RELIGION AND DEMOCRACY: AN EXCHANGE OF EXPERIENCES BETWEEN EAST AND WEST
THE CESNUR 2003 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
In this presentation the manifestations of Satanism in Lithuania will be discussed. The terms that would be used are: Satanism which in this case is used as deriving from Christian demonology - the cult of Satan or devil, which could be described as a power of evil that might be found in the Bible. As religious scientists claim, Satanism had manifested as an attack upon a dominant Christianity and the society it had supported. As religious organization, Satanism, according to Massimo Introvigne, might be divided into adult and youth Satanism groups. The groups of the first case usually have doctrines and rituals, possible identified leaders and sometimes even press. The other, youth Satanism groups usually dont have the above mentioned features and they might be regarded as a part of subculture where their actions are influenced by music, drugs, etc. According to the doctrines of the satanic groups Introvigne offers to categorize these groups as propagating either rational or occult Satanism. By saying rational he means the Satanism of Anton La Vey and the doctrine of his Church of Satan, where Satan is believed to be a metaphor, not as a real person. On the contrary, the occult satanic groups believe that Satan is a real person that might be invited into their rituals and asked for something. Having discussed the main terms of Satanism the manifestations and the equivalents of such groups in the Catholic Lithuania might be talked over.
Brief historical perspective of manifestations of Satanism in Lithuania. Lithuania was one of the last countries in Europe that was Christianized, that happened only in 1387 and since then it is one of the most catholic countries in this region. It appeared natural that after regaining of independence in 1990-ies when the freedom of conscience became a reality, many religious organizations showed up. The existence of the satanic groups in the society was only hypothetical, when in 1993 a first publication about such group was publicized. Later more publications showed up where the accusations for different profanations of the cemeteries and churches were poured out on satanic groups. However most of these publications were only accusations without any evidence and the only argument all these publications had was that somewhere in the foreign countries there are satanic groups that usually do such things.
The more concrete manifestations of the Satanism in Lithuania showed up in 1999 when the book by Anton Sandor La Vey Satanic Bible was published. This book was edited by unknown organization Brotherhood of the Dark. During the first half of the year 2000 the book of Lithuanian authors Ovidijus and Jurate Kantas Bible of Death was published. Later the main author of this book, former teacher of religion, Ovidijus Kantas gave interview and said that he dissociates himself from satanic groups and even that he would like to join the political party of Christian Democrats. Though the appearance of this book was met with interest and soon there was no possibility to buy it, the attention of mass media to the appearance of this book inspired Lithuanian Society of Psychologists to issue a letter about this book where they recommended to stop paying so much attention to this book and its ideas, because the widespread interest could become potentially damaging to psychologically unstable people.
During last decade religious scientists have observed the increasing role of Internet in reaching potential followers for different religious communities and Lithuanian situation is similar. In the year 2000 the Internet website satan.lt was launched and soon it received a lot of societys attention. The authors of the website named themselves A Brotherhood of the Dark. This website works until today and is the most visible and developing manifestation of contemporary Satanism in Lithuania. The ideas that are spread by this website might be called rational Satanism. The material that is published in this website might be called more atheistic than satanic.
The other manifestations of Satanism are profanations of churches and cemeteries that were widely discussed in the press since 1999. Usually society would be informed about such events, but later neither the investigation of institutions of law enforcement nor the results of investigations were introduced. As it turned out, usually such events were interpreted by law enforcement institutions as mere hooliganism and not as criminal acts done on religious grounds. For this reason it is complicated to find statistics about such criminals, how many were investigated, who were criminals etc.
The case of the website www.satan.lt. As it was mentioned above the Internet website www.satan.lt is the most visible manifestation of Satanism in Lithuania. Though it must be said the material of this website is more atheistic than satanic. I make that assertion, though both Satanic Bible by La Vey and the above mentioned Bible of Death written by Lithuanian authors are found on this website. Atheism is clearly seen in the anti-religious propaganda: material about different religious organizations that are acting in the world and the nonsense that they spread are published here, for instance, authors here publish material about the church of Scientology. The task of such comments is to convince visitors about the meaninglessness of religion and faith.
At the same time the website pays a lot of attention to the different manifestations of occult Satanism, which is considered here to be the same religion as others with faults. The authors of this website comment every event of grave or church desecration, (the information about it, believe it or not, they receive from mass media). The attitude of the authors towards such events is unambiguous, they try to teach these persons and in one sense this website is educational for the young people who would like to be real Satanists.
However, the opinions of the visitors are published without any corrections and sometimes they balance on the limit of provocation of religious discord. A year ago, in April of 2002 the authors were warned by State Security Department of Republic of Lithuania about possible provocation of religious discord in their website.
While I was gathering material for this presentation I met the authors of this website and we had a two hour conversation in one of the cafés of Vilnius. And although the circumstances were not the best for an in depth interview, my companions were open and well-inclined, at the same time they were curious about my research and a little bit afraid who is going to see our interview, besides me. The mood of this conversation was very lively and sometimes even humorous.
The authors of this website are twin brothers that have pseudonyms Heretic and Travelling in the Dark. In my opinion they are about thirty years old and, as usual in cases of twins, almost indistinguishable. For this reason I had a problem with decoding of this conversation because brothers were talking together in many cases and it was hard to separate who was talking. But later I figured out that the brother with a pseudonym Heretic, who seemed to be quieter, had more ideologically minded was the one to present an overview to what they were doing. The other brother Travelling in the Dark seemed to be more or less a hand of the first one.
From the first question the twin brothers told that they are Satanists because society thinks that they are Satanists. But asked about their faith brothers answered that they believe neither in God nor in Satan. In this case they use to call themselves Satanists because they are on the opposite side to the rest of the society.
According to my companions their way to this position began in 1990-ies with reforms in former Soviet society. Usually with economical reforms and declines the faith in different miracles and hopes appear, and my companions think that belief in such things doesnt help. Their family religious tradition was Roman Catholics, but it seems that only their grandmother was a regular churchgoer. The parents were atheists and builders of the communist bright tomorrow. There were no religious education in the family of my companions and they had a possibility to choose their own way. The books about physics, giving answers to all questions of meaning, made big influence on their views. The idea to create a website was born in 1999, but it took time to evolve. The first step was the publishing of the book by La Vey Satanic Bible. But later this book appeared to be very simple and similar to Christian Bible.
According to my companions, the authors of website satan.lt the main purpose of this website is to reduce the influence of religion in the society. The results are expected to show up during next census. There are three groups of the visitors of this website Satanists, free-thinkers atheists and Christians. Free-thinkers are most acceptable visitors; here they find ideas and cousins. The other two groups of visitors Satanists and Christians are also welcome. Satanists, according to the authors of this website found it authoritative. Usually they search here for answers to their questions. Sometimes they try to join in to the organization Brotherhood of the Dark which doesnt exist for real. But the authors of this website, according to their words, dont have back result if Satanists really listen to them. The main argument of my companions is that it is not useful for these young people browsing to the website to make all those silly things that usually Satanists do. The similar argument is used when Christians browse the website; they are told that it is not useful to believe in God. In such case the authors of the website try to convince the visitors make a choice to become atheists.
After three years of existence of the website its authors say that there are no occult Satanists in Lithuania. There are separate individuals that might be attracted by Satanism ideas but they cannot be called occult Satanists, because according to my companions, they havent ever heard about Black Masses or other satanic rituals being held in Lithuania. There are rebellious young people who identify themselves as Satanists but all their actions are to profane churches or cemeteries. Usually such young people leave different graffiti paintings where one can find not only satanic but also Nazi symbols. There are attempts of such young people to contact the authors of the website satan.lt but usually they end up only as attempts without real contribution. As it was mentioned before the authors of this website dont have back results after they answer to such attempts.
On the other hand I should mention that there were events of church desecrations, like the one in summer of 2001, when the chapels of Calvary in Vilnius were smudged. The quotations from the website satan.lt were on the walls of these chapels, and this was not the only such occasion.
The last questions I asked my companions was to tell the history of development of Satanism in Lithuania but they answered only in one sentence that the atheism that was propagated by Soviets was Satanism for real. After such attempts to make all of the society atheists during last fifty years, according to the authors of the website, the sceptic thinking towards religion must be developed. This is the main purpose of my companions to make society more sceptical towards religion. They believe that life can be better if more people would be sceptic and think that science gives more profit to humanity than religion does.
Conclusions and short remarks on manifestations of Satanism in Lithuania. After reviewing the manifestations of Satanism in Lithuania it can be asserted that the most visible and developed manifestation of rational Satanism in our country is the Internet website satan.lt. And even if the authors of it would like to be treated like free-thinkers and atheists however they seek for the total fade away of religion and fight the Christianity for real. In Lithuanian context they are fighting the Catholic Church and this makes them more Satanists than atheists according to the main term of Satanism which is derived by religious scientists from Christian demonology - the cult of Satan or devil, and is kept as an attack upon a dominant Christianity and the society it had supported.
On the other hand it is complicated to speak about the existence of occult Satanism in Lithuania because of the lack of data, which in other countries is usually given by institutions of law enforcement. My companions while I was gathering the material were also convinced that there are no examples of occult Satanism in Lithuania. There is no information about satanic groups that celebrate Black Masses or make other rituals, common for the groups that might be taken as occult. Of course more research has to be done in this sphere, but for this moment the data we have shows just single, not systematic hits at cemeteries and churches that are most often considered to be simple hooliganism rather than criminal acts made on the religious grounds.
If we speak or try to distinguish Satanism as religious organization it is complicated to do in Lithuanian context because actually until now there is no such organization. If we think that Brotherhood of the Dark is a Satanist organization then it is of course adult organization, but it has neither doctrine, rituals nor leader, what is bound for religious organization. The manifestations of Satanism in the press and the material I gathered during this research might be explained by reference to the existence of youth satanic groups that deal usually with church and cemetery desecration. As religion researchers say, such groups usually are a part of subculture and their actions are influenced by music, drugs, etc. The statistics about such events of church and cemeteries desecration during last few years doesnt allow us to draw a conclusion that they are associated between each other or might be committed by any satanic organization (there is lack of evidences about any rituals). In such case we may think that they are committed by young people who religious scientists believe will grow out of it.
1. Religions of the World. A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices. 2002. Vol.4. Ed. Gordon J. Melton & Martin Baumann. Santa Barbara: ABC Clio.
2. Introvigne, M. Il Satanismo. 1997. Leumann (Torino): Elledici.
3. Lewis, James R. The Satanic Bible: Quasi-Scripture; Counter-Scripture. A paper presented in the international conference CESNUR 2002 in Salt Lake City, USA.
[Home Page] [Cos'è il CESNUR] [Biblioteca del CESNUR] [Testi e documenti] [Libri] [Convegni]
[Home Page] [About CESNUR] [CESNUR Library] [Texts & Documents] [Book Reviews] [Conferences]