G. Edwin Taylor, a “warlock” in the Church of Satan, first read “The Satanic Bible” as a teen and thought, “Damn, this is me,” points out that, despite the name, his group doesn’t worship the devil, indeed its members are atheists who use Satan as a symbol they believe represents “pride . . . liberty . . . individuality.”

Taylor, 44, has lived in Chicago “most of my entire life. I’ve been a Church of Satan member for over 20 years.”

“I went to Lane Tech, and this was the ’80s and early ’90s, and this was right near the tail end of the ‘Satanic panic’ ” when there was widespread hysteria about “devil worshipers wanting to eat your baby and, ooh, killing cats and drinking their blood in a forest at midnight and all that other B.S.”

In high school, he focused on art. It was “always geared more towards horror” and ended up causing a stir, with the principal having “it in her mind that I was some evil devil worshiper, that I was the head of some cult,” and an art teacher saying of his drawings, “I don’t want you bringing demons and devils into this.”

A friend suggested he read “The Satanic Bible,” written by Chicago-born Anton LaVey, the late, founder of the Church of Satan.

“I read it in, like, three days, and I was, like, ‘Damn, this is me,’ not a devil worshiper, ’cause Satanists don’t believe in a God or a Satan — there is no heaven, there is no hell — it’s us, what we get is of our own doing. We are our own God.

“I thought it was kind of funny and interesting that other people kind of sensed that I wasn’t like them before I realized what I really was. So that’s when I first realized I was a Satanist. I was about 17.”

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The Satan image is “symbolic. Satan represents pride, he represents liberty, he represents individuality. So it’s all about the individual.”

“Yeah, ‘Satan’ kind of scares off people . . . It’s not for everybody, but that’s the way it should be. We have more of a live-and-let-live policy. We know that most people aren’t going to be Satanists. You can’t be converted into Satanism . . . . You have to be thinking a certain way.”

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The Church of Satan doesn’t reveal membership numbers.

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Is there true devil worshiping?

“I’m sure that there is . . . but they’re not Satanists. They’re still in the part of that Christian religion. Instead of believing in the good guy, they’re believing in the bad guy, and they’re thinking, ‘Ooh, there’s a devil with horns and a barbed tail sitting on a throne of bones,’ you know, fires surrounding him, when it’s fiction.”

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“I was raised Lutheran . . . I went to a Lutheran grammar school, first communion, I was confirmed . . . did church twice a week . . . I was even actually part of two church choirs.”

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He’s seen people make the sign of the cross when they pass him and spot the Satanic medallion around his neck.

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“We believe once you’re dead, you’re dead, and because of that, you only have the one life. So you have to make it count.”

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Should people fear the Church of Satan?

“We want to be left alone and just do our own thing.”

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G. Edwin Taylor, a “warlock” in the Church of Satan: “We uphold the law, so, if it’s illegal, it’s wrong.” Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Much as members don’t worship the devil, as some people mistakenly think, the church also isn’t a church in the sense that most people might view that word. For instance, there generally are no organized services. It’s “more like a loose cabal,” though individual members might have their own rituals.

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So is Satanism more a philosophy than a religion?

“That is a pretty good description.”

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What does individualism look like?

“Depends on the person. Me personally, I just follow what I’m good at. I play up my strengths, I try to play down my weaknesses, just so I could be the best person that I personally can be.”

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Is there right and wrong?

“Good is what you like, evil is what you don’t like.” But “we uphold the law, so, if it’s illegal, it’s wrong.”

Satanism’s “No. 1 sin” is “stupidity.”

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“Love and hate, we believe in both . . . And if we love, we love passionately, and if we hate, we hate passionately.”

The group’s writings also advocate “indulgence instead of abstinence,” as well as “vengeance instead of turning the other cheek.”

G. Edwin Taylor: The “No. 1 sin” in Satanism is “stupidity.” | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

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Face to Faith appears Sundays in the Chicago Sun-Times, with an accompanying audio podcast, with additional content, available at chicago.suntimes.com and on iTunes and Google Play.

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