Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Most Controversial Moment In American Horror Story: Apocalypse

Even though American Horror Story was the series which sparked the one-story-per-season craze that has since swept television, it's also a show built on traditions. Every season must have a cast full of faces you've seen before, an eerie opening credits sequence, a handful of true historical figures, an abusive parent-child relationship or two, a veteran actress getting to chew some scenery, a wealth of handsome hunks with chiseled jawlines, an epilogue at the end of the finale ... and, of course, every season must, in some way, court controversy.

As the franchise's big crossover event, American Horror Story: Apocalypse was primed to potentially raise the biggest ruckus yet. Its story of nuclear fallout, witchcraft, societal collapse, and satanic takeover, following the infiltration of an underground shelter by the sinister Michael Langdon (Cody Fern), offered endless potential for tugging at the morals and sensibilities of countless viewers yet again. 

But in the end, the most notorious controversy of season 8 came from the most unexpected of places: Not from Christian groups, not from horrified parents, not from cultural critics, but from the Satanists themselves.

American Horror Story: Apocalypse was criticized for its portrayal of Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey

Contrary to what their name might suggest, the Church of Satan does not actually worship the Christian Devil. In fact, they don't even believe there's any real devil at all — in LaVeyan Satanist philosophy, "Satan" stands in for all human instincts and desires suppressed by Abrahamic religions. Broadly speaking, LaVeyan Satanists are a cult of reason and individuality, with rituals that serve the purpose of personal expression rather than deference to a deity or dogma.

So it's understandable that they found it to be a baffling choice when Apocalypse, on its sixth episode "Return to Murder House," depicted them as run-of-the-mill evil occultists. On "Return to Murder House," a group of Satanists arrive at the infamous Murder House, led by real-life founder Anton LaVey (Carlo Rota), to perform an elaborate "Black Mass" sacrificial ritual, in which an innocent young woman's heart is given up to the Antichrist.

Needless to say, this ritual had no relation to any activities ever undertaken by the Church of Satan. In real life, Anton LaVey was much more of a showman and pop philosopher than an evildoer. His daily duties as head of the Church of Satan were so distant from human heart-ripping that when the FBI interviewed him as a suspect in the plot to assassinate Ted Kennedy, they ultimately concluded that he was harmless (via Politico). Apocalypse's depiction of him as a performer of murderous sacrifices drew harsh criticism from LaVeyan Satanism practitioners, with the Church of Satan's official Twitter describing that veritable hatchet job as "unimpressive and boring," in service of "Devil worship drivel." 

This was not the first time American Horror Story faced controversy for its appropriation of a historical figure, and from what we know of this show, it likely won't be the last.