Why Sammy Davis Jr. Joined the Church of Satan — and Why He Left It

Sammy Davis Jr. is most known for inoffensive music like his hit “Candy Man,” however, he had a devilish side. He joined the Church of Satan at one point. Here’s why he was attracted to the Church — and why he left.

Sammy Davis Jr. wearing tie
Sammy Davis Jr. | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

The Church of Satan isn’t what is sounds like

Firstly, some background. The phrase “the Church of Satan” probably conjures up images of devil-worshippers from horror television shows. To explain what the Church of Stan actually is, it’s probably best to look at the words of Peter H. Gilmore, the current High Priest of the church.

“The Church of Satan was founded in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey as a means of promoting his atheist, individualist philosophy which uses aspects of religion, such as symbolism and ritual, to offer a perspective allowing each adherent to be the center of his or her own subjective universe,” Gilmore told Dread Central. ”Each Satanist is his or her own ‘god’ and is thus free to develop a subjective hierarchy of values meant to enhance their lives and those of the people, objects, and ideas they chose to cherish…. We are skeptical, pragmatic materialists, and so the Church of Satan defines itself as a carnal religion….”

“Mr. Bojangles” by Sammy Davis Jr.

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Although its name may suggest otherwise, the Church of Satan doesn’t teach Satan is a real being. Instead, they see him as a symbol of individualism. Regardless, the iconography of the Church has a horror movie flair to it.

How Sammy Davis Jr. joined the Church and what he had to say about it

So how did Davis become involved with the Church? According to Vice, a group of actors invited Davis to a party at a nightclub. The incredibly risque party was hosted by the Church. Davis would attend Satanic parties for the next few years and join the Church, though sources differ as the the chronology. Davis really connected with the Church’s morals.

“Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr.

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While some might see membership in such an organization as immoral. Davis saw it as a mark of his openness. “It was a short-lived interest, but I still have many friends in the Church of Satan,” Davis said. “I say this to only show that however bizarre the subject I don’t pass judgment until I have found out everything I can about it. People who can put up an interesting case will often find that I’m a willing convert.” 

However, Davis left the Church. He said it was because one of the Church’s parties went awry although he did not specify how. Gilmore told Dread Central that Davis’ membership in the Church was actually part of a trend of popular musicians becoming Satanists, including Marilyn Manson, King Diamond, and Marc Almond of Soft Cell. Davis’ connection to the Church is a fascinating part of both his life and America’s religious history — even if it didn’t last.