Sacred Violence

Skandalon 2001: The Religious Practices of Modern Satanists and Terrorists
Dawn Perlmutter

Satanism and Sacred Violence

Regardless of how heinous, irrational, or inexplicable it may be, sacred violence is always considered justified by the religious groups that practice it. The two most common sacred and secular justifications are sacrifice and retribution. Throughout history and across cultures, sacred violence has been sanctioned, condoned, and deemed necessary on religious principles. In the year 2001, sacred violence is still sanctioned, condoned, and deemed necessary on religious principles, only now we have the technology to, at best, scandalize the world and, at worst, completely destroy it.


Satanic sacred violence is manifested in both overt and covert ways. The most obvious example is sacrifice, derived from the Latin sacrificare, meaning "to make holy." An ancient concept of sacrifice involves a religious offering or gift to a supreme being, in which the offering is consecrated through its destruction. The Satanic religions mentioned above, Ordo Templi Orientis, Church of Satan and Temple of Set, have published vehement disclaimers affirming that they do not engage in Satanic ritual abuse, blood rituals, or any form of animal or human sacrifice. However, there is one traditional Satanic group that openly promotes sacrifice, a British-based organization called the Order of the Nine Angles or ONA ( ( Their web site provides a guide to human sacrifice that advocates both voluntary and involuntary sacrifice, that is, ritual murder. The ONA have three methods of involuntary sacrifice: (1) by magical means, (2) by the "death ritual," the direct killing of a person chosen as a sacrifice, and (3) by assassination. The ONA describe ritual death as a powerful form of magic that has two purposes: it releases energy which can be directed or stored and draws down dark forces which can then be used for specific goals. Their sacrificial rituals are described in detail on their web page, ( . The ONA refer to human sacrifice as just another way of furthering the work of Satan.

Voluntary sacrifice occurs every seventeen years as part of the Ceremony of Recalling: the one chosen becomes Immortal . . . An involuntary sacrifice is when an individual or individuals are chosen by a group, Temple or Order. Such sacrifices are usually sacrificed on the Spring Equinox . . . There are no restrictions concerning involuntary sacrifices other than that they are usually in some way opponents of Satanism or the satanic way of living. . . . Candidates are zealous interfering Nazarenes, those ( e.g. , journalists) attempting to disrupt in some way established Satanist groups or orders, political/businesspersons whose activities are detrimental to the Satanist spirit, and those whose removal will aid the sinister dialectic and/or improve the human stock. . . . The victim or victims are brought or enticed to the area chosen for the Ritual, bound by the Guardian of the Temple, and, at the appropriate point in the Ritual, sacrificed either by the Master or the Mistress using the sacrificial knife. The body or bodies are then buried or otherwise disposed of. . . . Those who participate in the Ritual of Sacrifice must revel in the deaths.

In addition to groups such as the ONA, there are many examples of teenagers and young adult youth subculture Satanists who regularly kill animals in an attempt to develop their magical skills. In fact, when examining a mutilated animal carcass, the most effective way to identify the perpetrator is by the level of skill evidenced in the attempted ritual sacrifice. Unfortunately, animal sacrifice can easily escalate to human sacrifice, especially when teenage dabblers can get detailed instructions instantaneously on the Internet.

Violent Scripture

Violence is not blatantly evident in the rituals of the Church of Satan, Temple of Set, or Ordo Temple Orientis; however, sacred violence is explicitly expressed in many verses of the holy scriptures of the OTO. In Chapter III of Liber AL vel Legis / The Book of the Law , Crowley the Thelemite prophet speaks:

III,11: Worship me with fire & blood; worship me with swords & with spears. Let the woman be girt with a sword before me: let blood flow to my name. Trample down the Heathen; be upon them, o warrior, I will give you of their flesh to eat! III, 12: sacrifice cattle, little and big, after a child. III,18: mercy let be off: damn them who pity! Kill and torture; spare not; be upon them! III, 24: The best blood is of the moon, monthly: then the fresh blood of a child, or dropping from the host of heaven: then of enemies; then of the priest or of the worshippers: last of some beast, no matter what. III, 34: Another prophet shall arise, and bring fresh fever from the skies; another woman shall awake the lust & worship of the Snake; another soul of God and beast shall mingle in the globed priest; another sacrifice shall stain the tomb; another king shall reign . . . III, 51: With my hawk's head I peck at the eyes of Jesus as he hangs upon the cross. III, 52: I flap my wings in the face of Mohammed & blind him. III, 53: With my claws I tear out the flesh of the Indian and the Buddhist, Mongol and Din. III, 55: let Mary inviolate be torn upon wheels: for her sake let all chaste women be utterly despised among you!

It is apparent from just these few verses that The Book of the Law is the antithesis of Christianity. According to Crowley's final comments at the end of the text, it is mandated that Thelemites interpret the holy scripture of The Book of the Law for themselves. Although it is possible to interpret it as a form of allegory, there can be no doubt that the writings of Thelemite holy scripture advocate violence, and are anti-Christian and anti-Islamic. Although Thelemite rituals do not explicitly contain violence, their principle that "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" has an obvious potential for violence.


The Roman legal concept of lex talionis or "law of retaliation" is a common form of sacred violence and one of the fundamental principles of Satanic religions. The lex talionis is also the basis for retributivist justifications for punishment, such as the death penalty in the US, and is associated with the Old Testament maxim of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. According to the retributivist view, when a person has been wronged, the state is justified in inflicting the same degree of harm that the perpetrator inflicted on the victim. Retribution is, so to speak, legal revenge administered by designated authorities to prevent vigilantism from leading to a cycle of mutual revenge. Satanic churches not only promote the lex talionis but argue that it requires stricter and swifter enforcement. This concept is so important to Satanism that Satanic churches refer to lex talionis as lex Satanicus .

The law of retaliation is one of the fundamental principles of the Church of Satan and is found in several of their tenets. The fifth of the nine Satanic Statements found in the Satanic Bible reads, "Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek." The Book of Satan portion of the Satanic Bible is quite clear on this issue, "7. Hate your enemies with a whole heart, and if a man smite you on one cheek, smash him on the other!; smite him hip and thigh, for self-preservation is the highest law! . . . 9. Give blow for blow, scorn for scorn, doom for doom--with compound interest liberally added thereunto! Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, aye four-fold, a hundred fold!" Finally, the application of the lex talionis is found in the third point of the Church of Satan's Pentagonal Revisionism:

Third, we call for the re-establishment of Lex Talionis throughout human society. The Judeo-Christian tradition which exists secularly under the guise of liberal humanism has exalted the criminal over the victim, taking responsibility away from the wrongdoer with their doctrine of forgiveness. Such thinking is a disgrace towards the ideal of justice . . . Satanists are particularly disgusted by the extraordinary level of criminal activity which abounds today and advocate a return to the Roman "Lex Talionis"; let the punishment fit in kind and degree to the crime. To achieve this, we would be pleased to see the institution of an elite police force, of men and women in peak physical and mental condition, trained in advanced techniques of crime fighting who would be truly equipped to handle the vermin that make so many of our cities into little more than concrete jungles. Man is by nature a social creature and makes his social contract with his fellows, thus rules of conduct are established to allow maximum freedom for individuals to interact. Disobey those rules and punishment should be swift and sure, and most probably public as well.

The Satanic concept of lex talionis is consistent with Satanism's political Social Darwinian philosophy and their promotion of eugenics. Eugenics is advocated in the first point of their Pentagonal Revisionism and is referred to as "stratification," where each member of society reaches a level commensurate with their own development based on the principle of survival of the strongest. For an in-depth article on the Church of Satan's philosophy, see "Satanism: The Feared Religion" by Magister Peter H. Gilmore ( ( For a Satanic interpretation of the lex talionis by Magister R. Strunch of The Fire Within, see ( .


In the first chapter of his classic text, Violence and the Sacred , René Girard addresses the concept of retribution. Girard demonstrates that the institution of sacrifice and the judicial system share the same function: to subdue violence, stifle the impulse to vengeance, and stop it from escalating in an endless cycle of uncontrolled reciprocal violence. "The procedures that keep men's violence in bounds have one thing in common: they are no strangers to the ways of violence. There is reason to believe that they are all rooted in religion. . . . Whether it be through sacrificial killing or legal punishment, the problem is to forestall a series of reprisals." Modern Satanists hold the same fundamental premise concerning violence and human nature as that put forth in Girardian theory. Satanists maintain that humans are violent by nature; they recognize mimetic desire, and consider rituals of sacrifice to be sacred and necessary to defer violence. The significant difference is that Satanists embrace these attributes and manipulate them for their own agendas. They are cognizant of mimetic rivalries and not only welcome them but instigate them, which is what makes them authentically Satanic. Since Satanists advocate indulgence in human desires, it logically follows that they recognize the need for strict punishment. The lex talionis is attractive to Satanists because it provides them with a cultural mechanism for dealing with what they deem to be unacceptable behavior, indulging in the emotion of revenge, and enforcing their Darwinian ideology. The Satanic emphasis on revenge also serves as an excellent recruiting device, since revenge is exactly what alienated teenagers are often seeking. Whether you refer to it as the lex talionis , retribution, retaliation, or vengeance, without some such system of conflict resolution, whether in the form of religious sacrifice or the secular death penalty, there is always the looming threat of a cycle of uncontrolled reciprocal violence.

Satanic Responses to September 11, 2001

There were a variety of responses to September 11 from different Satanic groups. Most expressed condolences, informed their members if anyone was killed or injured, and provided hyperlinks to donate blood or money. Of course, their acknowledgment of the tragedy had a particularly Satanic perspective; for example, Grand Magister Blackwood of the Worldwide Order of Satanists posted on his web site, "Sept. 11, 2001, a day on which the stupidity of those who believe in god crap and their stupid holy war shit has taken lives. As Satanists we can not let the screwballs win this war. I plead with every Satanist out there to donate blood and save a life. We know that god does not exist and it is up to real people to step in and save someone who may need it." Satanic Priests, similarly to many other American clergy, wrote sermons concerning the tragic events and interpreted their theological implications for their followers. Lex Satanicus / Lex Talionis was explicitly expressed in many of the Satanic responses to the events. Peter Gilmore, High Priest of the Church of Satan wrote on their web site, "Moving among my fellow New Yorkers, it was heartening to hear residents of this city calling out for the blood of those who are the cause of these acts of war, as well as for the punishment of those who shield, support, or otherwise sympathize with terrorists. The philosophy of Satanism is clear on such issues: the Fifth Satanic Statement from the Satanic Bible says 'Satan represents vengeance, instead of turning the other cheek' . . . many of the people of this nation now share this point of view. Yesterday, Americans saw things they hold as precious being shattered by those who view our society as being the adversary of the theocracy they wish to establish. They call us The Great Satan. It is time for our nation to play that role with grim purpose." For the complete statement, see ( .

Lord Egan, the High Priest of The First Church of Satan, discussed his church's position on the attacks on their web site:

On September 11, in the Year One, commercial airliners were hijacked by a group of Islamic fundamentalists who perceived the United States as "the Great Satan" . . . On behalf of the First Church of Satan, I wish to express our profound sorrow and grief for the tragic loss of life and suffering . . . [R]ather than shun evil, we should strive to understand it, for without darkness there can be no light. We must strive to close the gap which separates God from Satan because, if we don't, millions more will die. The split mind theology is part of our national heritage of international psychosis. Good and evil cannot be divided as quintessential absolutes, for certainly there are strengths and weaknesses in everyone. Furthermore, spiritual salvation does not require blind obedience to the will of a messiah. Satanists speak of a process whereby we continue to challenge ourselves and strip away the layers of blindness which separate us from our own humanity. . . . I am understandably opposed to rhetoric used by leaders who refer to these terrorists as "evil." . . . However, I am not opposed to the use of force against those who initiate force, therefore we support US President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others who have called for military action.

To view the entire statement, see ( .

Patriotism is not lost on Satanists, and some flew American flags in recognition of their support; however, since it is obviously against their beliefs to write God Bless America, Grand Magister Blackwood of the Temples of Satan ( ( wrote "Hail America," as in "Hail Satan," under the image of the American flag. A European Satanic organization called The Black Order of the Trapezoid ( ( also had an American flag, but underneath they wrote "God Hates U.S. All!" The Black Order of the Trapezoid, like many other Satanic groups, openly advocates neo-Nazism, which they have merged with Satanism. Their response to September 11 was that the U.S. provoked the attack with their foreign policy, and they took the opportunity to curse the US government.

Unfortunately, many Satanic groups used the tragic events of September 11 as an opportunity to recruit young Americans by appealing to their fresh emotions of revenge, disillusionment, and insecurity. Modern Satanists fundamentally understand the nature of sacred violence and know how to manipulate the political situation so that ordinarily peaceful people will engage in violence as a necessary religious obligation. Trapped in a cycle of righteous revenge, one feels no remorse, because sacred violence is always justified.

Violent Priests

Sacred violence is manifested in the Christian Identity Movement in a concept referred to as the Phineas Priesthood. This relatively new tenet justifies the use of violence if it is perpetrated in order to punish violators of "God's Law," as found in an extreme interpretation of the 25 th chapter of the Book of Numbers. These Priests are initiated by committing violent acts such as murder, referred to as "Phineas Acts," against non-whites, Jews, and homosexuals. Unfortunately, this is a very appealing concept to Christian Identity extremists, who believe they are being persecuted by a Jewish-controlled US government and are eagerly preparing for Armageddon. The Phineas Priesthood is viewed as a call to action or a badge of honor.

The concept of the Phineas Priesthood in Christian Identity originated in an obscure book entitled Vigilantes of Christendom: The Story of the Phineas Priesthood by Richard Kelly Hoskins, published in 1990. According to Hoskins, history is a series of ongoing judgments meted out by God and responded to by believers. This response takes the form of murdering those who transgress the Law. "For Hoskins, the Phineas Priest--the embodiment of Christian Identity belief and obedience to God--is not one who prepares for impending race war, but one who commits racist, anti-Semitic or homophobic murder to stave off God's ongoing judgment of white people for failing to uphold the "Law." For Hoskins this includes such "crimes" as interracial marriage and allowing homosexuals to live."

The concept of the Phineas Priesthood was further advocated in a gathering in Estes Park, Colorado that included Reverend Pete Peters of the La Porte, Colorado-based Church of Christ, Identity followers, and members of the neo-Nazi Movement and the Ku Klux Klan. They met shortly after the murder of Vicki and Samuel Weaver in 1992, during an armed standoff with federal agents near Naples, Idaho, and the result was a report that many observers claim to be the impetus for the armed wing of the Patriot Movement, the militias, and the Phineas Priesthood. The Estes Report, initially called "Special Report on the Meeting of Christian Men held in Estes Park, Colorado October 23, 24, 25, 1992, Concerning the Killing of Vickie and Samuel Weaver By the United States Government," clearly advocates vigilante violence:

As was the case with our Founding Fathers, the establishment of a Christian civil body politic should be a primary goal for Christian men across the nation, for it is the chief means for carrying out the judgments of God. It has the authority to punish the evildoer as mandated in Romans 13. This country's existing government does not fit the description of the "governing authorities" in Romans 13. The current situation in America is one in which the established government does not punish evildoers, but rather is increasingly using its power to punish the righteous. It is a tyrannical government. Therefore, it is not a Christian civil body politic. . . . The means for Christian men to bring about Divine judgment is not limited in certain cases to the actions of the body politic. In such cases, God's Word also provides precedent for what is today termed "vigilante action." Vigilante action is Scriptural, but any such action must be in conformity with Bible precedents and directives. Vigilante action is the exception, not the rule. It should be noted that the action of Phineas (Numbers 25:1-9) is considered by many not to be true vigilante action, but was in fact the carrying out of directives of God through the civil body politic.

Reverend Peters' writings have made him one of the foremost leaders of the Christian Identity Movement. The Estes Park Report also included a text by Louis Beam Jr., Ambassador at Large for the Aryan Nations and former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, entitled "Leaderless Resistance," which was used as a model by the paramilitary right for the creation of "phantom cells"--decentralized gangs of terrorists that carry out special operations in militia groupings.

Christian identity ideology has inspired many individuals to commit heinous crimes. In just the two months of July and August 1999, subsequently known as the "Summer of Hate," there were three unrelated incidents of hate crimes involving murder. Benjamin Smith, a 21-year-old student at the University of Indiana, went on a weekend shooting rampage in Illinois and Indiana, killing two people and wounding nine before he committed suicide. He specifically targeted minorities; on July 2, 1999 he first murdered the well-known college basketball coach Ricky Birdsong, then wounded six orthodox Jews in Chicago. The next day, Smith opened fire on two African American and six Asian men in the Illinois towns of Springfield and Champagne-Urbana. On July 4, Smith killed a Korean man outside a church in Bloomington, Indiana, and then shot himself when police were closing in. Smith was a member of the World Church of the Creator ( ( headed by Reverend Matthew Hale, Pontifex Maximus, that publishes texts such as The White Man's Bible and overtly preaches white supremacy. Dr. William Pierce, head of The National Alliance ( (, author of the Turner Diaries and a leading figure in the White Supremacist movement, commented on Benjamin Smith's shooting spree in an article entitled "Knowledge and Discipline":

I don't know anything about Smith except what was on the television news and the internet, but I cannot help but feel sympathy for him. Smith, according to those who knew him, was intelligent, quiet, and serious. He was a student of criminal justice at the University of Indiana. Most notably, however, he was racially conscious. He was unhappy about the destruction of our White society in America and the perversion of our European culture by the program of Multiculturalism promoted by the government and the media. He distributed leaflets on the University of Indiana campus in Bloomington, expressing his views, and the university administration harassed him for it. He distributed leaflets off the campus in Bloomington and in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Illinois, where he grew up. Leftists, feminists, and Jews organized a public demonstration against him in Bloomington in an effort to stop his leaflet distribution, and the police in Wilmette arrested him. Blacks repeatedly smashed the windows of his apartment in Bloomington to show their disagreement with Smith's "racist" views. It must have been very stressful for Smith, trying to exercise his freedom of speech in a society which pays lip service to our Bill of Rights but which actually tries its best to make life difficult for anyone who doesn't toe the party line.

To view William Pierce's entire article, see ( . This is a clear example of how white supremacist ideology justifies violent acts and praises their perpetrator as a hero.

This incident inspired legislation called the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill that amends the existing federal hate crimes law to expand the government's role in investigation and also expands the definition of hate crime to include sexual orientation, gender, and disability. Unfortunately, one day before the bill went to congress, another hate crime occurred. On July 21, 1999, two brothers, Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams, broke into a gay couple's home in Northern California and shot them to death. During Benjamin Williams' confession, he said his only regret about the murders is that they didn't inspire others to emulate him, and he insisted that his actions do not constitute a crime. The Williams brothers are practicing members of Christian Identity. Benjamin Williams stated, "You obey a government of man until there is a conflict, then you obey a higher law. . . . It's part of the faith. So many people claim to be Christians and complain about all these things their religion says are a sin, but they're not willing to do anything about it. They do not have the guts." Williams is revered in jail by his fellow white supremacists and received considerable media attention. The two brothers were also suspected of three Sacramento area synagogue arsons and were recently given lengthy prison sentences: Benjamin Williams received 30 years and James Williams, 21 years for the synagogue fires. They both still face murder charges. The police discovered a letter from Benjamin Williams to National Alliance leader William Pierce in which he allegedly asked the white supremacist for assignments and suggested he could bring other recruits aboard.

The third major incident in the Summer of Hate occurred on August 10, 1999. Buford Oneal Furrow, Jr. walked into the North Valley Jewish Community Center in suburban Granada Hills, California and opened fire, wounding five including one five-year-old and two six-year-old boys. Shortly afterward, he murdered a Filipino-American postman. In the early 1990s, Buford Furrow had joined the Aryan Nations ( ( and was influenced by the Christian Identity concept of the Phineas Priesthood. War Cycles Peace Cycles , another book by Richard Kelly Hoskins, was found in his possession. According to the indictment, Furrow expressed no regrets over the killing of Joseph Santos Ileto and the wounding of five people at the Jewish Community Center. In the 61-page indictment, he said he would not have killed the postal worker if he had been white and that he targeted the center because of his hatred for Jews. At the time of his arrest, Buford Furrow admitted the crimes and said it was a wake up call to anti-Semitic and hate groups.

One of the major influences on these crimes is Reverend Pete Peters' book The Bible: Handbook for Survivalists, Racists, Tax Protesters, Militants and Right Wing Extremists , where he reinterprets the Biblical story of Phineas for his racist believers: "perhaps there was an organization in Phineas' day known as the NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Canaanite People, who took exception with this teaching of segregation. Perhaps there were pulpits proclaiming a more tolerant and socially accepted view and government agencies crusading for affirmative action. We really do not know; but we do know from the Bible story in Numbers chapter 25 that the Israelite people began to disobey God's law, accept integration, cultural exchange and a type of interracial marriage, and thus were struck collectively by a plague. Phineas was the man who courageously fought against the racial treason even to the point of bloodshed, and he too was honored by God."

Another radical and influential voice of the racist right is Alex Curtis, who, through his Internet magazine, the Nationalist Observer , and telephone hotlines promotes a new ideology called "Lone Wolf Activism," which encourages white supremacists to act alone in violent ways. He advocates a two-tiered revolutionary hate movement. The first tier is above ground and spreads subversive propaganda that guides the underground, the second tier are lone wolves, racist combatants acting alone or in small groups who chip away at the government's infrastructure by daily anonymous acts. Curtis also copied a chart from Louis Beam's book Essays of a Klansman that assigns point values to various targets and entitled the chart the "Lone Wolf Point System." "Policy Formulation and Decision making Leaders of International satanic anti-Christ Conspiracy for control of the world are each worth one full point. Members of Congress are each valued at one-fifth of one point. The Director of the FBI carries a reward of one-sixth of one point and lone wolves earn half of one point for each national leader of the NAACP. A racist who collects one full point earns the designation Aryan Warrior, one-third of one point merits the title Commando and so on." Curtis was the target of a joint investigation of the FBI and the San Diego Police Department dubbed "Operation Lone Wolf," which revealed that Curtis led a cell of various white supremacist associates to commit criminal acts and target public figures who spoke out against hate crimes. The investigation led to an indictment charging Curtis with conspiracy to violate civil rights by targeting prominent members of the community. For the entire investigation, see the FBI web site at ( . For an article written by a white supremacist on the subject of lone wolves, see ( .

This ideology has not only influenced Phineas Priests but led to a number of other violent hate crimes. Two particularly disturbing examples are the 1998 sadistic dragging death of James Byrd Jr., in Jasper, Texas, during which the three white supremacists who tortured and murdered James Byrd made reference to William Pierce's Turner Diaries , and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building by Timothy McVeigh, killing 168 people. McVeigh referred to the dead children as "collateral damage," and his only regret was that their deaths were a public relations nightmare that detracted from his cause of avenging Waco and Ruby Ridge. The crimes committed in the cause of white supremacy are too numerous to mention but, significantly, not one of the perpetrators has displayed remorse, because violence in the name of the sacred is always justified.

Holy War

Islamic fundamentalists justify sacred violence through various interpretations of the religious doctrine of jihad . This term, which does not literally translate as "holy war," is very controversial, and Islamic scholars have continually been divided on how it should be interpreted. Similar to other concepts in the Quran, the interpretation of jihad is dependent upon the religious and political views of individual Islamic sects. Even contemporary definitions are contradictory. According to the Islamic Glossary of the Muslim Students Association at USC , "Jihad, sometimes spelled Jihaad, is an Arabic word the root of which is Jahada, which means to strive for a better way of life. The nouns are Juhd, Mujahid. Jihad, and Ijtihad. The other meanings are endeavor, strain, exertion, effort, diligence, and fighting to defend one's life, land and religion. Jihad should not be confused with Holy war; the latter does not exist in Islam nor will Islam allow its followers to be involved in a holy war. The latter refers to the Holy War of the Crusaders" . The Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion states, "The Islamic idea of Jihad, which is derived from the Arabic root meaning to strive or to make an effort, connotes a wide range of meanings, from an inward spiritual struggle to attain perfect faith to an outward material struggle to promote justice and the Islamic social system." ; T.P. Hughes' Dictionary of Islam presents a different definition, "Jihad: An effort, or a striving. A religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of Muhammad. It is an incumbent religious duty, established in the Quran and in the traditions as a divine institution, and enjoined specially for the purpose of advancing Islam and of repelling evil from Muslims." (For the entire dictionary entry, see ( .) For some, jihad means to struggle to maintain one's faith, for others, it represents the duty of Muslims to preserve Islam by ridding the world of Western influences. The concept of jihad for militant Islamic fundamentalists, including Osama bin Laden, is holy war to rid the Muslim Holy Land of infidels; it is their duty to wage war against all enemies in their struggle for an Islamic State. In fact, some consider Jihad the sixth pillar of Islam, the missing or forgotten obligation.

The origins of bin Laden's concept of jihad date back to early twentieth-century Pakistan and Egypt. Two leading figures, Hassan al-Banna and Syed Abul Maududi, sought to restore the Islamic ideal of the unity of religion and state, which, they believed, could only occur by returning Islam to a traditional society governed by a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Al-Banna and Maududi emphasized the concept of jihad as holy war in order to end foreign occupation of Muslim lands. Maududi views true Islam as a modern revolutionary party: "Islam is a revolutionary ideology which seeks to alter the social order of the entire world and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and ideals. . . . Jihad refers to that revolutionary struggle and utmost exertion which the Islamic Nation/Party brings into play in order to achieve this objective." In the 1950s, a prominent member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Sayed Qutb, took the arguments of Al-Banna and Maududi much further, proclaiming that all non-Muslims were infidels, even the so called people of the Book, the Christians and the Jews, and he predicted a future conflict between Islam and the West. "Islamists emphasize the battle against jahiliyya, traditionally understood as the pagan state of ignorance in pre-Islamic Arabia, but reinterpreted by Qutb to mean any contemporary system not based on the original holy sources of Quran and Hadith and not operating under Sharia. Qutb also reinterpreted jihad to mean permanent conflict between the Islamic system and all contemporary jahili paradigms. The concepts of the two systems are totally incompatible, so there is no possibility of compromise or coexistence between them." When Egyptian President Abdel Nasser executed Qutb, his writings gained even wider acceptance in the Arab world, especially after the defeat of the Arabs in the 1967 war with Israel. Qutb's writings shaped the militant view of Islam and contributed to the fundamentalist designation of the US as the Great Satan: "Qutb divides the world into two camps: God's party versus Satan's. Man faces a moral choice he cannot evade, and he must voluntarily submit to God's moral laws in Sharia. There is only one God and one truth. All else is error. There is only one law, Sharia. All other law is mere human caprice." For further reading on how radical Islamic movements have altered traditional Islamic concepts, see ( .

The writings of Qutb and Maududi influenced many younger Arabs, including Palestine scholar Abdullah Azzam, who had fought with the PLO in the 1970s. While studying Islamic law in Cairo, Azzam met the family of Sayed Qutb; he eventually taught at the University in Saudi Arabia, where one of his students was Osama bin Laden. The battle to liberate Afghanistan from Soviet occupation in 1979 provided Azzam with an opportunity to put his revolutionary ideals into practice. He was dubbed the "Emir of Jihad" because he was one of the first Arabs to join the Afghan fight along with Osama bin Laden. They worked together to recruit Arabs to fight in the holy war, and Azzam published books and magazines advocating the moral duty of every Muslim to undertake jihad. Azzam's assassination by car bomb in 1989 contributed to the emergence of a still more radical fundamentalism, led by the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri, whose cause was again furthered by the 1991 Gulf War, which brought US troops to Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden and his Muslim soldiers were extremely disturbed to see land they regarded as sacred occupied by infidel soldiers. It was Zawahri's influence over Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda organization that paved the way for the famous 1998 "Declaration of War" against the United States and the beginning of the terrorist attacks on American targets. The February 23, 1998 Declaration of War, entitled "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders," has now become evidence that links the bin Laden network to the September 11 attacks. (To view the document, see ( .) Osama bin Laden justifies his declaration of war against the US and his terrorist actions as a defensive struggle against enemies who attack and occupy Muslim lands. "Usama bin-Laden does not theorize about jihad, but simply claims that it is part of the Islamic religion, especially relevant in the case of repelling infidel invaders. The stationing of Western military bases on the soil of Muslim states constitutes an occupation by infidels, a clear cause for jihad. In his notorious 'ladinese Espistle' in which he declared jihad against America, he bases himself on Ibn-Taymiyya who stressed the importance of dealing with the greater kurf (danger) before dealing with other, lesser dangers. It is a religious duty to repel the greatest danger even if it means ignoring smaller enemies for a while. He identifies the greater kurf as America, because of its occupation of the Arabian Peninsula and its support of Israel." The suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are a form of jihad, as are all the other acts of terrorism attributed to Islamic fundamentalists. Since suicide is religiously prohibited in Islam, suicide attacks have to be viewed as a form of sacred violence. Killing oneself for the glory of Islam is considered by extremist fundamentalists to be a supreme form of jihad and a type of terrorism allowed by the Sharia; it is not suicide, intihar , but martyrdom, istishhad , one that will procure a special place in Paradise. "Active martyrdom is another area of reinterpretation and implementation. Martyrdom is being actively encouraged and glorified by fundamentalists, and its rewards in the afterlife stressed to induce many to court it. Extreme fundamentalists have revived the khariji and assassin traditions of suicide-killings as a legitimate weapon in their contemporary jihad. . . . Most radicals agree that suicide is a major sin forbidden in Islam. However, they use Quranic verses, Hadith, and cases from the early history of Islam to prove that the voluntary sacrifice of oneself in the cause of Islam (including blowing oneself up as a living bomb) with the objective of defending Muslims and hurting their enemies, is not considered suicide but is a legitimate fight to the death."

Christian Identity groups and Islamic fundamentalists may be surprised to discover that they have many ideological views in common. Both view history as a fundamental cosmic struggle between good and evil. Both justify sacred violence in remarkably similar interpretations of their view of man's relationship to God, both consider the US government to be Satanic, both share anti-Semitism, racial supremacist views, and justifications for terrorism and suicidal missions, which naturally results in their hatred for each other. Hence it is not surprising that there were conspiracy theories claiming that it was white supremacist groups that attacked the World Trade Center or that they are still high on the list of suspects for the anthrax attacks. The two groups also have in common their ability to recruit individuals for their religious cause and their willingness to break government laws in the name of a higher sacred law. Modern terrorists, like white supremacists, understand the nature of sacred violence and know how to manipulate the political situation to incite ordinarily peaceful people to engage in violence as a necessary religious obligation.


The similarities of the religious practices of modern Satanists and terrorists are striking, compelling, and numerous. All of the previously mentioned religions legitimize violence with the principle that the end justifies the means, whether the end is individual gratification or the establishment of an ideal world. This is evident from a brief review of the five sections of this paper. Personifications demonstrated that Satanism and terrorism are present in American culture in many forms. Rivalries showed that Satanism and terrorism are relative concepts determined by the theological, moral, political, and legal perspectives of each group and intertwined with issues of religious and political freedom. Models demonstrated that typologies of Satanism and terrorism are defined by antithetical ideologies and that the concepts are culturally constructed. Religions provided insights into the variety of religious practices of six different Satanic and terrorist groups and demonstrated that they do not consider themselves cultists or terrorists. Finally, Sacred Violence demonstrated that, regardless of how heinous, irrational, or inexplicable, religious violence is always felt to be justified and never thought of as sacrilege or terrorism by the groups that practice it. Throughout this article it is apparent that both Satanists and terrorists are in continual conflict with opposing ideologies.

According to their writings, these groups essentially desire what most individuals and cultures desire: respect, acknowledgment, power, control, and so on. However, their goals are not easily achieved, since their absolutist ideologies are in direct opposition to the absolutist ideologies of mainstream Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with each accusing the other of worshipping false gods. In Girardian terms, these phenomena are referred to respectively as mimetic desire and mimetic rivalry. The manifestation of these rivalries was visibly evident in the previous sections on Rivalries, Models, and Religions. The section on Sacred Violence demonstrates that these rivalries eventually escalate to reprehensible acts of violence, provoking violent reprisals which then evoke violent retaliation, in an endless cycle of mutual revenge, with each group righteously proclaiming that they are justified. According to Girard, it is at this point that a mimetic crisis has been reached, "the war of all against all." Girard describes how the mimetic crisis is resolved by a scapegoating process that he refers to as the "single victim mechanism." The single victim mechanism assigns blame to a single individual so that the community can avoid social chaos and unity can be reestablished. "The resulting violence of all against all would finally annihilate the community if it were not transformed, in the end, into a war of all against one." The inability to walk away from these mimetic rivalries, escalating violence, assignations of blame, and endless cycles of mutual violence is referred to as skandalon.

To quote Girard, "In order to designate the exasperation of mimetic rivalry, the Gospels have a marvelous word that, at times seems almost synonymous with Satan, skandalon. The idea comes from the Bible and it means the obstacle against which one keeps stumbling . . . The skandalon designates a very common inability to walk away from mimetic rivalry which turns into an addiction . . . The skandalon is all kinds of destructive addiction, drugs, sex, power, and above all morbid competitiveness, professional, sexual, political, intellectual, and spiritual, especially spiritual." In The Scandal of the Gospels , David McCracken refers to skandalon in terms of offense: "A scandal may titillate or outrage us; either way, the titillation or moral indignation effectively prevents any challenge of the sort that offense brings to the assumptions and truths we hold most dear and the idols we cherish most deeply. Offense violates our assumptions about what our world is or what we think it ought to be. Whatever is unofficial, unestablished, or non-normal, deviant or nonstandard, in our view, carries with it the possibility of offense." McCracken's concept of skandalon as offense treats scandal as a personal affront that incites one to action. There can be no doubt that most individuals find the religious practices of modern Satanists and terrorists to be a form of scandal that is highly offensive and seriously provocative.

An examination of the religious practices of modern Satanists and terrorists allows us to reduce the fundamental basis for all rivalries, scandals, and violence to one concept: the transgression of the prohibitions of idolatry. Girard recognizes idolatry as the quintessential scandal in the Old Testament: "idolatry, which means the scapegoat given sacred status in the form of a solid and material object--the obstacle made divine. Idolatry is the quintessential stumbling block." Girard describes the paradox of scandal, "The words that designate mimetic rivalry and its consequences are the noun skandalon and the verb skandalizein. Like the Hebrew word that it translates, scandal means, not one of those ordinary obstacles that we avoid easily after we run into it the first time, but a paradoxical obstacle that it is almost impossible to avoid: the more the obstacle, or scandal repels us, the more it attracts us." Modern Satanists indulge in the worst form of idolatry, worship of other gods, and the ultimate offense, the aspiration to be God. On the contrary, most extremist fundamentalists desire stricter enforcement of Biblical or Quranic prohibitions. Satanists and terrorists represent two extreme responses to the laws of idolatry, complete indulgence versus austere rejection of all objects of desire, both culminating, ironically, in acts of sacred violence. A primary characteristic of idolatry is the simultaneous attribution of attraction and repulsion also found in the concept of skandalon. The fundamental nature of idolatry entails transgression and taboo. Desiring the transgression creates the need for the prohibition; the transgression essentially defines the taboo, which explains how religious groups with diametrically opposing doctrines can fall into the same trap.

Satanists embrace sin consciously because, in their arrogance, they assume that if they accept scandal they can control it, which is how they are trapped. Modern terrorists embrace prohibitions because, in their self-righteousness, they assume that if they can control scandal they can avoid it, which is how they, too, are trapped. Idolatry is the perfect obstacle; it causes believers to stumble through both sin and righteousness. Skandalon, the personification of Satan, the father of lies, seduces extremist fundamentalists through righteousness and Satanists through sin, trapping them in rivalries that cause accusations leading to scandals and escalating into an endless cycle of reciprocal violence. Although scandal cannot be altogether avoided, we must do our best to recognize the snares it lays for us in these two serious and dangerous contemporary manifestations of idolatry.