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. mike ike

    You won't hear "Amazing Grace" at a Eastern Orthodox Christian (Greeks, Russians, Romanians, Serbians, Bulgarians) funeral either!
    After all I do not care about this religion thing. If Christianity is the same as religion then Christianity is the same as the Church of Satan, and all other "religions".
    The most important thing in life is your faith, not your religion. You can be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, I don't care! You must have faith. Faith saves you, not religion.

    June 5, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • Ryan

      So truth doesn't matter, but faith does? Why is faith such a good characteristic? If you had faith in everything you would be gullible. If you had full faith in a bold assumption without evidence, you would gullible. So this God figure loves gullible people that believe whatever they are told? Does he really need to surround himself with stupid people to feel better about himself?

      June 5, 2011 at 2:09 am |
    • Glenda

      Faith in Jesus Christ is not a religion. Jesus did not like the religion(the money makers/money counters).

      June 6, 2011 at 3:02 am |
    • I_get _it

      So, in the end you have faith in yourself that you have chosen the right faith?!

      June 6, 2011 at 3:14 am |
  2. CJ

    It only took the author until the first sentence of the third paragraph to say that all satanists are athiests, from that point on you lost all credability.

    Not believing in the abrahamic "God" is not the same thing as athiesim! To be an athiest means you see the truth that all religions are false and the best guess we have at "the answer" is that which hard analitical peer reviewed science can provide us!

    I am an athiest and i take offense to this sterotyping!

    June 5, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Edward

      Well they are atheist. In the Satanic bible it states that if they were to acknowledge the existence of a "god" it would be the permeating force of nature that is completely unconscious and that cares not whether we live or die. So yes, they are atheist as most atheist believe that this is true.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • Mou5e

      U take offence like a Christian LOL

      June 5, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • MrHand

      I am with CJ on this. Stereotyping is bad for several reasons, not just one. The lack of a belief is not a belief. Anything else is just window-dressing.

      June 5, 2011 at 4:54 am |
  3. tymtrax

    Calm down, its really easy... the way to bury them.. ass up, we need more bike racks.. just sayin..

    June 5, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  4. Apatheist

    People need to calm down. I don't care whether religion is right or wrong, I just thought this was an interesting article. Take it at face-value, just an interesting piece about a less-than-well-known subject. Good stuff.

    June 5, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  5. sunny lovetts

    CNN loves Satan. Along with Fox and MSNBC. They are run by people who love money and hate God. You are all being massively deceived.

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNXqkZO3Y1g&w=640&h=510%5D

    June 5, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • D

      someone needs a tinfoil hat!

      June 5, 2011 at 12:33 am |
  6. Mahna Mahna

    LolSec does it again.

    June 5, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  7. DoodleSheep

    I believe in whatever I find in my belly button on Tuesdays that fall on the 15th in even years. Last time it was a cheeto. So right now, cheetos are my gods.

    June 5, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • aerie

      I found a cat hair in my belly button this morning, which confirms my deepest faith in the almighty Ceiling Cats. You too must accept a Ceiling Cat as savior, lest ye should draw back a bloody nub, for they are jealous and vengeful saviors if thou Fancy Feast is late.

      June 5, 2011 at 2:22 am |
  8. Anonymous

    I Would Like to say one thing to the lot of you

    How about you all get off your lazy as$es. Instead of sitting here drooling at how you can come up with new ways to insult each other, go outside, live your life. Believe in god or don't believe in god who FRACKIN cares. Were all on this planet together. Now shut up and go live your life.


    June 5, 2011 at 12:13 am |
    • Jason

      Did you heed your own advice? Or are you still here? 🙂

      June 5, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • MrHand

      Anonymous, what part of "none of your damn business" don't you understand?

      June 5, 2011 at 5:02 am |
  9. Amanda


    June 5, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • D

      and: http://dontneedgod.com

      June 5, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  10. Edward

    Well really every person that isn't religious practices "satanism" as satanism in essence simply espouses being human without feeling the need to repent for what comes naturally to you. If you tell a Christian that this is what Satanism is about they will certainly consider you a follower of "Satan" because their bible states that anyone that doesn't follow jesus has been led astray. I think that a more mainstream name for "Satanism" would be Humanism which is "a secular ideology which espouses reason, ethics, and justice, whilst specifically rejecting supernatural and religious dogma as a basis of morality and decision-making." In other words, it is simply about being human without the need for mythology.

    June 5, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Siyajkak

      Humanism isn't atheist though. Secular, but not atheist. It celebrates the ability of the individual and of mankind ovrall to succeed and encourages the pursuit of worldly goals and desires. This can be in addition to or to the exclusion of religious beliefs. Satanism combines humanism with a strict atheism, and so it should have a separate term to differentiate it from the more general humanism

      June 5, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • Edward

      I disagree, I think that humanism in practice would be contradicting to christian morals and ethics. You can practice humanism while being a christian but you'll just be a hypocrite.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • Edward

      Also, "rejecting supernatural and religious dogma as a basis of morality and decision-making." equal atheist.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Jason

      Whoa, Edward! "Rejecting supernatural and religious dogma as a basis of morality and decision-making" is not equal to athiesm. For example, simple deism holds that there is a god, but that that god does not interfere in human affairs. If a god exists but does not interfere in human affairs, then what is illogical about "rejecting supernatural and religious dogma as a basis of morality and decision-making"?

      June 5, 2011 at 12:39 am |
    • Edward

      Well if someone believes that a god exists but that this god does not interfere in human affairs then for all intents and purposes that god may as well not exist. Let's be honest, the vast majority of people either fall on one of two sides, either you believe in god and that he has an effect on the world or you don't. You can nit pick and find holes in that but when someone says that they believe in god you can assume that they believe that god effects their lives in some way.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Edward

      Just to note, I don't have the answer nor do I pretend to. I think that each person should follow what they believe to be true regardless of what anyone else says, including myself.

      June 5, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  11. Cyphonix

    I am a son of God, not "The Son of God" but a son of God. I see the devil on the streets of the world feeding on garbage, drunk, and high on drugs fornicating with each other. I have been tempted many times in my life and even used my body with satan, but it never touched my soul nor my spirit. It is an ongoing fact to me that satan want me dead daily. Satan also tells me lies through the media. It is up to God and the Holly Spirit to filter through, what is truth to me. The devil smells like feces and urine, it has no boundaries craving pleasure for itself. Satan is neither male or female. It is an insatiable beast that feeds on souls by delivering self satisfaction and fornications with pride. I know who you are Satan, I know you very well.

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

      Your life must really suck dude.....

      June 5, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • frank

      How long has it been since you got some sleep?

      June 5, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Cyphonix

      I live in a comfortable 5 million dollar home in Los Angeles, and got plenty of sleep by my pool with my dogs. Oh, BTW, my life does not suck my dear.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:20 am |
    • KTF

      We're all so impressed with your money and your stuff, but pride is a sin, Jack. You'd do well to have some humility.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Cyphonix

      @KTF, I responded with the truth to the comments on my post to make a point. I'm not proud of what is, is just the way it is. I understand humility, and unfortunately, it is also a daily struggle for me to balance power with humility. Remember, I'm still human. But thanks for pointing that out. Peace be with you.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • ibivibiv

      #@$% it Cyphonix, no one cares about your pool or your opinions or your god. And as for all your comforts... you can't take them with you when you go.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Cyphonix

      @ibivibiv, you are absolutely 100% correct. That's why I don't love those things. They are just that: things. Love is for one another, and everything that God created, including the devil and his legion of unclean spirits. Only love can defeat them. So, it is not money or things what makes people evil, it is the love for money and those things. Furthermore, I have no problem loosing the "things", but I'll be damned if I loose my soul.

      June 5, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • clow

      whose 5 million dollar home do you live in? you speak like a fool accusing people who are being irresponsible as being supernaturally evil... they might be at loss for moral compass or made poor life choice but people fail on their own accord and screw themselves over... but you're going to blame the devil? hope you are seeing a psychiatrist with all your money so you can learn how to be humble and less grandiose... Satan? please...take your meds

      June 5, 2011 at 2:45 am |
  12. Mike R

    To say you don't believe in a higher power, such as God, is to indirectly say that YOU are claiming to be the god of the person you are talking to. Because if a person is focused on something that is not the self, you are apt to live with actions that benefits others and not just yourself, this being of value to society. If you claim to be god of others, be prepared to be chopped off your high pedistal by a stronger, intelligent being that selfishly wants to make the same claim. So try to be humble, and assume that God might actually be a conscience being that can take you out for not being beneficial to society. God may be all of our collective minds working in a collective,conscious way for itself to survive within it's own psychic network of living beings. Each of our brains might just be comparable to a neuron in a larger and more vast mind of God... so show some respect...for the sake of your own priveledge of existence.Catch you in the flip side!

    June 4, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • West

      You're silly. To not believe in god in no way means you think you are above others.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Mike V

      See: "Non-sequitur fallacy."

      June 5, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • Edward

      How about this ... since we all have evolved from stardust and since stardust came from the universe isn't every single human simply the universe trying to understand itself? We are all god and god is us, we all come from the same place. I am an atheist.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • Brian

      My question is: who and what created the stardust?

      June 5, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Edward

      Are you suggesting that the creator of stardust would be "god". Because I would have to ask you what characteristics this god has. If you go down that road I think you'll find that the god that created this stardust isn't so pleasant.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Edward

      By the way that road would be evolution. It would mean that the god that created the stardust also created a world in which all of it's inhabitants must eat one another in order to stay alive. He doesn't sound so loving and compassionate does he? If there was a god I would have to ask him why he made the world such a brutal place to live in. If the free will excuse is given I would say, but is it really free will considering the only choices I have are following you or burning in hell forever? That doesn't sound very reasonable. I'm actually giving a non existent god the benefit of the doubt by not believing that he exists because what I'm actually saying is that I don't think that a god would create a world like this. Or maybe he would, who knows? Maybe god isn't so loving and compassionate as we've been told. I don't know.

      June 5, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • Edward

      Just to note, I don't have the answer nor do I pretend to. Like I said, I don't know. I think that each person should follow what they believe to be true regardless of what anyone else says, including myself.

      June 5, 2011 at 1:48 am |
    • Sean

      I don't know how a Rubik's Cube is made, but I'm pretty sure it's not magic.

      June 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  13. frank

    Satanist chicks are sechsy.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  14. pat

    I would think burning the body would be a good start. Just a taste of what is coming......

    June 4, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • RW

      Ahhhhhh......it's either your way or burnnnnnn......That's not very christian like. WWJD?

      June 4, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  15. Corbijn

    I have no idea why this church Anton LaVey is connected with the notion of Satanism, it has nothing to do with Satan. If you were a true believer in Satanic belief, you would have to believe in Christ, God, Judaism and all that more than Christians do. To me a Satanic belief would deal with the second coming and a goal to place Satan in power instead of Christ. Isn't Satanism supposed to be the deliberate perversion of Christianity and if it isn't whats the point? A real Atheist (what I am) doesn't believe or practice any form of dogma in any manner at all; look at the literal meaning of the word Atheist, free of theism. I'm sorry but I read The Satanic Bible by LaVey years ago and I find it to be one of the most confusing things ever. On one hand he talks about the perversion of Christianity as an affront to Christians, then talks about the history of the devil through the ages, but outside the book he says this is all a farce and so is any organized religion. I have nothing against LaVey and can understand why all he really wanted to do was throw Christianity back in its own face but the way he did it by creating his own religion is what I don't get. If you're opposed to religion and its practice, just leave it alone, don't make another.

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


      June 4, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • ryan

      What's wrong with pearls? Plenty of swine around...

      June 5, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • Shannon

      Thank you!!! Very well said!!

      June 5, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  16. RW

    John .... most of the great inventors, scientist etc. during the Renaissance and in other periods of history weren't necessarily devout christians. They believed to avoid persecution and to secure funding/endowements to pursue their true passions. Religion does a lot of good things for those who need that type of structure in their lives but it's main goal is to control.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  17. DD

    Deifying themselves. Then, in the purest interpretation of that concept, we are all "satanists".

    June 4, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  18. PRISM 1234

    When I was a little child, my father went to a funeral of a well known communist of our little town where I grew up, in a small Country of Europe. Communists there were known to be ultimate atheists....
    My father came home pale, quiet and obviously disturbed.
    After a while he told us why... When that man's friends recited eulogy, and his body was lowered into the ground, my father said he heard noise above the grave. And not far above, of height of the power-lines, there were corn husks circling above his grave, steadily, in perfect circle, with NO WIND blowing in the air.... This may not mean much to some of you, but to thopse around who seen it , it did... and to us who understand meaning of things of the spiritual realm, this was an obvious thing... .... Instead of beautiful doves, and birds singing over the graves of godly departed, the corn husks were his honor of departure. He died how he lived, and his reception was accordingly...
    Don't kid yourself, people, there is only ONE way, and it is the Lord Jesus Christ, or no way!
    There is a war in the realm of the spirit world, and it is for our human souls... satan is the father of lies, and will do anything and resort to every form of deception to deceive ... Those who have bought his lie, will only find out that he is the one who will great them when their body releases their soul... But then there will be no way back to recant! Now is the time to listen and not turn away the wise counsel of those who know what is happening.... Sadly, many go their own way... And they give satan plenty to laugh about at them, while he is preparing a place for them an reception like that man's long ago in country of my childhood.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • West

      The only lies are the ones you are telling.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Patty Biller

      awesome, and praise the Lord!

      June 5, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • ryan

      If you want to have a hope of having people take your spiritual message seriously, magical flying corn husks may not be the best angle...

      June 5, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • frank

      The Miracle of the Corn Husks!

      June 5, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Apepi

      no, stop kidding yourself! just stop it!! LOL so, i guess you still believe in the fat man coming down the chimney or the tooth fairy!! hey, why not believe in Peter Pan!!?? wait wait wait!! how about the big boat aka noahs arc with all the animals in the world on it!? WOW!! to be able to have all the marine life on it too!! like those tube worms!! who would of thunk it?! LOL!!! ohhh!! that's right!! god works in mysterious ways! right!? ABSURD!! LOL!! WAKE UP!!

      June 5, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • ibivibiv

      seriously??????? Wow ok then. So the other day a took a giant @$%! and it looked just like the zig zag man. But then I thought that the zig zag man looks kinda like JC too. WOW it's a miracle there is only one way that JC and the zig zag man could possibly look alike. That's it we are all going to heaven now because I took such and awesomely creative dump!!!! You can all thank me later.

      June 5, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • aerie

      Wow...that cornhusk nonsense sounds like a scene straight out of the movie "Ghost".
      What's truly frightening is that people living in the 21st century actually believe such f. * c. k. e. r. y.

      June 5, 2011 at 2:54 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      To those of you who threw insults because of my comment.... THE TRUTH T HAT YOU WILL FACE DOES NOT CHANGE. Regardless of your mockeries and denials IT WILL stare you in the face. Your soul's within you KNOW IT, but the rebellion that's inside o you surfaces, manifesting itself through your insults, because you know that THERE IS NOTHING YOU ARE ABLE TO DO ABOUT IT! But to each his own! Let time be the judge, it will tell all things, and we'll see who the fool is! ......So, suit yourself!

      June 5, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  19. Peter E

    If you believe in peace, love, charity, and your actions actually reflect that belief, I don't care what arbitrary name you attach to your religion or non-religion.
    Have you noticed how many millions of lives were lost over the millenia in the name of God between religions that have superficial differences at best? It doesn't take a Christian to believe that killing and stealing are wrong, and that loving your family and having compassion for your fellow man are right. Most religions share that same belief. Yet how quickly Christians themselves give into selfishness and violence.
    Don't forget, violence is wrong if it's anyone else doing it. If you do it 'in the name of God' then it's justified...

    June 4, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • Wookie cookie

      I would like to point out that Christians don't have blasphemy laws still on the books (not trying to be an a$$ im just throwing that out there)

      June 4, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  20. ImJustAnAtheist

    Sounds to me like these satanists are just attention whoring. The name of the group suggests that the origins of it's name was meant to go against the abrahamic religions. If they are atheists, why use any other name to describe themselves? Why have a 'church'? I wouldn't call these people atheists.They are just very confused people. A true atheist tries to see the world for what it is. Nothing magical about it. No such thing as immortalizing yourself through memory. Our world will return to the state it was before life came to be. We are immortal in a sense of having existed.

    June 4, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • kfl0wek

      My world is magical...sorry yours isn't.

      June 4, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • h2i

      it's called 'having fun' and 'a sense of humor'. you take yourself far too seriously...

      June 4, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Darkwolf

      LaVey was nothing but an attention-seeking scammer. His "Church" was/is simply a proof (to him and his followers) that there is, indeed, a Sucker born every minute.

      June 5, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • Jason

      Although I am not an atheist, I agree that these guys need a new name. If they really are atheists, then the name "Satan" should have no significance for them. "Religious Atheists" would be a better name, since you don't need to believe in God to be religious, but you do need to have some attachment to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic framework to be a "follower of Satan".

      June 5, 2011 at 12:33 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
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.