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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3 thoughts on “Vengeance is Stupid: My Satanism is Not LaVeyan Satanism”
I guess I always took Satanic vengance to mean exposing peoples ignorance or shortcomings IF they present themselves falsely. Exposing an ass-kisser as incompetent, for example.
I don’t think it means physical violence, just as a destruction ceremony isn’t expected to actually physically destroy anyone. The words used convey a heightened sense of psychodrama, useful in therapudic terms, but not actually intended to infer physical violence.
Curious to hear your thoughts. TSA
Personally, I’m just tired of CoS members who seem to think contempt is a virtue. I can’t count how many times I’ve been mocked, accused, and spat upon because I’m a believer and not an atheist. And any more, it seems, the CoS is little more than a web site where people can buy laser-printed certificates from Peter Gilmore. The CoS does act as a scarecrow and whipping post for fear-mongering governments and TV shows, and that is a valid role for them to play I suppose, but aside from that, the CoS has done very little (to my knowledge) in the past 30-40 years that has brought positive change to the community. The selfishness – the belief that rugged individualism is some kind of truth of the world – is nuts. Sure, if you want water, you must dig a well, but you can’t dig it by yourself – you need the help of friends, family, neighbors, townsfolk…and you all dig it together. You received help from others because those who lent a hand will need their roof replaced one day, and they know you will return the favor when they are in need. What’s so difficult about that? What’s so detestable about that? I understand disliking society, but rejecting the concept of one’s own community does not seem sane.
I completely agree with everything you’ve expressed here. I find LaVeyan Satanism a self-aggrandizing sham. It’s just a twitter account and a website. And I think it gives already unpleasant and perhaps narcissistic people more excuse to be unpleasant and narcissistic.
I personally value community, compassion, and humility. People who exemplify these traits make my life better, and I want to be that sort of person. I think it’s more moral, but also just healthier. So, my Satanism points me towards compassion.
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