been crucified, but I'm pretty sure you can safely bet that as long as the world still spins, there will be Christians and Nazi's.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  17. Even-America-hasnt-become-that-twisted-yet

    Satanists cmon;these sinners are going straight to he11.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • Reason

      Check out their site. It makes sense. I'm not saying like it, or even accept it, but at least know what it's actually about.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  18. Dsopinion

    It kind of sounds like I'm a satanist, except I don't feel a need to participate in "death" themed rituals. Satanism just sounds like an anti-religion, the article says they don't even believe in satan. Interesting.

    June 4, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  19. Ben

    Another fool thought what he thinks matters.

    June 4, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  20. Jerry

    The fool said in his heart, There is no God

    June 4, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • David

      Religions are like cults...with more members. Because someone wrote in a book 1700-2000 years ago, is it true???

      June 4, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • chris

      They told me religions were tax exempt.

      So I started my own church.

      They told me that religions are based around the idea of making money

      So I started my own religion.

      June 4, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • John

      David... the big difference between a cult and a religion is that cults discourage or forbid members to ask questions. Christianity (assumed by your time reference) is most assuredly NOT a cult, and Christians never need to fear digging deep into questions about their faith. Apart from Christianity, Western Civilization as we know it would not exist; had the monks not preserved the classics of antiquity (sparking the Renaissance), it is questionable if humanity would have ever emerged from the Dark Ages.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • Ed

      @David – I'm not super religious or anything, but something important enough to restart the count of time has to mean something doesn't it?

      @Chris – A lot of churches do seem much more like a business than anything else.

      Interesting article, but to spread the belief of not believing seems kind of contradictory to me.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Reason

      The only problem with John's statement is the fact that a questioning of the status quo and of religion (specifically Christianity) is exactly what brought us out of the Dark Ages (and into the Renaissance). DISCLAIMER: I have no problem with Christianity (or any religion for that matter). What I do have a problem with is when it is used to take advantage of people (as with anything).

      June 4, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • PsiCop

      Defining people as "fools" based solely on your own subjective whims cannot, and will never, actually make them "fools."

      June 5, 2011 at 12:20 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.