SA's first Satanic church to be fully functional by September in Ballito, KZN
Ballito, on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, is the chosen location for a chapter of the country’s first Satanic church and will be fully functional by September.
The main church, in Century City, Cape Town, founded in February by Reverend Riaan Swiegelaar and Dr Adri Norton, came under the spotlight this week. While there has been criticism, the co-founders believe “they are clearly doing something right”.
The church is not affiliated with any Satanic movements or churches and it does not worship the Devil. Members of the congregation, who wish to invite family members during rite of passage ceremonies such as Satanic weddings, Satanic naming ceremonies, were allowed to and there is a remote bible study open to the public.
Norton said the negativity received thus far came as no surprise as misconceptions came from individuals who had no understanding of the religion. However, the silver lining was that closet Satanists had an opportunity to come out.
“People have been taught for decades what Satanism is by people who have never read the Satanic Bible. This has led to a big misunderstanding and Satanism is thrown under the same umbrella as devil worship, which we do not condone,” she said.
“There is no worship in Satanism and we do not believe in the Devil or Satan as a being that exists. Unfortunately, many people will hold these misconceptions as truth as they fear questioning their own beliefs regarding Satanism will lead to damnation.”
Anton Szandor LaVey, from San Francisco, California, is said to be the founder of the Church of Satan which championed Satan as the symbol of freedom and individualism.
When LaVey died in 1997, his daughter Karla took over to continue his legacy but the church’s headquarters are now in New York and not open to visitors.
LaVey’s collection of essays, observations and rituals published in 1969 now form the Satanic Bible. The Satanic Temple has many chapters throughout the world with most being kept a secret.
Norton said the pair chose to register an official organisation to promote and educate on legitimate Satanism.
“We had also had enough of Satanism continuously being blamed for people’s criminal behaviour and we wanted to create a platform from where we could do this while creating a sense of community to fellow Satanists,” she said.
“South Africa is unique in the fact that our constitution guarantees religious equality. We feel that there are very few satanic organisations in the world because other countries do not afford their citizens the religious freedom we have here in South Africa.”
With existing chapters in Gauteng and Port Elizabeth, the co-founders said they understood that this would be an uphill journey.
“We do, however, know that in a few years time we will most certainly see more acceptance of Satanists, because of the ground our church is breaking currently.”
Dr Lee-Shae Salma Scharnick- Udemans, sociologist at UWC, said there were many reasons why people aligned themselves with particular religions and that diversity had to be embraced.
“If we fail to embrace diversity we become sensationalists. We want to avoid that because people are not one dimensional,”she said.
“Often times within major world religions, people find that the religious traditions don’t offer them what they are looking for and they go outside of these traditions to seek alternatives.”
Scharnick-Udemans said there was no correlation between satanism and devil worshipping and that the devil was deduced through Christianity. She explained that the devil did not exist in satanism and that the current perpetuated satanism affiliated to the South African Satanic Church was different from the Satanism created by Christianity.
“Satanists do not worship the devil but satanism is about a hedonistic lifestyle. There is no devil worshipping and no cannibalism. There might be people who call themselves satanists who engage in various behaviours but we don’t know who those people are,” she said.
Scharnick-Udemans said there were people who believed they were in touch and serving Satan but it was unfortunate labelling.
“The term Satanists gets thrown around as if it’s one thing but there are many different ways to be a Satanist,”she said.
“We live in a constitutional democracy meaning freedom of religion is extended to everyone provided you do not commit harm.
“What this is doing, is teaching us about how expansive our democracy is, how much space it can make for human diversity. For better or for worse.”