Satanists are so nice . . but in a bad way

The Scotsman/October 26, 2004
By Julia Horton

Lust, pride, greed, sloth, envy, gluttony and anger are instantly recognisable as the seven deadly sins. And few would be surprised that followers of Satan believe he "represents all of the so-called sins", extols "indulgence not abstinence" and supports "vengeance instead of turning the other cheek."

So many people were undoubtedly alarmed at the news that a Kirkliston naval technician - who admits to being "evil" and uses the code name Demon Jock - has become the first member of the British Armed Forces to be allowed to practice Satanism while on duty.

While his colleagues are singing Christian hymns in Church of England services aboard the HMS Cumberland, 24-year-old naval technician Chris Cranmer has been given permission to practise his dark religion.

Popular belief would have it that Cranmer will be sacrificing goats and raping any virgins he can find. And politicians and former servicemen have already reacted with disbelief to the news that a devil worshipper is even being allowed to serve with the British Armed Forces - never mind being allowed to carry out sinister rituals.

But what do Satanists like Cranmer actually do?

It is true that one of Nine Satanic Statements which believers follow states that Satan "represents all of the so-called sins as they all lead to physical, mental or emotional gratification".

But Satanists also have their own version of the Ten Commandments, known as the 11 Satanic Rules of the Earth.

And they don't sound evil at all.

One states "do not harm little children". Another warns followers not to "give opinions or advice unless you are asked". Yet another says: "When in another's lair, show him respect or else do not go there."

Richard Freeman, an expert in the paranormal studying Satanism at the Centre for Fortean Zoology in Exeter, says that your average Satanist is pretty harmless.

He explains: "There are several different types of Satanism but the most widespread is the first Church of Satan, which was started in America by Anton LaVey, who looked remarkably like Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon.

"He did not believe in the devil as a monster living in a pit in hell. His whole philosophy was, 'Why should people abstain in this life on the promise that they will be rewarded in the next life, when there might not be one?'

"His thing was enjoying life to the full. Do what you like but don't harm anyone.

"There are hundreds of thousands of Satanists around the world, and most of them are just out to have fun, to enjoy their lives because there might not be an afterlife.

"They go to church [the Church of Satan] though I dare say their gatherings are a bit more fun than the traditional Sunday morning at church - they're probably held on Saturday nights. They don't sacrifice animals, they don't abuse children, they don't rape virgins. They do have an awful lot of sex and some take a lot of drugs and drink a lot.

"I think fundamentalist Christians are a lot more dangerous than Satanists."

The Church of Satan was founded in the 1960s by LaVey, although Satanism can refer to a diverse set of practices that include viewing Satan as a force of nature. It is generally feared or frowned upon by other faiths.

Cranmer converted from the Church of Scotland to Satanism about five years ago - but had dabbled in the subject since he was aged 14.

The Church of Scotland dismisses Satanism as an "anti-religion" which its leaders do not take very seriously. A spokesman says: "Satanism as defined in this case would appear to be an anti-religion rather than a religious faith in the normal sense."

Giving his own explanation of his belief in the satanic magazine Rule Satannia, Cranmer, who holds the naval rank of leading hand, says: "I believe in vengeance. If I were asked if I were evil, I would say yes - at least according to the common definition.

'Freedom to practise my religion was one of the most important factors in gaining recognition from the Navy. I didn't want to feel I couldn't get out my Satanic bible and relax in bed."

The Navy agreed to let Cranmer practice Satanism after the technician asked his captain's permission. A spokesman defends the decision, saying Cranmer will not be carrying out bizarre rituals and denying the decision would have any negative impact on the ship.

The spokesman says: "He [Cranmer] asked the captain of the ship if he could register his belief after deciding to become a Satanist, which had consequences for whether or not he took part in Church of England services on board and what happened to him if he died.

"The captain said that was fine."

"One of the reasons he asked was because he wanted to have it approved as he did not want to be ridiculed for it. All he will be doing on board is reading the Satanic bible in private, if you want to call that a ritual."

The Navy officer also has the support of his mother, Catherine Cranmer, 51, although she admits she found it hard at first to accept that the boy who used to accompany her to the local Church of Scotland near their home in Kirkliston had converted to Satanism.

She says: "I have to say I was not overly enamoured when he told me he was going to become a Satanist but that was purely ignorance on my part."

"That's the problem - unless you read into it you think its all death and horror. When you say 'devil worship', it conjures up many weird and wonderful images in your head but being a Satanist is not like that at all."

She adds: "When he was around 14, he started to read about other religions and read up a lot about Satanism. Up until then, Chris attended the local Church of Scotland and was a member of the Boys Brigade.

"I still attend church weekly and I see no way his religion could cause any problems. It has certainly had no effect on my son and I am proud of him - he has stood up for his beliefs.

"If you were to say to anyone 'show me what a devil worshipper looks like', the last person they would point to is Chris."

Explaining the 11 Satanic rules, she adds: "Most of these rules are perfectly acceptable and reasonable - for example you do not hurt children or animals. There is a rule saying you can be sexually promiscuous and enjoy life but most people in today's society do that anyway.

"It is a religion that encourages you to take responsibility for your actions and I think we can all learn something from that."

"He does not run about graveyards at night - the stereotype of a Satanist is totally wrong."

Faith at work

The decision to allow Royal Navy officer Chris Cranmer to practise Satanism while on duty gives him the same rights that employees of many other religions already enjoy.

The controversial ruling means that the 24-year-old will be able to perform Satanic rituals during his working day and, if he is killed in action, the Navy will be obliged to arrange a Satanic funeral for him.

But is there room for religion in the workplace?

Jalal Chaudry, who works as a civil engineer at Edinburgh City Council, represents the Lothians' 9000 Muslims.

He says: "We [Muslims] have to pray five times a day, and especially during the winter time one, two or three of those prayers come at the workplace [during working hours].

"Under legislation, employers are obliged to let people go to the mosque for Friday prayers (held between 1pm and 2pm) but many employers, and employees, do not know that."

But his own experience is positive: "I have a prayer room built for me at work and my colleagues even tried to fast with me [during Ramadan], although they could not last!"

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews said most followers of Judaism do not find their religion conflicts with their job: "There is no real collision between being a religious Jew and working in the wider world.

"In the winter, for example, people have to go home earlier on Fridays [because the Jewish Sabbath starts at sunset and they must be at home by then], but people usually get around that by offering to work on Sundays."

Sikh community leader Ragbir Singh Landa admitted the distinctive turban and long beards traditionally worn by men of the faith had in the past caused difficulties in being hired but said his religion caused few problems in the workplace nowadays.

"Our prayers are either very early in the morning or in the evening so we don't have the same difficulties as Muslims," he said.

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