Tag Archives: Devil

Exactly how many kids has heavy metal sent to Hell?

Recently, someone calling themselves “April and Wayne Show” (it’s not clear whether that’s the name of a couple of the name of their show) began posting videos to YouTube purporting to expose metal bands as “Satanic Illuminati.” Although the dictionary says “illuminati” means “those who are enlightened,” many people colloquially use the term to refer to something cult-like.

As I’ve said before, while some metal bands use anti-Christian symbolism as a theater prop, very few are actually Satanic. Still, some people look at these bands and see nothing else. At first, it seems like April and Wayne Show’s videos might seem tongue-in-cheek, but the tone comes across as fairly serious and straightforward. Which means we’ve got some debunking to do.

Some of their claims include:

“Metal destroys the lives of many youth and leads millions of souls to Hell.”
“Metal has caused many youth to turn to drugs, become rebellious, and become sexually promiscuous (including bisexuality).”
“Metal promotes self-destruction (including suicide). Rock music gets millions of youth to experiment with drugs.”
“Metal artists have sold their souls to the devil and Satan uses metal bands to lead millions of souls to Hell.”
“Metal … promotes witchcraft and Satanism, demonic possession and rage, violence, blasphemy …”

Note that all of this is presented without a single shred of evidence. There’s no science backing their claims about drugs, sexuality, or even suicide. To say nothing of their more spiritual claims. Sure, it’s hard to prove whether “millions of souls” have gone to Hell, or that Satan’s using the music to lead them there, but you could at least try.

Let’s assume for the moment that these teens get to Hell by committing suicide. Roughly 4,400 teens a year succeed in killing themselves. Even if every single teen who committed suicide since 1970 — the year proto-metal band Black Sabbath released its first album — and we assume that every teen who commits suicide a) did so because of metal, and b) went to Hell because of it, it comes to 184,800. Unfortunately, that’s a lot of kids, but it’s by no means “millions.”

They go on:

“Metal artists are under demonic control during performances. These demons not only control artists’ performances, but enhances (sic) their skill.” (Quotes from artists ensue.)

Their example is a drummer they describe as “faceless,” who plays with his eyes closed (how does he have eyes if he doesn’t have a face?), but somehow plays perfectly, as shown in the video. Have these people never heard of dubbing? Or, you know, muscle memory? Many skilled musicians can play with eyes closed; it has nothing to do with demons. Also, since when are demons good at performing music?

Then there’s a narrative from a “regional bride of Satan,” named “Elaine,” who claims that numerous musicians told her that they sold their souls to the Devil, and that she attended “numerous ceremonies” in recording studios to place “Satanic blessings” on the music recorded there. And that the demons appeared on the records, especially in the “backmasked messages.”

I think it’s worth saying that we probably shouldn’t trust a woman who believes she was married to Satan. Even if you get beyond the idea that Satan is a real being who can get married, it’s not like such a marriage would be legally recognized anywhere. At this point, it’s safe to assume that “Elaine” was imagining or hallucinating pretty much everything she claims. The red herring is the “backmasked messages” comment, considering that the metal bands accused of backmasking messages were exonerated in court, after it was found that the “subliminal messages” were imagined, not intentional.

Part 2 of the video series gets into the idea of a “secret society.” “What secret society?” “The Illuminati!” — mostly old, rich guys. Who, as we know, are serious and hardcore metalheads:

I won’t go through the whole thing line-by-line, but needless to say these videos are not worth trusting. I hope parents who come across them while searching for information about their kids’ interests don’t give them too much credence. If anyone has questions about what they’re seeing in these videos, please ask in comments.

Or, if you see something in one of these videos you’d like to debunk, please do. Cite your sources!

How not to get hysterical about a pentagram


Pentagrams and walls seem to go hand in hand — like bored teens and vandalism. Photo by Flickr user The Trousered Ape.

As the weather turns warmer, kids in suburban and rural areas go outside. They’re bored. They’re looking for something to do. They’re angry, or at least irritated. Maybe they have a magic marker in their back pocket. They’re walking through town, maybe past a church, and an idea strikes them.

Churches in Santa Rosa, California, and Prairie Grove, Arkansas, have suffered recent vandalism — one more seriously than the other. In Santa Rosa, The Church of the Incarnation was tagged with a few pentagrams and other designs. In Prairie Grove, the Illinois Chapel Baptist Church has been vandalized repeatedly over the years, culminating with arson late last month.

Two different cases, in two different parts of the country, reported in two very different ways. Let’s look, shall we?

From Arkansas Matters:

A church is set ablaze in Prairie Grove and officials find satanic symbols spray-painted on the building.

From the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

The Church of the Incarnation on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa was tagged with possible Satanic graffiti on Wednesday afternoon, and police said they may have a suspect.

Hmm. One seems more cautious than another. Let’s look again.

Prairie Grove:

“Devil worshiping signs, you know, and stuff, this is nothing but the Devil … People that does this stuff, they are lost … They haven’t the slightest what hell is really about.”

But everyone we spoke with said, there is one thing still standing strong, and that is their faith.

“The Devil can’t beat us down, not as long as we hold faith in Him … I know the good Lord is with us,” said Burnett.

Santa Rosa:

[Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Mike] Lazzarini said the suspect also tagged St Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church, as well as other buildings and signs.

“It’s not church specific,” he said.

A pentagram is a five-pointed star connected with lines considered by some to have magical connotations, and to have satanic meaning when inverted with two points up.

Lawrence said while the pentagrams are potentially upsetting to members of the church, “it’s not enough to make us feel threatened.”

You could chalk up the sensationalism of the Arkansas article to the fact that the crime is more serious, but there have been plenty of times when graffiti like Santa Rosa’s has been reported in a tone more like Prairie Grove’s. In fact, more alarmist reporting tends to be the norm. The Press Democrat reporters offer something refreshing: a report of the crime that doesn’t hysterically imply that the Devil controlled the vandal’s hand — or did the dirty deed himself.

The fact remains, most such vandalism is made by bored, aimless people — kids especially — and not Satanists with an anti-Church agenda. Reporters should write their articles this way, unless they know for certain who the suspect is, and what his/her motives are.

And yet, it’s still plenty interesting to read. Factual reporting that doesn’t descend into fear-mongering. When’s the last time you saw that in a story like this?

Iraqi youth stoned to death after leaders link emo culture to Satanism, homosexuality


In the United States, emo is a popular youth lifestyle. In Iraq, being emo can get you killed. Photo by Flickr user MarcX Photography.

If this blog is about any single thing, it’s about the demonization of youth culture, and of any influence deemed “dangerous” when kids get their hands on it. But when we talk about such demonization in the West, it’s mostly metaphorical. When kids here take up with metal or goth culture, or they explore pagan faiths, parents might become frightened and limit those activities. In some cases they become fodder for child abuse or bullying. But children here can’t be arrested or publicly executed for such interests. In Iraq, that’s what’s happening right now.

Facts on the situation have been murky, given the nature of it. But here’s my understanding of what has happened in recent weeks:

On Feb. 13, the Iraq Interior Ministry released a statement that condemned the “phenomenon of emo” as Satanic. Emo fashions — such as dark clothes, skull-print T-shirts and nose rings — are “emblems of the devil.”

On Feb. 26, Ammar AL-hakim, a powerful Shia leader, gave a speech on YouTube in which he called emo culture a “strange social phenomena” that is “spreading among youths and adolescents of both sexes.” He urged “decent” Iraqi families to “be careful of these kinds of phenomena” because they have a “devastating influence” on the culture. He did caution people not to use violence.

However, leaflets and fliers began circulating in parts of Baghdad, warning known “emo” youth that they needed to change their behavior, which some claimed was homosexual in nature. According to the New York Times:

“Your fate will be death if you don’t quit doing this,” one leaflet warns. “Punishment will be tougher and tougher, you gays. Don’t be like the people of Lot.”

Another flier circulating around the Zayouna neighborhood appears addressed to emo youths. It tells them to cut their hair, not to wear the clothing of devil worshipers, and not to listen to metal, emo or rap music. And if they refuse, “God’s punishment will be come down upon you,” the letter says.

News broke over the weekend that a number of youth had been stoned to death. The number is unclear; at least 14, and perhaps as many as 60. Reuters claims Iraqi militia are responsible for the deaths. Although many Iraq leaders deny anyone has been killed, Reuters spoke to doctors on Baghdad who had signed the death certificates of youth who’d died of blunt-force trauma to the head. Others have been wounded, apparently as “warnings.”

The Interior Ministry said:

“No murder case has been recorded with the interior ministry on so-called ’emo’ grounds. All cases of murder recorded were for revenge, social and common criminal reasons.”

What seems to be going on is this: Iraqi leaders publicly (and falsely) connected emo culture to Satanism, and even, ridiculously, “blood-drinking.” They demonized this culture, which is essentially peaceful — it’s a youth culture that celebrates the expression of emotion, particularly through music — and another group, possibly a militia group, ran with it. They took it to an extreme place, and now young people are dead.

This is precisely why I am so adamant about fair and accurate depictions of such cultures — particularly by police and journalists. Misrepresenting goths, emos, metalheads, and pagans (among others) as criminal, as violent, or as something abhorrent encourages fear and hatred. And some people take such fear and hatred to an extreme place.

We can say such things could only happen in the Middle East, but that isn’t true. It happened to Sophie Lancaster — and nearly happened to Melody McDermott — in Britain. If we extend such beatings to situations where goth and emo culture are mixed up with homosexuality, as seems the case in Iraq, then we have plenty of examples of gays being publicly and brutally killed, chief among them Matthew Shepard.

These kids aren’t demons, and they aren’t doing anything wrong. It doesn’t matter where they live, or how they dress, or what music they listen to, or whom they love. They don’t deserve to be beaten to death in the streets. And they certainly don’t deserve to have it happen because someone in power said that these kids are evil.

I’m not sure, yet, what can be done about it. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch haven’t taken up the issue. There will be a vigil (warning: graphic images) in San Francisco Wednesday evening to express public solidarity for Iraqi youth. Please post here if you know of any others, or if you know of ways to help.

Meet Bob Larson: former rocker, practicing exorcist, schoolgirl trainer, evangelist and “occult expert”


Meet Bob Larson, exorcist and “occult expert.”

You may not have heard of Bob Larson yet, but Bob Larson is trying to change that.

A former musician, Larson turned Christian in the 1960s and has been a champion of anti-occult causes ever since. He authored a series of books on the presumed perils of rock and roll and heavy metal music, including such titles as “Rock & Roll: The Devil’s Diversion, “Hippies, Hindus, and Rock & Roll,” “Rock, Practical Help for Those Who Listen to the Words and Don’t like What They Hear,” and “Larson’s Book of Rock,” the latter focused on heavy metal.

He has since gone on to become a radio evangelist with his own show, “Talk Back,” in which (among other things) he told perfectly happy kids that they were going to Hell. He openly debated Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey’s daughter, Zeena LaVey.

In his most recent incarnation, he’s now an exorcist. He trains schoolgirls to perform exorcisms. He has his own “exorcism channel” on YouTube. And he served as a consultant on the new exorcism thriller “The Devil Inside.”

In a bizarre interview with Movieweb.com, Larson styles himself as a serious exorcist — but also talks about his belief that Heath Ledger somehow became possessed while portraying the Joker in the film “Batman Begins.” (Instead of a simpler explanation — such as Larson was unnerved by Ledger’s convincing performance as a deranged comic-book monster.) Then he goes on to assure the interviewer that he really can tell the difference between a possessed person and an actor faking it.

In 1993, Cornerstone magazine debunked Larson’s ministry, revealing how he played up fears related to the Satanic Panic and used his radio show to manipulate people into giving him money.

There are many holes in Larson’s story, but the one most pertinent to our mission here at Backward Messages is that he styles himself as an “occult expert” and is providing people with information under that guise. Bob Larson is an “occult expert” in the same way that late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il was an expert on the culture of the Western world. Larson has not spent much time among occultists attempting to study them neutrally, nor (as far as I know) has he ever practiced the occult, or a minority faith, for himself. He’s an outsider — and an outsider with a bone to pick. It could be said that he’s an expert on the supposed evils of the occult — but that’s not the same thing.

Here’s a question for readers: What makes someone an “expert?” How do you decide whether you can trust someone who calls him- or herself an expert? Does Larson fit your definition?

Christmas sign might force parents to explain their belief in Satan to their children


Jackie Blevins’ Christmas lights, and their unorthodox message, are making his Tennessee neighbors angry. Photo by Tim Davis.

Humans have a variety of responses to rejection. Some withdraw. Some tell themselves they’re better off anyway. Some get revenge. And some, apparently, put up Christmas lights with Satanic messages in them. That’s what Jackie Blevins did, and his neighbors in Carter County, Tennessee, aren’t so happy.

The message reads: “The Devil’s Inn rules. Closed until Judgement Day. Satan Satan hear my plea. Satan Satan come to me.”

Here’s how Blevins explained the whole thing to a WCYB reporter:

“[I] put this sign up here on the building because of what has happened right here,” Blevins said as he pointed to cars he refinished with skulls and devil’s horns.

Blevins told News 5 his cars were banned from area car shows, and in response he built the sign as a way of showing his anger.

While his decorative choices may rub some people the wrong way, he tells News 5, it’s just his personal form of expression. “It is my freedom of speech, my freedom of religion for these cars out here. They don’t mean nothing. They’re just a chunk of lousy metal,” Blevins explained.

But some folks who live nearby are upset with the message:

“I was just horrified, horrified,” Deborah Jones said of the first time she saw the sign. “Knowing that a child could ask a parent is Satan really there? Is Satan in his home? What is a parent supposed to say to a child?”

… I would assume that a parent in that position would answer in accordance with his or her beliefs. If you don’t believe in Satan, say so. If you do, explain who he is, what his background is, and how you (and other people of your faith) feel about him. Why someone would spend so much time and energy on a figure like the Devil, and yet be unwilling to discuss those feelings with a curious child? In either case, it’s also a good time to discuss the First Amendment, and the freedom to speak out and to practice whatever faith makes you happy.

Someone else has already beat me to blogging about this. You can read a more Christian take over at Fellowship of the Minds. The comments are particularly interesting.

Religious leaders see monsters — in teens


Does vampire fiction make teens more likely to commit evil crimes? Some seem to think so. Photo by Flickr user drurydrama (Len Radin).

Halloween is coming soon, and people are already seeking spooks.

Specifically, adults in religious communities around the world think they’re seeing monsters — in teenagers.

In South Africa, a foster teen’s parents discovered some of her poetry and sketchbooks and are now convinced that the 14-year-old has a secret double life with a Satanic cult. Because that’s the first thing that leaps to mind, right? In one sketch, the girl drew Jesus on the cross and then wrote, “He lied/He cried/He died.” On another page, a poem reads:

Lucifer was here and now he is gone.
Maybe we should try and just carry on.
The devil is cool, he is fly.
The beast is the apple of his eye.
Satan is our king and he wears the crown.
And he ain’t letting us walk with a frown…”

(I had to check and make sure these aren’t song lyrics. As far as I can tell, they aren’t.)

When the girl’s foster mother found the diaries — apparently while the girl was away — her assumption was that the girl is part of a Satanic cult. Her response? She took them to the local newspaper, which then turned the poor girl’s diaries over to a minister for examination. It starts out well enough:

“She feels very rejected and it’s normal for young people to try and find their identity,” [Father Mike Williams] says, paging through the books.

Oh, but then he had to go on…

“Even though one can see she’s already delved deep into this whole thing, this doesn’t mean that she’s possessed.

“We must see if she has given her soul to the devil or took part in a black mass.”

… What??

It is, as Williams points out, totally natural for teens to begin questioning Christianity, if it’s the religion they were raised with. Some come back; some don’t. Since many teens are vulnerable to black-and-white thinking, they sometimes combine that questioning with an exploration of the polar opposite — in this case, Satanism. Sometimes it’s an honest exploration of faith. Sometimes it’s a way to draw concern from parents who might not be paying attention in the way a teen craves.

Foster children are especially vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder, abandonment issues, and depression. According to one study, 60 percent of former foster kids suffered signs of depression. To me, the drawings and poems from this South African girl sound like the product of loneliness and perhaps depression — but not “Satanic cult” activity. Her mother should consider finding her some counseling, not an exorcist.

Such suspicions are not restricted to South Africa, however. In a recent article published in several Christian newspapers, Thomas Horn (author of books such as The Gods Who Walk Among Us and Invisible Invasion) goes on at length about teen vampire and werewolf fiction. The article, penned by Eryn Sun, draws links between such fiction and a handful of crimes in which young people pretended to be vampires.

Before we get into that, let’s look at some of the bizarre things Horn has to say:

“Psychologists have long understood how women in general desire strength in men, but few could have imagined how this natural and overriding need by young ladies would be used in modern times to seduce them of their innocence using mysteriously strong yet everlastingly damned creatures depicted in popular books and films like Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse.”

I can barely get past the sexism in this quote, but I’ll try: he’s saying that women’s need for strong men somehow makes them crave vampire fiction in which the men in question are powerful vampires. At least, I think that’s what he’s saying.

But then Sun uses these examples to illustrate Horn’s point:

Just a few months ago, a 19-year-old in Texas, claiming to have been a 500-year-old vampire needing to be fed, broke into a woman’s home, threw her against the wall, and tried to suck her blood.

Another instance in Florida involved a teenage girl who was charged along with four others for beating a 16-year-old to death. They were part of a purported vampire cult, with one teenage girl calling herself a vampire/werewolf hybrid.

Where are the girls craving powerful, vampiric men in these examples?

Oh, Horn does go on, arguing that modern horror fiction is different from that of the past, because the new monsters are “impervious to Christ’s power.” In turn, that means young readers and viewers “have exchanged yesterday’s pigtails and pop-guns for pentagrams and blood covenants aligned with forces far stronger than former generations could have imagined.” I’m not sure how many Twilight and True Blood viewers have actually made blood covenants with any “forces,” but I’d bet it’s not many (and, it’s a legitimate spiritual pursuit if they want to — after all, we are guaranteed freedom of religion by the First Amendment).

It’s true that, once in a while, a young person commits violence. Occasionally, that violence is inspired by horror tales. But that’s because violent people occasionally enjoy horror tales — not because the horror tales somehow inspire the violence.

These are, unfortunately, the kinds of messages that can make some deeply religious people question or even fear teenagers — their own, or other people’s. Such questioning and fear leads these teens, who often already feel isolated and different (and therefore unaccepted, or unacceptable), to feel far worse about themselves. That can’t lead anywhere good. Parents and pastors who truly want to help these kids need to love them, listen to them, understand them, and meet them halfway, not put the Biblical smackdown on them when they’re already vulnerable.

Do you think horror fiction is unhealthy for teen audiences? Does it inspire criminal activity, or put their souls at risk? Does the South African girl really belong to a Satanic cult?

Mentally ill killer may be released from German prison; what’s Satan got to do with it?


Daniel and Manuela Ruda, pictured during their 2001 trial. Daniel could soon be released from prison. Photo by ddp’s Kirsten Neumann.

A mentally disturbed man could soon be released from German prison after serving 15 years for the bloody slaying of a friend.

The London Evening Standard reported that Daniel Ruda, 35, will go before a parole board in Germany next week. There, he will find out whether he will be released early for good behavior.

Ruda and his wife, Manuela, were sentenced to prison in early 2002 for the murder of Frank Hackert. The newlyweds allegedly stabbed Hackert a number of times before drinking his blood. Reporters, then and now, latched onto the fact that the Rudas claimed they were vampires. Some, including the Evening Standard’s Allan Hall, have continued to call the couple “Satanic.”

Why?

Well, according to the Telegraph, “they said the devil told them to” kill their friend.

Daniel Ruda, a car parts salesman, and Manuela, had admitted the killing, but said they were not responsible because they were acting on the devil’s orders. “Kill, sacrifice, bring souls,” was how they described the command.

The couple said they had chosen “Hacki”, as they called him, for sacrifice because he was “so funny and would be the perfect court jester for Satan”.

Throughout the trial, the Rudas showed off, appearing in outlandish costumes, flashing their devil-horn signals and threatening witnesses.

In general, people who believe the Devil is telling them to kill someone qualify as psychotic — not Satanic. Fortunately, the judge in this case recognized that, and assigned Daniel and Manuela to different psychiatric units. Since then, Daniel has apparently become the librarian of a prison near Dortmund, Germany. That’s not enough information to tell whether his condition has stabilized. Manuela remains in prison for her participation in the crime.

Unfortunately, the Ruda’s flamboyant behavior during the trial made them poster children for the anti-Satanists, who like to hold up photos (particularly this one of Manuela) of them as proof that Satanism leads to violence and homicide.

Satanism, like just about every other faith, does not endorse, condone, or encourage harming others — let alone killing them. You can argue that if the Rudas didn’t want to be held up as such an example, they shouldn’t have behaved the way they did — either during their crime or during their trial. But how much impulse control and personal responsibility can we expect from two people who are so clearly mentally unbalanced? And what of the press’ responsibility to report in a fair and accurate manner?

Furthering the “Satanic” rallying cry, as the Evening Standard did, does nothing to clarify whether Daniel Ruda is back to good health and safe for release. It also confuses a potentially frightened public into believing that Satanism is to blame for what happened — and that young people who find a home in this particular faith are vulnerable to (or likely to) carry out the same kinds of crimes. This is unfair to Satanists, to the public, and to the parents of teens exploring such faiths.

Do you think Daniel Ruda should be released from jail? What kinds of treatment do you think he should have received during his imprisonment, if any?