Satanism brings to mind gory images of bloody sacrifices, candlelit rituals, and damnation of the eternal soul. It’s a religion with a bad reputation. Edgy teenagers and Biblical religious organizations haven’t improved that reputation. But is Satanism really as terrible as they say?

Turns out that Satanists are actually… saintlike. The first words printed on The Satanic Temple’s public website are these:

“The Satanic Temple is fighting child abuse in America’s public schools.”

Who would have thought that we’d see the day where Satanists are fighting child abuse? Satanists are protecting school children who are facing physical abuse in Springtown, Texas. Corporal punishment is still legal in Texas and 18 other states, and Superintendent Mike Kelley recently passed legislation in Springtown to make it easier for teachers to spank and otherwise physically discipline students. The Satanic Temple is fighting against these laws by providing students with religious exemptions from corporal punishment. In spite of their reputation, Satanists are actively working to build a better future.

The Reputation and the Reality

Most of Satanism’s bad reputation is a result of widespread rumors and misinformation during the late 1900s. Evidence of Satanism that is linked to crime and evildoing is scarce. Heck, the Holy Bible itself barely even mentions Satan. A Hebrew scholar, Dr. Michael Heiser, wrote an interesting analysis where he notes that Satan doesn’t even exist in the Old Testament. Dr. Heiser suggests that the idea of Satan as a divine, evil being is the result of a spectacular mistranslation of the Hebrew language. From the conclusion of his article:

“This would mean there are ZERO verses in the OT (Old Testament) that have a personal name ‘Satan,’ and ZERO references to Satan as a cosmic evil entity as in the NT (New Testament).” – Dr. Michael Heiser, The Absence of Satan in the Old Testament

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Oh well, somebody had to take the fall for all those sins that good Catholics were committing. Who better than a nameless force of evil to take the blame? Guzzled the sacramental wine? Satan made me do it! An edgy teenager burned a bible in middle school? The Devil made her do it! Gilded the Vatican palaces with gold and jewels while kids are starving across the world and being abused in schools?  It’s for the Glory of God! Oh, wait… Maybe they should have cut their losses and blamed that one on Satan, too. In any case, suspicion and superstition created a bad reputation for Satanism far more than any actions of Satanists. This heavy-handed blaming on the devil peaked in the late 1990s and came to be known as the Satanic Panic.

Oh, those poor suffering children all over the world!

The Satanic Panic

The Satanic Panic was a period of moral panic from the 1980s to the late 1990s. A wide variety of gruesome crimes were blamed on Satanic ritualism during this time. The mysterious and evil force of Satanism terrified people across the U.S. and even throughout the world. Accusations without substantial evidence spread like wildfire. The Satanic panic has been compared to the McCarthyism of the 1950s when Senator Joseph McCarthy accused everyone left and right of being treasonous communist spies.

The Satanic Panic began in the early 1980s, after the publication of the book Michelle Remembers. Psychologist Lawrence Pazner and his patient-turned-wife Michelle Smith co-wrote the book. It details Michelle’s “remembering” of abuse by a Satanic cult. According to the book, Dr. Pazner helped draw out Michelle’s repressed memories through 600+ hours of hypnosis. The two continued on to perform a large publicity campaign where they participated in interviews and eventually began teaching people to recognize the warning signs of Satanic ritualism in their hometowns.

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After investigators looked into claims of Satanic ritualism nationwide, they found no proof of any harmful activities. Unfortunately for the modern Satanists, the moral panic left a lasting stain on their already tenuous reputation. They’re starting to make a comeback, though. Satanism is getting a surprising amount of good press these days.

Modern Satanism

One of the biggest misconceptions of Satanists is that they worship the devil. They don’t. In fact, modern Satanists consider themselves to be atheists. A man named Anton LaVey is the founder of contemporary Satanism and the author of the Satanic Bible. Some divisions of Satanism even treat him as a prophet. All of the major branches of Satanism today come from LaVeyan Satanism. However, the newer offshoots of LaVeyan Satanism are more agreeable than the original Church of Satan.

Anton LaVey, the founder of modern Satanism
Anton LaVey: To be fair, he wasn’t really trying to come off as normal.

LaVeyan Satanism

Also known as the Church of Satan, this is the largest contemporary division of Satanism. These traditional Satanists follow the tenets and practices of the Satanic Bible resolutely. The Church of Satan is characterized by its pursuit of intellectualism and its rigid hierarchical structure.

LaVeyan Satanists have a grand idea of their own intellectualism. Portions of their website read like they were written by a particularly poetic teenager who’d just finished reading Machiavelli:

“We are the first above-ground organization in history openly dedicated to the acceptance of Man’s true nature — that of a carnal beast, living in a cosmos that is indifferent to our existence.”

The rest of the website is similar. Once you’ve sifted through all the wordy intellectualism, there are interesting and even identifiable values to be found. For example, the fourth tenet — “Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!” — is exactly how I feel about my freeloading “friend” who always needs a ride and “forgets” his wallet.

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Black Magic

Unfortunately, LaVeyan Satanism gets weird from there on out. A significant portion of the Satanic Bible is dedicated to the practice of Black Magic. Practitioners of LeVeyan Satanism employ Black Magic to attain goals by “influencing” the world and the self. The practices are harmless, and the church rebukes many common myths about Black Magic on their FAQ page. Whatever their reasoning, the practice of Black Magic stands at odds with the Satanists’ otherwise intelligent and scientific approach to the world. There has been much internal controversy within the church, which has led to some groups breaking away to form their own Satanist religious organizations. The Satanic Temple is one of the most prominent of these groups.

The Satanic Temple

The most progressive division of modern Satanism is, by far, The Satanic Temple. They differentiate themselves from LaVeyan Satanism in three large ways:

  1. The Satanic Temple embraces science and progress, choosing not to practice the magic, mysticism, and ritualism of LaVeyan Satanism
  2. TST rejects the cult-like hierarchies of other Satanic sects.
  3. TST doesn’t come off as a bunch of try-hard intellectuals.

Progressive tenets of modern Satanism

Their website is easy to read. Their beliefs and tenets are easy to identify with. They aren’t trying to come off as a mysterious, dark, and dangerous force of authority in the world. Their focus is on positive change in the world through activism. They’re not trying to be the biggest, baddest Satanist gang in town — they’re just trying to make a difference through their projects.

Satanic Activism

The Satanic Temple has a section of their website dedicated to the campaigns that they are running. Foremost of these campaigns is their After School Satan project. After School Satan aims to provide kids with an alternative to evangelical after-school programs that have a reputation for indoctrinating kids with religion. After School Satan programs will focus on educating kids through free inquiry and scientific rationalism, rather than faith-based programs.

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In addition to their After School programs, the Satanic Temple also promotes reproductive rights by providing religious exemptions to controversial laws such as the Texas Fetal Remains rule. The Texas Fetal Remains law requires that fetal remains, no matter the trimester, be given a full burial instead of simply being disposed of humanely. This puts financial burden and emotional trauma onto the women who went through the procedure. The Satanic Temple invokes the first amendment to allow women to adhere to Satanist burial rites. This gives women freedom to carry out medical procedures safely and without interference.

TST also sponsors movements like the Grey Faction, which seeks to expose malpractice and pseudoscience in the treatment of mental health. You can find a full list of their campaigns here. In essence, they use their rights and protections as a religious organization to fight unfair laws and practices across the country. Fighting injustice and campaigning through activism has become the core foundation of The Satanic Temple’s beliefs, stepping away from practices like Black Magic altogether. Some Satanic Sects, on the other hand, have chosen to make Black Magic their core foundation.

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Theistic Satanists

There are still a few fringe groups of Satanists who actually believe in and worship the devil as a deity in some form or another. The Temple of Set is the most prominent of these. As their name suggests, they worship Set, who they believe is the same deity going by different names throughout history and religion. The Temple of Set practices Black Magic as a core component of their beliefs.

It’s important to clarify that Theistic Satanists generally do not view Satan as the embodiment of all evil. Most Satanists see Satan as a symbol of important modern values such as individualism and intellectualism. Satanists aren’t evil people. They don’t make blood sacrifices. Hell, you probably believe in most the same values that they do. To Satanists, Satan represents core human values that have been shunned by Biblical religions. Where Catholicism decries material pleasures, Satanism encourages them in healthy moderation. After all, who doesn’t enjoy two slices of cake every now and then?

Satanists Are Hardly The Devil

At the end of the day, Satanists just like their cake. They are normal people who like having fun! They worship intelligence and individualism. Some of them are even fighting for good causes. In today’s day and age, being a Satanist isn’t evil. It’s a religion that supports independence and science. Satanism is for people who enjoy healthy and safe pleasures in life, and don’t like being told they’re sinners. The modern era is outgrowing old religions and Satanism comes from that growth. Check it out, because you never know — you just might be a Satanist.

11 Comments

  1. L. Hernandez

    June 21, 2017 at 12:45 am

    Except that real Satanists don’t hold a worldview filtered through a Christian paradigm. The pre-Christian Hebrew term was “ha-satan”–“the adversary” or “the opposer.” Definitely not the pussy the TST wants the character to be, but exactly fitting to be the representative image for the Church of Satan, when viewed from the lens of classical-romantic, 20-century atheist, and egoist literature.

    Reply

  2. Jason West

    June 21, 2017 at 12:22 am

    Trying to take “Satan,” as a proper noun out of Job would almost be like taking so many characters out of the Iliad and the Odyssey. You need Zeus, Neptune, Aphrodite and you absolutly positively need Hector. What if Achilles was fighting the generic “Killer” as he was referred to? It’s absolutly crucial to the story that the noblest man in the Greco-Trojan world stood alone outside the walls of Troy saying he’s had enough years of war and he’s standing his ground once and for all. That’s what Satan does in Job, he tells God that he’s had enough talking bragging and he demands some results.

    Reply

  3. physicsandmathsrevision

    May 15, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    The face of Satanism makes itself attractive by imitating its enemy.
    Protecting schoolchildren indeed!?

    Reply

  4. Christopher Little

    May 11, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    As stated earlier, Matthias, being that the “Satanic” Temple rejects the philosophy of Anton LaVey, we can’t consider them to be Satanists. And, even if we were going by YOUR definition of what you suppose Satanism to be (which appears to be Christianity in reverse), then we still can’t consider them to be Satanists as they are engaging in altruistic acts. How very Christian! A black sheep is still a sheep.

    As Satanists, we are not required to do anything we don’t wish to engage in. Satanism is not a cause. The only cause in Satanism is the individual Satanist, not some created, left-wing popular movement at the moment.

    Reply

  5. L. Hernandez

    May 11, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    LaVey created Satanism. There was no such thing before that aside from using the term as an accusation or insult. See HTF Rhodes’ excellent documentation, The Satanic Mass, which was written before LaVey and the Church of Satan. His book makes it abundantly clear that there was no such thing. Michelet was debunked long ago, as it was shown that he basically just pulled stuff out of his imagination and didn’t really know any actual Satanists. Also, Satanism does have dogma (our canon texts) and a symbolic figure that embodies our principles, which serves as an externalization of the Satanist’s true god–the self. Hence, we are a religion. Magic doesn’t come from any external source (see LaVey’s The Satanic Witch, and Johnson’s The Satanic Warlock). Interesting that you spell it with a “k.”

    Reply

  6. Matthais allman

    May 11, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    Ok….please keep in mind I feel anything “satan” must be good. Well…..La VEY gets way to much credit, smart yeah, opened some eyes forsure, BUT…SATANISM has been here for a long time. I understand this is a progressive religion ( it’s not really a religion, there’s no set dogma) but the TST bent it into something more like activist that are Satanist,when it should be the other way around. And if there’s no SATAN. why all the dogma ,I understand it’s kinda programmed in us. Anyway ….just my observation and anything satan must be at least half way good. Ps….you can not have magik without the help of help from the other side……..AVE SATANA. Ronin

    Reply

  7. Christopher Little

    May 7, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    Congratulations to the author on misrepresenting Anton LaVey’s religious philosophy. What’s even more laughable is that the author conflates the “Satanic” Temple with anything to do with Satanism. Their claim is that the “Satanic” Temple broke off from the Church of Satan. However, being that TST own FAQ states they wholly reject Anton LaVey’s religious philosophy, they can no longer consider themselves Satanists. It would be equivalent of someone rejecting the Holy Bible for the Quran, yet still calling themselves a Christian.

    The author also apparently didn’t bother to read exactly what the Satanic Rituals consist of, even though the information has been in print throughout various sources for half a century. The rituals are psychodramas used as a means of alleviating stressors on the mind or a way of tweaking the mind to focus on particular goals. This is one of the things that separates LaVey’s religion from plain vanilla atheism – it addresses the human need for ritual. It can also be a fun, healthy way of expressing your emotions rather than lashing out at those dearest to you.

    TST also spends their time attempting to outdo Christian groups by publicly engaging in civic activities to promote just how altruistic they are. This is something Anton LaVey specifically spoke against, likening it to someone polishing their “Goodguy Badge.” Anton LaVey specifically avoided any sort of altruism, stating that it was entirely up to the individual to decide how their time and money was spent. There were to be no obligations on someone because of their religious affiliation in Satanism. This includes proselytizing to others, something the “Satanic” Temple has missed entirely through their After School Satan (A.S.S.) campaign and other shenanigans.

    Reply

  8. L. Hernandez

    May 7, 2017 at 9:43 pm

    This is probably one of the worst pieces on Satanism I’ve ever read. TST aren’t Satanists–they were created by a media corp. in order to film a mockumentary. The Church of Satan is not “characterized by its pursuit of intellectualism and its rigid hierarchical structure,” as it contains one of the most diverse memberships of any religious body in all of history. All TST really cares about is attention, and pieces like the one written above gives them exactly that. There is no Satanism in TST. The Church of Satan, on the other hand, contains many brilliant members who are actually living Satanism and using it in all sorts of different ways to achieve their own individual ends, thus doing what Satanism was meant to do: fulfill the individual Satanist’s potential in accordance with his/her own desires. Satanism is not a “we” religion. It’s an “I” religion. TST are, at their core, pretty Christian in behavior, and SJWs for the cameras. Nothing more.

    Reply

  9. Joel W

    May 7, 2017 at 5:18 am

    Ever think no evidence was found because the puppet masters themselves are in fact satanists? More accurately, the are Luciferian. Much more sinister, in that they believe themselves to be ‘gods.’ And the ‘Church’ of Satan is merely a gateway to true evil. Yes, they stylize it as cool and fashionable, and not every member will go on to evil deeds, but the ‘priests’ are predatory in nature, and will pick out and groom those they see a viable candidates. Its just like the Freemasons. The lower degree Masons do noble work, and they are ignorant to what goes on. Again, the higher degrees pick & groom select few to rise through the ranks. 30th Degree and you find yourself neck deep in wicket acts.

    Reply

  10. Charlotte McFarland

    May 5, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    the Grey Faction is a conspiracy theory blog that demonizes a specific mental illness (Dissociative Identity Disorder, aka Multiple Personalities), and seeks to remove it from the DSM. what a bunch of unscientific tryhards.. just keep gate-crashing psych conferences and waving signs in front of people with DID saying, “DID = Doctors Inventing Demons.” you’ll probably get more tangible results from going to an Autism convention and telling Autistic people, “Vaccines did this to you!”

    Reply

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