Release Date:  10/31/88

                     SATAN'S OVERRATED
                     ------- ---------

"People who worry about a rising tide of Satanic crime in Ameri-
ca are giving the Devil much more than his due."  So says a re-
port issued today by the Committee for Scientific Examination 
of Religion (CSER).

The results of a 2-year investigation into Satanism in America, 
the report finds some evidence of Satanic crime, but cautions 
that its prevalence has been vastly overstated.

"A person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to be 
the victim of Satanic crime."

Alarmed by wide public acceptance of outrageous and unsupported 
claims of international Satanic conspiracies, CSER, a group of 
scientists and scholars dedicated to critical evaluation of 
religious claims, decided to investigate.  Fresh from its ex-
pose of fraudulent TV faith healers, CSER began its investiga-
tion into Satanism in 1986.  The report, originally scheduled 
to be released in April of 1989, was moved up to Halloween 
because of the recent Geraldo Rivera special "Devil Worship, 
Exposing Satan's Underground", which aired on NBC last Tuesday 

The report sharply criticizes Rivera's special, charging that 
the program was "poorly researched", "sensational", and "highly 
irresponsible".  "The Rivera report was misleading, much of the 
information presented was inaccurate, and key facts were omit-
ted", facts that, CSER contends, would have left the audience 
considerably less alarmed about the threat of Satanism.

According to Shawn Carlson, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley 
Labs and the report's principal author, the Geraldo Rivera 
special was typical of the sensational treatment given to this 
topic.  Carlson contends that there is a growing myth of a 
national Satanic conspiracy, which has been fueled by so-called 
experts with a religious axe to grind, misinformed police offic-
ers, and a gullible media easily lured into sensationalism.  
"The supposed experts tend to believe the allegations first and 
ask questions later.  We've tried to systematically research 
what's happening in America to get a clear understanding of the 
problem.  We want to stand out as a voice of reason in a field 
muddled by so much emotion and so many misconceptions", he 

The report claims that many authors have exaggerated allega-
tions of Satanic activity beyond reason.  It is particularly 
true of allegations made by people who claim to have been deep-
ly involved in Satanic cults, and who now tell their stories in 
books and on television.  "These people claim to know who the 
cultists are, where they meet, how they dispose of the bodies 
of victims, but, unlike undercover police officers and Mafia 
informants, they are unable to provide names, dates, places, or 
any other tangible evidence."

The report addresses a whole slew of Satanic allegations:  
child abductions, ritual child abuse, ritual murder, animal 
mutilations, women who purportedly sacrifice their babies to 
Satan, and the relationship between Satanism and Heavy Metal 
rock music.  It concludes that most of these allegations are 
baseless.  The report states that in the few instances where 
crimes with undeniably Satanic elements have occurred, "there 
is no evidence to show that Satanism per se was responsible for 
the act.  Nearly every Satanic criminal had a history of 
anti-social behavior long before he/she took up Satanic trap-
pings.  Satanism appears as an expression of one's mental ill-
ness, not as the motivation for anti-social behavior.  Satanism 
is a symptom, not the cause.

"I'm proud of the work we've done, especially in the area of 
child abuse" says Gerald Larue, Emeritus Professor of Religion 
at the University of Southern California and coauthor of the 
report.  "The hysteria mongers would have us spend our resourc-
es going after non-existent nation-wide cults of Satanic child 
abusers.  We must concentrate our efforts on finding the real 
abusers and taking them off the streets, and getting abused 
kids the help they need.  We owe it to our children not to 
indulge ourselves in hysteria in their name."

Carlson adds "We now know that the hysterical claims that thou-
sands of children are being stolen off the streets and ritually 
murdered by these Satanists just aren't true.  The FBI states 
that they have fewer than 80 open files on children abducted by 
strangers.  At most, the Satanists could be responsible for 
only some fraction of these abductions.  Your child is twenty 
times more likely to drown in a backyard pool.  If you're real-
ly concerned about your child's safety, buy a pool cover before 
you start going after Satanists."

CSER states that its investigation is still ongoing.  It is 
still examining allegations of networks of Satanic groups, but 
claims that it can rule out any of the large-scale conspiracies 
postulated by other authors.  "Some of these groups may communi-
cate with each other, but the allegations of organizations and 
coordinated activity on a large scale just don't stand up", 
according to Larue.

In the past five years, there have been over one million vio-
lent crimes committed in the U.S.  The report states that, 
according to police, only about 60 of these have involved Satan-

Says Larue, "The worship of Satan does not appear to be a sig-
nificant source of crime."

Shawn Carlson can be reached at                  (415) 486-0873

Gerald Larue can be reached at                   (714) 969-7990

The Committee for Scientific Examination of
Religion press contact Barry Karr                (716) 834-3222