Downtown Olympia could be going to hell.
That’s one way of looking at the prevalence of promotional materials for the Olympia Satanists that are popping up on coffee shop bulletin boards, outdoor walls and other public spaces along Fourth Avenue.
One cardboard booklet posted outside an Olympia coffee shop bears a silver pentagram and reads “Hail Satan!” Inside the booklet are the words “Satanic Missionary Society.” Smaller fliers bear short messages reading “Unanswered prayers? Let Satan Try.” Another one reads, “Tired of guilt? Satan can help.”
On the back, there’s a phone number for the “Satanic Prayer Line.”
Sam Schroeder, retail manager for Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. downtown, said he didn’t even notice the Satanic fliers on the shop’s outdoor bulletin board.
“I think it’s kind of funny,” he said. “People in Olympia are into a lot of different things.”
Schroeder added that Olympia’s known for its tolerance and acceptance of all kinds, and “that is one of the things that makes Olympia great.”
The Olympia Satanists meet once a month at The Olympia Center downtown.
The group has a website at olympia.worshipsatan.org. A post advertising the group’s May 23 meeting reads, in part: “This month’s agenda is still open. Anti-chris will be discussing plans for Antichristmas, which begins June 25 at noon. Antichristmas is a time to celebrate the Antichrist and spread Antichristmas cheer by hanging satanic ornaments on living trees around the community.”
The “Anti-chris” refers to the founder of the Olympia Satanists, Chris Allert, a 40-year-old graduate of The Evergreen State College and computer programmer who has lived in Olympia since 2001.
Allert said his group does not condone hurting anyone, and he does not believe in the supernatural.
“I guess you could call me a Satanic atheist,” he said.
Allert likened the group and the work he has done drawing up fliers and constructing the website as “community performance art.” He has created the fliers and all other aspects of the project himself, including cards where members can write up a curse that they can hand-deliver to their “enemies.”
The curse cards read, in part, “Urgent notice: You are Cursed. An enemy of yours has placed a Satanic Curse on you. Your enemy has checked the option that applies to you below.” The following boxed items are offered to the curser: 1.) “Your enemy will lift the curse if you make reparations (see reverse).” 2.) “Your enemy will not lift the curse, but you can escape it by changing your ways. (see reverse).” 3.) “This curse cannot be lifted and you are cursed for the rest of your days!”
Allert acknowledges that there are humorous aspects to the Olympia Satanists.
“I’ve gotten two responses,” he said. “People are either really freaked out by it or they think it’s really funny. That’s perfect.”
However, he added that he has problems with Christianity and the proselytizing that Christians and other religious groups do. Allert said that the activities of the Olympia Satanists are a response to that.
“I tend to get angry when someone shoves a Jesus flier in my face,” he said.
Allert said there are aspects of the dark side that he espouses, including blasphemy and irreverence. Allert added that some traditional Christian virtues are overrated. Generosity, for example, is a supposed virtue that, when put under the microscope, usually has some ulterior motive, he said. There can be the implied expectation of something in return, or the emotional reward of getting to feel good about one’s self, Allert said.
“I think we’re not selfish enough,” he said. “We do too many things out of guilt, and it’s not really helpful to anyone.”
He added, “Do what you want to do instead of what you’re supposed to do.”
Allert said he has heard of extreme reactions from Christian groups that are tearing down his fliers downtown and at The Evergreen State College. Allert said that bothered him.
“Don’t they have enough faith that they have something better to offer and people won’t be tempted?” he said.
The Rev. Arthur Vaeni of the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation said in a phone interview Friday that he was not familiar with Allert’s organization, and he wouldn’t want to make a value judgment on the group without learning more about its beliefs.
According to the website The Skeptic’s Dictionary, Satan is God’s adversary, “evil personified,” who rebelled against God and was cast out from Heaven. In the Bible, Satan, speaking through a serpent, tempts Eve into eating the forbidden fruit of knowledge against God’s command. In the Book of Job, Satan afflicts Job, with God’s permission, as a test of his faith.
The Olympia Satanists have had four meetings. Allert said he hopes to explore questions about the nature of Satan during the meetings.
“Who is the devil?” asked Allert. “Why are people so afraid of him? What’s so bad about him, anyway?”
He added that during the meetings, the group has come up with a list of five Satanic virtues, including “lustful, lazy, vain, insolent and selfish.”
Allert said he has received communications from Olympia members of the Temple of SET, an offshoot of the Satanic church. He said the group’s members wanted to learn more about his activities but added that they have not yet made it to a meeting.
During Wednesday night’s meeting at The Olympia Center, three people showed up. Allert brought chocolate-chip cookies. One attendee, who declined to give his name, said he thought Allert’s fliers were “funny” and brought a smile to his face.
Allert said the whole point of the project is to get people thinking.
“The idea is, anyone can start doing something creative,” he said. “Do it in the name of Satan and just cause trouble.”