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Hey, Mr. Crabtree, the Church of Satan is on line one, do you want to take the call?

As much as I've tried to avoid commenting on this little sexual assault/cult story that has all the local media drooling all over themselves trying to "break" the latest news in this one, this little story excerpt from is too funny for words:

A woman claiming to represent the Church of Satan said Craig and Johnson aren't members and denounced the allegations against them.

"Our church is, without exception, against all illegal acts. Our dogma is clear and concise on the issue of sexual abuse and crime in general: If you do it, you can be excommunicated," Ygraine Mitchell wrote in an e-mail to WRAL.

So, let me get this straight. You write an email into the station and "claim" to be representing the Church of Satan. And suddenly, BOOM -- you're in the news cycle, as the representative of all Satanists!

Is, suddenly, the Church of Satan the one and only true church? Has there been a schism? Roman and Greek branches? Do the Southern Satanists talk about the need for wives to be deferential to their husbands while the Unitarian Satanalists aren't even so sure about this trinity thing, anyay?

Can someone please tell me -- amidst this entire sorry, overhyped affair, how the heck an email from an unauthenticated source claiming to be part of something called the "Church of Satan" has any relevance to a story like this?

And they say bloggers have low standards.

In other news, the totem pole on the whole Durham Democratic Party angle got a little more interesting today, as the first vice chair of the Durham Dems, one Diana Palmer, surrendered to police today on accusations of being an accessory after the fact to the whole sordid affair.

Perhaps we can get a follow-up statement from the CoS on that one?

Update: Now the N&O has gotten in on the Church of Satan act--

The criminal accusations upset leaders of the Church of Satan, founded in San Francisco in 1966. A church representative Wednesday distanced the group from the accused, saying neither Craig nor Johnson is a member.

A church Web site lists the nine satanic sins as stupidity, pretentiousness, solipsism, self-deceit, herd conformity, lack of perspective, forgetfulness of past orthodoxies, counterproductive pride and lack of aesthetics.

"Essentially we're an atheistic religion that uses Satan as a metaphor ... in the Miltonian sense," Magistra Ygraine Mitchell, an administrator in the church, said. "When people break the law in the name of Satan or the devil, we get very angry."

The church does not condone illegal acts. "We police our own and do not indulge in the irresponsible Christian notion of forgiveness," Mitchell said in an e-mail statement.

Earth to local media: WTF? We have a passing mention by an ADA of satanic activities and suddenly we're taking on the "Church of Satan" as some kind of authoritative source?


Durham Bull Pen

Hmmm, I wonder if "[email protected]" is taken already?

If not, maybe Satan should email WRAL and say he doesn't want anything to do with this whole mess.

Of course, I'm kidding--but I'm not entirely sure I wouldn't see "According to an email from someone claiming to be Satan . . . " show up in their news story later.


Not to be missed!!!

And check out this guy at YouTube who has been posting updates for the satanic community.

This is getting more ridiculous by the minute.

Michael Bacon

Well, there IS a moderately well organized institution called the Church of Satan. They do have a website:

Nothing the e-mailer said was all that out of line with what I've read about the CoS's doctrines, which to my eye, bear a striking resemblance to objectivist libertarianism and pure rationalism on steroids.

Jonathan Jones

Apparently you've never heard of Anton LaVey?

Anyway, while I'm adamently opposed to poorly researched sources making it into the news, I was glad to see the N&O's inclusion about some of the Church of Satan stuff in the paper. If only for accuracy.

The "satanic" part of this story should be highly suspect. I was disappointed to see it so widely spread without some challenge. Especially when it's easy to see from the Indigo Dawn web site that Mr. Craig is into "magick," which is not "satanic" but one could easily see how it could be confused as such in a society with a history of branding anything non-Christian as satanic.

And even if the Church of Satan stuff may seem silly, don't you think the Catholic church (or any other mainstream church) would issue some sort of rebuttal if there were widespread reports of a crime "involving a Catholic ritual" and the accused weren't even on the Catholic rolls?

David McMullen

Sure, Jonathan, but if some random person called up and claimed to be speaking for the Catholic Church, don't you think that a reliable news organization would at least try to verify that? There's so much unverified stuff making it on the air or into print with this story that an unscrupulous person could have a field day feeding misinformation to the media.


I'm not sure i understand the criticism of including commentary from someone representing the Church of Satan. If you were a member of a spiritual organization who was somehow figuring highly in a public spectacle, wouldnt you feel the need/right to speak for yourself and the group?

why should we consider her not a legitimate representative. why shouldnt her commentary be respected as would commentary from the presbyterian church, or a spiritual commune even? dont they have that right?

I'm actually impressed that N&O included the commentary--but unfortunately i think it will only serve as a point of ridicule and hate in this area (Da south)

Dan R

I prefer Norwegian Satanism-at least they aren't a bunch of poseurs.

Jonathan Jones

Absolutely David. But how do we know that WRAL didn't verify it?

A cursory google search of this woman's name comes back with dozens of Church of Satan references, including some from its website. For all we know her e-mail address is [email protected]

Durham Bull Pen

Jonathan there's one glaring reason it seems WRAL didn't verify it. Their story was written:

"A woman claiming to represent the Church of Satan . . . . "

Claiming to represent?

There would be no reason to phrase it that way if they verified it.

Jonathan Jones

DBP, I don't pretend to understand why T.V. stations use the strange phrasing that they do. I know they've got an affinity for extraneous words in their reports.

Anyway you can also read that sentence to import skepticism that the "Church of Satan" is a real entity. Given how easy verification appears to be, well, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Either way, the woman appears to be a legitimate member of the church, and her point of view is an addition -- not a distraction -- to the story.

Magistra Ygraine Mitchell

"So, let me get this straight. You write an email into the station and "claim" to be representing the Church of Satan. And suddenly, BOOM -- you're in the news cycle, as the representative of all Satanists!"

Yup. The Church of Satan is the legal religious organization founded by the author of The Satanic Bible. I am appointed to the Magistrate and have permission to represent the organization. As far as other "Satanists" go--the Church of Satan recognizes only those who live by our tenets. All others are pale imitations, or Christian heretics.

"Can someone please tell me -- amidst this entire sorry, overhyped affair, how the heck an email from an unauthenticated source claiming to be part of something called the "Church of Satan" has any relevance to a story like this?"

Maybe because the prosecutor has said to the press that this crime was Satanic. Duh.
Maybe our organization doesn't appreciate being connected to over-sexed power mongers who break both our laws and the laws of the land.

Are you pissed that we have representation, or that we are using the media to dispel misinformation, or what?

Durham Bull Pen

I thought the blog entry was a comment on journalistic standards. I must have misunderstood. Perhaps I'm over-thinking this.


I'm staying out of this one, but I do want to correct Michael's assertion that the Church of Satan is "objectivist libertarianism and pure rationalism on steroids".

Ayn Rand (the founder of objectivism) was an atheist. She would no more worship Satan than she would Buddha.

Michael Bacon

I didn't mean that Rand was a Satanist. I meant that many Satanists seem to be Randroids.

Much of what I've read from the CoS (not that I make a hobby of doing this) has to do with essentially rejecting all forms of communitarianism and focusing solely on your individual needs and wants, and punishing (after a stern warning) those who cross the line and impact your your life or possessions negatively. Rand, of course, never took it to such an extreme. But the base principle -- the inherent morality (or in the Satanists case, lack of amorality) of putting ones own needs and desires first -- is fundamental to each.

Another thing the two have in common is that I find them both utterly detestable.

Michael Bacon

I realized I made a subtle mistake in that last post. It's not that Randroids and Satanists put their own needs *first*. It's that they do not consider any consideration of others to be a moral necessity.

Jonathan Jones

It is about journalistic standards DBP.

My point is that the outrage seems to be misplaced. I don't see a problem with including some information about the "Church of Satan," a legitimate, if not small and strange, organization from what appears to be a legitimate source on the matter.

The journalistic standards problem I see is the widespread repetition of a yet-to-be-substantiated remark from a prosecutor calling this thing "satanic" -- a claim that should be immediately suspect to anyone who has paid even the slightest bit of attention to so-called "satanic cult" activity over the last, I don't know, 20 years.

How many times does a claim of "satanic" activity pop up in the media and is never later substantiated? I seem to recall quite a few of those hoaxes in the mid '80s and early '90s.

Kevin Davis

I can't believe I'm about to step another foot into this debate, but here goes.

I am assuming that one does not have to be a member of the "Church of Satan(TM)" to be a "satanist," especially given the "Church of Satan(TM)" appears to have been formed in the late 1960s, as opposed to a more general practice that has been floating out there for far, far longer.

Besides Jonathan's concern in the previous comment -- which I share -- I guess I have one key concern:

The ADA didn't claim that Craig/Johnson were "members of the Church of Satan(TM)," just that they appeared to have satanic -- lower-case s -- practices. Suddenly the "Church of Satan(TM)" jumps all over this story to try to get the word out that, hey, we don't condone such things.

Which really strikes me as a step of really clever viral marketing -- Google-search "Church of Satan" and you'll see they pop up anytime in the news that satanistic activities are mentioned -- or of perceived brand damage control.

In either case, my point is that the news media jumped all over getting quotes from a self-proclaimed representative of an organization TO WHICH WE HAVE NO IDEA whether Craig/Johnson belonged.

If Craig/Johnson were (say) said to be following unspecified Christian practices, and suddenly the White Rock Baptist Church called up the N&O to say "we don't condone those activities" -- well, so what? We have no idea whether these two people have any relationship to White Rock, just that they were Christians.

There's every good reason in the world for the "CoS(TM)" to put their name out in front of a story like this. There's no good reason to treat them as authoritative on the practice, though.

The "CoS(TM)" can by definition represent only their organization. Any broader claim to the world of satanism is just a hell of a good marketing tactic, taken up by a media starved for sensationalism, IMO.

Magistra Ygraine Mitchell

If I misunderstood your point--journalistic standards, I apologize.
Yet, you cannot fault the always hungry media for doling out that which is served on a platter. If the DA had said what he did and the press didn't mention it the next thing you'd hear is some ridiculous noise about Satanic conspiracies covering up the truth within the media.
You cannot blame the Church of Satan for responding when we are linked with inept swingers and political hacks.
Even those here, obviously educated and informed, remember the Satanic Panic of the 90's and the damage done to non-Satanists and Satanists alike.
Wildfires can be started with a single match.


Speaking of Satan. Jesse Helms died this morning.


Hey Magistra - can you hook me up for an interview with this Satan fella? I'm on record as saying he doesn't exist, and i'd really like an opportunity to set the record straight.

Magistra Ygraine Mitchell

Hey Magistra - can you hook me up for an interview with this Satan fella? I'm on record as saying he doesn't exist, and i'd really like an opportunity to set the record straight.

Unfortunately, speaking out loud to metaphors is frowned upon in polite society.
Of course he doesn't exist. One look at The Satanic Bible or even a cursory glance at the Church of Satan's website demonstrates that we're atheists. We use metaphor and archetype with no belief in any supernatural entities.

This is why it is so foreign to us when people use religious excuses for their stupidity. There is no devil to make anyone do anything.



oh, snap! I love your sense of humour, Barry, but you got pwned.


Wow, as someone who is occasionally prone to unattractive bursts of intellectual superiority and subsequent patronizing of others, I can't believe I am saying this, but: I think a slightly humbler approach might help the Church of Satan with their recruiting efforts. I haven't perceived such a condescending tone since 1994, when I was forced to endure an excruciating game night with a bunch of highly competitive MENSA members(every single one of them an Ayn Rand fan, I might add).

Desperate attempts at one-upmanship by the self-styled intellectually superior make me cringe: people, your Freudian slips are showing. Develop your self-esteem in healthier ways!

Magistra Ygraine Mitchell

"I can't believe I am saying this, but: I think a slightly humbler approach might help the Church of Satan with their recruiting efforts. "
We DON'T recruit. We are confident and proud and to some we come off as elitist and snotty. We are secure that naturally born Satanists will find us. We are truly aware that ours is not a religion for the masses.
Regardless, do we not have the right to correct blatant falsehoods about our religion? Should we not be angry if tax-dollars are paying for a DA to slander us, regardless of fact?


Wouldn't it be something if this whole hubbub was due to an innocent misunderstanding and subsequent use the terms "sadist" and "satanist"?


According to WRAL's website, they're now "cultists." I guess the tongue lashing by the Church of Satan actually had an effect.


Lighten up, Coop. I gather you've never tried to convert to Judaism? They sort of frown on the whole "recruiting" thing as well.

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