Satanists are often told that our religion is “fake.” Many people – especially those from older and more venerable religions – often seem affronted by sincere Satanic religious practice. When I try to get down to the bottom of this, the complaint seems to be (among many things):
“your religion is fake because you made it up. You co-opted Satan from older, wiser, more authentic religions and completely reinvented him.”
I recently stumbled across a passage in Occult America by occult scholar Mitch Horowitz which explores this process of reinventing religion. Rather than a deviation from the religious norm, Horowitz argues that reinvention is a feature of religious practice:
But before pounding a gavel of judgment on the matter, a pause is in order. It is too easy in the present day to cast terms like plagiarist in the direction of figures like L. W. de Laurence or Noble Drew Ali. In fact, many surviving religious texts stretching back to an unfathomable oral tradition have been redacted, recast, rewritten, and co-opted, ever since the great Egyptian god of learning, Thoth, was remade literally millennia later as the wing-footed Mercury of the Romans. The Caesars of Rome routinely adopted the gods and deities of those lands they conquered. Scholars observe that the Hebrews almost certainly drew upon the cultic ideas of the once-powerful desert worshippers of Baal. The early Christians clearly adapted the winter solstice and sun-worshipping festivals of the polytheists they overcame. Religious ideas travel.
Satanism is not, in my opinion, a rebellious yin to Christianity’s yang. It is not the mirror opposite of Christianity or an adolescent reaction. It is a post-Christian religion that has moved on from Christianity and recreated Satan into a whole new symbol.
This is not, as Horowitz points out, a deviation from religious tradition, but a continuation of it. We borrow and reinvent because that is what religions have always done. We simply do so self-consciously, understanding that we don’t need to appeal to divine revelation to invent a New Religious Movement.
I often wonder if some religious people find this process so offensive because it seems arbitrary and all too human. It suggests that their ancient world religions shrouded in age, myth, and the mystique of eternal truth might be arbitrary and human too.
Mitch Horowitz concludes,
It is only due to the nature of twenty-first-century record-keeping that we sometimes get to see the trail. Contemporary religious innovators have no more or less innocence than those who went before them; rather, it is only our understanding of how religions get made that has changed. Laws, it has been famously observed, are like sausages: One should never watch their creation. The same could be said of religions.
But that’s just me. What do you think? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts. I love hearing back from my audience.
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