For generations, mankind—including even nominal Christians—has debated the existence of Satan. Bishop Fulton Sheen, the much-venerated Catholic bishop who rose to prominence in the 1960s, made popular the adage that the greatest trick that Satan plays on mankind is to make us believe that he does not exist.
Accordingly, national polls now indicate that the number of Americans who do not believe in Satan’s existence is growing at a rapid pace. A 2003 Gallup poll showed that 68 percent of all Americans believed in the existence of Satan. By 2013, a YouGov poll indicated that number had fallen to 57 percent.
Score one for the Devil.
However, in a seeming contradiction, membership in pagan, occultist, and satanic worship organizations in America is on the rise. Three days following the 2016 presidential election, the Satanic Temple (established in 2013), announced a sudden surge in membership of 50,000 people, bringing their total numbers to around 100,000. And though, by policy, no official numbers are released by the much larger Church of Satan (founded in 1966), observers and former members estimate its membership at 4 million in the U.S. and at least 10 million worldwide.
In the meantime, interest in witchcraft, Wicca, and other forms of paganism has grown to epic proportions. A 2010 census revealed witchcraft as the fourth-largest religion in America, with approximately 200,000 registered witches and an estimated 8 million unregistered practitioners.
While paganists and the occultists promote a more indirect, and even at times unacknowledged worship of Satan, Satanism is thought to embrace him more openly. However, with a strong sense of irony—perhaps even a predictable one—both the Temple of Satan and the Church of Satan “officially” deny their namesake’s existence even as they commonly invoke his name in many of their “worship” rituals.
If Bishop Sheen was correct, perhaps it is only natural that the two largest organizations promoting Satan’s beliefs and his adulation would actively disavow his reality, while at the same time depict him as a being deserving of our respect and admiration. Regardless of one’s beliefs, the fact is that Satan has cleaned up his act—he is going “mainstream”—and is seen as admirable, cultivated, and even cool.
In that vein, we find the hit television show, “Lucifer,” of the Fox network (just recently renewed for its third season), where Satan is depicted as a “devilishly” attractive and intelligent being who has abandoned his throne in hell and retired to Los Angeles to pursue his favorite indulgences: wine, women, and song. However, in the midst of his new life, he begins to develop feelings of compassion and empathy that motivate him to reach out with his “unique” brand of assistance to the LA police department.
Beyond “Lucifer,” a cursory glance at the daily offerings of entertainment on television or at the movies reveals an untold number of shows portraying some semblance of the demonic world in an exciting and fun fashion.
Beyond entertainment, Satanists are becoming more involved socially. In 2014, the Satanic Temple launched its Protect Children Project, aimed at providing First Amendment protection in the form of legal assistance to children who were “victims” of corporal punishment (spanking) in schools across the nation.
Two years later, the same organization introduced the “After School Satan Clubs,” an extracurricular program designed to counter what it roughly characterizes as the evangelical Christian influence on schools across America. According to its website:
It’s important that children be given an opportunity to realize that the evangelical materials now creeping into their schools are representative of but one religious opinion amongst many. . . . After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us. We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors.
As we accelerate to the climactic end of this age, wisdom dictates that we stay close to our Creator and take heed to the growing influence of Satan and his demonic horde (I Timothy 4:1; I John 4:1), not to mention his cunning efforts to deny his own existence while simultaneously rehabilitating his reputation (II Corinthians 11:14; 2:11).
He is the master of all deception, but his time is growing short. As Paul writes, “The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Romans 16:20).