Satanism is frequently called an “anti-religion”. This perception arises from the notion that Satanism is established as Christianity’s opposite. It is the yin to Christianity’s yang, the dark to Christianity’s light. Hence, it is an anti-religion.
This makes no sense to me. I’m sure there are Satanists out there who describe themselves as following an “anti-religion” and set themselves up in direct opposition to Christianity, but I’m not one of them. My Satanism is not an anti-religion. I’m just religious.
While there are Satanists who embrace the “anti-religion” concept I can’t help but feel that it is often an invention of Christians. It is the product of a Christian worldview that frequently has a hard time seeing outside its own borders.
The most common view of Satanism that I encounter among theists could be described this way:
Christianity is the truth that God is the totality of goodness, love, and holiness. Satan is a fallen angel who is the embodiment of all evil and is opposed to God and all goodness and holiness. This is so clear and self-evident that, if someone describes themself as a Satanist, they must inevitably be opposed to God, Christianity, and goodness. If they aren’t, then they are delusional, because Satan is a real being.
This might be an uncharitable characterization, but it’s also the one that I receive most consistently. It’s so prevailing that even non-religious people hold it. This view of the world is so taken for granted, so identified with, and so prevailing that it simply never occurs to many theists that, if someone calls themself a Satanist, they might not be operating within the Christian worldview.
In contrast, here is my worldview:
Religious myths are unprovable and therefore not worthy of literal belief. However, that does not mean that they have no value. Religious narratives and symbols can meet deep human needs and provide structures around which we can organize our lives and communities. Satan is not a literal being, but a symbol that can be recast as a heroic figure battling to overcome tyrannical authority.
This framing might appear to be at odds with Christianity, but it is not necessarily so. It is simply a different narrative framing of a myth and does not need to be at odds with other interpretations that encourage people to lead a good life. Christ, as the representation of ego death, opposition to imperial hegemony, and self-sacrifice can also serve as a meaningful guiding symbol, and I see no reason why it has to be in conflict with my vision of Satan. We aren’t talking about literal beings, after all.
I don’t hate Christianity. I’ve let go of that anger, and some of the wisest, kindest, and smartest people I know are Christians. I’ve moved on. I’m now inventing something new from the rubble of Christianity, and that new thing is Satanism. I’m taking the symbols given to me and refashioning them to create a religious structure that provides meaning for my life and a reflection of what I think is true.
Religion is an ongoing process of innovation and theft, and the same is true of Satanism. My Satanism wouldn’t exist without Christianity, but that doesn’t mean I’m opposed to Christianity. I’m opposed to tyrannical authority and I resist Christian theocracy, but not all Christianity is theocratic. In the film Hail Satan? religious scholar Jesper Peterson says that it is best to think of Satanism as post-Christian rather than Anti-Christian. My Satanism has left Christianity altogether.
I know innumerable Satanists who feel similarly. I speak with Satanists who feel no ill will toward their religious upbringing. I know Satanists who were raised with no religion whatsoever in atheistic households, and therefore have no connection to anti-Christian symbolism, but are irresistibly drawn to the symbol of Satan. I know Jews who are drawn to Satanism as a dual religious practice but don’t give any thought to how it fits into a Christian worldview.
The folly is to assume that if someone is identifying with Satanism that must be because they hate, or at least think a great deal about, Christianity. Many Satanists, myself included, don’t care a great deal about Christianity, or want to destroy it. We are in a post-Christian symbolic universe that has next to nothing to do with theistic Christianity. I’m not anti-Christianity or anti-religion. I’m just a Satanist, and I’m just religious.
But that’s just me. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or on my discord server. And, if you enjoy my work, please consider becoming a patron and signing up for my newsletter.