Convicted child sex abuser Colin Batley: Pedophile? Yes. Satanist? Probably not.
Horror films are full of spooky, freaky imagery of Satanists. Either they’re robe-wearing cultists like the ones in The Ninth Gate or they’re the plain-looking old folks next door, like in Rosemary’s Baby. They kill people, conceive and kidnap babies, and perform strange rituals. So when we read about a “Satanic” cult initiating and sexually abusing teens, it seems totally plausible.
Of course, we don’t believe much else we see in genre films. We know there’s no Batman or Spiderman. We know Bruce Willis is not as indestructible as his John McClane character. We know these things because we have enough real-life experience to help us tell reality from fiction. But how many people know real-life Satanists or occultists?
Unfortunately, that lack of knowledge makes it possible for newspapers to claim that a pedophile cult leader like Colin Batley was a Satanist or even a Thelemite (a follower of Aleister Crowley’s teachings) when there’s no sure evidence that he was either one. When newspapers claim that Crowley himself was a Satanist — which he wasn’t — who is there to correct them?
The Batley case, as horrifying as it is, leaves the door wide open for reporters to fill their stories with shoddy information about pagan beliefs they don’t understand. Readers are left with the idea that Satanists and Thelemites are child rapists. (A hint: nothing in Satanism or Thelema encourages forcible sex, sex with minors, or dominion over babies, born or unborn.) Journalists get it dangerously wrong. Dangerous for people who live in fear of Satanists and Thelemites, and especially dangerous for the peaceful people who follow these faiths.
Judging by the Daily Mail article, it does sound as though Batley and the other cult leaders were adopting some elements from Thelema, especially the Eye of Horus, which everyone had tattooed on his or her arm. Keep in mind, however, that drawing inspiration from a sacred text isn’t the same thing as following it faithfully. Throughout history plenty of people have committed heinous crimes “inspired” by Christianity or Islam, but their actions did not reflect those faiths.
When reading newspaper stories about so-called “Satanic” criminals, it’s best to put on your critical-thinking hat. Or, better, a pair of glasses that blanks out ill-informed references to the occult. Unfortunately, there are no journalism courses in comparative religion — let alone pagan religion, and reporters are rarely self-taught experts. Until they are, it’s best to disregard much of what they claim on these points.
When you hear the term “Satanist,” what comes to mind? Where did those impressions come from? How close to the truth do you think they are?