Hello and welcome back to Satanic Sunday.
When I went home to visit family over the holidays, I saw some of my best friends and their families. As I’m slowly beginning to fly my baphomet, they are some of the few people that I have spoken with about being a Satanist. Genuinely and curiously, one of them asked me ‘Why aren’t you just an atheist?’
I thought this was a great topic to address, because it’s probably something that a lot of people wonder about. As people learn about Satanism, or maybe meet a Satanist that totally does not fit their expectation or match the image they have in their mind, they are naturally curious. It’s important to understand how atheism and Satanism are different to understand the reasons why someone would choose to align themselves one way or another. While the logic and main principles of Satanism are pretty easy to understand and digest, many may wonder how it is specifically different than atheism, since there is some overlap.
To start, it is helpful to understand what atheism is, and what atheists actually believe. According to American Atheists, atheism is one thing: a lack of belief in gods. They affirm that atheism is not a disbelief in the existence of gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in them. It is not a belief system or religion, and all atheists are different, often disagreeing on many issues and ideas.
Even in this short definition, many differences between Satanism and atheism emerge. In The Satanic Bible, LaVey discusses the Satanist’s view on God:
It is a popular misconception that the Satanist does not believe in God. The concept of ‘God,’ as interpreted by man, has been so varied throughout the ages, that the Satanist simply accepts the definition which suits him best…
To the Satanist ‘God’–by whatever name he is called, or by no name at all–is seen as the balancing force in nature, and not being concerned with suffering. This powerful force which permeates and balances the universe is far too impersonal to care about the happiness of flesh-and-blood creatures on this ball of dirt upon which we live.p. 40
To further clarify this point, the Church of Satan states:
Satanists are atheists. We see the universe as being indifferent to us, and so all morals and values are subjective human constructions.
Our position is to be self-centered, with ourselves being the most important person (the “God”) of our subjective universe, so we are sometimes said to worship ourselves. Our current High Priest Gilmore calls this the step moving from being an atheist to being an “I-Theist.”Church of Satan FAQ
Essentially, some Satanists view themselves as their own God, controlling and determining the fate of their own self-created universe. Others may not associate with the concept of God at all, and simply see themselves as being in control of their own destiny. Some may be somewhere in the middle, it doesn’t really matter, the fundamental belief is the same – Satanists do not believe in a supernatural entity that is responsible or concerned with the fate of those on earth. So in that sense, yes, Satanists are atheists.
But atheism is just one element of Satanism; fundamentally, Satanists are anti-theists. The name Satan, before having its image rebranded by Christianity, originally meant ‘the opposition, the accuser.’ The religion of Satanism returns the image of Satan to its original, pre-Christian form.
We use this term as it was originally defined, for we stand in opposition to theist religions and their inherent hypocrisy. We are a formidable threat to any who would halt progress in the name of spirituality…
Those who proudly carry our cards identifying themselves as members have the strength, perceptivity and dedication to implement the tools of Satan: the imagination to confound and confuse our adversaries, the wisdom to recognize and penetrate the unseen in our societies, and the passions of a classical Romantic soul.Church of Satan FAQ
Another difference is that atheism, by definition, is not a belief system nor is it a religion. Conversely, Satanism is very specifically a religion. It is not a congregational religion – there are no weekly meetings, and members are not automatically put into contact with one another, so it looks nothing like traditional religions. Similar to atheists, Satanists have a wide range of views, and are not expected to get together or get along. But Satanism does have elements that make specifically a religion, and more than just a philosophy on life or belief system.
‘Satanism is based on a very sound philosophy,’ say the emancipated. ‘But why call it Satanism? Why not call it something like Humanism?’
…Satanism has both ceremony and dogma. Dogma, as will be explained, is necessary.p. 50
It is one thing to accept something intellectually, but to accept the same thing emotionally is an entirely different matter. The one need that psychiatry cannot fill is a man’s inherent need for emotionalizing through dogma. Man needs ceremony and ritual, fantasy and enchantment.
…Satanism, realizing the current needs of man, fills the large grey void between religion and psychiatry. The Satanic philosophy combines the fundamentals of psychology and good, honest emotionalizing, or dogma. It provides man with his much needed fantasy. There is nothing wrong with dogma, providing it is not based on ideas and actions which go completely against human nature.p. 53
Those elements – dogma, ritual, and ceremony – are what make Satanism a religion. Satanists can choose to express themselves emotionally by using those tools if they feel that primal need for fantastical endeavors. This expression is done through Greater Magic, the performance of individual or group rituals, whose purpose is to gather and conjure the biochemical energy of the participants and direct it towards a common goal. Essentially it’s self-transformational psychodrama which is intended to relieve the practitioner of emotional baggage, so it should be used if/as needed (it’s not a requirement that Satanists practice rituals at all).
Atheists do not have any sort of organized rituals or ceremonies. There is only one thing that an atheist has in common with another atheist, a disbelief in god. They likely have very different views on many aspects of their lives, because atheism is not a belief system – it is a common disbelief.
As Satanists, we similarly have different and often opposing views with one another. But fundamentally, we do have many of the same views – we are pragmatic, skeptical, individual, and believe that we should ‘live and let live’ (to name a few). These fundamental tenets of Satanism are what guide us through our lives. Atheism provides no such guidance.
So when someone asks me why I’m just not an atheist, I have all of these reasons. I was an atheist for most of my life, but once I discovered Satanism and started reading and researching, I knew it was exactly what I was, and it gave me more than atheism ever did. I felt a deep connection to the philosophies and views presented in The Satanic Bible, and once I read it and understood it, I knew I was more than an atheist – much better, I was a Satanist!
Thanks for reading, see you next week.
All quoted material comes directly from The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor LaVey, unless otherwise linked or noted.
Interpretations and opinions are my own; I am not a spokesperson for, nor endorsed by, the Church of Satan or any other entity.