It’s probably slipped out now that I’m a member of the Satanic Temple. When I first made the choice to join, I decided that it would be a very quiet, personal decision, which I would share only with my most intimate friends. I’m very bad at keeping secrets, however, and by now I’ve spoken about it with friends of the less intimate variety, on my podcast, and I’ve voiced my admiration for the temple on social media.
Because of this, it’s probably time I start explaining why I would make the choice to join such a notorious organization.
I’m not a demon worshiper nor a child sacrificer. I don’t ever wear black robes and chant in Latin (though some Satanists do, but it presumably makes them happy, so that’s fine.) I even still consider myself a Christian (or, at the very least, a post-Christian: someone who is beyond traditional Christianity, but still part of the evolutionary stream of Christianity, nonetheless.) I still pray, still speak in tongues, still identify most strongly with the archetype of Jesus, and still consider myself part of the Christian community. But I find that the reframing of the Satan story is particularly healing, cathartic, and helpful for me, and has given me a greater sense of home and identity. More than that, the Satanic Temple has been instrumental in helping me understand my relationship to Christianity.
I’m a nontheist, which means I don’t believe in a God, and that I’m not bound by one set of religious symbols.
The first thing to understand about the Temple, I think, is that they are a non-theistic religion. They do not worship Satan, or believe that he is a real, spiritual person. They do, however, draw inspiration from the image of Satan as the one who rebelled against tyranny, therefore becoming a symbol for free thought, enlightenment, and individuality.
I like to frame it this way: Christianity and many other world religions are concerned with the nature of the cosmos and our relationship to it. So regardless of whether you believe in a literal God or not, as a Christian, we understand God as the Ground of Being, ultimate reality, the guiding Force or Person of the cosmos.
My Satanism, however, operates as a set of symbols concerned with human interactions and social power structures. The Satanic set of symbols do not relate to ultimate reality, but rather to structures of power, oppression, and rebellion at the societal level. If Satanism does have something to say about ultimate reality, It’s perspective is skepticism and open-handed agnosticism, refusing to hold anything in faith and only trusting, in the words of the core tenets, in that which is demonstrably true. This is, in itself, an act of rebellion against religious systems which demand adherence to a particular view of the external world.
If you don’t grasp these fundamental differences, you will be hopelessly lost through the rest of this discussion. One post-Christian podcast interviewer asked me in complete bewilderment, “so if Satan is the hero, do you therefore believe that the Ground of Being is evil?” No, not at all. These two sets of symbols: nontheistic Christianity and nontheistic Satanism – are concerned with different levels of reality, and therefore God and Satan have different meanings within each context.
I am a nontheist, which means I don’t concern myself with the existence of God. I strongly doubt that there is a personal, spiritual God, but rather than place my identity in a negative, like atheism, I prefer to have a positive identity. I also see atheism and religion as a needless false binary, and I still experience God personally, even as I doubt the existence of a personal God. (For example, I still pray, speak in tongues, and experience his presence in the room with me.) these are wonderful experiences, and I feel no need to rid myself of them.
But, being a nontheist, I am not bound to one set of religious symbols. I can move fluidly between multiple frames of meaning, like Buddhism, Satanism, and Christianity. This is a frightening, wonderful experience. And I also think that it is enormously healthy for my mind and mental health. The ability to experience different frames of meaning, and different interpretations of symbols, is an important skill to have.
A central occult image of Satanism is, after all, Baphomet, which represents the reconciliation of opposites. The Baphomet contains within its being light and dark, up and down, male and female. I can think of nothing more Christlike and radical, more Satanic and blasphemous than to hold within myself the reconciliation of opposites, to carry within myself the Baphomet: both Christ and Satan, both religion and atheism, both spiritual experience and skepticism. This even strikes some Satanists as blasphemous, but it’s where I find myself.
This is a feeble first attempt to explain Satanism, but I hope to write more on the subject. In the meantime, please go to theSatanicTemple.com for more information.