One of the challenges that I come across time and again in my journey as a public Satanist is having to differentiate myself from LaVeyan Satanism. For the un-initiated, Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan in the sixties and shaped much of the public’s perception of what Satanism is.
While LaVeyan Satanism is often seen as “the one true Satanic religion,” I contend that LaVey established just one (popular) iteration of Satanism, and that there can be (and are) many other forms. I assert that Satanism means nothing more than a religious adoration for Satan, and that expands Satanism as a whole far beyond the reach of LaVey.
I could go on and on about all the ways I reject LaVeyan Satanism: I think his Ayn Randian selfishness is stupid, I think he’s misogynistic and homophobic, I think he’s not a very good writer, and I think the concept of an “anti-religion religion” is embarrassing. I could go on and on and on. While I think he had a handful of core insights which have carried through most of modern Satanism, I find the majority of his thinking painfully deluded, patriarchal, and old school.
I hope to write in the future about my various qualms with LaVeyan Satanism, but for now I’d like to direct your attention to an excellent article written by Greg Stevens, director of Ministry for the Satanic Temple and occasional Sacred Tension guest. He explores LaVey’s endorsement of vengeance, and why he personally thinks vengeance is stupid.
One of Anton LaVey’s Nine Satanic Statements speaks thusly: “Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!”
In response, Stevens writes,
But when I reflect on the values and driving motives of Satan, as I understand that mythological and literary character, I simply don’t see vengeance as a driving force. He fought against Yahweh for freedom, not vengeance. He tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden out of a desire to see humanity freed from the prison of ignorance, not out of some kind of clap-back back against God.
Stevens gives a worthy articulation of why he thinks vengeance is stupid, and why it doesn’t fit into his personal form of Satanism.
But then he goes into a different question: can his Satanism and LaVey’s Satanism both be real representations of Satanism? Can the Seven Tenets of the Satanic Temple, representing compassion and empathy, and the Nine Satanic Statements, representing selfishness and vengeance, both be authentic forms of Satanism?
To me, the obvious answer is yes. As I’ve written elsewhere, I believe that all religions are made up and are social constructs. Violence in the name of Christ is no less Christian than peace in the name of Christ, because religion exists subjectively in the minds and communities of those who practice religion. One is not more “real” or “authentic” than the other. One could argue that it is “unChristlike to commit violence,” but there is no question that the perpetrators of violence or peace in the name of Christ are really Christian.
Is it unSatanic to see one form of Satanism as more authentic than the other? Stevens suggests it is, and he concludes his article by stating that a fixation on Laveyanism as the only true form of Satanism is to transgress what it means to be a Satanist:
Living life as a Satanist means living a life that is guided and inspired by the life and deeds of the fictional archetype known in our culture as Satan. People who fixate on the Nine Statements as the only expression of Satanism are not living their lives as Satanists. They are not practicing Satanism: they are fetishizing Satanism qua Satanism. They have lost track of the picture in their obsession with LaVey’s frame.
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