A Simple Definition of Satanism

I regularly hear various assertions about what Satanism is and isn’t. 

“Satanism is, by necessity, countercultural, subversive, and dangerous.” 

“Satanism is the religion founded by Anton LaVey and codified in the Satanic Bible. Nothing else can be described as Satanism.”

“Satanism is, by definition, antifascist and anti-white supremacy.”

“Satanism is, by definition, racist and supremacist.”

“Satanism is, by definition, adolescent, immature, and reactionary.”

The list goes on, and I reject all of these as coherent definitions of Satanism. Certainly, Satanism can be LaVeyan, but I don’t think it must be. It can be counter-cultural and subversive, but I don’t think it must be. It’s obviously preferable if it’s anti-supremacy, and horrific if it is racist, but neither of these features make or break Satanism.

So, what is Satanism? 

Here is my simple definition: “Satanism is the religious veneration of the symbol of Satan.” 

That’s it. 

That’s the definition. 

If you protest that this definition seems annoyingly broad, you would be correct, and I think it is appropriately so. 

Satanism can include theism or non-theism. It can be subsumed into other religious traditions, or it can stand alone as its own. It can be anti-fascist, mediocre, middle-class, lower-class, or upper-class. It can be LaVeyan, Enochian, Crowlean, or Setian. It can be mainline or countercultural. It can be codified, or not at all. It can be mystical and transcendent, rebellious and adolescent, rational and philosophical, or all of the above.

Such is the nature of religion. If we take seriously the notion that Satanism is, in fact, a religion, than we should treat it as such. Religions are broad, fluid, multifaceted, and socially constructed.

So, when I talk about Satanism on my blog or podcast, I’m talking about the religious veneration of Satan in this broad sense. I am personally a member and minister of a specific religious sect of Satanism, which is The Satanic Temple. But I will never claim that The Satanic Temple is the only form of Satanism and that all others are ersatz imposters. 

I encourage caution when someone claims that Satanism is by necessity anything more than religious veneration for the symbol of Satan. Such a person has, in my view, an impoverished view of religion, and is trying to shape a complicated social movement into their own image.

But that’s just me. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or on my discord server, and don’t forget to become a patron if you enjoy my work. 

13 thoughts on “A Simple Definition of Satanism

  1. Love this. I think maintaining awareness that religion is socially constructed and contains a whole lot of subjectivity is really important. Especially for Satanism where questioning, learning and growing is central. Wish Christians would accept that their religion is also socially constructed!


  2. Thank you, I appreciate this article. My question is what if someone claims Satanism as their religion without Satan I have on my travels met with some Satanists who use no part of the mythology of Satan in their beliefs at all. They only indentify with and use the 7 tenets, understanding that is no ones place to tell someone what their beliefs are how do you think this fit into the narritive of modern satanism? Would you consider this Satanic? – Bettie


    1. That’s a fascinating question. I’m not sure. Initial thoughts: while it is not my place to judge anyone else’s Satanism, I do think that “Satanism without Satan” is inherently unstable. I’ve witnessed many people join TST for the Tenets or the activism, but gradually grow more uncomfortable with the Satanic core of the religion. They usually move on to something that suits them better.

      I appreciate the company of (mostly) anyone who wants to join the religious community. But I worry that it is a fundamentally unsustainable for of Satanism, and I maintain that the Satan part of Satanism is really important.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is good deinition, quite similar to ones used by different scholars, but personally I like the wider one given by Per Faxneld in “Satanic Feminism” (p. 25), with his category of Satanism sensu lato, which basically includes any expression of pro-Satan sentiments.


  4. On it’s own, it’s a good, reasonable definition.

    But can you explain how/why the previous, well established definition of the word doesn’t matter (a philosophy codified by Anton LaVey). Imagine any other word, Christianity for example. Someone comes along well after Christianity has been established, creates a new ideology that has very little, if anything in common with Christianity, and just calls it… Christianity. That seems ridiculous, right? But that’s what’s happened with Satanism.

    Is it a feeling that generally words don’t need to have meaning, or is it specifically just excusing TST in this specific case?


    1. I think that the anology with Christianity actually points us towards the opposite conclusion.

      The Roman Catholic church was *the* definition of Christianity in the West for 1500 years. It still claims to be the one true Church, infallible in all her teachings. This wasn’t arbitrary, either – brutal religious wars were fought over what was, essentially, “real Christianity.” None of us, though, would claim that Protestants aren’t Christian, or that Catholics aren’t Christian (there are both Catholics and Protestants who still claim that, though.) That’s because, no matter how individual adherents define their religion, there is often a deeper stream of tradition, family resemblance, and central symbolism that defines a religion in a broader sense. Catholics and and Protestants are both Christians. LaVeyans and Temple Satanists are both Satanists.

      Every religion goes through the process of rigidly defining and then breaking those definitions. That’s just how it works.

      edit: I didn’t mention the older conflict between Orthdox and Catholic, but that would only reinforce the point


      1. The Protestants and Catholics obviously have their differences, but at the end of the day they both adhere to the Holy Bible, believe in the Trinity of God, and maintain essentially the same big picture moral code. TST and Church of Satan have seemingly very little in common, and are almost completely opposed when it comes to big picture ideals and the most fundamental aspects of the religion(s), Other than a word and some imagery, do they feel similar? Are the 7 Tenets and the Satanic Bible similar?

        A better comparison might be inventing a new style of running shoe and calling it a telephone, decades after we’ve already established what a telephone is. That’s about how different CoS and TST are.


      2. I think you are drastically understating the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism, and overstating the differences between TST and CoS. But, I’m content to agree to disagree on this one.


    2. According to Oxford English Dictionary, the meaning of “Satanism” as religious veneration of Satan got popularised in English at the end of 19th century, in the times of Huysmans and Taxil, before LaVey was even born. And basically it is common element shared by CoS, TST, and other groups and individuals.


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