Satanism

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Satanism is a broad term referring to a group of Western religions comprising diverse ideological and philosophical beliefs. Their shared features include symbolic association with, or admiration for the character of, Satan, or similar rebellious, promethean, and, in their view, liberating figures.


Particularly after the European Enlightenment, some works, such as Paradise Lost, were taken up by Romantics and described as presenting the biblical Satan as an allegory representing a crisis of faith, individualism, free will, wisdom and enlightenment. Those works actually featuring Satan as a heroic character are fewer in number, but do exist; George Bernard Shaw, and Mark Twain included such characterizations in their works long before religious Satanists took up the pen. From then on, Satan and Satanism started to gain a new meaning outside of Christianity.

Although the public practice of Satanism began in 1966 with the founding of the atheistic Church of Satan, some historical precedents exist: a group called the Ophite Cultus Satanas was founded in Ohio by Herbert Arthur Sloane in 1948. Inspired by Gnosticism and Gerald Gardner's Wicca, the coven venerated Satan as both a horned god and ophite messiah.

Satanist groups that appeared after the 1960s are widely diverse, but two major trends are Theistic Satanism and atheistic Satanism. Theistic Satanists venerate Satan as a supernatural deity. In contrast, Atheistic Satanists consider themselves atheists, agnostics, ignostics or apatheists and regard Satan as merely symbolic of certain human traits. This categorization of Satanism (which could be categorized in other ways, for example "Traditional" versus "Modern"), is not necessarily adopted by Satanists themselves, who usually do not specify which type of Satanism they adhere to. Some Satanists believe in a god in the sense of a Prime Mover but, like Atheistic Satanists, do not worship it, due to the deist belief that a god plays no part in mortal lives.

Despite heavy criticism from other religious groups, there are signs that Satanistic beliefs have become more socially tolerated. Satanism is now allowed in the Royal Navy of the British Armed Forces, despite much opposition from Christians, and, in 2005, the Supreme Court of the United States debated over protecting the religious rights of prison inmates after a lawsuit challenging the issue was filed to them.

Contemporary Satanism is mainly an American phenomenon, the ideas spreading with the effects of globalization and the Internet. The Internet promotes awareness of other Satanists, and is also the main battleground for the definitions of Satanism today. Satanism started to reach Eastern Europe in the 1990s, in time with the fall of the Soviet Union, and most noticeably in Poland and Lithuania, predominantly Roman Catholic countries.

Satanism developed in the context of the Christian faith, as an ideological backlash to certain tenets promoted in Christianity. The character of Satan revered by Satanists, therefore, is mainly regarded as the prototypical anti-Christian figure. There have been some Satanists, however, who have shown reverence for the similar, albeit differently-characterized Islamic concept of Satan (Arabic: شيطان Shayṭān), also known as Iblis ( Arabic: إبليس ʾIblīs ) although this is much more uncommon as Satanist philosophy has primarily flourished in the Occident, and has likely not reached any Muslim-majority countries. As he is an antagonist in all of the major Abrahamic traditions, Satan is also mentioned in certain Jewish literature, although he is treated more as a nuisance than the primary enemy of God in Judaism.

Accusations of Satanism[edit]

Historically, some people or groups have been specifically described as worshiping Satan or the Devil, or of being devoted to the work of Satan. The widespread preponderance of these groups in European cultures is in part connected with the importance and meaning of Satan within Christianity.

Christianity[edit]

Islam[edit]

  • The Yazidis, a minority religion of the Middle East who worship Melek Taus, are often referred to as Satan worshipers by some Islamic sectors.
  • Mandaeism. A branch of Gnosticism generally not referred by the Islamic sectors as Satanic, but in fact a probable example of Sabians as mentioned in the Quran. As a gnostic sect, it shares principles regarded as Satanic in the Muslim world with Yazidism.

Atheistic Satanism[edit]

LaVeyan Satanism[edit]

LaVeyan Satanism is a philosophy ( not considered a religion by many of its followers ) founded in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey. Its teachings are based on individualism, self-indulgence, and "eye for an eye" morality. Unlike Theistic Satanists, LaVeyan Satanists are atheists who regard Satan as a symbol of man's inherent nature. According to religioustolerance.org, LaVeyan Satanism is a "small religious group that is unrelated to any other faith, and whose members feel free to satisfy their urges responsibly, exhibit kindness to their friends, and attack their enemies". Its beliefs were first detailed in The Satanic Bible and it is overseen by the Church of Satan.

Symbolic Satanism[edit]

The Symbolic Satanist views Satan as a fictional, mental/mythic archetype, and admire the character as the "Adversary" or the "Light-bringer".

Theistic Satanism[edit]

Theistic Satanism ( also known as Traditional Satanism, Spiritual Satanism or Devil Worship ) is a form of Satanism with the primary belief that Satan is an actual deity or force to revere or worship. Other characteristics of Theistic Satanism may include a belief in magic, which is manipulated through ritual, although that is not a defining criterion, and theistic Satanists may focus solely on devotion. Unlike the LaVeyan Satanism founded by Anton LaVey in the 1960s, Theistic Satanism is theistic as opposed to atheistic, believing that Satan is a real being rather than a symbol of individualism.

Luciferianism[edit]

Luciferianism can be understood best as a belief system or intellectual creed that venerates the essential and inherent characteristics that are affixed and commonly given to Lucifer. Luciferianism is often identified as an auxiliary creed or movement of Satanism, due to the common identification of Lucifer with Satan. Some Luciferians accept this identification and/or consider Lucifer as the "light bearer" and illuminated aspect of Satan, giving them the name of Satanists and the right to bear the title. Others reject it, giving the argument that Lucifer is a more positive and easy-going ideal than Satan. They are inspired by the ancient myths of Egypt, Rome and Greece, Gnosticism and traditional Western occultism.

Palladists[edit]

Palladists are an alleged Theistic Satanist society or member of that society. The name Palladian comes from Pallas and refers to wisdom and learning. It is of no relation to Palladium or the palladian style of Andrea Palladio.

Our Lady of Endor Coven[edit]

Our Lady of Endor Coven, also known as Ophite Cultus Satanas ( originally spelled "Sathanas ) was a satanic cult founded in 1948 by Herbert Arthur Sloane in Toledo, Ohio. The group was heavily influenced by gnosticism (especially that found in the contemporary book by Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion), and worshiped Satanas, their name for Satan (Cultus Satanas is a Latin version of Cult of Satan). Satanas (or Satan) was defined in gnostic terms as the Serpent in the Garden of Eden who revealed the knowledge of the true God to Eve. That it called itself "Ophite" is a reference to the ancient gnostic sect of the Ophites, who were said to worship the serpent.

Casual Satanism[edit]

Casual satanism is the use of satanic symbols like the inverted pentagram/Sigil of Baphomet, the trappings of the black mass, or demonic imagery to provide the impression of satanism. This is a liminal experience, reserved primarily for shock value, and does not necessarily indicate actual belief, or even interest, in the rites, symbolism, and philosophies of the various forms of Satanist practice cited above.

Relationship to popular music[edit]

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Black metal has often been connected with Satanism, in part for the lyrical content of several bands and their frequent use of imagery often tied to left hand path beliefs ( such as the inverted pentagram ). More often than not musicians associating themselves with black metal say they do not believe in legitimate Satanic ideology and often profess to being atheists, agnostics, or religious skeptics. In some instances, followers of right hand path religions use Satanic references for entertainment purposes and shock value. Most of black metal's "first wave" bands only used Satanism for shock value; one of the few exceptions is Mercyful Fate singer King Diamond, who follows LaVeyan Satanism and whom Michael Moynihan calls "one of the only performers of the '80s Satanic Metal who was more than just a poseur using a devilish image for shock value".

Glen Benton, vocalist and bassist of the band Deicide, once openly claimed to be a practitioner of Theistic Satanism, and has spoken publicly on numerous occasions to profess staunch anti-Christian sentiment. The controversial Dissection frontman Jon Nödtveidt openly spoke about his "chaos-gnostic" satanic beliefs, being a member of the Misanthropic Luciferian Order, and called his band "the sonic propaganda unit of the MLO". Norwegian black metal artists such as Euronymous from Mayhem and Infernus from Gorgoroth have also identified themselves as Satanists and actively promoted their beliefs. Numerous church burnings that covered parts of Norway in the early 1990s were also attributed to youths involved in the black metal movement, which included people promoting theistic Satanic beliefs and strong anti-LaVeyan attitudes. However, the legitimacy of such actions as Satanic endeavors, rather than simply rebellious actions done for publicity, is something that has been doubted by even some of those who contribute to the genre.

Organizations[edit]

The Church of Satan[edit]

The Church of Satan is an organization dedicated to the acceptance of the carnal self, as articulated in The Satanic Bible, written in 1969 by Anton Szandor LaVey.

First Satanic Church[edit]

On Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, Anton LaVey founded the "The Satanic Church" ( which he would later rename "Church of Satan" ). After his death in 1997 the Church of Satan was taken over by a new administration and its headquarters was moved to New York. LaVey's daughter, the High Priestess Karla LaVey, felt this to be a disservice to her father's legacy. The First Satanic Church was re-founded on October 31, 1999 by Karla LaVey to carry on the legacy of her father. She continues to run it out of San Francisco, California.

Temple of Set[edit]

The Temple of Set is an initiatory occult society claiming to be the world's leading left-hand path religious organization. It was established in 1975 by Michael A. Aquino and certain members of the priesthood of the Church of Satan, who left because of administrative and philosophical disagreements. ToS deliberately self-differentiates from CoS in several ways, most significantly in theology and sociology. The philosophy of the Temple of Set may be summed up as "enlightened individualism" — enhancement and improvement of oneself by personal education, experiment and initiation. This process is necessarily different and distinctive for each individual. The members do not all have the same view on whether Set is "real" or not, and they're not expected to.

Setianism, in theory, is similar to theistic Satanism. The principle deity of Setianism is the ancient Egyptian god Set, or Seth, the god of adversary. Set supposedly is the Dark Lord behind the Hebrew entity Satan. Set, as the first principle of consciousness, is emulated by Setians, who symbolize the concept of individual, subjective intelligence distinct from the natural order as the "Black Flame". ( Some people who are not members of the Temple of Set find spiritual inspiration in the Egyptian god Set, and may share some beliefs with the organization. The belief system in general is referred to as Setianism. )

Members of the Temple of Set are mostly male, between the ages of twenty and fifty.

Order of Nine Angles[edit]

The Order of Nine Angles ( ONA, O9A ) "represent a dangerous and extreme form of Satanism" and first attracted public attention during the 1980s and 1990s after being mentioned in books detailing fascist Satanism. They were initially formed in the United Kingdom and are presently organized around clandestine cells (which it calls traditional nexions) and around what it calls sinister tribes.