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On the Popular Interpretation and Misconceptions of Satanism

The poster above is a recruiting poster for the American branch of the Church of Satan. Upon viewing it, one cannot fail to pick up its humor along with its comedic manner and intentional use of devil archetypes. The used-car-salesman jacket and absolutely wretched tie on the devil in the front, the scantily-clad she-devil in the background, the grinning face of Anton LaVey on the wall: why would any religion, especially one as feared as the Church of Satan portray themselves as such an unserious bunch when they are clearly one of the most reviled groups in history?

In traditional American culture, elements of Christianity and the archetypes supported by it are very pronounced. We have a democratically elected (sort of) president that continually speaks of evildoers and that God is on the side of America. The percentage of Americans that consider themselves Christian is an astonishing 77% (1). Since Christianity has held such a dominant sway in the masses (which extends to the formation of the country), it’s supposed counterpart, Satanism and it’s respective church, have had much false information and propaganda said against them.

First let us deal with a popular myth about joining the Church of Satan (hitherto referred to as CoS): You must sell your soul to the devil. A common question to CoS members is “How do I join your dark ranks? How do I sell my very essence to the Lord of the Pit for power?” The ritual begins in a room that has not seen sunlight for 30 days. You must also secure a blank sheet of papyrus that has not seen sunlight for another 30 days. Etch a trapezoid in glass in the middle of the room with a crystal shard, and stand in the middle of it. Goat’s blood will be needed (never sheep’s blood!). Drip the goat’s blood around the trapezoid while making sure not to get any of it on your feet. Next, carefully recite…

Blah blah blah blah blah blah bull. The previous paragraph was the sort of answer a b-movie science fiction fanatic would enjoy, but in reality this ‘ritual’ would be laughed at by any real Satanist..

When posed the “How do I sell my soul?” question, any CoS members would probably respond along the lines of “Stop harassing us until you’ve grown some brain cells... etc” More efficient than my little hypothetical answers, you could quote from The Satanic Bible, "To become a Satanist, it is unnecessary to sell your soul to the Devil or make a pact with Satan. This threat was devised by Christianity to terrorize people so they would not stray from the fold."(1) Neither the CoS nor any Satanist actually affirms even so much as the existence of Satan or any other sort of metaphysics. When you remove the hype and lies, you can see this philosophy for what it truly is. Oh, but we have much more to clear up...
Let us continue with the name: Satanism. defines Satanism as “The worship of Satan characterized by a travesty of the Christian rites”. This is the most popular lie concerning this religion today; that its members are evil, black-hearted, goat-worshipping fiends; this is simply untrue. The fact of the matter is that there is no actual worship that goes on with Church of Satan members, and there are no deities involved. Reverend Matt G. Paradise, a High Priest in the Church of Satan writes “In Satanism, Satan is an archetype, a representation of certain qualities that the Satanist embodies including rational self-interest, avoidance of oppressive mentalities, the questioning of all, and perseverance towards success and human potential.”(2) Why, even The Satanic Bible, written in the 1960’s by Anton LaVey, is not so much a religious document, rather than it is LaVey’s personal philosophy put to paper. In truth, Satanism is a philosophy, branded with the name of the Christian Adversary due to it’s irreverent ideas.

Before any further unraveling, permit me to relate a story from my personal experience. As a child, I lived in a house that backed up to quite a bit of brushwood and forest with various winding dirt roads and large lakes if you went far enough. All of the paths were neatly kept and wide as a stone’s throw. In recollection, it was actually quite a great place to go hiking and exploring, and yet I never even ventured one step in that direction for a single reason: I was afraid of the evil Satan-worshipping cult that I was told inhabited it. In the 80’s, there was a sort of modern witch-hunt that was labeled the Satanic Panic. There was a popular book by Lawrence Pazdor entitled Michelle Remembers; its contents were records of a patient’s memory which he had ‘dug up’ via hypnotherapy. In these magical revelations, Michelle suddenly recalls her knowledge of an evil world-spanning Satanic cult that is bent on domination of the earth and ritual child sacrifice, not to mention drug cartels, “snuff” films, and child pornography. Needless to say, these are absolutely absurd allegations, but the talk show hosts found the whole fiasco to be quite the effective ratings-boost. My own personal memory brings back images of Christian evangelists jumping on the bandwagon; “therapists” uncovering “memories” of similar cults live on Oprah and Geraldo. In time, representatives of the CoS were dispatched to carefully dispel all of these hysterical myths, but not before causing the most expensive trial in U.S. history, in which several innocent individuals from a day school were prosecuted. Now, courts are reversing many of the decisions that were made, and of course this witch hunt has been debunked, but at the time and for several years afterwards I was scared to death of anyone associated with anything as so much as a pitchfork. Of course I know better now, but this is just an example of a scare tactic employed to steer people away from the CoS.

Aside from these myths, there remain a slew of other propagandas, many-too-many to deal with here. There are allegations that Satanists are Nazi’s, that they are homophobic, that they are racist, sexist, and every negative connotation that can come to mind. As far as the Nazi allegations go, CoS members are free to have whatever political affiliations they see fit for themselves. I have known Satanists that are Democratic, Republican, members of the green party, Libertarian, Leninist, Stalinist, fascists, pacifists, anarchists, Zionists, communists, socialists and quite a bit more. On whether or not Satanists are racist/sexist, I will take a quote directly from Magister Peter H. Gilmore, “We don’t care from whence a person comes or what genitals adorn their bodies. We judge people for what they are individually and how they behave, ascribing nothing to them based on their lineage.” To answer whether or not Satanists are homophobic, I would like to point out that it is the first organized western religion to accept both gay and lesbian members.

It is true that we have spent a great deal of time pointing out what Satanism is not, with very little of what Satanism is. I do not believe I could sum up such a philosophy here, and I would recommend to anyone that is curious to go pick up a copy of The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor LaVey, but I shall give a quick summary of the most key points. Satanism is, above all else, a very natural and life-loving philosophy. Most of its mores are based around free will and strength of the individual. Every Satanist is free to decide what he believes, why they believe it, what morals they hold, and all else that is traditionally decided for one in a religion. There are very few points that Satanists agree upon, but they are the cornerstone of the entire religion, titled “The Nine Satanic Statements”, taken from The Satanic Bible. Some you may not understand, but know that they are all based around a central philosophy: The love of life and the importance of the strong over the weak.
The Nine Satanic Statements

1. Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!
2. Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams!
3. Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit!
4. Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!
5. Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!
6. Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!
7. Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all!
8. Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!
9. Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!

No one is qualified to tell you what Satanism represents beyond it’s most basic tenets, for that is the crux of the whole religion; Fierce independence, love of life, deference to none.


LaVey, Anton. The Satanic Bible. New York, New York: Avon Books, 1969


Lunneberg, Allen D. “More Than Words.”
St. Mark’s West Bloomfield 2 June 2002.
St. Mark’s West Bloomfield Church. 13 Oct. 2003.


The following comments are for "On the Popular Interpretation of Satanism"
by Schaard

Needs work, harsh yet mature criticism welcome
Hey kids.

This is something I wrote a while back for a rhetoric class. It's janky and unorganized, but it's got heart and I'd really appreciate any criticism, however harsh, you could give me.


( Posted by: Schaard [Member] On: March 2, 2004 )

Subject Matter
Nice subject well dealt , would like to read more if you would publish another elaborate piece on Satanism ...

Well done (cant be harsh i found it a good reading)

( Posted by: RightingIt [Member] On: March 3, 2004 )

Satan Misunderstood
Actually, Schaard, I thought this was written quite well. The only "yankiness" I came across seemed to stem from the fact that you were trying to cover an enormous amount of information in a very small space.
I was left with a lot of questions
1) what then is the origination of Satanism? I have heard that Satanism originated in the court of Louis the XIV, and was performed by defrocked or lapsed priests for the amusement of the court. Yet this would seem to contradict your statement that Satanists do not engage in ritual debasement of Christian symbols. If not from a stance of inversion to Christian theology, then does the origination point exist in an older Pagan religion? If so, which one?
2) why don't more Satanists promote their opposition to defilement of sacred objects? Wiccans are quite vocal about their beliefs, why not Satanists?
3) what are the real rituals of Satanists as opposed to the Hollywood stereotype?
4) don't Satanists use gender-polarity just as many ceremonial magicians do? doesn't this exist as a type of sexual stereotyping?

I have more thoughts, but I'm trying to keep this from turning into a forum worthy comment. I'd really like to see a part II to this with more information, especially on the points detailed above. I think that, alone, should give an inkling of how much I enjoyed this piece -- a lot. ;)

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: March 3, 2004 )

Well, gee, mah
To sound like a schoolgirl as little as possible ; coming from you, Hazel, that means alot. This piece, while still in my opinion unorganized and still not yet at its potential, does leave out quite a bit. It was more focused on what Satanism is NOT, rather than what it IS. That's what's tricky about a religion in which everything is permitted, and nearly every sort of perversity is celebrated. I suppose a sequel wouldn't hurt.. =)

Let me see if i can't take a couple of these questions to their respective answers :
1) what then is the origination of Satanism? I have heard that Satanism originated in the court of Louis the XIV, and was performed by defrocked or lapsed priests for the amusement of the court. Yet this would seem to contradict your statement that Satanists do not engage in ritual debasement of Christian symbols. If not from a stance of inversion to Christian theology, then does the origination point exist in an older Pagan religion? If so, which one?

Well, there are two types of satanism nowadays: Crowley and LaVey. Crowley, notorious for being a crazy bastard, popularized the inversion-of-christianity and actual devil-worship that you seem to be thinking of. LaVey started his own church in the 60's as opposition, rather than an inversion, of the stagnation that christianity brings about. I'll try to sum it up better than that :

Crowley : I'm eeeeeevil.
LaVey : Humanism without morality, delight in heresy and violation of old customs. Champions as a mythological king of independence and free thought. LaVey basically borrowed from alot of old philosophers (Nietzsche, some others) and put his own spin on it. He started the church because, and i quote, "If I didn't, someone else, probably less qualified would."

2) why don't more Satanists promote their opposition to defilement of sacred objects? Wiccans are quite vocal about their beliefs, why not Satanists?

Well, Satanists (That is, members of the CoS, which holds LaVey in highest regard) don't actually have much opposition to the defilement of sacred objects. They're all about 'out with the old, in with the new'. They are a living entity; in fact just this last week they were having a submission call to redo the symbol of Baphomet, their traditional symbol. Some of the work turned out really nice, and very modern too. One of the chosen submissions featured a martini glass and two goats with bow ties on. It's refreshing to see religious symbols with a bit of humor in them. =)

3) what are the real rituals of Satanists as opposed to the Hollywood stereotype?

This is the tricky part.. Sofar opposed to metaphysics as they are, Satanists do actually have rituals, and do practice 'magic'. It's actually quite a lengthy explanation of how this is possible with such a strong opposition to metaphysics, and I shall cover it in the sequel.

4) don't Satanists use gender-polarity just as many ceremonial magicians do? doesn't this exist as a type of sexual stereotyping?

Yes, yes they do. Many of the rituals that are practiced are done with the help of one or two naked female forms. They accept the fact that the two sexes are different, and cast aside any question of 'equal or not equal'. Many rituals use a naked female as an altar, as a representation of fertility and life. In fact there's a quite well written passage in the Satanic Bible that I'll have to dig up for the sequel, becuase the explanation i just gave is not sufficient.

Since hazel just wrote my next piece for me, it should be up soon. =D

( Posted by: Schaard [Member] On: March 3, 2004 )

Edit ^
A bit of a typo up there.. Supposed to be

LaVey : ... Champions Satan as a mythological king of independence and free thought...

( Posted by: Schaard [Member] On: March 3, 2004 )

Schaard, Schaard, Schaard
I still can't understand how you can respect the guy. LaVey was a big kid. He wanted attention, and I think it's pretty obvious.

Anyone who wants their philosophy to be taken seriously will write a book about it (like a certain angry German we all know and love), NOT call it a "religion" and name it after the one thing that would stir up controversy just by existing. The only way LaVey could've been more obvious was if he named it the Church of Fuck God.

The man was an attention whore, buddy, and anyone can see that! Maybe he had some fresh ideas, but by naming his psuedo-religion after the devil he automatically made certain that he would become famous and that Christians would hate and misunderstand him. He didn't WANT society to understand his ideas, he just wanted them to go, "Satanism, eh? Well, he's obviously evil, we should hate him." After all, that way they're talking about him, right?

I also can't understand why you can join me in my daily Wicca-bashing and yet defend the use of "magick" (note the k on the end to denote pretend magic that's not real) by Satanists. You know this stuff is not real. You're not ignorant of the world around you. Yet how can you defend it? (Actually, I know how, but you'll just get mad at me if I say)

The only way LaVey could have been more obvious about wanting attention is if he covered himself in white body paint and engaged in acts of homoeroticism on stage in front of thousands of screaming teenagers, which, not coincidentally, his little disciple has done over and over. Creating the Church of Satan (I almost called it the Church of Stan) is just painting your fingernails black and wearing a fishnet shirt on a grand scale.

( Posted by: evil_bacteria [Member] On: March 4, 2004 )

Evil, why art thou so loathe to take me seriously?
I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you actually did read the article.. but we've had this argument before.

Anyone who wants their philosophy to be taken seriously will write a book about it? LaVey did write a book. It's called The Satanic Bible. That was in the article.

You have to understand something about why Satanism is called what it is, and why it's not just called humanism. Humanism is a way of living life without dogma or ceremony. Satanism has ceremony and dogma. You still think that LaVeyan Satanism is just an inversion of Christianity, which it is not. Do the two blatantly disagree on nearly every subject? Sure, but if you want mockery of christian mass and bad nowegian death metal bands, you're better off looking to Crowley.

Understand this also: on the "grand scale", assuming Christian stories to be true, Satan is the ultimate symbol of both Pride and Rebellion. There is no other that could match him (other than linkin park.. lol ). Thus, they've created their own ceremony and dogma around a concept of ultimate pride and rebellion.

Take note that I say 'they', I am not one of them; i just find them fascinating.

And Satanic magic (without the k, not sure where you got that) never pretends to be metaphysical.. but i'll get into that in the sequel.

( Posted by: Schaard [Member] On: March 5, 2004 )

Future Satanic Opinion

I like what you've brought up so far and am still interested in seeing the final fleshed-out version (pun only incidentally intended)

Couple of thoughts for the sequel:

1) where does Crowley claim his roots? I know this is a tricky question because there is a lot of myth-building and red-herring laying in the writing of any ceremonial magician -- which is what I've heard Crowley really was, and that he used all the flesh eating 666-titling bits to 1) enrage the overly-serious minded and 2) widely disseminate his rituals without giving away too much to the uninitiated. There are many good books on Crowley. Do any of thes devote space to his beginnings and their impact on the present day form of Satanic ritual?

2) How specifically does the CoL differ from ceremonial magick and traditional witchcraft/wicca? From what you've written there seem to be an awful lot of similarities. Crowly was a member of the Freemasons, the Golden Dawn and the OTO. Is this then one form of common originality?

3) Baphomet is an Egyptian deity. Why do the CoL draw from the Egyptian pantheon?

In a way, perhaps I'm asking for two future papers -- one contrast/compare on Crowley/LaVey, and another on the modern definition of the CoL. Is that too much? The topic at hand is interesting. I hope you're up for it. ;)

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: March 5, 2004 )

Another Essay
Schaard, I'm thinking you may need to preface your next work with a brief history of how the devil got his horns and tail. If you're not interested, I will.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: March 5, 2004 )

Hazel and Claire, my dearest ladies.
Hazel I cannot express how much I appreciate your input. As I have said before, you are the writer that has impressed me the most since I have been here, and your suggestions are infinitely appreciated.

Claire, as another writer I respect, I was waiting for you to chime in. =) In response to your comment, I'm not sure what to say. I would imagine my essay hard to stomach for those that truly believe they have a grasp on a real god and devil. For instance, pooky28 chose to rate this piece a whopping 5, and upon further inspection her profile does say something about the almighty god destroying the eeevil satan and his angels.. or something to that effect. As far as straying from 'Goodness', I try my hardest to place all of my works beyond any ideas of good and evil.

As far as God is concerned, I can tell you for one that I have been down that road, much like the story(and i stress, story) of lucifer himself. I fell, just as he(which I now celebrate), yet still bare the scars were wings once were.. but this is another story! Recover quickly, claire; I look forward to our debate in the forums! =D

In celebration,

( Posted by: Schaard [Member] On: March 5, 2004 )

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