While I’ve almost always has an interest in cultures, philosophies, and religions that I wasn’t familiar with, this curiosity was raised to a whole new level once I had left the Christian religion. I had a renewed vigor in learning about all kinds of philosophies and religions that were taboo when I was growing up. Having been raised in a devout, bible-belt, evangelical Christian household, one religion was demonized and deemed taboo above all others: Satanism.
When I finally found the courage to explore this ominous and supposedly malicious religion with an intent to destroy all things good in this world, I was blown away by exactly how wrong everything I thought I knew about Satanism was. I visited a lot of websites and had several conversations with Satanists online, it was all incredibly facinating. In this overview of Satanism, I hope to dispel common myths about Satanism while also giving my opinion about a few things as well. Now, instead of just listing common misconceptions as I did in my blog about atheism, I’m going to split this blog into three parts based on the three main sects of Satanism: The Church of Satan, The Satanic Temple, and theistic Satanists.
The Church of Satan
First up is the Church of Satan (CoS), also known as LaVeyan Satanism, which was created by Anton LaVey in 1966 when he published The Satanic Bible in 1969. This sect may be considered the “original” Satanist movement, as it was the first have an official codified philosophy of Satanism, and is considered by its members to be the only “true” version of Satanism. Member of the CoS often view other Satanist sects as a joke gone too far or as uneducated wannabes. Members of the CoS also often say that Satanists are born, not created or converted. This is because this form of Satanism is an individualistic philosophy that only people that already live by a similar philosophy will understand or follow.
While the CoS is atheistic and generally not superstitious, there are rituals prescribed in The Satanic Bible that are split between two categories: Greater Magic and Lesser Magic. The CoS website states that “Greater Magic, which is our name for our ritual practice, is basically meant as self-transformational psychodrama. That is it serves as a means to purge oneself of all unwanted emotional baggage that might be hindering a daily pursuit of joy in life. The three basic types of Satanic Ritual are…for Compassion (for oneself and others), Lust (to release unrequited sexual urges), and Destruction (to cleanse oneself of anger towards someone who has done you an injustice).” In other words, Greater Magic is any ritualistic act you perform in order to help shape yourself into who you want to be. Lesser Magic, on the other hand, involves manipulating your environment and others around you to obtain your goals. Examples of Lesser Magic would be using charm to woo someone you are attracted to or using wit to secure a better job.
The CoS has no brick-and-mortar churches but does have some form of hierarchy starting with registered members and moving onto active member, Witch/Warlock, Priestess/Priest, Magistra/Magister, and finally Maga/Magus. To keep this article from being too long, I’ll refrain from going into more detail about the hierarchy.
Like many other religions, there are tenets to follow. In the CoS, these tenants are called The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth and they are as follows:
- Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
- Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
- When in another’s lair, show them respect or else do not go there.
- If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat them cruelly and without mercy.
- Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
- Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the other person and they cry out to be relieved.
- Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
- Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
- Do not harm little children.
- Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.
- When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask them to stop. If they do not stop, destroy them.
While some may sound odd, they are mostly straightforward and make it incredibly clear that this is an incredibly individualistic philosophy.
My opinion: I am not a LaVeyan Satanist. While I can certainly understand and appreciate some of the concepts within this form of Satanism, I cannot subscribe to its overall “might makes right” or Social Darwinist sort of mentality. In my time studying Satanism, I found some LaVeyan Satanists that I felt were a joy to speak with, while there were others who came across as more elitist or snobbish. While there is much more to this religion, I’ll move onto the next sect for the sake of brevity and will supply some additional sources for those who are interested.
The Satanic Temple
The Satanic Temple (TST) was created by Lucien Greaves and Malcom Jarry in 2014 as a “a faith-based organization that met all the Bush administration’s criteria for receiving funds, but was repugnant to them” in response to President George W. Bush’s formation of White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Lucien Greaves was once a member of the CoS and eventually left in order to establish TST due to his conflicting opinions with the CoS. Lucien’s issues with the CoS were its inactivity in the social or political sphere, the CoS’ supernatural aspects, Social Darwinist foundations, and authoritarian leanings to name a few.
Instead of having a “holy” text, TST relies on scientific knowledge and refers to Anatole France’s Revolt of the Angels which is described on TST’s website as a meditation on the corruption of power and uses the imagery of Satan as a force against tyranny and for free inquiry. TST is an atheistic religion and does not believe in literal Satan or the supernatural. Instead, Satan in TST is a symbol of the pursuit of knowledge and personal sovereignty, as well as the rejection of tyranny. The website for TST states that “we believe in nothing that is not demonstrably true, and hold to even those beliefs with an understanding that they, too, must remain open to revision in the light of new scientific understanding.”
However, unlike the CoS, TST is a very politically active religion that fights for the separation of church and state, abortion rights, and equal rights for all. If you ever hear about Satanists in the news, there’s a good chance that TST is behind it. The protests that TST perform are often over-the-top works of theatrical art that shock the viewers while simultaneously making a point.
Of course, like most religions, there are tenets to follow which are as follows:
- “One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.”
- “The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.”
- “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”
- “The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.”
- “Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.”
- “People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.”
- “Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.”
Again, these are very straightforward, even more so than the tenets of the CoS in my opinion. Speaking of which…
My opinion: I really appreciate and can get behind the tenets and ideology of TST. If I were pick a religion as an atheist, TST is certainly near the top of the list. While I certainly understand why some people may view TST simply as political activists using shock tactics to get their point across, I believe that the values and causes that TST promote are worth fighting for.
Lastly, there are theistic Satanists. Now I used the word “sect” for this group previously, but in reality theistic Satanists have as many versions of Satanism within the group as there are members (if you could even call practicing theistic Satanists ‘members’). Some may view Satan as a good and life-giving deity, others as a positive life-force of sorts, some follow occultic or “left hand path” practices, and others may worship the Satan of the Abrahamic religions. Theistic Satanists are a very small minority of an already incredibly tiny minority. It’s very difficult to define theistic Satanism because there are no uniform beliefs or practices.
My opinion: I don’t really have much of an opinion on theistic Satanism because it is so hard to pin down. While I find the beliefs of theistic Satanists interesting, it’s not a religion I could get behind.
Well there it is everybody, the spooky and ominous sects of Satanism! I hopefully represented the different sects properly and if you have any questions or corrections for me, please let me know. It took me a while to put all of this together and I didn’t even cover everything, so please let me know what you think. I really enjoyed learning about Satanism and speaking with all different kinds of people, it really was a lot of fun!
LAZY EDIT: So I’ve been wanting to clarify a few things and now I’m doing it months later. Technically, since the CoS is the original, only The Satanic Temple and some theistic forms (particularly Setianism AKA The Temple of Set) are actual sects.