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. Sid Airfoil

    Gotta admit, I'm confused. I am an atheist, and it sounds as if I agree with everything that the Satanists in this article believe. I beliieve in neither god, the devil or a personal afterlife. I suppose I'm confused why they call themselves "Satanists" if they don't believe in Satan as he is typically viewed. Do they distinguish between "atheist" and "satanist"? Any answers for me?


    June 5, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  2. unowhoitsme

    Just don't forget the pay your taxes before you exit OR Big Brother will come after you!

    June 5, 2011 at 7:28 am |
  3. Clay

    The original form of the name satan means "resistor"and "deceiver" This article furthers that endeaver.
    Atheist my @$$ you have a god, it's in your name, let's call you Sathiests? No, you were right the first time.
    And why do you even want to be remembered? Is not your service enough? You
    can be redeemed, those you serve can not.

    "He keeps transforming himself into an angel of light".'The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one"
    At least You and yours are honest with each other about who you serve.Morphing Atheism will not gain you true converts to your cause.A house divided against itself WILL fall.

    June 5, 2011 at 7:28 am |
    • Dustin

      Actually, "Satan" means "the accuser". Not "deceiver" or whatever nonsense you've bought into.

      June 5, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • Clay

      Thank you for the correction.
      Now intelligently refute the rest of my argument instead of coveniently dismissing it.

      June 5, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  4. True Player

    Atheism is the one true Religion. Everyone else is gonna burn.

    June 5, 2011 at 7:17 am |
  5. blgrim

    Religion and scriptures, however modified and enriched with general knowledge, are also not only about salvation, but also about personal and professional development.

    Who else benefits greatly but all in society and the State without a dime of public funding for such precious education, making man a better person for seeing good, doing good and being good.

    Deeper meaning, leading to the goal of all scriptures, can be found in all scriptural and non scriptural passages and messages.

    June 5, 2011 at 7:02 am |
  6. Monte Sonnenberg

    These anonymous people think they are Satanists. They should look into the life of Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. Now there was a Satanist.

    June 5, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  7. Crillie

    I just can't seem to get my panties all in a wad about what other people believe/don't believe. I think personal beliefs should be just that....personal.

    June 5, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  8. mb2010a

    Death and What Happens When We Die or
    Always Pay The Electric Bill First

    I think that when a person, plant or thing ceases to be among the living; they simply
    cease to exist, period. Their body is still here, but even that, given time, will simply
    be absorbed back into the great ether of time and disappear.

    Think about it like this. It all has to do with electrical current, which is all around us.
    Mankind did a great deal more than just "discover electricity" when he figured out
    what it was. He discovered the actual "spark of life", if you will; and so much more
    without realizing what he had done.

    Humans are no different, let's say, than a computer like the one I am typing on right
    at this moment. It has memories, it can solve problems, it can even "think" to a certain
    degree. It runs on electricity just the same as we do. It also stops doing all the
    aforementioned things when it malfunctions (gets sick) or is turned off or simply stops
    working. In effect, it dies. It's electrical energy is cut off and it ceases to exist, temporarily
    or permanently. Its' memories are retained in its' memory chips, but even they are
    eventually wiped away.

    One could even simplify the equation one step further by comparing humans to a lamp
    or any other small appliance. While the electricity is tuned on, it functions and does the
    job it was built to do. The moment the current stops flowing the lamp stops working and
    goes dark. If the flow of electricity is never turned back on, the lamp is quite dead. It will
    eventually rust away into nothingness.

    The big difference with humans, of course, is that our bodies will begin to decay and
    break down much quicker than a computer or a lamp when our "spark of life" is interrupted.
    Also the fact that we can generate our own electricity is a big factor. But once that ability is
    interrupted, we are usually not able to restart that generator. Like the computer, our
    memories are still there; stored in our brains but we can no longer access them as the
    power has been cut off and it can't be turned back on.

    Then there is the discussion of our "soul". This a tough one, subject to a great deal of debate.
    I have a tendency to think we are no different than any other living being, whether plant or
    animal on this planet. We don't have souls any more than a plant or an animal. We deny
    souls to plants and animals through our own conceit…we are no different than they are,
    and no more. When we die we are done. Our memory banks may be full (or not), but it is
    lights out. Game over…

    June 5, 2011 at 6:12 am |
    • Richard Heteny

      Interesting analogy..Makes senses.

      June 5, 2011 at 6:32 am |
    • Roc

      Ha Ha Ha – great comedy piece – Seriously – computers can think? Ha Ha Ha – You rationalize with very little information. You wrote the silliest thing I have read in a long time. You, yes you, like so many other decry the existence of God in your rational thought yet you have never met Him. I agree the exposed Christians we read about do little for the Christian faith and often make it look like a terrible thing.. But there are those who have met God and walked away with an undeniable belief of His existence. Laugh at this if you want if for no other reason than it is unbelievable on the face of it. Perhaps if you looked for Him, not religion, not ritual, not spiritual things, but just Him you would also know the truth.

      June 5, 2011 at 6:33 am |
    • Liz Wilson

      The laws of thermodynamics and quantum physics might off a perspective or two for this discussion.

      June 5, 2011 at 6:46 am |
  9. miele

    George Bush= Satan Lucifer=Dick Cheney

    June 5, 2011 at 5:58 am |
  10. Billy M

    Mr. Marrapodi,
    It's cisco, not sisco. "San Francisco". Where've you been?

    June 5, 2011 at 5:46 am |
  11. maria

    may the Lord shine his light upon those confused souls.

    June 5, 2011 at 5:38 am |
  12. Kartyac

    Satanism is not a "flavor" of atheism, I mean really, the word Satan is right in the name... Just because they also realize that religion is a tool made by man to control man, doesn't mean they are anywhere near what an atheist is. Combust cannabis on a daily regimen.

    June 5, 2011 at 5:35 am |
    • Edward

      They are atheists

      June 5, 2011 at 5:37 am |
    • Edward

      according to the article

      June 5, 2011 at 5:58 am |
  13. Obamas Fault

    Satanists right ? when the devil himself doesn't even have there time, wait ! why are they called satanist when everything they are doing is not involving satan ? I didn't read it there that they worship Satan or Devil .

    June 5, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  14. Hmmm

    How is it satanism if they don't believe in satan? So wouldn't it be atheism? And aren't Satanism and Atheism two different things technically?

    June 5, 2011 at 5:19 am |
    • BJ

      I was wondering the same thing and my only conclusion is that they think it's a lot cooler to call themselves Satanists.

      You see, to believe in Satan you also have to believe there is a God. Hence, why these souls are a lot more confused than one would originally think.

      June 5, 2011 at 5:48 am |
  15. steama

    Satanists are Christians—simply the flip side of the same religion. Both perspectives utterly false.

    June 5, 2011 at 5:08 am |
    • BJ

      All of the information presented to me in the article shows me that Satanists are not only NOT the flipside of Christians but absolutely nothing like any religion in any sense.

      June 5, 2011 at 5:52 am |
    • electricgrendel

      I am not sure that any comment could better scream "I DIDN'T READ THE ARTICLE AT ALL BEFORE MOUTHING OFF!!" than yours. It clearly states that the "Church of Satan" has a main tennet of atheism. So- how Christianity and atheism can be two sides of one coin and both be wrong, I will never know.

      June 5, 2011 at 5:59 am |
    • jimmy the freak

      Actually, Christians are Satanists. They totally believe in Him, and are busy doing His dirty work every day.

      June 5, 2011 at 5:59 am |
  16. Tanterei

    @FairGarden: And what exactly do you want to say?
    @Shame: See it this way: Churches etc. try to recruit followers by trying to convince them that god exists, or at least to play upon their inherent fear of death and oblivion.
    Therefore we can(!) say, that atheists "recruit followers" by trying to show them, that no such thing as god exists.
    Basically nobody can tell whether "it" exists or not and everything is a belief somewhat – equal in truth until proven false.

    June 5, 2011 at 5:01 am |
    • steama

      Wow. You are one deluded soul.

      June 5, 2011 at 5:10 am |
    • Dustin

      uh...no. You don't know how burden of proof works, do you? If you make a claim, such as "God exists." you should have evidence to support that claim. Until you can provide evidence for that claim, then there's no reason to believe it.

      Its not a 50/50 chance that a statement is true, until its proven false. Do you believe in Alien abductions until they're proven false? Loch Ness Monster? Invisible pink dragons?

      June 5, 2011 at 7:57 am |
  17. mark

    this satanism sounds like a flavor of atheism. perhaps they chose the name for shock value? usually a religion called Xism implies a belief in X... 🙂

    June 5, 2011 at 4:55 am |
  18. Shame

    ThomasM195.. When atheist recruit.. How can they explain a belief.. if they have none.. To NOT believe is a belief.. never understood how so many (atheist) that claim to be smarter than everyone else, miss the very logic of that..

    June 5, 2011 at 4:43 am |
    • mark

      i agree, that not believing in something (esp denying a specific thing) is indeed a belief. what i think is in error is to say they have no beliefs. you proved they do. i think what they say is they do not believe in god. that is not the same thing as saying they have no beliefs whatsoever. perhaps to someone who feels a belief in god is the only belief possible, you line of logic might make sense.

      June 5, 2011 at 4:54 am |
    • JB

      It is not that they simply don't belive, that is not what atheists believe....What you are missing is that they do not believe the exhistance of a supreme being or other "gods"

      June 5, 2011 at 5:02 am |
    • Scarface

      It is not a belief to have no belief.
      How anyone can get this mixed up in their head is only too typical of believers.
      Let's say a church is a building filled with people being lied to.
      In this case, atheists are simply staying outside the building having seen through the lies.
      Maybe they used to be one of those inside the building. Maybe they never entered one.
      The point is that they do not believe lies, obvious lies at that, especially when there is absolutely no proof of any lie being true.
      They -do not believe- the lies.
      Any made-up mystical nonsense without any supporting proof whatsoever can logically and reasonably be referred to as lies, falsehoods, fables, fairy-tales, myth, fiction, clap-trap, perjury, forgery, invention, fabrication, fraud, mystification, deception, deceit, sham, make-believe (how ironic), etc.
      To refuse to believe in a lie is not a religion, is not a belief, but is simple adherence to truth without equivocation.
      As believers, you exhibit many symptoms of Munchausen Syndrome. And also show anyone with a bit of discernment that you not only do not know what you are talking about when you spout your religious nonsense, but you show a definite lack of reasoning in the things you do say about your beliefs.
      Fact: The Bible is filled with lies.
      Fact: Most Christians cannot face this fact and will react badly to any such suggestion of such. Many also view such suggestions as vicious attacks upon their religion, their faith, and themselves.
      Fact: When this happens you show all the same signs as any other cult member throughout the world. You are brainwashed, indoctrinated, defrauded, etc.
      When you cannot face the truth because of your religious beliefs, that is a warning sign that you are little better than a trained dog.

      June 5, 2011 at 6:16 am |
  19. FairGarden

    "He(Jesus) replied, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you(true Christians) authority to trample on snakes and scorpions(devils and demons) and to overcome all the powers of the enemy(Satan); nothing will harm you(Christians)." (Luke 10:18,19)

    June 5, 2011 at 4:42 am |
    • Allison

      ummm.....snakes and scorpions are real and can very well hurt you. Devils and demons on the other hand, well, they are kind of made up.

      June 5, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  20. ThomasM195

    Sorry, Mr. Eric Marrapodi, you obviously have absolutely no knowledge of Satanists or even of Atheists. Satanists believe in God and Satan but choose Satan over God. (God & Satan come together from the same religion(s). You either believe in both or neither of them.) Atheists do NOT believe in, or worship, God, Satan, or any other crazy idea or fictional characters.

    June 5, 2011 at 4:33 am |
    • Really?

      Thomas. Stop yourself. You are completely ignorant in this subject. Please read the obvious fine points of the article, their perception of God's (or lack thereof) is clearly stated above.

      June 5, 2011 at 4:46 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.