Numbers Of Satanists

It is impossible to know with any accuracy how many satamsts there are altogether, whether within one country or internationally, and any figures given, including those given here, are guesses — more or less informed, but still guesses. There are many reasons for estimates to be biassed. Those who perceive satamsm as a danger to society, particularly the more evangelistic Christians among them, exaggerate numbers to emphasize the threat. Extremists claim that every class and subdvision of society has been infdtrated and that satamsts are to be found everywhere ~ in cities, small towns, in farms and villages. No evidence is offered for the numbers that are adduced to support such claims. Any satamst organization is probably also tempted to exaggerate the size of its membership to show its appeal. However, even the most neutral observer cannot make a completely accurate count of satamsts because of the difficulties entailed in identifying who they are. Attempts have been made to assess their numbers but they inevitably founder on two main problems: how to locate satamsts who are not members of any organization, and how to judge whether those who buy satanist magazines or wear satamc emblems are ''really' satamsts or not, smce even if they call themselves satamsts, members of the main satanist groups may not consider theni; to be so. There seems, however, to be agreement between observers and the more established or 'visible'' satamsts that the adolescents who call themselves satamsts, scrawl pentagrams and the number 666 on walls and play the type of rock music associated with satanism, are more often than not merely posing, adopting an image that proclaims a rebelliousness that is not lasting or serious. The source of their ideas is more likely to be horror videos and films or the novels of Dennis Wheadey and their film versions, than writings containing the philosophical ideas of satanist leaders or the principles of high magic. The label "satanic' may also be attributed to deeds such as serial murder, particularly of children, that are generally considered to involve great evil without there being evidence of any satanist organization behind the acts. This is a moral judgement rather than a descriptive label but it confuses the issue.

One senous attempt in 1989 by the owner of a British occult bookshop to conduct an objective national census of all occultists (Occult Census, 1989) reported a very low percentage of respondents who couid be called satamsts. Only 4 percent of the total of slighdy over 1,000, that is 40 individual respondents, recorded themselves as 'committed satamsts". Another 6 percent claimed a 'senous interest' while the largest category, amounting to 15 percent, were those who merely indicated their curiosity about satamsm. Three-quarters of the respondents reported no interest at all. The actual figures extrapolated from this Census are less significant than the conclusion that satamsts are a very small minority among occultists, who themselves represent a minority withm the population at large. Another estimate is that of Harvey (1995a), based on his research among satamsts. He reports estimates for Britain ranging from 5.5 million (Phillips on the television programme 'Viewpoint', see Thomas, 1993) to 3,000 (the 1994 UK Christian (Handbook). His own estimate is of less than 100 individuals in six organized groups (of which one is the Temple of Set) plus a (probably) more j numerous fringe of individuals who are interested in the groups' ideas. Those who are sufficiendy interested to buy satanist magazines probably outnumber the members of groups and are themselves outnumbered by the curious and the sensation-seekers, mosdy adolescents. The pattern confirms that established by the Occult Census, and the figures for those committed to, or seriously interested in, satamsm in Britain are likely to be between 100 and 250 — certainly no more than 400, which is negligible m a population of about 60 million.

For the USA, the figures are equally doubtful and there has been no attempt at a national census, which would be a much more difficult undertaking in such a very large country. No figures, whether reliable or otherwise, can be put on the membership of satanist groups elsewhere either. There are said to be branches of the mam satanist churches in various parts of Europe outside Britain and they also exist m New Zealand and possibly in Australia. Where the smaller groups and individuals are concerned it is impossible to be sure but there is no doubt that there is an international movement, albeit tiny. The circulation figures of the mam satanist magazine The Black Flame, which, although published by the Church of Satan, is read very widely among satanists and has been credited with maintaining a sense of community among them, might offer a rather crude means of estimating the size of the satanist community. Unfortunately, it was not possible to obtain information about them.

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