Tucsonan John Brown II doesn't believe in God. He used to, but the former Jehovah's Witness has closed the good book.
Brown is now a Satanist.
You might think that all Satanists worship a Satan figure, but that's not the case. While there are indeed those who worship a Satan deity, Brown does not. He believes that Satan is more of a metaphor than reality.
Brown's entry into Satanism began about 18 months ago. After "jumping from religion to religion" following his Jehovah's Witnesses days, he made a new discovery.
"I was looking on the Net ... and came across a bootleg version of The Satanic Bible. I looked at it and said, 'This kind of sounds like me a little bit.'"
The Satanic Bible was written by Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, in the 1960s. LaVey also penned the Nine Satanic Statements, found in the beginning of The Satanic Bible. Some read like earthy, gritty life tips: Satan represents indulgency instead of abstinence; Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates; Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires.
Brown says that he agrees with the statements and has found them to be down-to-earth. "There's a chapter in The Satanic Bible where LaVey talks about (how) we don't exactly not believe in God, because the person themselves is God. To me, I actually found that empowering."
Brown says that he wanted to create a Satanic presence in Tucson, so he started a blog a year ago (www.tucsonon-satanists.org) and a group called the Society of Dracul. Brown says Dracul is the Romanian name for the Devil, and he chose the name partially because of his love of the Bram Stoker novel. The group meets once a month for a "black Mass," which Brown explains as "essentially a parody of a Catholic Mass or any other religious ceremony. It's very much making fun of religion. In one instance, we burned a Bible. We also played a twisted version of 'pin the tail on the donkey,' called 'pin the tail on the Nazarene.'"
Brown taped his last Mass for others to view online. During the Mass, wafers and wine are passed out to represent the body and blood of Christ. Any similarity to a Catholic Mass ends there: Participants are then encouraged to crumble the wafer as Brown says, "That is all the body of Christ is worth to us." Wine is dumped into a cauldron, while Brown intones, "That is all the blood of Christ is worth."
To the Christian groups who may not see things Brown's way, he says that Satanism is here to stay. This reflects the ninth statement by LaVey: Satan has been the best friend the church has ever had, as he has kept it in business all these years!
Speaking of business, you won't find Brown on the street corner urging others to join his group. He does not see himself as a religious leader. Proselytizing is seen as a form of religious sales and not a Satanic philosophy, he says.
"This is a free country. Religious freedom is great in this country. I don't want to hurt a benign group, and I don't want a group bothering us."
The "kindness to the kind" philosophy also extends into Brown's personal life. His wife is an evangelical Christian. He says she doesn't try to change him; she instead thinks that is God's job. "Her concept is to let God work in me and let God change me."
However, Brown wants change to be in his hands, in accordance with Satanic Statement no. 2: "Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams." The moral: Instead of waiting around for God to change something, change it yourself.
Members of Brown's group are looking for a change due to past experiences. "Most people who attend the group I host have had a really extremely bad experience with religion," he says, telling me about a gay man harassed and assaulted by church members. Another woman was harassed by someone wanting to convert her.
What's ironic is that the so-called religious people who previously pummeled some of Brown's group members are actually acting in opposition to the God they believe in. God is about unconditional love and acceptance, and not prejudice, assault or badgering.
We're not all going to believe in the same things, so we must strive for an acceptance of differences. If a Satanist and an evangelical Christian can live under the same roof, that is an example of religious tolerance from which we can all learn.