I’ve discussed in great detail the ways in which Satanism works for me. I’ve explained that I see self-aware, non theistic religion as healthier and more enlightened than theistic and un-self-aware religion. I’ve explained that Satan is not a real figure, but a metaphor for the unbowed will and icon of the outsider, and that my Satanism is not necessarily anti-Christian, but rather a positive and separate post-Christian concoction.
And yet, I realized recently that one of the most crucial aspects of my Satanism, and religious life in general, has been neglected in these explanations.
Religious practice consists of ritual and community, yes, but it also consists of active pretending. Let me call it Religious LARPing (Live Action Role Playing.) I do not use this term derisively. I think “play” is a profound act, and one of the most significant and ever-present human behaviors (for more on this, please see Joseph Laycock’s book Dangerous Games.)
Christians play at being like Christ. They try to emulate Christ in their compassion, service, etc. (how often they succeed is another question.) This use of Christ as an imaginative role model for day-to-day behavior helps to orient their goals and values. While many Christians may not attend church, have much community, or do many Christian rituals, this example of Christ is ever present. This “living like Christ” is, in a fundamental sense, what makes one a Christian.
So too with my relationship with Satan. I don’t have much Satanic community in my area (I’m in Appalachia, and I find most of my Satanic family online) and I don’t do much Satanic ritual (apart from meditating on the Seven Tenets of The Satanic Temple every morning.) What makes me a Satanist is that I try to live as Satan — I try to emulate the imaginative, romantic literary figure of Satan in my day to day existence.
There are several important caveats here. The first is that I don’t see my Satan as the representation of all evil and abuse. I rather see him as the ultimate outsider who embraces rational inquiry and stands against arbitrary authority.
The second is that I am completely aware of the fact (and embrace it!) that this Satan is a figment of my own imagination. I invented my Satan as a role model for how I want to live, and my Satan will be different from every other Satanist’s Satan. And that’s good. Instead of pretending like my role model correlates to some ultimate reality, I think it is healthier to admit that the object of my religious adoration is a fiction. I’m play acting.
In the same way many Christians (presumably) feel that their emulation of Christ makes them a better person, my day to day emulation of Satan makes me a better person, too.
Instead of instantly joining a “side” in a fierce debate, I try to weight all the evidence, and I try to be slow to jump to conclusions. I try to judge people for their concrete actions, and not their fealty to social categorizations. I try to see past my own biases. I try to defend the marginalized, and I try to stand against oppressive and unjust authority. I trespass sacred laws, binaries, and institutions. I see Satan as a gentleman, who gently encouraged Eve to consider a broader view of the world by eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. I, too, try to gently encourage people to consider other points of view, to draw them into a discourse that may make them uncomfortable.
This probably isn’t the Satan you know, and that’s fine. But it’s the Satan that works for me. I can’t help but feel that my Satan makes me a better, more compassionate person. He is a figure entirely of my own invention, informed by the traditions of religious and literary Satanism. Despite this he also feels very real, and has an enormous impact on how I live my life.
How do you relate to Satan? What place does he have in your life? Let me know in the comments.
P.S. – You might have some questions after reading this article, chief among them: Why Satan?