Satan. The Christian Bible describes him as the devil, the serpent, the tempter. He exists only as the antithesis to God and all that is righteous and holy, his sole purpose is to lead people away from the truth and into a sinful, dark life. Satan is all at once an active opponent, “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” 1 Peter 5:8 and a silent force, filling the minds and hearts of those who stray from the righteous path “whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8. There are many passages in the bible describing Satan, but they all agree- the devil is evil.
So, if you ask your grandparents, the local pastor, or almost anyone living in the Bible Belt, they will most likely tell you that Satanists are evil people seeking to tear good-hearted Christians away from their holy lives. When the term Satanists comes to mind, the thought that springs up might be of goth-looking folks performing devilish rituals, sacrificing animals and listening to death metal music. Unfortunately that is a stereotype that is just not founded on reality.
Satan to us is a symbol of pride, liberty and individualism, and it serves as an external metaphorical projection of our highest personal potential. – The Church of Satan
Satanism was first established in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey from his home in San Francisco. LaVey had been a circus performer for many years before settling in San Francisco and devoting himself to the study of magic and the occult. In 1969 he released The Satanic Bible, followed by The Satanic Witch in 1971, and Satanic Rituals in 1972. Despite how those titles may sound, they aren’t how-to guides for black magic or devil worship. Rather, they lay the framework for a religion that is based on worship of one’s self, with rituals thrown in for a bit of added drama. From Time Magazine:
The members invest themselves with some of the most flamboyant trappings of occultism, but magic for them is mostly psychodrama —or plain old carnival hokum. They invoke Satan not as a supernatural being, but as a symbol of man’s self-gratifying ego, which is what they really worship. They look down on those who actually believe in the supernatural, evil or otherwise.
To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions. The Satanist should actively work to hone critical thinking and exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things. Our beliefs must be malleable to the best current scientific understandings of the material world — never the reverse.
Satanists have been in the news recently for attempting to erect statues of Baphomet (Satanism’s prevailing symbol) next to Christian statues in Oklahoma and Detroit, and a “snaketivity scene” in Michigan. Because Satanism’s focus is more on worship of one’s self, their goal with erecting these symbols and statues is to ensure that their voice and the voices of any other religion are heard as clearly as the majority religion. From he Detroit Satanic Temple:
Satanists, asserting their religious rights and privileges where religious agendas have been successful in imposing themselves upon public affairs, can serve as a poignant reminder that such privileges are for everyone. We understand that self-identified Satanists deserve just as much consideration as any other religions group. We are a sincere movement that stands in defiance of the unopposed, dogmatic moral legislation from a singular powerful religious voice. We refuse to be enslaved by a theocratic system, which openly seeks to control and destroy sexuality, individual autonomy and critical thinking. As the Eternal Rebel once defied the tyrant god, we too will rebel.
Satan is symbolic of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority, forever defending personal sovereignty even in the face of insurmountable odds. –The Satanic Temple
Satanism isn’t all rebellion and distrust for authority, however. Satanists readily celebrate holidays such as Christmas and Halloween, though their number one holiday is each member’s own birthday. There are no specific rituals or required attendances, each member is simply to do what makes them happy on holidays they choose to celebrate. As most holidays have been secularized and adapted from old pagan holidays, Satanists have no problem celebrating them in “traditional” fashions, though they do not see Christmas as the birth of Christ, rather as a time to be with loved ones.
There are no physical locations of Satanic temples, churches, grottos, or even meeting-houses. For a time after its creation, LaVey used his own San Francisco home to hold meetings, but there are no longer buildings that are open to the public. As the religion is based on self-worship and eschews tradition, meeting for worship rituals would be against the core foundation of Satanism.