In the 1980s, there was nothing that Americans feared more than Satanists breaking into their house and ritually-murdering their entire family. Second biggest fear? Basically the same scenario, only instead of killing you, the Satanists make you watch as they delete your Pac-Man high-score. They’re Satanists. They’re crazy. They worship the devil and are all about inflicting pain and suffering. They’re probably the ones who invented Comcast and clamshell plastic packaging. That’s what most people think anyway but I wasn’t really buying it so I sat down with Isaiah and Raul, two confessed Satanists who gave me the 666 on their belief system, like how…
5. Most Satanists Don’t Actually Worship The Devil
This one seems like a no-brainer. Satanists don’t call themselves “Satanists” because they love Christmas and are all suffering from undiagnosed dyslexia. They’re devil-worshippers… right? Not according to Raul: “Satanism is not about worshipping some literal Satan. It is the religion and philosophy for those who are capable of acknowledging themselves as animals, embracing their natural instincts, and indulging in materialistic and carnal pleasures. We embrace our egos and balance it with our evolved capability for rational thought.”
”Satan is the ultimate representation of individualism, pride, justice, and liberty for us.”
But… if it’s all just a metaphor, why not adopt Batman as your symbol, or any other character that embodies those traits? Well, both Isaiah and Raul follow what is called LaVeyan Satanism/Church of Satan. It was started in 1966 by Anton LaVey who needed a powerful, recognizable symbol for his beliefs about Randian individualism. Not being a comic book fan, he instead probably took inspiration from Milton’s Paradise Lost where Satan’s entire shtick is: “Be excellent to yourself.”
LaVey used that as a jumping board to dive straight into a You-shaped pool where the individual person is their own God. Raul explains: “We not only reject God, but we replace God with our own egos, therefore we worship ourselves. To us, Satan is first and foremost an idea, a metaphor for our desires.” So, to a Satanist, everything can be “Satan”: a beautiful woman, a vintage muscle car, a cold beer. Though usually not Batman. Come on, guys. He has the horns and everything.
4. Satanists Value Children And Animals Most Of All
“All those misconceptions about sacrificing children and animals just aren’t true,” Isaiah told me. “Kids haven’t had the evils and pressures of society take control of how they think and act. Same goes for animals. Hell [I assume the pun was intended] they don’t even understand our language. That’s why Satanists value children and animals most in the world.”
Basically, Satanists consider the world to be kind of a shitty place and really appreciate any creature that hasn’t been soiled by it yet. Metaphorically speaking, of course. (Diaper joke!)
Raul, as a Reverend in the Church of Satan, admits that he holds kids and animals in high regard: “Animals do whatever it takes to survive and advance the species. They recognize the natural law of the hunter and the hunted … We love our animal familiars because we’re on the same wavelength, so we shouldn’t anthropomorphize them but respect them for what they are.” In short, Satanists definitely eat bacon but think that mistreating the pig beforehand is a dick move.
3. You Might Actually Be A Satanist Without Knowing It
The rules of the Church of Satan are actually very Bill & Tedian when you get down to it. They’re all about being respectful of other people and their personal space while furiously protecting your own. Most of The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth (their version of the Ten Commandments) would probably have gotten a heartfelt nod of approval from Gandhi and Jesus if they had been born in states with the castle doctrine. They include stuff like:
“Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.”
“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 him to stop.”
Now, that last one actually has a follow-up to it which says that if the person bothering you does not stop, you should “destroy him.” That may sound harsh but much like “Satan” can mean many different things, so can “destroy.” It can mean physical violence. It can also mean dumping a bucket of old horse urine on them. Whatever gets the Jehovah’s Witnesses out of your way so you can go buy yourself a nice sandwich. That’s the kind of philosophy we can ALL embrace.
Speaking of which, Satanism can even tell you to lay off the sandwiches every once in a while because you have been getting kind of chubby lately. “In a lot of ways, Satanism is about indulgence without abstinence while not going to excess,” Isaiah explains it. “You can indulge but you shouldn’t let it be too big of a deal. Life is the great indulgence and death the great abstinence.”
That actually all sounds like many people are unknowingly following the rules of Satanism, and, yeah, they do, actually. “We refer to these people as ‘De Facto Satanists,’ such as Mark Twain or Niccolo Machiavelli,” Raul told me. “These are people who’ve lived and thought like Satanists, seeing people as they really are, warts and all.”
2. Satanism Is Not Against Religion
So, if I were to summarize everything we’ve learned so far about Satanism, it’d be that it’s basically Atheism with red robes instead of fedoras, right? Well, Raul sure doesn’t see it that way.
“Atheism means you don’t believe in any gods. We go beyond that. We have rituals, symbols, metaphors, art, poetry, literature, culture that’s all based on this shared symbolism. Modern atheists tend to reject religion, whereas we recognize that humans will always need religion of some sort.”
So Satanists can’t be against religion because they sort of belong to one.
It’s just that they take the best parts of other faiths (the community, sharing the same ideas, the imagery etc) and pass on all the metaphysical stuff. Raul goes on: “I think religion fills a lot of gaps in people’s psychology. It provides an abstraction of their hopes, fears, but also provides them with an ‘us vs. them’ mentality. Satanism is different in that it doesn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. We recognize some of the basic psychological benefits of religion (giving metaphors for the unknown, ceremonies and rituals to mark important milestones in life etc) and discard the spiritual elements.”
But why go to all the trouble of creating, well, a secular religion? Because it’s fun to hang out with people who share your beliefs and are drawn to the same imagery as you (just ask every sports/music/comic book fan out there.) At the same time, though…
1. Even Satanists Don’t Take Satanism Too Seriously
So how does a typical day in the life of a Satanist look like? Get up, put on your black T-shirt, pick up the ceremonial robe from the cleaner, and spend the rest of the day browsing Craigslist for authentic goat skulls while listening to black metal?
“I drink Mai Tais wearing Hawaiian shirts and watching a Martin Denny cover band,” Raul says, and I’d just like to remind you that he’s a fucking priest in the Church of Satan. Speaking of which: “Take my title of Reverend. It’s a title given out of respect by the Church of Satan, but I don’t go around calling myself Reverend Raul in public or even in private. I only use it when it’s appropriate.” Like picking up goth girls at the bar, I assume.
Raul continues: “I don’t go around wearing a priest’s collar and preaching Satanism. In fact, I very rarely talk about Satanism directly. Some of my most Satanic possessions aren’t occult grimoires or things like that, but my comics, Tiki mugs, retro toys, and record collection. And then there’s our little taxidermied two headed duckling, Captain Quackers! … The founder of our religion, Anton LaVey, would always say that if you take yourself too seriously, you don’t leave room for others to do so.”
Ah, OK, maybe that’s why they don’t use Batman as their symbol. Bruce always had trouble with lighting the hell up.