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Satanism is a broad term referring to a group of social movements comprising diverse ideological and philosophical beliefs. Their shared religion includes symbolic association with or admiration for Satan, whom Satanists see as an inspiring and liberating figure. It was estimated that there were 50,000 Satanists in 1990. There may now be as many as one hundred thousand Satanists in the world.
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 (cf. Letters from the Earth) 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 with the founding of The Church of Satan in 1966, historical precedents exist: a group called the Ophite Cultus Satanas was founded in Ohio by Herbert Arthur Sloane in 1948.
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, viewing him not as omnipotent but rather as a patriarch. In contrast, atheistic Satanists regard Satan as merely a symbol of certain human traits.
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 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.
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 LaVeyan Satanism, theistic Satanism believes that Satan is a real being rather than a symbol of individualism.
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 are an alleged theistic Satanist society or member of that society. The name Palladian comes from Pallas and refers to the Greco-Roman goddess of wisdom and learning.
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.
LaVeyan Satanism, as codified in The Satanic Bible and overseen by the Church of Satan, was founded in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey. It is an atheistic and materialistic religion that champions individualism, epicureanism, secularism, and egoism, and propagates a worldview of naturalism, Social Darwinism, and Lex Talionis. Adherents describe it as a non-spiritual religion of the flesh, or "...the world's first carnal religion".
Contrary to popular belief, it does not involve "devil worship" or worship of any deities. The Church of Satan asserts that "In Satanism each individual is his or her own god—there is no room for any other god and that includes Satan, Lucifer, Cthulhu or whatever other name one might select or take from history or fiction.". Adherents instead see the character of Satan as a symbol of pride, carnality, liberty, enlightenment, and undefiled wisdom, and serves as a conceptual framework and an external metaphorical projection of [the Satanists] highest personal potential. Satan (Hebrew: שָּׂטָן satan, meaning "adversary") is seen as a symbol of defiance to the conservatism of mainstream philosophical and religious currents, mainly the Abrahamic religions, that see this character as their antithesis.
The prefix "LaVeyan" was never used by Anton LaVey or by the Church of Satan, nor does the term appear in any of its literature. The church has stated its contention that they are the first formally organized religion to adopt the term "Satanism" and asserts that Satanism and the 'worship of Satan' are not congruent. The term "Theistic Satanism" has been described as "oxymoronic" by the church and its High Priest. The Church of Satan rejects the legitimacy of any other organizations who claim to be Satanists, dubbing them reverse-Christians, pseudo-Satanists or Devil worshipers. Today, the Church of Satan promotes itself as the only authentic representation of Satanism, and it routinely publishes materials underscoring this contention.
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.
The Yazidis, a minority religion of the Middle East who worship Melek Taus, are often referred to as Satan worshippers by some Muslims. Due to this, they have been targeted for conversion and extermination by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
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". One early precursor to Satanic metal was the 1969 rock album Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls, which contained numerous references to Satanism that reappeared in later Satanic rock music.
Glen Benton, vocalist and bassist of the band Deicide, once openly claimed to be a practitioner of theistic Satanism, and has spoken publicly 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.
On Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, Anton LaVey founded the "The Satanic Church" (which he would later rename the "Church of Satan"). 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.
After LaVey's 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.
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 agree 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.
The authors Per Faxneld and Jesper Petersen write that the Order of Nine Angles (ONA, O9A) "represent a dangerous and extreme form of Satanism". The ONA 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.
The Satanic Temple uses the literary Satan as a mythological foundation for a non-supernatural religion, which it believes can be used to construct a cultural narrative that can usefully contextualize life experiences and promote pragmatic skepticism, rational reciprocity, personal autonomy, and curiosity.
As it lacks the creed of elitism and Social Darwinism that define the Church of Satan in favor of other characteristics of the literary Satan, it contrasts itself by its desire to actively participate in public affairs and provide outreach to the wider public. This has manifested in several public political actions and efforts at lobbying, with a focus on the separation of church and state and using satire against religious organizations that it believes interfere with freedom and the pursuit of happiness.
The only requirements to be a member are to support the tenets and beliefs of the organization, and to name yourself a member.
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