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. trixen

    All Hail Satan!!!

    June 5, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  2. Velveeta

    Based on my experience with a family member who is a Satanist, I think it's a religion that attracts narcissists.

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

      There are certainly people of all religions that simply use religion as means to draw attention to themselves. However, to some degree you need to look past that and look at the basic tenets of the belief systems when comparing and contrasting them. I mean, balding, overweight, late middle aged men tend to be drawn to Corvettes. But if you are going to compare a Corvette to a Corolla, you have to agree that in most aspects, a Corvette outperforms a Corolla. So when comparing religions and whether their belief systems make sense, you need to look past the practicioners and look at what the tenets of the faith are.

      June 5, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  3. Stephen Hawking knows MORE than you

    Christians condemning non-believers and those practicing another religion?

    This is a shocking development indeed.

    The Inquisition
    First Crusade
    Siege of Jerusalem
    Crusade of 1101
    Norwegian Crusade
    Second Crusade
    Third Crusade
    Fourth Crusade
    Albigensian Crusade
    Children's Crusade
    Fifth Crusade
    Sixth Crusade
    Seventh Crusade
    Eighth Crusade
    Ninth Crusade
    Northern Crusades
    Swedish Crusades
    Wendish Crusade
    Stedinger Crusade
    Aragonese Crusade
    Alexandrian Crusade
    Norwich Crusade
    Mahdian Crusade
    Crusade of Nicopolis
    Crusade of Varna
    Crusade of 1456
    Crusade against the Tatars
    Hussite Crusade
    Extermination of Jews who were blamed for spreading Bubonic plague
    The Holocost
    Serb Orthodox genocide
    Rwandan genocide

    June 5, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • John Richardson

      Your list gets real weak at the end. There may have been genuinely christian nazis, but nazism isn't christianity. There have been a LOT of genuinely christian atrocities against jews, but this wasn't one of them. There were christians who used the bible to justify slavery, but also a lot of christians on both sides of the atlantic who were responsible for getting it abolished. Christianity has a lot of blood on its hands, but let's not blame them for every horrible thing that has happened in the west.

      June 5, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Stephen Hawking knows MORE than you

      No offense John, but you have much to learn about history my friend.


      I shouldn't have to remind you that Nazis were Christians and pre-Nazi Germany already had a very long history of anti-Semitism dating back to the Crusades. While Hitler can be viewed as an enabler, it should be noted that his anti-Semitic views weren't exclusively his own.

      As for Slavery, Christianity shares blame as not only were there specific incidents of slavery tied to Christianity, but the church itself once considered slavery an acceptable practice.


      June 5, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  4. SolomonSez

    "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.

    Apart from Christ, you belong to Satan. How many churches celebrate the life of the deceased as the focus of the funeral instead of Christ who is our only hope from sin, death and Satan? Christ's robe of righteousness is a gift and we are justified in Christ through faith in Him – in His life, death on the cross and resurrection. His incarantion into a man 100% human and 100% divine, God, our Creator, who loved us enough to come to earth himself and pay the penalty for our sin – that's our hope and that should be the focus. We do Satan's work by focusing on anything else but Christ.

    June 5, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • sam

      Kumbaya, my brother, kumbaya.

      June 5, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Curious

      What's a robe of righteousness? That sounds freaking awesome & I must have one.

      June 5, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Sean

      I want a Helmet of Goodness to wear with it. And some Sneakers of Solace.

      June 5, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  5. sam

    The prototypical caricature of Satan has nothing to do with it. The name "satanist" itself is a biblical reference to being your own God, not worshiping one.

    June 5, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  6. NorCalMojo

    Every "satanist" are just attention seeking drama queens. They're like the kids that run around pretending to be vampires.

    June 5, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Kevin

      Kind of like every theist - every christian I know...

      June 5, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  7. Bigred

    Perhaps because Christians have a poor understanding of other faiths it might be helpful to know that Witches and Wicca are not Satanists, nor do they see Satan as a deity to be adored. Witchcraft and Wicca are referred to as crafts and are the fundamental faiths that comforted humankind well into the Christian period (which we are still living in). As one in tune with green witchcraft there is no evil, cruelty, or sin involved in this craft. Satan has no part in this faith.

    June 5, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Vito LaBella

      So then do Muslims and Jews and Wiccans have a better understanding of Christianity?

      June 5, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Brandon

      If you are Christian, then Satan has a part in any religion or thought based system that doesn't glorify God. So a Christian looking at Wicca will see a lot of Satan and sin involved with that religion. To some extent, you are just talking past Christians when you say Satan has nothing to do with your religion. Because if God has nothing to do with your religion, then in a Christian's view, Satan has everything to do with it.

      June 5, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Dave

      @Brandon – That's where you are wrong. Not only does the God have everything to do with Witchcraft and Wicca but also the Goddess. As a matter of fact Witchcraft and Wicca are more closely related to Hinduism or any other polytheistic belief system. The reference point however for anyone are their own beliefs and the problem is Christians do not realize that and therefore see any religion thru christian colored glasses.

      June 5, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Brandon

      I don't think I'm wrong. I'm not professing Christianity or Wicca to be my belief system. But I think that I'm right that Christians think the purpose of life is to glorify God. And when they say God, they aren't talking about a Hindu god, or a nature god, or a Wicca goddess. They are talking about the God of Abraham, who gave his son Jesus, to be sacrificed for mankind's sins. That isn't the Wicca god. So I think I'm right that as Christians see the world, Wicca would be a sinful practice and one that is part of Satan's art of deception away from the true God. In Christianity there aren't any sidelines. Everyone is in the game and you are on one side or the other.

      June 5, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Kieseyhow

      You are absolutely correct Brandon. A Christian, a true Christian as there are MANY faiths that "claim" to be Christian but fall short of the fundamental conditions, would in actually fact see anyone who is not Christian as being under the influences of Satan and his minions. Any Christian that argues this fact, is not a true Christian. Anyone else that argues this fact, is under the influences of Satan or simply ignorant and at great risk of eternal damnation. However, we are all judged by what the intent is within our hearts. If you simply do not know, and you are a good person in your heart, you will not reach the level of Glory in the Celestial Kingdom, but there is a place of lesser Glory reserved for you and those like you. It is rarely too late to repent of your ways, find Christ, and collect the rewards God has intended for you.

      June 6, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  8. Uruuur

    These people give atheists a bad name. If they do not believe in an afterlife, then how do they associate with Satan. They need to take Logical Thinking 101.

    June 5, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • kasey

      And if they don't believe in Satan, why do they call themselves Satanists and the Church of Satan?

      June 5, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • trixen

      yeah, I dunno... I'm atheist myself. I don't believe in any gods or devils of any kind. It's all hocus pocus, just like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. I don't think Satanists give people like myself a bad name, though. I think they provide a great deal of entertainment in the same way the most devout followers of all religions do. In all honesty though, the most devout Satanists don't spread their faith–it's one of their principles NOT to. If anything, I have more respect for them than I do for these Jehovah's Witnesses who knock on my door and want to tell me about Jesus. I DON'T CARE. GO AWAY!!!

      June 5, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  9. saneamerican

    if he beleives in satan then cemate huim and use the ashes in a barbecue to burn even more since satan is a firelord

    June 5, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • T3chsupport

      If you read the article, you'd realize that these guys don't believe in Satan whatsoever.

      June 5, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  10. bob


    June 5, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  11. William

    These people are very lost. How can you claim to be a "Satanist" and also claim 'a disbelief in God but also in the devil or Satan'? That would be tantamount to a Christian claiming disbelief in Christ Jesus. Satan is the father of all lies. Adam and Eve believed the same lie that they could be like God.
    The only thing that ever changes is the names and faces. The story remains the same...

    June 5, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  12. Brandon

    @Derrique, atheists actually tend to know more about religion than those who practice it. See "Don't know much about religion? You're not alone, study finds" an article CNN ran back in Sept. I don't care too much for the Church of Satan, as I can't see putting that much effort into rebelling against something that I don't particularly care about. But they probably know as much, if not more, about your religion than you do.

    June 5, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • LinCA

      To make it easy, here is the link. Just copy-paste: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/09/28/dont-know-much-about-religion-youre-not-alone-study-finds/

      June 5, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  13. David Bluesnow

    Satan doesn't have to work hard on these ones as they already tagged HELL FIRE!

    June 5, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Cedar rapids

      In god's forgiving love and mercy, lol.

      June 5, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • terminally chill

      Did you read the article? Seems like satanism is just a sect of atheism. I didn't know that either, seems contradictory. Either way, just another example of how reality is skewed by the media.

      June 5, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  14. JJP

    Iwent to a Satanist ceremony at a church in New Orleans circa 1972. They must have changed a lot since then; back then they made use of the word 'Satan' to be identified against the Judeo-Christian god. Now they sound like a bunch of nutty humanists, no more or less, so why used the word 'Satan'?

    June 5, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  15. dmsd

    In just wasted 5 minutes of my life reading this article- it makes no sense whatsoever.

    June 5, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Steve

      Really? It took you five minutes to read the article? You don't read very well do you? Maybe you should go back to school??

      June 5, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Uruuur

      dmsd is correct. The article makes no sense.

      June 5, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Ken

      I think the point of this article is to blur atheism with satanism in order to make Atheists look like Satanist. Christians do fear atheists more than satanist because at least satanist acknowledge God and Satan. On thing the perpetrators of Christianity can't stand is someone (Atheists) who lumps Christianity in with Greek mythology and Totem poles. All religion is fantasy. Any real Atheist knows that Satanism is more 'crackpot' than Christianity.

      June 5, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  16. Kirbir

    @Derrique Not entirely true. I know several atheists who are religion professors across the US. Don't assume all are ignorant. Some of us are fascinated by religions but don't buy into the hocus pocus of it all.

    June 5, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  17. Um What

    You don't believe in God but you believe in the Devil? They go hand in hand. I get if your a Agnostic or Atheist but these clowns are no different than Hale bopp cooks or Branch davidians.

    June 5, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • UncleM

      You either didn't read or understand the article.

      June 5, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • John

      Sounds like you might be the one who needs educated. Try actually reading the article.

      June 5, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Play Nice

      Thats the dumbest thing i have herd all day.

      June 5, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Alive in Christ

      Its impossible to be a satanist and not believe in God. What's happening here is that Satan is actually using these folks to try to lead people to believe that there is no hell. Satan's greatest accomplishment has been leading people to believe that he doesnt exist!!!!

      June 5, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  18. Derrique

    @Dgh: Atheists are nothing special. EVERYBODY has a 'higher power' they cling to in life, even if it's not in the form of 'God' or 'Satan'. You can believe in God or Satan and NOT go to church, hence avoiding the nonsense, altogether. Atheists are also phenomenally stupid when it comes to religious assumptions, because they know nothing about the subject. Something to think about.

    June 5, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • UncleM

      Research has demonstrated that atheists are actually more educated on the subject of religion than believers.

      June 5, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • wowherightdude

      I bet I know more about the bible than you do smart guy. Atheists as a rule know more about religion than the people who practice it; that's why they reject it in the first place. If you cared enough to read secular history and see the impact it has made on the church and church policies, you too might reject the false god and the money grubbers and power holders who keep you sedated. But Christians are the self righteous ones. Here's something for YOU to think about. You are an atheist just like me and millions of others. I just believe in one less god than you do. When you finally understand why you reject all other gods as incontrovertibly false, then you will understand why I reject yours in the same manner.

      June 5, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • cykill45

      they just believe in a different invisible man...foolish. everybody knows that there is only one invisible man.

      June 5, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • LinCA


      June 5, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  19. Marco

    Is funny that the article says that the Satanists is believing that you are your own god. Well that means most people in America believes that. And if they don't say it they surely act like it. Hollywood is one of the biggest Satanists church then. Satan church is the biggest church in the world. Because most people in the world share the same believe, that they are their own god.

    June 5, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  20. Dgh

    What they believe or not should not cloud over the fact they do not portray the average person who is atheist. Atheist avoid any of the religious nonsense, right down to its rituals.

    June 5, 2011 at 9:40 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.